The following report on Annuity Tax resistance in Scotland comes from Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine Volume 3, Number 18, published in . It has some interesting details about the use of social boycott, rallies, and disruption of auctions by the resisters and their supporters.

The Passive Resistance of Edinburgh, to the Clergy-Tax.

A system of Passive Resistance to the iniquitous local impost, disguised under the name of the Annuity Tax, has been brought to a crisis by the imprisonment of Mr. Tait, the proprietor of this Magazine, for his proportion of the tax by which our clergy are maintained. How he should have had the honour thrust upon him of inflicting the death-blow on this obnoxious tax, it is easier to know than to tell. Mr. Tait had neither been an active, nor obtrusive resister: though, like thousands of the most respectable citizens of Edinburgh, and particularly the booksellers, he refused to pay annuity. This tax has ever been hateful to the people, from almost every reason which can render an impost odious. It is considered a tax on conscience with many. It is a tax unknown in the Kirk Establishment, and peculiar to Edinburgh; unequal in its pressure; and arbitrary and irritating in the mode of exaction; and it is one which gives, as has been seen, power to the clergy to disgrace themselves and their profession, and wound the cause of Christianity. Power of imprisonment over their hearers and townsmen, is not a power for ministers of the Gospel. For four years, measures have been taken to resist this impost; and for the last eighteen months it has been successfully opposed, so far as goods were concerned, by a well-concerted Passive Resistance. Many of the citizens were (and are) under horning1 and liable to caption, at the time the clergy selected Mr. Tait. For Passive Resistance, during the last eighteen months, has been, as we shall have occasion to explain, so well organized, and has wrought so well to defeat the collection of the tax, that, unless the ministers had turned the kirks into old-furniture warehouses, it was idle to seize any more feather-beds, teakettles, and chests of drawers; either from those who could not, or those who would not pay this irritating and unjust local impost, marked by every deformity which can render a tax hateful. The legal right of the ministers of the Kirk in Edinburgh, to imprison for stipend, was questioned. Mr. Tait is probably the first imprisoned victim of the Kirk; nor will there be many more, or we greatly misunderstand the character of the people and of the times in Scotland. A few weeks back, it was decided by the Law Courts that the ministers had the right of imprisonment; though an appeal to the Lord Chancellor still lay open to the inhabitants, who have petitioned against the tax, till they are tired of petitioning. The clergy, to give them their due, lost no time in exercising their new power. Hornings and captions were flying on all sides;2 though no one would believe that Presbyterian Divines, the Fathers of the Scottish Kirk, calling themselves ministers of the gospel of love, and peace, and charity, would ever proceed to the fearful extremity of throwing their townsmen and hearers into jail. The first experiment was made on a gentleman in very delicate health, about a fortnight before Mr. Tait’s arrest. This gentleman was attended to the jail door by numbers of the most respectable citizens — resisters — in carriages. He paid, and the procession returned home. Two of his escort were Mr. Adam Black, publisher of the Edinburgh Review, and Mr. Francis Howden, a wealthy retired jeweller, of the highest respectability. These two gentlemen were, some few months before, chairman and deputy-chairman of the Lord Advocate’s election committee. These are the kind of men who have actively opposed the tax.

There was a lull for ten days. A Quaker was expected to be the next victim; but the unexpected honour fell on Mr. Tait. The clergy could not have committed so capital a blunder if they had aimed at it; or so effectually have laid the axe to the root of the tree. This grand stroke of policy was, doubtless, intended to finish the thing at once. Once compel him to submit, and glory and gain were secure. That there might be no more processions, he was waylaid coming into town in the morning; and, to the consternation of the clergy themselves, submitted to the alternative of going to prison rather than pay the tax. His first letter, which is subjoined,3 explains the nature of our clergy-tax, which has now been opposed and resisted in every peaceful way. The scenes in Ireland were faintly brought to our own door; and so great excitement never certainly prevailed in Edinburgh against a Kirk tax, or against the Establishment altogther, since “The dinging down o’ the Cathedrals.” At the request of the Inhabitants’ Committee, intimated in the newspapers, Mr. Tait consented to be liberated;4 and having remained four days in the bonds of the clergy, he was released with every mark of honour and distinction his fellow-citizens could confer. His conduct, they thought, had given an example of patriotism and moral courage needed everywhere,5 and the death-blow to the clergy-tax. We take the Scotsman’s account of the triumph of passive resistance, as being shorter than some of the others, and, containing everything necessary to be told:—

