In two previous Picket Line entries ( & ) I’ve included excerpts from Stephen B. Weeks’s Southern Quakers and Slavery: A Study in Institutional History () concerning Quaker tax resistance in the years before the American Revolution, and during the Revolution. Today, an excerpt that covers the post-Revolutionary period:
The question of the testimony against war becomes unimportant in North Carolina after the Revolution. It does not appear that Quakers ever served in the American armies in that State, that they took the oath of allegiance, or that they suffered serious inconvenience from their refusal. On , a new militia act was passed, which exempted all Quakers from attendance on private or general musters. This clause was re-enacted in the new militia law passed in , and with the enactment of this law Quakers obtained all their demands in the matter of military affairs. But it is probable that Friends suffered more or less in North Carolina in the war of . They had renewed their testimony against military training in . In they repeated their warning and prepared a protest against the war tax, but it does not appear that they refused to pay it. The North Carolina law of remained substantially unchanged . Chapter twenty-eight of the laws of repealed the clause exempting Quakers and others from bearing arms because of religious scruples. It provided that such persons should be exempt on the annual payment of a fine of $2.50, which was to go to the literary fund. The Quakers expostulated against this law. They did not object to a tax for schools, but in this form it “is a groundless and an oppressive demand. It is a muster fine in disguise and violates the very principle which it seemed to respect.” Public opinion forced the repeal of this law in , and with this exception I have not found that Friends suffered in North Carolina from military laws from the Revolution to the Civil War.
…I have been able to find the name Quaker nowhere in the exhaustive index to Cooper’s Statutes at Large of South Carolina.
The Georgia military law of provided that Quakers should be exempted from service on producing a certificate from a Quaker meeting of their being bona fide Quakers and paying an extra tax of 25 per cent in addition to their general tax. This was re-enacted in the supplementary act of .
In these States Quakers seem to have remained, theoretically, under disabilities; but from the fact that they nowhere speak of sufferings to the North Carolina Yearly Meeting, we may conclude that these disabilities were in reality very small — that they were really suffered to go without performance of military duty.
Their experience in Virginia was by no means so pleasant. In that State they continued under disabilities longer. The law of , exempted Quakers from attending private or general musters provided they produced testimonials showing their affiliation with the Society. The law of , renewed these privileges. The new law of , exempted all Quakers, but the law of , exempted Quakers and Menonists only on condition that they held certificates indicating that they were regular members, and furnished “a substitute for such service, to be approved of by the commanding officer of the company.” The law of , repealed all earlier laws exempting Quakers and Menonists from militia service. But the law of , provided that they were not to be fined for refusing to receive public arms.
In Virginia there were instances in , and probably in , when Friends were fined and imprisoned for not bearing arms, but the officers were said to be very friendly to them, so far as the case would admit. About they presented to the Legislature of Virginia a protest against the then existing militia law, in which, and in an accompanying letter, Benjamin Bates presents a remarkably strong plea for release from this species of discrimination. The editor of Niles’s Register, which reprints on , the petition and letter, says that it perhaps “forms a body of the ablest arguments that have ever appeared in defense of certain principles held by this people.” This petition had, unfortunately, no effect. But there is no mention of Quakers in any way in the later codes of Virginia, and we might conclude that the law was allowed to die by non-enforcement. But such was not the case. In a complaint was made in the Yearly Meeting that some Friends were acting in a military capacity; in the meeting directed that Friends make a report of their sufferings under the militia law. In the meeting discussed the propriety of addressing the Legislature on the subject. This was not done. We hear no more of sufferings after they became a part of Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
To the hardness of the law of distress the officers added by taking more. The following sufferings were reported:
Demanded. Taken. 1807 $287.03 $378.16 1810 262.50 388.97 1811 170.59¼ 405.65 1813 401.85 1814 111.50 180.30 1816 1,622.02 2,444.09 1817 61.86 69.00 1818 218.73 268.35 1819 126.75 160.75 1820 94.50 145.45 1823 185.69 247.47 1824 61.34 107.42 1825 106.11 167.77 1826 42.50 47.00 1827 80.25 109.40 1829 99.75 71.75 1830 66.00 78.30 1831 43.50 65.75 1832 99.00 104.12½ 1833 59.25 100.55 1840 23.00 21.56 1841 64.25 32.25 1842 7.80 1844 8.00 2.50