Clare Hanrahan Records War Tax Resisters at Their National Conference

, WPVM in Asheville, North Carolina did a show on the recent NWTRCC conference in Birmingham, Alabama.

The show is mostly the result of the hard work of Clare Hanrahan, who was at the conference as a participant, but was also recording the proceedings and interviewing others who were there.

You can listen to the show on-line (click the “Stream” button) — it’s like being there. Listening to the show, I felt like I was back in Birmingham hearing the stories and voices all over again. If you couldn’t make it to the conference, this is the next best thing.

Clare Hanrahan

I got another CP 504 notice from the IRS a couple of days ago. Nothing exciting or interesting, just them letting me know that I’d neglected to include a check with my return — pretty much the same package I described in my post but with a new set of numbers attached. For the record, I didn’t pay $3,695 in , and so I got dinged with an estimated tax penalty of $168 when I filed my 1040. , they’ve added an additional $62.94 in interest & penalties.


James Bowden and Isaac Zane complain that during the American Revolution, Quakers got it from both sides — the British and the rebels — due to their refusal to support the militaries.

From The History of the Society of Friends in America, Vol. Ⅱ: Pennsylvania and New Jersey ():

During the occupation of Philadelphia by the British army, the members of our religious Society, in common with others of the citizens, suffered considerably by the wanton excesses and plunder of the soldiery. A committee of Friends had an interview with General Howe on this subject. In the country, over most parts of which the Americans still held control, the sufferings of Friends were even more severe. Many were subjected to heavy fines, imprisonments, and other oppressions, for conscientiously refusing to join in warlike demonstrations; and it is not a little singular, that in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, — provinces founded under the especial auspices of members of our Society, — their trials in this respect were greater than in other parts of the Union. The Meeting for Sufferings of Philadelphia, having received information of the imprisonment of many on this account, in several localities, presented an address, in , to the Assembly of Pennsylvania on the subject. “They respectfully represent, that the government of the consciences of men is the prerogative of Almighty God, who will not give His glory to another; that every encroachment on this his prerogative, is offensive in his sight, and that he will not hold them guiltless who invade it, but will sooner or later manifest his displeasure to all who persist therein. These truths,” they say, “will, we doubt not, obtain the assent of every considerate mind. The immediate occasion of our now applying to you, is [that] we have received accounts from different places, that a number of our friends are and have been imprisoned, some for refusing to pay the fines imposed in lieu of personal services in the present war, and others for refusing to take the test prescribed by some laws lately made. The ground of our refusal is a religious scruple in our minds against such compliance, not from obstinacy, or any other motive than a desire of keeping a conscience void of offence towards God, which we cannot, without a steady adherence to our peaceable principles and testimony against wars and fightings, founded on the precepts and example of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace; by a conformity to which we are bound to live a peaceable and quiet life, and restrained from making any declaration or entering into any engagements as parties in the present unsettled state of public affairs.” After alluding to the manner in which civil and religious liberty had been secured to the inhabitants of Pennsylvania under the charter of its enlightened founder, they express a desire that “the laws which have a tendency to oppress tender consciences may be repealed,” and that provision may be made for the release of those who are in “bonds for the testimony of a good conscience, and which may prevent others hereafter from suffering in like manner.”

, brought no mitigation of the sufferings of Friends. Fines and imprisonments for refusing to bear arms, were rigorously enforced, and not only so, but many were now subjected to heavy exactions for refusing to become collectors of the taxes imposed for maintaining the war; an office which the Revolutionists seemed determined to urge on their more peaceable neighbors. Strong remonstrances on this grievance were made to those in power; but amidst the excitement and tumults of war, very little disposition existed to lend an ear to conscientious pleadings for the Christian principles of peace. The distraints upon Friends on these various accounts, in five of the Quarterly Meetings, in Pennsylvania Yearly Meeting, as returned to the Meeting for Sufferings, amounted during this year to upwards of nine thousand five hundred pounds, three of the Quarterly Meetings having omitted to make a return; and even this large sum did not include many cases of spoil, the value of which had not been returned.

…[I]n , a forcible appeal… was presented to the Assembly of Pennsylvania…

On the subject of conscience they remark, “Duty to Almighty God made known in the consciences of men, and confirmed by the Holy Scriptures, is an invariable rule, which should govern their judgment and actions. He is the only Lord and sovereign of conscience, and to Him we are accountable for our conduct, as by Him all men are to be finally judged. — By conscience we mean, the apprehension and persuasion a man has of his duty to God; and the liberty of conscience we plead for, is a free open profession and unmolested exercise of that duty — such a conscience as, under the influence of Divine Grace, keeps within the bounds of morality in all the affairs of human life, and teaches to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world.”

After alluding to the grounds of their objection to war and oaths, to the sufferings of many of their members on these accounts, and to the “groundless reports and misrepresentations” respecting Friends, they conclude thus: — “The matters we have now freely laid before you are serious and important, which we wish you to consider wisely as men, and religiously as Christians; manifesting yourselves friends to true liberty, and enemies to persecution, by repealing the several penal laws affecting tender consciences, and restoring to us our equitable rights, that the means of education and instruction of our youth, which we conceive to be our reasonable and religious duty, may not be obstructed, and that the oppressed may be relieved. In your consideration whereof we sincerely desire that you may seek for, and be directed by that supreme “wisdom, which is pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits.”

