This is the sixth in a series of posts about war tax resistance as it was reported in back issues of Gospel Herald, journal of the (Old) Mennonite Church.
In this episode I’m going to try to cover the climactic years of of World War Ⅱ. Most of what I found concerned the pressure Mennonites were under to buy war bonds (as was the case in World War Ⅰ) and the attempt by Mennonite institutions to develop some sort of “Civilian Bonds” that Mennonites could buy instead with a clean conscience. I’ll save all that for last. Here are some other bits that touched on war tax resistance:
In an unsigned book review in the edition, the reviewer wrote:
Although it is difficult and perhaps impossible for the nonresistant Christian to avoid making some indirect contribution to war and the use of force through the paying of his taxes, still this does not excuse him from taking his stand in testimony against war and for obedience to Christ in every way that is within his power.
“Difficult” and “perhaps impossible” the reviewer says, but not, I note, “unchristian” or “unscriptural” as tax resistance might have been quickly dismissed in the past.
A “Christian Doctrine” supplement carried an unsigned article entitled “Are We All in the War?” The whole thing is about whether “indirect” support for the national war effort implicates individuals in war. But the only part that touched on taxes directly was this:
The work the Christian does — on the farm, in the office or factory, or in the home — all contributes in the long run and in remote ways to the support of the nation and its people. This is most clearly evident in the paying of government taxes, direct or indirect.
There the subject was dropped.
In the “Christian Doctrine” supplement, I found an interesting attempt by Edward Yoder to weaken the interpretation of Romans 13 that says everybody always owes allegiance to their government because all governments are ultimately divinely ordained. Instead, he claimed, the passage should be interpreted as being advice specific to the Roman Empire at the time Paul’s letter to the Romans was written, which, Yoder claims, was a relatively tranquil and peaceful period of Nero’s rule. Here are the key excerpts from “The Christian’s Duty to Government”:
Paul certainly was guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what he did on this subject. But it is a fact also that he wrote as he did and with the precise emphasis he did because of certain conditions that existed at the time he wrote. Though he lays down broad general principles, he was nevertheless giving advice and instruction to people who lived under specific conditions and amid particular surroundings.
[I]n order to grasp the apostle’s sense and meaning, we must try to understand as fully as we can the circumstances under which he wrote these words. The words taken by themselves and apart from any reference to conditions then existing cannot convey to us the apostle’s mind nor the Holy Spirit’s intention.
Paul wrote to the Roman Christians , at a time when he was spending several months at Corinth while on his third missionary tour. The Roman emperor at the time was Nero. This emperor ruled . He died at the age of thirty-two years, after a reign of fourteen years, according to which reckoning he came to the throne in as a youth of eighteen years. It so happens that Nero is known to posterity chiefly for his cruelly and his monstrous vices. It is true that the major part of his reign, and particularly the last part, was marked by some of the worst crimes of which a human being is capable, as well as by an inhuman persecution directed against the Christians. It is from these facts that Nero derives his deservedly evil reputation in later history.
But not so often are we reminded of the fact that the early part of Nero’s reign was eminently peaceful and orderly. The first five years that Nero ruled were highly beneficent and prosperous for the empire. These were the years when he was still a youth and was largely under the influence of his friend and tutor, the Stoic philosopher Seneca. It was only after the first five years of his reign that Nero cast off the influence of his teacher and began to give free reign to the more base and vicious traits in his character. It was, accordingly, in these early years of Nero’s reign that Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans. This fact should no doubt be kept in mind when we read the apostle’s unqualified instruction to the Christians, that they must be subject to the government over them and should regard it as ordained of God. Whether Paul would have written in exactly the same vein and with the same emphasis [illegible] years later, when the Roman government had begun to martyr Christians, we cannot know.
Yoder goes on to “consider the nature of Paul’s contacts with officials of the Roman government up to the time he wrote his Letter to the Romans” and notes that in general, they were good: Roman officials tended to sympathize with Christians and protect them from persecutors, and Paul’s Roman citizenship helped him get around and stay out of too much trouble… for a while.
Implied also is that Paul, who would soon try to get legal recognition for Christianity in Rome, was under pressure to distinguish Christians as relatively law-abiding compared to the restive Jews of which they were at the time considered a mere subsect.