“He stepped into the open carriage, drawn by four horses, which stood on the street, and beside him sat Mr. Howden, Mr. R. Miller, Mr. Robert Chambers, and Mr. Deuchar. At this moment, one of the gentlemen in the carriage, waving his hat, proposed three cheers for the King, and three cheers for Mr. Tait, — both of which propositions were most enthusiastically carried into effect. The procession was then about to move off, when, much against the will of Mr. Tait and the Committee, the crowd took the horses from the carriage, and with ropes drew it along the route of procession, which was along Waterloo Place and Prince’s Street, to Walker Street. As the procession marched along, it was joined by several other trades, who had been late in getting ready; and seldom have we seen such a dense mass of individuals as Prince’s Street presented on this occasion. In the procession alone, there were not fewer than 8,000 individuals; and we are sure that the spectators were more than thrice as numerous. Mr. Tait was frequently cheered as he passed along, — and never, but on the occasion of the Reform Bill, was a more unanimous feeling witnessed than on that which brought the people together yesterday afternoon.”

A respectable Tory print in Glasgow — for there are Tory prints that have decent manners — in denouncing “the revolutionary movement in that rebellious city,” states, “that Edinburgh requires a Coercion Bill as much as Kilkenny.” We confess it. So do many of the English towns. The agitation against tithes and church-rate is as great in England as in Ireland. And if a Coercion Bill is to be the substitute for justice, the more universally it is applied the better. The whole people of the United Kingdom are of the same spirit.

No church-rate can be more oppressive than the Annuity; and the evil does not rest here. “A poor Kirk only will be a pure Kirk,” is exemplified in Edinburgh.

This is a tax levied on members of the Church Establishment; and on every denomination of Dissenters, Catholic, Quaker, Jew, Turk, or Pagan, to raise the Edinburgh clergy above their brethren of the Kirk; and to set them above their proper functions. With a few honourable exceptions, the Edinburgh clergy are anything but a working clergy. Edinburgh, among its other felicities, holds all “the great prizes” (as the Duke of Wellington calls the bishoprics) of the Kirk. It is too much that the inhabitants should also monopolize the honour of maintaining “the great prizes,” in a style which has set them above their duties, and given “a high tone” to Presbyterianism, by making a few of its humble clergy fit associates for our Tory and Whig Coteries, and the legal aristocracy, at the expense of the pastoral office. The worst fault that we hitherto know about them, after all, is, that they know nothing of their parishes; for, till now, they had no power of imprisonment, a power of which they should be the first to try to denude themselves. Ministers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church! — a Church boasting its purity, its poverty, its tolerance, “rob widows’ houses,” and throw men of all persuasions into prison for fractions of stipend! — and this, too, with ample funds for their maintenance from other sources, — the same kind of funds, and to a larger amount than those by which their brethren are respectably supported in every other Scottish city. Shade of John Knox! could you have looked up from that old station in the Netherbow on the scenes exhibited at the Cross of Edinburgh within the last ten years, by order of your successors! and their proctors; seen the miserable furniture of poor widows and destitute persons rouped for stipend! One scorns the miserable fiction by which the Edinburgh clergy try to skulk behind their agents: the Parsons in Ireland have given up the hypocritical pretext, “It was not I, but the proctor.[”] Passive Resistance has put an end to these revolting scenes, and introduced others, which the sincere friends of the Kirk can regard as no less dangerous to its stability.