In presenting the address, the Committee accompanied it with a selection of cases of Oppression arising from the laws in question. All the documents were referred by the Assembly to the Committee of Grievances, who, in , took the extraordinary and inquisitorial course of proposing a series of questions to the Society to be answered in writing. These related chiefly to an acknowledgment of the American Government — to the validity of its laws — to the paper money, and concluded with the following singular request: “As you are specially associated together, though not incorporated in law, and issue public letters and recommendations, and promulgate opinions not only on religious, but political subjects, or at least uniting them together, you are requested to communicate the letters and testimonies which have been published from time to time for seven years past, and signed by the clerks of your General or Quarterly Meetings of this city, to be sent to other meetings, or to persons of your Society.”

The questions proposed had the close and serious consideration of the Friends appointed on the subject, who did not think proper to submit so far to this categorical and despotic proceeding, as to return specific answers to the several questions; but concluded again to invite those in power to a calm and impartial examination for themselves, of the principles of Friends set forth in their address, as furnishing a sufficient explanation for their not uniting in the present contest with Great Britain. The reply commenced as follows: — 

To the Committee of Grievances,

Your paper directed to Isaac Zane and others, propounding diverse questions to our religious Society, has been considered, and, agreeable to the advice of an eminent Apostle to his Christian brethren, it becomes us “to be always ready to give an answer to every man that asks a reason of the hope that is in us with meekness and fear,” so also we think it necessary, according to their practice, after the example of their Lord and Master, to adapt the answer to the nature and tendency of the question proposed.

On reviewing the Memorial presented to the Assembly, and our address to you, they appear to us to contain matter of such importance, and so clearly point out the sentiments and practice of our religious Society, in the various changes and revolutions which have occurred in civil government since we were distinguished from other Christian professions, that a weighty, impartial attention to them, and a willingness to remove the cause of oppression complained of, would, we apprehend, sufficiently enable you to represent to the House, the justice and expediency of relief, on the principles of Christian and civil liberty.

Our religious meetings were instituted for the laudable intention of inculcating in our fellow-members, worship to Almighty God, benevolence to mankind, and to encourage one another in a steadfast, upright conduct, according to the pure principles of the Gospel; and have been continued for those Christian purposes for more than a century past; nor has the original design of their institution been perverted to the purpose of political disquisitions, or any thing prejudicial to the public safety: we therefore conceive the queries you have proposed to us in a religious capacity, are improper, and a mode of redressing grievances new and unprecedented, and such an inquisition made on a religious Society, as we have not known nor heard of in America; nevertheless, we may briefly repeat what has been already declared on behalf of our religious Society, to revive the important subject of the Memorial in your view; which we think is still worthy of a very serious and unbiased consideration.

Our Friends have always considered Government to be a divine ordinance, instituted for the suppressing vice and immorality, the promotion of virtue, and protection of the innocent from oppression and tyranny. And they esteem those legislators and magistrates, who make the fear and honor of God the rule of their conduct, to be worthy of respect and obedience. And that it is our duty to live a godly, peaceable, and quiet life. It is also our firm belief that conscience ought not to be subject to the control of men, or the injunctions of human laws; and every attempt to restrain or enforce it, is an invasion of the prerogative of the Supreme Lord and Lawgiver.

After referring to their reasons for objecting to all war, it proceeds thus:

As our Christian principle leads into a life of sobriety and peace, so it restrains us from taking an active part in the present contest, or joining with any measures which tend to create or promote disturbance or commotions in the government under which we are placed; and many of our brethren, from a conviction that war is so opposite to the nature and spirit of the Gospel, apprehend it their duty to refrain in any degree voluntarily contributing to its support; some of whom, for a considerable number of years past on former occasions, have not actively complied with the payment of taxes raised for military services; and diverse from conscientious motives, have now avoided circulating the currency which has been emitted for the immediate purpose of carrying on war; although on these accounts, they have been, and still are, subjected to great inconvenience, losses, and sufferings. It has been the uniform practice of our religious Society, after the example of other Christian churches in every age, to issue epistles of counsel and admonition to their members as occasion required; those and the testimonies you allude to, contain seasonable exhortations to observe a godly conduct, consistent with the peaceable principles of our Christian profession; and the papers and records of some of our meetings were seized and detained in , and, after undergoing a scrutiny and examination, nothing seditious or prejudicial to the public good being found in them, they were returned.

In whatever mistaken or unfavorable light our religious Society may be held, by those who are unacquainted with us and our principles, or prejudiced against us, we hope to manifest by our conduct, that we are true friends to all men, and sincerely desirous to promote and inculcate such a temper of mind in our fellow-professors in general, as to enable us to forgive them who evilly entreat us, and pray for them who persecute us. Signed on behalf of the Committee of the people called Quakers, who waited on the Assembly of Pennsylvania, with a memorial and address, in .

Isaac Zane


Another story from the same volume concerns John Cowgill, who refused to use the Continental Currency:

John Cowgill of Duck Creek, for refusing to take the paper currency, was arrested and taken before a body called a Committee of Inspection; and having declined to give assurances that he would alter his course, was advertised in the newspapers, as an enemy to his country, all persons being warned against having any dealings with him. The effect was, that some millers refused to grind his corn, whilst the schoolmaster who taught his children, sent them home. On one occasion as he was going with his family to a week-day meeting, he was seized by a number of armed men, who told him that the Committee had sent for him. These men, having fixed a paper on his back inscribed, “On the circulation of the Continental currency depends the fate of America,” conveyed him in a cart to a neighboring town, and in this manner paraded him through it.

browse«»
Find Out More!

For more information on the topic or topics below (organized as “topic → subtopic → sub-subtopic”), click on any of the ♦ symbols to see other pages on this site that cover the topic. Or browse the site’s topic index at the “Outline” page.