Evidently he was not thinking of a government at war but only of the normal police and judicial functions of its officials. To take his admonition to be obedient to rulers in an absolute and unqualified sense is to mistake the apostle’s meaning, we may be sure.
Though Paul did write in this connection of human government as established of God, it is significant to note that in the Revelation of John, which was written later, earthly governments, especially those that persecuted and martyred Christians, are represented as ravenous beasts. Circumstances appear to have determined to some extent how the Christians regarded rulers and government.
These same considerations also may help to account for something that we feel is lacking in Paul’s instruction at this point. Seemingly he left out of account the possibility that the government, “the powers that be,” might become anti-Christian or openly hostile to the Christian faith and its propagation. He speaks of rulers as the rewarders of those who do what is good. Nevertheless Paul himself lived to see the day when this same government began to punish those who did right, to punish Christians for the faith they held and propagated. He himself suffered martyrdom under the government which he had described as “ordained of God.” The fact that he placed no qualification on the duty of obedience to rulers in this passage did not mean that he would not qualify it in actual practice. Evidently in practice Paul agreed with Peter when he informed the rulers at Jerusalem, that it is necessary always “to obey God rather than man,” whenever the demands of the two conflict with each other (Acts 4:19; 5:29).
…May we as followers of Christ in these days of increasing governmental demands upon the population search the Scriptures more carefully and intelligently than ever to learn the will of God and our duty toward government under the circumstances in which we live.
War tax resisters in the Mennonite Church would have to reform the traditional understanding of verses like those in Romans 13 in order to make headway, and this was one early attempt.
The traditionalists didn’t surrender without a fight. For instance, “The Christian’s Duty to the Government” by J.C. Kolb, , reasserted the traditional “two kingdoms” reading of Romans 13 and insisted that “If the property or money [a Christian] has accumulated is demanded by the government, he gives it without resistance.”
Kolb felt that those who enjoy the privilege of living under our government “should be impressed that it is a solemn duty to report at full value all taxable property, and should make no effort to evade payment of any tax or use their influence to have what may seem burdensome taxes or laws repealed.” When good Christians encounter the government, he believed, they should “willingly render… all their dues, ‘tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.’ ”
Harold S. Bender wrote about the connection between money and war in the issue, stressing the bond issue but giving no credence to war tax resistance as an option:
Money is involved in war in three ways: (1) Money that goes into war; (2) Money that war destroys; and (3) Money that comes out of war. In each of these three phases the Christian conscience speaks to control action and attitude.
1. The Money That Goes into War. — In time of peace we were told that war is so expensive that it is unthinkable that civilized nations would repeat the folly of the first World War. Yet today countless billions (not mere millions) are being spent to carry on the most destructive war in history. Modern war is expensive because it is highly mechanized and motorized, and only those nations can practice war which have command of great material resources and have great industrial production. Before this war is over, it may well cost the participants a total of a half trillion dollars. It will cost the United States of America in the next fiscal year perhaps $100,000,000,000. These figures do not include the cost of war’s destruction.
The money that goes into war must be paid by the people of the nations that make war. Most of it is paid in cash derived from taxes and loans, largely loans. Taxes are levies made by the power of the state upon its citizens. If the levies are not paid they will be taken by force. Loans are voluntary surrenders of cash in return for a promise to repay and on which interest is earned. The Scripture teaches plainly that Christians should pay taxes, which are forced collections, unreturnable non-interest bearing. It does not teach that voluntary contributions should be made to support war. The Christian conscience which cannot take direct part in war cannot willingly take indirect part in war. The man who makes loans to the government for the prosecution of war, pays others to do, and makes it possible for them to do, what he himself cannot conscientiously do. In addition, he makes a profit (interest) from the business of killing. On these grounds the Nonresistant Christian cannot aid in financing war. He cannot consistently purchase war bonds. But to purchase government bonds in peace-time, or the same type of bonds (civilian bonds) in war time, is not only legitimate, but may be the Christian’s duty. The war bond purchaser commits treason against his own nonresistant conscience and his witness against war. By purchasing civilian bonds he keeps his witness clear.
