Should Quakers Refuse to Pay All War Taxes, or Only Explicit War Taxes?

On , The British Friend ran the following letter from “I.L.” in which he tried to explain why Quakers ought to restrict their war tax resisting to those taxes that were explicitly and exclusively for war, even to the extent of paying taxes that were implicitly and largely for war:

Ought Friends to Pay Income Tax?

It is well known that the Income Tax was in the first case a war tax, and has been found so convenient by each succeeding chancellor of the exchequer since the days of Pitt, so easy to manipulate where a few extra millions are required, that no national financier has been willing to relinquish it. But whether Friends can consistently pay this Tax when they have so long withstood the claims of a State Church, should be a question which may well be asked by those who wish to have a clear conscience.

This question comes home to us with the more urgency when we know that quite recently 2d. in the £ has been added solely on account of the Egyptian and Soudanese wars. At the first glance it would seem that if we paid the additional charge we should be providing the “sinews of war,” and to a certain extent we are; but as the government do not make a distinct war tax, and provide war estimates out of the general exchequer, it is clear that we do not know which portion of our taxes are devoted to this lamentable, and, as we think, unnecessary and wicked purpose.

The Society of Friends is often twitted about its willingness to supply the means for carrying on war and participation in the supposed protection afforded by fleets and armies, but there can be little doubt they would be quite willing to do without both war taxes and all that they represent, and if a time of trial were to come such as an attack upon our shores, or an enforced conscription, we believe that the present generation would show that they have not departed in peace principles from the faith held by their forefathers. Indeed it will be quite reasonable to suppose that were such a time to come (and it may be nearer than we think), others besides Friends would be found willing to suffer persecution rather than break the law of God in taking the life of a fellow-creature. As regards the question at issue, the payment of taxes is clearly binding, for our Saviour sanctioned it in paying taxes or tribute money to the Roman government which was not only a military, but an idolatrous government.

There can be no doubt that were Friends, or any other considerable body of people, to refuse to pay the Income Tax, they would cause a large amount of trouble, and perhaps people at large would think more of the wickedness of wasting the public money; but, on the other hand, we are distinctly enjoined by the apostle to obey the magistrates, to be in subjection to kings and governors, etc.

Now we know that the administration of a country cannot be carried on without money. It is clearly, then, our duty to pay the demands made upon us, and leave the disbursement of the funds so raised to the responsibility of the “powers that be.” When the war tax is collected separately — and it can be shown that such tax is devoted solely to war purposes — then we may expect to see as much difficulty experienced in the collection of it as was caused by the firmness of Friends in refusing to pay church rates — a refusal which has had the effect of almost entirely abolishing this unpopular form of contribution to a State Church.