Mr. Tait’s letter explains the nature of the church-tax, but not all its deformities. First, it is peculiar to Edinburgh, and to a limited part of Edinburgh, rigorously visiting the shop-keeper, the physician, the artist, the half-pay officer, the poor and needy, while it totally exempts the class best able to contribute to the support of the Church, — the lawyers of all grades; those who, according to our Glasgow friend, drain the blood, and live on the marrow of Scotland; till, Jeshurun-like, our whole community, by their suckings, have waxen fat and are kicking, requiring to be put in strait waistcoats, and dieted on bread and water. Secondly, It is a shop tax; the people of London know what that means. The rent of a man’s dwelling-house is a fair measure of his means, and in “our city of palaces,” every man likes a house rather above what he can afford than under it. A shopkeeper who rents a house at from L.30 to L.50, may pay L.200 a-year, or more, for his place of business; and on this L.200, and on all the other premises he may rent in carrying on his trade, as well as on his dwelling-house, which is almost invariably at some distance from his place of business, he is liable to pay L.6 per cent. to the clergy, or be sent to jail, — be he Jew, Turk, Quaker, or Baptist. The garret of a widow, the cellar of a porter, must contribute their proportion to the maintenance of “the great prizes” of the Kirk, and of the “tone” which now elevates Established Presbyterianism, in the gentility of its teachers, almost to equality with Episcopalian Dissent. Of late years, since the Irish settled among us, many Catholics are called on to contribute to the maintenance of what they must think, our heretic clergy; an imposition on conscience, from which we hope to see Scotland soon freed for ever.

But, while the darkest den6 in the lanes, and poor streets, of that central portion of Edinburgh (which, for the Established clergy, may look for religious instruction where its inhabitants please) must pay, every lordly mansion, of the first-born of Egypt, is past bye. Our Lords of Session, and Clerks of Session, and Deputy-Clerks of Session; and Clerks of Justiciary, and Deputy-Clerks of Justiciary, and Lord Advocates, and Deputy-Advocates, and Sheriffs, and Substitute-Sheriffs; and the whole tribes, kindreds, and languages, of our barristers; and every man whose profession is symbolized on his door-plate by the mystic letters — W.S., or S.S.C., the tax-gatherer respectfully passes. The clergy themselves do not pay poor-rates in this city; for which rate another 6 per cent. on rent is levied from the unfortunate shopkeeper, and householder. Is it surprising that the people of Edinburgh have “rebelled,” since rebellion it must be called, and refuse longer to submit to the hornings and gorings of the watchmen of the flock?

The exemption of the College of Justice — this is the phrase, College of Justice — among a nation remarkable for the propriety of its names — is, however, the grievance of a past time; and the inclusion of the fifteen hundred, or two thousand, exempted lawyers will not now satisfy the people of Edinburgh; though this is the bait held out to make us bolt the Bill the Lord Advocate has been bungling at, “to enable the Edinburgh parsons to live like gentleman.” The people of Edinburgh will have their clergy live like their brethren in other towns, and like Christian ministers. They will have no compulsory tax for their support. They will have no Dissenter, no Catholic, no Quaker, or Jew, liable to a fraction of rate to maintain a Presbyterian minister. They cannot more admire propagating religion by the tithe-pound, the Cross-rouping, and the Calton jail, than by the sword or the faggot; and will resist to the last every attempt to continue a power in the hands of the Edinburgh clergy, which they have recently used, and are still employing, to the violation of the first principles of the merciful faith they are bound to teach, and to the disgrace of their sacred office. It is too late for compromise. The principle which places this power in their hands is more dangerous, and much more to be guarded against, than the mere amount of the tribute levied. Our ancestors, at some peril, and by despising persecution, won for us freedom of conscience and a Free Kirk: it will go hard but we maintain the right.

As this Magazine circulates through England and Ireland more widely than at home, we have hitherto forborne afflicting our distant readers with local grievances. Heaven knows that every town has abundance of them, local and general; but, in passive resistance, Edinburgh is making common cause with many other communities; and it may amuse strangers to learn how it has been managed in the country of the Porteous mob.

For years the spectators looked on with indignation and shame when furniture was rouped (sold by auction) at the Cross of Edinburgh, for annuity to the clergy. At first such furniture belonged exclusively to very distressed persons; for though every one grumbled, no one who could scrape up the money durst refuse to pay, and thus incur the additional penalties of prosecution. Not unfrequently generous individuals redeemed the miserable sticks so cruelly wrested from the more miserable owners. The first act of passive resistance may have taken place about two years back; and we admit that since then it has been most actively passive, and has given rise to many melancholy and some humorous scenes. Fortunately for the resisters, the goods must, by law, be exposed for sale at the Cross, which so far concentrated their field of action. This, by the way, was a capital omission when the Annuity clause was smuggled over. We hope the Lord Advocate (but the clergy’s agent will see to it) takes care, in the new Bill, that our goods, when confiscated for stipend, may be sent away and sold anywhere. In Ireland we pay — the whole people of the empire pay — troops who march up from the country to Dublin, fifty or sixty miles, as escorts of the parson-pounded pigs and cattle, which passive resistance prevents from being sold or bought at home; and we also maintain barracks in that country which not only lodge the parsons’ military guards, but afford, of late, convenient resting-places in their journey to the poor people’s cattle, whom the soldiers are driving to sale;7 and which would otherwise be rescued on the road.