What is the record of the Mennonite Church in the matter of war bond and civilian bond purchases in the present war? No statistics are available as to war bond purchases, but sufficient is known to warrant the statement that there is as much or more weakness and betrayal of the nonresistant position on this point than there is on the draft. A considerable number of members have purchased and are purchasing war bonds. Some ministers have neither admonished against such purchases, nor advised civilian bond purchases, and it is reputed that some have purchased such bonds themselves. Some (very few, no doubt) have served on bond campaign committees. Failure on the war bond question seems all the more inexcusable in our rural communities where the pressure is not strong and where no compulsion is used. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has instructed all war bond committees to give full recognition to conscience in this matter by recognizing civilian bond purchases. No one needs to purchase war bonds; if he does so, he does it because he prefers war bonds to civilian bonds.
Our young men are “on the spot” in the matter of the draft. They cannot escape public scrutiny; their position on military service inevitably becomes known. What would be the result if our men who are still earning and are not drafted were to be placed publicly “on the spot” in the matter of war bond purchases? Perhaps it would be an aid in strengthening consciences. The same is true in the matter of civilian bond purchases. There are at least 15,000 heads of families in the Mennonite Church, but to date apparently less than one fourth have subscribed to civilian bonds. Since money put into civilian bonds does not go into war, and since it aids in carrying the national burden and in preventing inflation, there is good reason for conscientious nonresistant people to do their proper share by purchasing civilian bonds in proportion to their income.
What then shall we as conscientious Christians do with our money in war time? The simple answer is: keep it out of war, and keep it in the Lord’s work; but in any case use it conscientiously and sacrificially, not as usurers but as stewards.
William O. Hobbs, in the edition, noted “in too many places, a looseness in the discipline of members who are violating the Word of God and ignoring the position of the Mennonite Church in such things as taking part in defense work, buying war bonds, and working in factories where war work is the chief aim.”
During the Alberta-Saskatchewan Conference it was noted that some of the “boys” in the camps for conscripted conscientious objectors were being asked to sign contracts in which part of their wages were to be paid to the Red Cross. Because the Red Cross was working closely with the military, Mennonites had been discouraged from making voluntary donations to the Red Cross. However, because a contract like the ones the conscientious objectors were being told to sign “partakes of the nature of a tax” (as opposed to a voluntary contribution) the conference advised the objectors to go ahead and sign such contracts while they tried to work out an alternative.
The edition included an interesting (but uncredited) letter “From a C.O. to His Pastor”. Part of this letter tried to reform the understanding of the Render Unto Caesar riddle in a similar way to that in which Edward Yoder tried to loosen the bonds of Romans 13:
When Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” He did not answer the Pharisees’ question. He merely gave them the principle for answering the question for themselves. He did not say the tax money belonged to Caesar, nor did He say that it belonged to God. He made no decision for them. I do not see how more than just that can be made from this passage. It in no way defines what it is that belongs to Caesar, neither does it say what belongs to God. We must of course give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but we must also take care lest we give to Caesar what alone belongs to God.
In fulfilling our new responsibility, we “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” When taxes are called for, we gladly, wholeheartedly, and honestly render them to the authorities. Before salvation had wrought in us the change which enables us to do this, we attempted whenever possible to render unto ourselves the things that were Caesar’s. We were vain enough to endeavor to do such things because at the same time we were trying to render unto ourselves the things that belonged to God. It seems to me that when we truly learn to “Render… to God the things that are God’s,” we will also faithfully “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”
And a “Sunday School Lesson” on “The True Christian a Good Citizen” (credited to “A.M.E.” — likely Alta May Erb) supplemented this with a non-scriptural reason why Christians ought to pay all their taxes:
In return for what we receive we should be glad to pay our taxes. No true Christian will grumble at or try to avoid them in any way. It costs money to run the government. If the money we give is not all used wisely, we are not responsible for that.
