In the article I describe two dramatic periods of waxing and waning of war tax resistance in the Society of Friends: one from the middle of the 18th century to the end of the 19th, and the second during the 20th century Cold War.
(For a look at some of my earlier attempts to assemble the research that went into these articles, see ♇ .)
The article also looks at a recent attempt by Quakers in the Pacific Yearly Meeting to reignite the practice, and a sidebar introduces Kyle & Katy Chandler-Isaksen, Quaker simple living champions and war tax resisters from Nevada. Katy reflects on how war tax resistance and voluntary simplicity do and don’t harmonize with what she sees of current Quaker practices.
We’re up to in our journey
through the newspaper coverage of the “passive resistance” movement against
aspects of the Education Act.
Sheffield Daily Telegraph carried the news of a
dozen resisters summoned in Derby. “Some of them have not paid any portion of
their poor rate, so as to prevent the balance being paid anonymously.” A
second article concerned 24 resisters summoned in Holbeach. “The Bench… made an
order for payment in each case, declining an application for one warrant for
each parish.” A third article:
An Overseer as Resister.
Henry Walker, market gardener and overseer, of Filey, made his fourth
appearance before the magistrates as a “passive resister”
at the Scarborough County Police
Court. He had been summoned in respect of property at Gristhrope, the amount
withheld being 4s.
1½d. — The Chairman
(Mr. Lea Priestley Edwards), addressing the defendant, said there could be no
conscientious objection to obeying the law. He (the Chairman) objected to the
whole of the School Boards in this country, but he paid his rates and taxes.
Nobody could make his own laws. — The Defendant: My conscience is above the
law of the land; I must obey my conscience. — The Chairman: You are talking
nonsense, and wasting the time of the Court. The usual order will be made.
Also on the
Cambridge Independent Press published the following
Over 80 Cases as Cambridge
There was an animated scene in the neighbourhood of the Cambridge Borough
Police Court on , the
occasion being the third appearance of the Passive Resisters to the rate
levied for the purposes of education in the Borough under the Education Act
of . Additional police officers were on duty
within the court and its approaches, and the accommodation was taxed to the
uttermost. There were many interested spectators present, including a number
of ladies. The Resisters conducted themselves with the dignity befitting their
cause, and were treated by the Magistrates in that kindly, courteous manner
which has rendered their position easier than that of their fellows in many
other parts of the country.
The gentlemen on the Bench… proceeded to hear the 82 rate summonses.
The Resisters had followed the course adopted on a previous occasion of
appointing a spokesman to give expression to the reasons which prompted their
resistance to the law, and for this consideration the Magistrates and officers
of the Court were doubtless grateful.…
That spokesman said, in part: “To be asked to pay for doctrines in which one
does not believe, is a violation of one’s conscience, and in obedience to a
higher law, we have decided to refuse obedience to this law, which is only one
of men, and which we do not recognise as binding. That is our position, and
until the law is altered, we cannot give our hearty and cordial co-operation
and support to the law, which it is our privilege and pleasure to give on all
other occasions. We shall have, I fear, to appear here time after time until,
in the wisdom of the legislature, the law is altered.”
The amounts the defendants were ordered to pay ranged from one shilling to two
The same paper also covered another set of summonses:
Seventeen Cases at Linton.
Two Magistrates and a Congregational Minister.
There was an unusual scene at the Linton Police Court on
, when seventeen passive
resisters, including two magistrates and a Congregational minister, were
summoned. The little Court room was crowded, and considerable interest was
taken in the proceedings, these being the first cases of passive resistance
heard at Linton.…
In that case, each of the resisters got up one by one to try to give their
objections, though these were quickly shut down by the magistrates. The paper
reprinted a Manifesto released by the Linton resisters in which they stated
their case more completely. It included, among other things, this argument
about why paying under distraint was preferable to paying voluntarily:
If it be urged against our procedure that we must pay after all, our answer is
that there is all the difference in the world between a payment handed to an
official, and being compelled by process of law to pay an official. For a man
to voluntarily bow to an idol would be sin; if he were by sheer force brought
to his knees and held in an attitude of worship, no sin would attach to the
act so far as he was concerned.
The same paper also covered the summons of three resisters from Shelford. In
those cases, “[e]ach decided, after making his protest, to pay the amount due
into Court.” Another article concerned “about thirty” resisters in Wisbech.
Then came this:
Dr. Clifford’s Trowels
“For Balfour and the Bishops.”
Among a number of Passive Resisters summoned at Enfield on
was the Pastor of the City Temple.
Mr. Campbell was unable to be present, but he wrote a letter stating that he
“took the same stand” as before.
Dr. Clifford had an interesting
and busy day. In the morning he addressed a meeting of Resisters, and in the
afternoon he was “at home” to the High Constable of Paddington and other
officials who came to seize his goods.
He had ready on a table a number of valuable articles, including silver
presentation trowels, and when asked what articles he would like them to take,
answered, “You take what you wish, but take enough, for you are acting for Mr.
Balfour and the Bishops.”
A number of other cases here and there were briefly described as well. This
section of the paper concluded with this article:
The Record of Summonses.
The number of summonses this week throughout the country promises to be the
largest on record. In there were 1,978 summonses.
the figures fell to 1,700,
which included 379 in London alone; but a heavy list down for hearing at the
end of the week is expected to carry the total well over 2,000.
Up to the full statistics of
summonses, sales, and imprisonments since the movement began are as under:–
* Three of these twice each.
Among the imprisoned Resisters is a young chemist’s assistant at Hitchin, Mr.
Ebenezer Housden, who has been sent to gaol for a month for refusing to pay
the sum of 4s.
There are now 632 Passive Resistance Leagues in existence, 38 in London, the
rest scattered far and wide over the country.
On , the “Marshall
housewives” were again in the news:
Housewives Again Refuse to Pay Tax
(UP) — The
rebellious Marshall housewives have refused again to pay social security taxes
on their domestic servants, but a government spokesman said
it appears they cannot be fined or
jailed for their failure to do so.
In their first public stand since the
U.S. Supreme Court
refused to consider their attack on the constitutionality of the law, the
housewives announced they had filed the return due
but did not enclose the money.
“This may be the opportunity for congressmen to uphold their oath of office
which charges them with the responsibility of protecting the Constitution,”
Mrs. Caroline Abney, spokesman for the housewives, said.
“We’ve been given a judicial run-around.”
In Washington, an Internal Revenue spokesman said the housewives will have to
pay the taxes, willingly or otherwise.
He said the housewives, by filing their quarterly returns, cleared themselves
of any criminal violation of the social security law for which they could have
been fined or jailed.
He said the Internal Revenue Bureau “will proceed on our normal way to collect
those taxes.” He said normal procedure in such cases is for the bureau to
issue “warrants of distraint,” under which it can attach the salary, bank
account, or other property of delinquent taxpayers.
The housewives contend the household amendment to the social security law is
unconstitutional because it makes the housewives tax collectors for the