Our Edinburgh clergy could hitherto only operate round the Cross. If any of our readers know that scene, let them imagine, after the resistance was tolerably well organized, an unfortunate auctioneer arriving at the Cross about noon, with a cart loaded with furniture for sale. Latterly the passive hubbub rose as if by magic. Bells sounded, bagpipes brayed, the Fiery Cross passed down the closses, and through the High Street and Cowgate; and men, women, and children, rushed from all points towards the scene of Passive Resistance. The tax had grinded the faces of the poor, and the poor were, no doubt, the bitterest in indignation. Irish, Highlanders, Lowlanders, were united by the bond of a common suffering. Respectable shopkeepers might be seen coming in haste from the Bridges; Irish traders flew from St. Mary’s Wynd; brokers from the Cowgate; all pressing round the miserable auctioneer; yelling, hooting, perhaps cursing, certainly saying anything but what was affectionate or respectful of the clergy. And here were the black placards tossing above the heads of the angry multitude—

ROUPING FOR STIPEND!

This notice was of itself enough to deter any one from purchasing; though we will say it for the good spirit of the people, that both the Scotch and Irish brokers disdained to take bargains of their suffering neighbours’ goods. Of late months, no auctioneer would venture to the Cross to roup for stipend. What human being has nerve enough to bear up against the scorn, hatred, and execration of his fellow-creatures, expressed in a cause he himself must feel just? The people lodged the placards and flags in shops about the Cross, so that not a moment was lost in having their machinery in full operation, and scouts were ever ready to spread the intelligence if any symptoms of a sale were discovered. These are among the things done and provoked in this reforming city of John Knox, in the name of supporting religious instruction!

Dr. Chalmers is reported to have said, the other day, in one of our Church Courts, “Too little money is devoted to the religious instruction of the city.” He is quite right: Too little indeed — almost none is so applied; — a good deal goes into the pockets of the ministers, nevertheless. The condition of the poor of Edinburgh — their want of the due means, from the Establishment, either of religious instruction at home, or church accommodation, is not the smallest evil in this system of setting Scotch Presbyterian clergymen above their callings by high salaries. We might imagine, that after a poor man or woman has paid annuity, or had their goods sold, they might at least find a church door open to them somewhere in the town. They will find exactly the door open, but a surly door-keeper to push them back, and if they do get in, no seat in church. In addition to the odious Annuity Tax, the rents of the pews in Edinburgh are, on the average, three times higher than in any other Scottish city. Thus we pay for our “great prizes”8 trebly; and, in their diligence and fidelity as ministers; in their meekness, forbearance, long-suffering, patience, gentleness, as Christains, have our reward.

We dare not inflict upon our English or Irish readers more about our Collegiate Charges; our royal chaplainships; our union of the pastoral office with the professorships in our university; our church jobs of all kinds. We have not complained till now: Now complaint is redress.