A couple of articles around this time tried to draw a distinction between the Mennonite “nonresistance” doctrine, which included unwillingness to participate in war but which was based on Jesus’s command to “resist not evil,” with the superficially similar philosophy of pacifism, which was a non-Biblically based position about the use of violence:
- John R. Mumaw: “Nonresistance and Pacifism” ()
- Franklin H. Littell “The Inadequacy of Modern Pacifism” ()
This suggests to me that Mennonites were beginning to feel some pressure from the pacifist flank about the adequacy or sincerity of their nonresistant position, or that some Mennonites were beginning to drift from traditional nonresistance into a more radical pacifism and that the traditionalists felt the need to bring them back in line.
The “Civilian Bonds” Scheme
Okay: This is going to be a bit lengthy, and some of it is going to be dull, but it’s an important part of the story. Brace yourselves.
We’ll start with an editorial signed “H.” (John L. Horst, I think) concerning “Defense Spending and Defense Bonds” that appeared in the edition. (The U.S. had begun to offer “Defense Bonds” for sale on .) Excerpts:
Many of us recall the high-pressure drives to sell liberty bonds during the World War some twenty years ago. It is worthy of note that the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, announces that “there is to be no ‘drive’, there are to be no quotas, there is to be no hysteria, there is to be no appeal to hate or fear.” This is a fine statement and we can only hope that it will be carried out in good faith. At the same time it is well to notice that already a “drive” is on over the radio and through the press and that a real sales campaign is on.
The sale and purchase of war bonds has always been an issue of real concern to all who are opposed to war on Christian principles. If it is wrong to take up the sword or the rifle or other instruments of warfare, what about lending money to help produce and buy war materials? Also what about working in a factory which makes war materials? although that is not now our subject. On both of these points our General Conference has spoken. The statement on “Peace, War, and Military Service,” as adopted by the session of General Conference, at Turner, Oregon, , says on the point of war or defense bonds:
We can have no part in the financing of war operations through the purchase of war bonds in any form or through voluntary contributions to any of the organizations or activities falling under the category described above [civil organizations such as the Y.M.C.A. and Red Cross, temporarily allied with the military in the prosecution of the war] unless such contributions are used for civilian relief or similar purposes.
It is well for us as nonresistant people to study the implications of the present drive for money to be used for defense purposes. Even though the government disavows all high-pressure methods for the sale of defense bonds and stamps, one cannot tell what may happen in local communities. It is well to be prepared so that we may give intelligent and Scriptural reasons for our nonparticipation in this movement, either in buying or in selling. Let us aim in all things to maintain a consistent and courageous attitude, yet with all humility, so that we may not, on the spur of the moment or under strong pressure, be drawn into doing that which we will later regret and which is entirely incompatible with the profession of our faith.
A follow-up concerned scrap metal drives and “our sincerity in refusing to participate in the drive for defense aluminum and all similar defense efforts that solicit voluntary contributions.”
O[rie].O. Miller reported on arrangements made by the M.C.C. to issue certificates of receipt for donations made to War Sufferers’ Relief and Civilian Public Service, which certificates could be used by our people as substitutes for giving to various defense and war drives such as U.S.O. He also reported on the possibility that a special agricultural bond issue might be issued by the government which could be purchased by our people as substitutes for defense or war bonds. The National Service Board is working on this matter.
We are conscious of the fact that the human and material resources of the nation are being marshalled by our government in a total war effort, and that we shall be expected and asked, possibly in some matters commanded, to participate in it. In the light of our historic nonresistant position, which is well known to our government and our fellow citizens by repeated testimonies in recent times, and has been maintained with devotion for over four hundred years, and which we hold as a deep and sincere conviction of conscience based upon our understanding of the Gospel of Christ and the Word of God, we do not see how we can consistently participate in this national war effort, much as we purpose in all other respects to be obedient, loyal, and productive citizens.
We are deeply grateful for the continued recognition of our religious conscience which is contained in the Selective Service and Training Act… If in this supreme demand for participation in the national war effort our democracy has honored the religious conscience to the extent of total exemption, we are confident that in all lesser demands a similar freedom and protection of conscience will be extended. This, we believe, will apply… to participation in war financing through the purchase of war or defense bonds and savings stamps…
[W]e desire to appeal to our people on the following points:
That we do not purchase war and defense bonds and savings stamps, but rather purchase civilian government bonds and savings stamps as they are provided.
