Timothy Davis Leads Break-away Band of Taxpaying Quakers

Here’s a note from a committee of the New England Yearly Meeting of Quakers to the Sandwich Monthly Meeting concerning Timothy Davis, who led a faction of Quakers who split from the main Meeting over the question of whether it was acceptable to pay taxes to support the American revolutionary army:

To the Monthly Meeting of Friends, held at Long Plain, for Sandwich, . Dear Friends — We being under appointment, by last Yearly Meeting, to visit your Meeting, and such members thereof as might seem necessary, and to give such advice as might seem suitable, respecting Timothy Davis’s publishing a pamphlet on taxation, as well as the matter of the pamphlet, do first advise and recommend that each one settle down in close attendance to that Divine and enlightening gift, measurably bestowed on each one of us; and we fully believe that therein you will discover that there remains a labor for you yet to do, in order to clear our holy profession and testimony of truth from the suffering and reproach occasioned by said pamphlet, as well as the manner of publishing it; and in that state of humbly waiting on Divine wisdom, we doubt not you will find truth to open the way for further counsel and advice, and friendly admonition to Timothy, and we advise that you fully discharge yourselves therein; and if after all he shall remain inflexible to your labor of love, and cannot be brought to a sight and sense of his missteps, and in Godly sorrow which worketh repentance not to be repented of, give forth a condemnation of said pamphlet, and publish the same as our discipline requires; that you then put the rule of discipline prescribed for obstinate transgressors in execution. But in case you remain divided in sentiment, and there be such among you as shall not conform and submit hereto, our advice is, that you lay the matter before your Quarterly Meeting, in order, that if it cannot be finished by their assistance, they may send the same to our next Yearly Meeting.

Signed: Benjamin Barney, Jr., Joshua Fulsom, Daniel Newhall, Benjamin Buffington, William Buffum, George Comstock, Abraham Dow

I reprinted Davis’s pamphlet, in which he advocated paying taxes to the rebel Continental Congress, .

Davis at first refused to renounce his views, and in the Sandwich Monthly Meeting disowned him. Some other Quakers with similar views left with him and started their own, separate Meeting. In , Davis changed his mind, renounced his heretical views, and rejoined the orthodox meeting.

And, a little more recently, from the Spokane Chronicle, this letter-to-the-editor:

Won’t pay income tax now

Federal taxes are collected to be channeled into the needs of the American people.

Health care, housing, employment, food, education, culture and art are a few of the most fundamental needs that are required to create a whole and healthy society.

Once the U.S. tax system exists on this basis, I will contribute my share of dollars again.

But currently, I absolutely cannot.

My public statement of not paying my federal income tax is my way of shaking off this numbness and of practicing my democratic and human right to oppose the wars we are engaged in.

The facts are that 64 cents of every dollar spent are directed militarily; that three nuclear bombs are built daily, adding to a great probability of nuclear war; that U.S. aid is used to injure, kill and terrorize citizens of El Salvador, Nicaragua and other Central American countries; that the United States has 102 bases in England alone, making it just one example of the way we keep other countries around the world hostages to our brand of militarism.

In the meantime, a large percentage of Americans cannot receive health care because they cannot afford it; many Americans are hungry, and many are unemployed; many are depressed and fearful.

Once this is reversed, with military spending being minimized and the basic concerns of the population being given first priority, then I look forward, in good conscience, to paying my taxes.

But until then, I will send the money I earn to organizations and agencies that fund basic human needs and productive social change.

It is not that I refuse to pay; it is more that I must redirect my money to where it is needed most urgently.

Shannon Stahmer