  1. The legal jargon of which the Edinburgh prints are full just now, must amuse and perplex the English and Irish. What can they think of widows under caption; and hornings issued by the ministers? By one of the many beautiful fictions of our law, no man can be imprisoned for debt. His crime is rebellion. The King having sent “greeting,” ordering the debtor to pay his creditor, if the debtor refuse to comply, he is presumed to be denounced rebel at Edinburgh Cross and Leith Pier by the horn, and is sent to jail for resistance of the King’s command. The whole thing is admirably described by the Antiquary to his nephew, Hector Macintyre, who remained about as wise as before; or as wise as a recusant Irishman in the Cowgate, on whom our clergy lately made a charge of horning. “Horning! horning! — by the powers! if they bring a horning against me, I’ll bring a horning against them.” When the King’s messenger-at-arms, as tipstaves are called in Scotland, brought his horning to the Cowgate, the Irishman, previously provided with a tremendous bullock’s horn, blew a blast “so loud and dread,” that it might have brought down the Castle wall; and a faction mustered as quickly as if it had sounded in the suburbs of Kilkenny. The messenger-at-arms took leave as rapidly as possible, and without making the charge of horning at this time.
  2. The agent of the clergy, Mr. H. Inglis, son of the Reverend Dr. Inglis, the leader of the Church, and the grand instrument in smuggling the clause into the Bill under which the clergy distrain and imprison, — acted in such energetic haste against the citizens, in obtaining these profitable hornings, that it is said he forgot to take out the attorney license before be commenced horning; which neglect infers a penalty of L.200. Will it be exacted? — Every tax-payer is against the tax, but every one would neither have gone to jail nor incurred prosecution. “Mr. Tait should just have paid,” said one of the cautious disapproves. “No man will uphold the tax; but where’s the good of putting two-three more guineas in the pouch of Pope John’s son.” The argument has force. Surely, for the sake of common decency, another of our multitudinous W.S.’s might have been found for the lucrative office devolved on the son of the great leader of the Kirk Assemblies.
  3. To the Editor of the Caledonian Mercury
    Sir, — I wish to be allowed, through the medium of your paper, to explain the reasons which have induced me to submit to imprisonment, rather than pay the annuity or ministers’ stipend. My reasons are these:—
      The tax was imposed by the act 1661, and preceding acts, to raise 19,000 merks, which were to be applied to the maintenance of only six of the twelve Edinburgh clergymen; whereas a sum very much larger has been collected, under the name of annuity, and applied to the maintenance of all the Edinburgh clergymen, and to other purposes.
      The collection and application of the annuity was illegal up to ; and was only then made legal (if legal it yet is) by a clause surreptitiously and illegally inserted in an act of Parliament, which had been intimated as one for simply extending the royalty of the city. Unless an act of Parliament, fraudulently obtained by the clergy, can make the annuity, as now collected and applied, legal, the collection and application are still illegal.
      Altogether, by the annuity, impost, seat rents, shore dues at Leith, &c., about L.21,000 are collected, in name of the Church Establishment, while only about half that sum is applied to its legitimate purposes.
      The sum levied from the citizens of Edinburgh is not only too large, but is unequally levied, and absurdly applied; 55,000 souls, in the extended royalty, having 13 churches and eighteen ministers, to whom about L.9,000 per annum is paid, while 70,000 souls, in that part ol Edinburgh which is called the parish of St. Cuthbert’s, pay no part of the annuity tax; the two clergymen of this parish; and those of the Chapels of Ease belonging to it, being paid by the heritors, or from the seat rents.
      The above inequality of the assessment is further aggravated by the exemption of the Members of the College of Justice; also, by the tax being laid upon shops, &c., as well as dwelling-houses, although the latter are the proper measures of the incomes of the inhabitants.
      For those and other reasons, detailed in a petition to Parliament, and a report by the Committee of Inhabitants, the collection of the annuity has been considered unjust and oppressive. Payment has been refused by the inhabitants; and when the clergy proceeded to distrain the goods of the recusants, their proceedings were rendered ineffective by the impossibility of finding purchasers for the distrained goods. Finding their seizure of the citizens’ goods inoperative, the clergy are resorting to the extremity of imprisonment. Mr. Wilson, pocket-book maker, was the first seized on. He, as was publicly announced, submitted immediately on being imprisoned to the imposition of the clergy, on account of the state of his health. I have been selected as the second victim. And, as I have not Mr. Wilson’s reason for instant submission to what I conceive unjustice and oppression, I have permitted the clergy to imprison me; and send you this statement from my place of confinement, the jail, Calton Hill.