Inasmuch as the question of the purchase of government bonds and savings stamps is now before many of our people, we suggest the following to meet this situation:
- That M.C.C. certificates of donation for relief and civilian public service, and M.C.C. donation stamps, might serve as alternates to defense bond and savings stamp purchases, particularly for those with limited means and for children.
- That those who are able to purchase government bonds of substantial size might make use of a statement of readiness to purchase civilian bonds when they become available. The following form might be useful for this purpose:
Statement of Readiness to Purchase Civilian Government Bonds
In consistency with my religious belief and conscientious convictions, I cannot aid or abet war or give voluntary support to the national war effort, and for these reasons cannot purchase government obligations the proceeds of which are used for war purposes. However, I do wish to support my country with such means as are at my disposal, for constructive ends and particularly in works of relief of human need and suffering, and am accordingly prepared and ready to purchase $⸺ par value of government obligations that may become available for such purposes, when and as they are approved by the Mennonite Central Committee to this end. I will subsequently make additional purchases as my circumstances and the general situation may warrant.
As we learned when we went through The Mennonite archives, the quest during World War Ⅱ for “Civilian Bonds” in the U.S. that would not be tainted by military spending ended up being the pursuit of a mirage. There were some issues of government bonds that were not called war bonds, and that some Mennonites eagerly purchased for that reason, but the money went to the exact same place either way.
H.S. Bender was back in the edition of Gospel Herald to write about “Our Duties and Privileges as Loyal Christian Citizens” (“Eight points from the Peace Problems Committee”). Excerpt:
To date, no law or regulation has been passed compelling civilians (which includes all of us not in the army) to participate in any way in the national war effort. There is no governmental compulsion to buy war or defense bonds or savings stamps, support the Red Cross, work in defense or war industries, or participate in Civilian Defense activities. Therefore anyone who participates in the various phases of the war effort does so voluntarily. Pressures on our people to take part in these things may be strong, but they are no stronger than the pressures on our drafted men to accept service in the army. As sincere nonresistant people we should not yield to these pressures and thus compromise our faith and our conscience. We should not be less steadfast at home than those who are drafted to camp.
J.W. Hoover gave an update on the hoped-for Civilian Bonds in the edition:
Gradual progress apparently is being made on the bond issue for which we have been hoping. Just as soon as we have definite information, it will be sent out. Meanwhile, we encourage the increased use of the Contributor’s Certificates and the Statement of Readiness to Purchase Civilian Government Bonds. These two expedients have proven effective in the relief of pressure to buy Defense Bonds in most cases that have come to our attention where they have been wisely employed.
Jesse W. Hoover reported that “Civilian Bonds [are] Not Yet Available” in the edition:
There are constant inquiries about civilian government bonds. As yet there is no definite information about them. When such information is at hand, it will be passed on without delay. Meanwhile, there are the temporary expedients of “Statement of Readiness to Purchase Civilian Government Bonds” and the Contributor’s certificate. Probably these possibilities have not yet been exhausted in most cases.
In the following issue () Hoover tried to make the situation more clear:
Judging from the constant flow of inquiries, there is obviously a rather general misunderstanding concerning the purpose and use of Bonds, Certificates, and stamps. The Mennonite Central Committee has adopted a certificate for contributions to Relief or Civilian Public Service. This serves as a form of receipt for contributions to the services administered by the M.C.C. for the various co-operating groups. The minimum contribution for which these certificates were formerly issued was ten dollars. This has now been changed, so that any gift of five dollars or more will be recognized by a certificate.
For smaller amounts or for those who prefer the stamp-album plan stamps have been provided as a receipt for contributions. When stamps have been accumulated to the amount of five dollars, a certificate will be issued if desired.
Possession of… certificates and stamps by individuals who cannot conscientiously participate in the financial side of the military program, indicates their eagerness to support an alternative program of constructive service to their country and their fellowmen. These certificates and stamps are not officially recognized by the United States Government as alternative to defense bonds and stamps, but they are significant to the extent that they represent genuine sacrifice on the part of the contributors, and support to national service which they can conscientiously give.
Neither the certificates nor the stamps are redeemable. Their only dividend is satisfaction in a service of good-will rendered in behalf of human freedom and welfare.
