Dramatis Personæ

Character and role Sample quote Index to arguments
Ephraim Banks, delegate from Mifflin “He would not go so far as to say they should be tied to dead bodies for punishment, as was sometimes done in ancient Rome; nor did he think that they should be sold, as debtors were according to the provisions of the civil law. But he did think that they should be compelled to pay in the same way as the law compels the payment of all other dues.”
Thomas S. Bell, delegate from Chester “Should we set up a standard for other men’s consciences, and pronounce that this or that scruple of conscience is unreasonable?”

James C. Biddle, delegate from Philadelphia “Sir, are we prepared to constitute ourselves here into judges of their consciences?”
Charles Brown, delegate from Philadelphia county “If they were conscientious in relation to the bearing of arms, they were equally so in relation to the payment of money for personal services. It was, therefore, no relief at all.”
Joseph R. Chandler, delegate from Philadelphia
“They may truly say to those who call upon them to bear arms, — we need no defense; we wish none; we made none of these laws; and you that come since our fathers came, have no right to coerce us to obey them, whatever you may do among yourselves.”
Andrew J. Cline, delegate from Bedford “There was something in the character of these scruples which he could not understand. They were not palpable and tangible. He could not grasp their meaning.”
Thomas P. Cope, delegate from Philadelphia “It is alleged, that if the Quakers will not fight, they should pay an equivalent. Now, will any casuist here or elsewhere, tell me the difference between my shooting a man myself, and hiring another to shoot him! It is because Friends cannot perceive this difference, that they seek relief at your hands.”
John Cummin, delegate from Juniata “Does not this government depend upon the payment of taxes? And is not the payment of taxes the very sinew of war?”



William Darlington, delegate from Chester “If there were any who entertained conscientious scruples, he hoped these scruples would be protected and respected unless they should come in competition with the public safety.”
James Dunlop, delegate from Franklin “If we do not insist upon the payment of an equivalent, every fellow that chooses, may relieve himself of the duty by saying that he has scruples of conscience. We might just as well say at once, that every man who chooses may fight for his country and that if he does not choose he may let it alone.”
Walter Forward, delegate from Allegheny
“What right had he, or any other man, to substitute his own opinions for the consciences of other men, and to bring charges of fraud and deceit against them, simply because their opinions differed from his own?”

John Fuller, delegate from Fayette “Do not the Friends pay one man to kill another, when they pay their share of the general tax towards the support of the government, and the means of national defense?”

Benjamin Martin, delegate from Philadelphia county “They were made to appear as a privileged class, or being exempted for military service, while other people had to fight for them; but yet they were subjected by the non-performance of the duty, to the most odious, fraudulent, and oppressive exactions, from the collectors of militia fines.”

John J. M’Cahen, delegate from Philadelphia county “Conscience is a matter that lies in every man’s bosom, and it is for him to determine how far his conscience will allow him to go. A man may be conscientious, scrupulous about paying taxes, or about obeying the law of the Commonwealth, but it does not follow that his conscience is entitled to respect. Every man is bound to respect the laws.”
James Merrill, delegate from Union “Shall we say that no one has a right to claim protection in matters of conscience; that his protection shall depend upon the discretion of the Legislature; that the rights of the minority shall be left to the decision of a fluctuating majority; and that every thing which the minority does shall be wrong, and every thing done by the majority shall be right?”
William Penn, Founder of the Pennsylvania colony
“No human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.”
James M. Porter, delegate from Northampton
“No man more sincerely respected conscientious scruples than he did, and where a man sincerely entertained such scruples, the principles of our Government said that they should be respected”


Samuel A. Purviance, delegate from Butler “He could not regard this question in any other light than as a question of toleration, and on that ground and that alone, he hoped the amendment might be agreed to which would grant them the relief which they asked.”
Emanuel C. Reigart, delegate from Lancaster “I wish the whole matter to be left clear and intelligible. It is undoubtedly the right of every citizen to receive protection at the hands of his country for his person and property; but this protection must be reciprocal.”
William Smyth, delegate from Centre “They have undoubtedly rights as well as other men, but I apprehend it is not the duty of this Convention to enact laws which shall exempt them entirely from being called upon to defend the soil on which they live. I think it would be wrong to do so.”
Ebenezer W. Sturdevant, delegate from Luzerne “Can it be expected that men will go and learn military tactics, losing some three or four days in the year, at an expense of perhaps fifty dollars, to support a system which their more wealthy favored and conscientious neighbor is entirely free from?” 25 October 1837
George W. Woodward, delegate from Luzerne
“Conscience! Sir, I can not understand it if such be conscience. I thought I had some knowledge of it; I thought I felt its monitions; but if it be made of such stuff as some gentlemen seem to think it is, I confess myself a stranger to it. If its purpose is to seal men’s purses against taxation, it will not be wanting popularity, and the pulpit need not longer exhort to its cultivation.”
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