      In reference to St. Peter’s name, our Saviour said — “Upon this rock I have built my Church.” It is now seen upon what rock the Edinburgh clergy rest their Establishment — the rock on which stands the Calton Jail.
      Let no man tell me that I ought to petition Parliament for an alteration of the law, instead of opposing this passive resistance to the law. Petitioning has been tried once and again; and what has been the result? Why, that the Lord Advocate of Scotland, one of the representatives of our city, and a Minister of the Crown, has attempted to sanction the hideous injustice of which we complain, by a new act of Parliament, fixing down the odious annuity tax upon us more firmly than ever, with no amelioration of the injustice, except the doing away with the exemption of the College of Justice!
      I believe there is no hope of redress but from refusal of payment until the extremity of imprisonment is resorted to. In that belief I have acted, — and
      I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
      William Tait.
  4. The spirit of the people of Edinburgh may be inferred from the following anecdote:— Mr. Tait spent one Sabbath in jail On that day the debtors posted a bill on their door of the jail chapel intimating, “No attendance on Divine Service during Imprisonment for Annuity Tax.” This was, of course, quite spontaneous, as the Church prisoner of the clergy was kept apart from all the other prisoners; and treated by every one of the officials with the greatest indulgence and consideration, during his brief sojourn in prison.
  5. “We have need of many such men; we ought to find them in places where it is in vain to look for them. But our consolation is, that to have a few, nay to have only one, is to be sure of having thousands hereafter. The moral force of such examples is slow to subside, even though they be not instantly acted upon. The recollection of them survives long, and acts alike as a check to the oppressor, and a sustaining hope to the unredressed — an assurance that there is a glorious power unemployed, that can, when it pleases, rise up and baffle the oppressing one that is ever at work. An odour rises out of such actions, that becomes as the breath of a new life to others. The language they are related in, is as the melody so exquisitely described in one of Wordsworth’s ballads:—
      ‘The music in my heart I bore
      Long after it was heard no more.’” — True Sun.
  6. Many capital hits have been made during the Three Years’ War between the citizens and the clergy of Edinburgh, which should not be forgotten. The Bible Society of London had, it appears, at one time resolved, that no subscription in aid of the circulation of the Scriptures, should be taken from Socinians, Unitarians, Infidels, and Blasphemers. The Bible Society denounced all such characters; and our clergy piously agreed. “Now, surely you won’t take stipend from such wretches?” said some writer in the North Briton. Tainted money becomes sweet in passing through the fingers of Mr. Peter Hill. Mr. Manager Murray’s synagogue of Satan, at the end of the North Bridge, pays about L.50 per annum to the clergy of Edinburgh; and many smaller sanctuaries of sin, in the old town, must contribute their proportion.
  7. The agents of our clergy had a sort of barracks. They made the enclosure in the Cowgate, called the Meal-market, a depot for confiscated furniture when the people drove the auctioneers from the Cross.
  8. [“]Every clergyman should have L.400 in each pocket,” said the Whig Solicitor-General, the other day at some Kirk meeting, where the Magistrates themselves were speaking of uncollegiating the churches, and reducing the stipends. Some twenty or thirty years back, those stipends were L.300 a-year, with as much more as they could scrape up. Be it remembered, that the faculty to which Mr. Cockbum belongs, have never yet paid one farthing of church-tax since the Kirk was established; and as Presbyterianism is neither the fashionable religion, nor even the genteel mode of faith in Edinburgh, it is but a proportion of the learned faculty that even pay for a seat in the Kirk. Speeches like the above move the multitudes in the Cowgate, and even the wealthiest shopkeeper in the finest streets, in rather an unpleasant way. Mr. Cockburn cannot have forgotten the anecdote of King James Ⅰ. and his Bishops, Neale and Andrews. “Cannot I take my subject’s money when I want it, without all this formality in Parliament?” — “God forbid, Sir,” said Neale, “but you should — you are the breath of our nostrils.” — “Well, my Lord,” rejoined his Majesty to Andrews, “and what say you?” He excused himself on the ground of ignorance in Parliamentary matters. “No put-offs, my Lord,” said James, “answer me presently.” — “Then, Sir,” said the excellent prelate, “I think it lawful for you to take my brother Neale’s money, for he offers it.” The clergy are fully entitled to take Mr. Cockburn’s L.800 a-year.