The certificates and stamps are simply evidence of gifts made to this testimony for peace and good-will, which is the spirit of Christ and is done in His name. Such evidence of support given to such humanitarian and constructive causes as are sponsored by the M.C.C. should have its effect in relieving pressure to contribute or lend to military purposes. But these are not officially recognized as alternatives to defense bonds.
As a direct answer to growing pressure to buy defense bonds the M.C.C. and other interested groups through the National Service Board are seeking to have a special issue of Civilian Government Bonds or notes from the U.S. Treasury Department, which will be earmarked for Civilian services instead of for war. There is reason to believe that such will eventually be available from the Government. But this is not yet certain. These bonds are not yet available. When they are issued, information as to where and how to obtain them will be given.
Meanwhile, the continued and consistent use of the “Statement of Readiness to Purchase Civilian Government Bonds” is encouraged. These have provided temporary relief of pressure in most cases where wisely applied. These are simply what the name implies, an indication that the individual is willing to purchase Civlian Government Bonds if and when such are issued. It is well to read carefully the statement which is carried on these. It should be self-explanatory.
When new developments come, information will be given. Until then, it should help substantially to relieve pressure if you have evidence of generous contributions to the Relief and Civilian Public Service program now being carried on by the Mennonite Central Committee.
A note from the Ohio Mennonite and Eastern Amish Mennonite Joint Conference, held on , suggests that Mennonite discipline may have been slipping:
We wish to reaffirm that it does not appear consistent for our members who are conscientious objectors, to knowingly fail to register as such, voluntarily continue to work in generally recognized direct war defence shops, or to voluntarily purchase War Defense Bonds, Stamps, and such like.
Another note in the edition showed that at least a few Mennonites were endorsing some really flimsy fig leaves, like buying war bonds and affixing stickers to them saying that the money should only be used for nice things:
Mennonites Support Victory Loan.
Full co-operation of Ontario Mennonites was pledged toward the second Victory Loan, it was announced by Jesse B. Martin of Waterloo. Secretary of the war problems committee of the conference of historic peace churches, Bro. Martin said Mennonites would purchase two types of bonds. One is a non-interest bearing certificate, Series B, which was instituted a year ago in lieu of war savings certificates. The second is the regular Victory Bond to which a sticker will be attached stating the money will be used “to finance expenditures to alleviate distress and human suffering due to war.” The same applies to the non-interest bearing bonds. Church officials in Waterloo North have authorized letters to be sent to every Mennonite family asking their full co-operation. Last year Mennonites loaned to the government without interest and donated outright in relief work a total in excess of $35,000. ―Ernest Gingerich in “Christian Conservator.”
Hope for the “Civilian Bonds” idea was raised again in the issue:
The Peace Problems Committee of General Conference met at Akron, Pa., on , to take up matters especially relating to the Civilian Bond question. It is believed that a satisfactory solution to this problem has been found, and the Committee expects to make a complete report in the near future.
And again in the issue:
Bro. H.S. Bender, chairman of our Peace Problems Committee sends us the following:
The Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Morgenthau, has approved in principle the plan to issue civilian bonds which had been proposed to him by the Mennonite Central Committee. Details are still to be worked out. Full announcement will be made later. A meeting of representative church leaders will be called at Chicago to present the entire matter at the earliest possible date.
The following article, from the Gospel Herald’s “Christian Doctrine” supplement, shows just how “voluntary” these bond drives were, at least for government employees:
A general campaign will soon be under way to sell one billion dollars’ worth of War Savings Bonds and Stamps each month. This campaign is to be purely voluntary. Many people, however, have conscientious scruples about participating to this extent in the war effort and yet are willing to co-operate in preventing inflation.
Governor James of Pennsylvania, in a memorandum to State employees in , stated, “In the event that any employee has conscientious objections to purchasing defense stamps or bonds, a pledge form for him must contain a statement to that effect, showing the religious denomination or sect of which he is a member. Such employee is expected to contribute, before the end of the campaign, to a relief or service organization of his choice, such as the Friends Service Committee, American Red Cross, etc. The pledge form must also contain a statement of his intentions to make such contribution.”
On , the Deputy State Administrator for Pennsylvania of the Treasury Department Defense Savings Staff in a letter to the Field Secretary of Race Street Yearly Meeting of Friends says, “We realize that your members are making large and generous contributions in connection with the dictates of their own consciences. We also realize that your members… would not like to have anyone feel that they are not co-operating as far as possible in accordance with their personal leanings.”
The letter then advises that contributions and pledges to the Civilian Public Service Camps are an acceptable alternative to the purchase of War Savings Bonds. Would not the governor of your state issue a similar statement, if he were requested to do so? ―From “Peace Action.”
The “Civilian Bonds” scheme took at step forward in , according to this article by Orie O. Miller:
Since last week’s release of Secretary of the Treasury, Henry M. Morgenthau Jr.’s letter of to Paul French, naturally many inquiries have come to M.C.C. headquarters as to the necessary next steps in taking advantage of this announced provision for purchase of non-war Bonds. A committee representative of each of the several groups most interested in this has held a number of meetings and is in process of completing arrangements with the Provident Trust Company of Philadelphia to serve as intermediary in this matter. It is expected that the detailed plans to make the arrangement effective will be ready for submission to the responsible agencies in these several groups by . It is hoped that fully detailed information will be available for any one interested in using this provision before . Naturally, all who are concerned in this problem are appreciative of the Treasury Department’s attitude.
…and another step forward in :
By John L. Horst
On , at the call of the Peace Problems Committee of General Conference, a group of fifty church leaders, representing for the most part the constituent groups represented in or co-operating with the Mennonite Central Committee, met at the Home Mission in Chicago, to consider a plan for the issuance of Civilian Bonds for those who are conscientiously opposed to the purchase of war or defense bonds.
It had been previously announced that the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morganthau, Jr., had approved the issuance of such bonds for those who cannot participate in the purchase of war bonds. Tentative arrangements had been made for the sale of such bonds through the Provident Trust Company of Philadelphia, Pa., and it remained now for the Mennonite Church and co-operating bodies to decide whether the arrangements were satisfactory, and, if so, to make plans for publicity and sale of the bonds and the placing of responsibility for supervision of the work and continued contacts with the Provident Trust Company and the Treasury Department.
After the plan was thoroughly explained it was approved by all present, and the Mennonite Central Committee was designated as the publicity and implementing agent for Mennonite and co-operating groups. Orie O. Miller was designated as the Mennonite representative on a Civilian Bond Committee of three, the other representatives to be limited to the Church of the Brethren, and the Friends, who are also vitally interested in the issuance of these bonds. Action was also taken to provide for the appointment of an advisory committee to assist Bro. Miller in his Civilian Bond work.
The meeting also passed the following resolution which should be of interest to our church leaders as well as to all members who could participate in the purchase of bonds:
Inasmuch as our government continues to need borrowed funds for its ongoing civilian services as stated by the Secretary of the Treasury, and inasmuch as it is our duty and privilege as Christians to support our government by the means at our disposal within the limits of conscience, and inasmuch as an acceptable plan has been provided whereby our people can purchase civilian government bonds with the distinct recognition of our conscience by the government, as reported and recommended by the Peace Problems Committee, we hereby express our appreciation to the government for this privilege and advise and encourage our people to purchase the Civilian Bonds provided for the above plan, not grudgingly but cheerfully, in line with our financial ability and what is expected of the nation as a whole in the way of financial support of the government at the present time.
Official notice from the Peace Problems Committee will appear later in the Gospel Herald stating more specifically the plan that has been worked out and giving the date when money may be sent in for the purchase of these bonds. Arrangements for the sale should be completed soon, and will fill a long-felt need on the part of all who cannot conscientiously purchase war bonds. We may well thank the Lord for this recognition of conscience on the part of our government.
Orie O. Miller gave some further notes about the plan in the issue:
A specially called meeting of the Mennonite Central Committee with about [illegible] representatives from the several M.C.C. constituent groups met at the Mennonite Home Mission… , to give consideration to the detailed plans which have been developed from the promotion, purchasing, and handling of Civilian Bonds to be made available as outlined in United States Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr.’s letter to Paul C. French. The plan as presented was unanimously endorsed by the official committees representing the several M.C.C. constituent groups. The Mennonite Central Committee was requested by all these groups to serve their interests further in this matter. The Committee then provided for the continuing program. Fuller details will appear in next week’s notes, and it is hoped within another ten days to send directly to all our congregations full information as to the operation of the plan.