This note is appended to the article:

Imprisonment of a Baptist. — As this sheet was going to press, we have seen the spectacle, novel in a Presbyterian country, of a respectable and aged man of the religious persuasion of Fuller, Robert Hall, and John Foster, haled to prison for ministers’ stipend, under circumstances which shame the very name of Presbyterianism. Mr. Ewart, shoemaker, one among upwards of three hundred citizens put to the horn, (at least a two-guinea process before it is ended,) when presented with the caption by the messenger, said he was quite unable to pay his arrears. He was indulged with a little time to go and plead his case with the scion of Establishment, Dr. Inglis’s son, who is reaping the fruits of a lawyer’s rich harvest, amid our tears, shame, and sorrow. He told that young agent of the clergy, that he neither could, nor would, if he could, pay stipend. Ho belonged to a denomination of Christians who had been tortured and burned by an established priesthood; and the Established Clergy of Edinburgh were welcome to send him to prison if it seemed good to them. On he was marched off to the Calton Jail, accompanied by the usual hasty muster of people carrying flags and poles, having placards on which were a variety of devices and inscriptions, to which we shall not at present advert. His daughter, a fine young woman, in a fit of heroic indignation which overmastered her grief and the natural timidity of her sex, seized one of the flags, and would have walked before her father to prison with the crowd, but was prevented by him and the interference of the humane bystanders. this ruined man’s shop, in Hanover Street, was seen shut up, and a bill stuck on the door, “In Prison for Ministers’ Stipend.”

In earnestly recommending Mr. Ewart’s case to the friends of freedom of conscience everywhere, and particularly to the Baptists of England, we would humbly ask the casuists among our clergy, is this man imprisoned to recover a just debt, or to gratify a cruel, despicable revenge? We know what men of plain understanding, in this city, think and say loudly.

By the laws of Scotland, a creditor who indulges his cruelty by keeping a needy man in jail, is bound to maintain him. Mr. Ewart has claimed and been allowed a shilling, paid per diem, as aliment-money — a liberal allowance, — as fortunately the fixing the amount of aliment does not rest with the imprisoning clergy.


An earlier and briefer note from the same magazine gives some more context to the protest, and shows two other tactics of support (boycotting the churches that benefitted from the tax, and awarding arrested resisters with honors):

Annuity Tax — Since the middle of the 17th century, a compulsory assessment of six per cent. of the rent has been levied on the occupiers of houses in the city of Edinburgh, for payment of the stipends of the city clergy. This tax produces about L.8,000 per annum. Of late years, however, the inhabitants have resisted the payment of this tax, insisting that the rents of the church seats, which yield upwards of L.7,000 a-year, and which have been absorbed in the general revenue of the city, should, as in the other Scotch towns, be applied in payment of the stipends. The Magistrates, in consequence of the resistance, levied distresses on the goods of the defaulters; but as it was found impossible to find purchasers for the distrained goods, on account of the general odium existing against the tax, they were forced to desist. They have now had recourse to personal execution — a mode of recovering the tax never before attempted — but which has been found by the Court of Session to be legal; and on , a gentleman of the name of Wilson was arrested, and carried to jail. He was accompanied by a large body of the most respectable citizens, and among others by the gentlemen who acted as Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of the Committee which conducted the election of the present Members for the city. On account of the very weak state of Mr. Wilson’s health, the sum for which he was imprisoned was immediately paid, and he was in consequence liberated. We record this occurrence, as it will in all probability lead to important consequences. An intention is already, very generally expressed of refusing to take seats in the city churches, until their rents are applied in a more appropriate manner than to relieve the embarrassments in the city finances, occasioned by an extravagant self-elected magistracy. It has been resolved to present Mr. Wilson with a piece of plate for his conduct on this occasion.

A brief follow-up article reports on how William Tait’s case progressed:

Annuity Tax. — The proceedings of the clergy to enforce payment of this assessment for their stipends, creates a great sensation in Edinburgh. On , Mr. William Tait, Bookseller, who had resisted payment of the tax for some years, was imprisoned, and remained in jail four days. Having thus testified his abhorrence of the tax, paid the amount, and was escorted from from the jail door to his own house, by a procession of the trades, consisting of upwards of eight thousand. The spectators were very numerous, and the spectacle was altogether one of the most magnificent and heart stirring which was ever exhibited in Scotland; and must have given the death-blow to this iniquitous tax. The clergy, however, nothing daunted by this show of unanimity of sentiment, and fixed resolution, have proceeded in their reckless career; and continue to imprison the refractory.

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