I remind you that as far as I have been able to determine, there was no practical difference between war bonds and “Civilian Bonds” except for their names. In both cases, people who bought the bonds were loaning money to the federal government that went into the general fund for Congress to spend on war and everything else. The war bond / victory bond designations were only marketing tools designed to make certain bond issues more appealing to war supporters. So all of this fuss is just to figure out a way that Mennonites can buy a bunch of government bonds during the war like everyone else is doing, without having to buy bonds that are explicitly called “war” bonds.
Nonetheless, such bonds apparently “recognized the conscience of nonresistant people” and “fill[ed] a longfelt need on the part of those who cannot conscientiously purchase war or defense bonds,” as the following editorial put it (, credited to “H.” — possibly John L. Horst):
Elsewhere in this issue will be found a lengthy account of the development and adoption of a nonwar bond plan which is acceptable both to the government and to the peace churches. This new plan, which will soon be in operation, fills a longfelt need on the part of those who cannot conscientiously purchase war or defense bonds.
The article referred to explains the plan and how it will operate. It should be noted that the purchases are to be made though the Provident Trust Company of Philadelphia, Pa., and that the bonds are a type similar to the series G of regular defense bonds in this way: they are priced at par, and that the interest is paid periodically by check from the United States Treasury. It should also be noted that $1.50 should be sent in addition to the par value of the bond, in order to pay the Trust company for its services in purchasing the bond. This applies to all denominations of bonds, that is, the purchaser of a $50 bond should send $51.50, and he who buys a $500 bond should send $501.50. The plan will be explained in greater detail in the circulars which will be sent to pastors of all our churches. Your minister should be able to give you whatever information you need concerning the purchase of Civilian bonds.
Since these bonds will be counted into the quotas which the government allots to different geographical sections, this should relieve all pressure to buy war bonds once local sponsors of bond drives understand the principle of the plan as laid down by the government. It should also be said that, in line with our duty to the government to support its nonwar functions, we should be willing to buy bonds in quantities similar to what is expected of the nation as a whole.
Once again the government has recognized the conscience of nonresistant people and has made provision by which they can serve their country in accordance with their consciences with regard to the support of war. May we therefore not hesitate to avail ourselves of the privileges and opportunities which our government gives to us as a people. We have another reason to praise the Lord that we are living in America instead of in some dictator-dominated, militaristic nation.
The following article, also from the issue, gave more details about the negotiations that went in to the formation of the Civilian Bonds plan:
Ⅰ. What the Plan Is
A concern for a Civilian Bond Purchase plan was first noted and discussed by the National Service Board for Religious Objectors in , at which time a Committee was appointed to study possibilities. For many months all contacts with Treasury Department officials seemed fruitless. , it was agreed that those groups most concerned should address their petitions in writing to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, and that Paul Comly French of the Committee would then present these letters in person. Among these was the following letter, prepared under the direction of the Mennonite Central Committee:
The Honorable Mr. Henry Morgenthau
Secretary of the Treasury
Dear Mr. Morgenthau:
In the attached statement of the position of the Mennonite Church on “Peace, War, and Military Service” adopted at its General Conference at Turner, Oregon, in , you will note on page 3, item 3 the following: “We can have no part in the financing of war operations through the purchase of war bonds in any form or through voluntary contributions to any of the organizations or activities falling under the category described immediately above, unless such contributions are used for civilian relief or similar purposes.” In other portions of this same statement can be noted the implications of our position and the Biblical basis for it as it relates to military service. All of the Mennonite bodies co-operating through the agency of this Committee hold substantially this position. As a religious group we appreciate most sincerely the respect granted us in this position at the present time and the provision which has been made for our conscripted young men to render their service to this country through Civilian Public Service as provided for in “The Selective Training and Service Act of ” and the subsequent regulations by the Selective Service Administration. Current contributions from the Committee’s membership constituency to the cost of carrying forward the Committee’s administrative share of this program are running between Thirty and Forty Thousand Dollars monthly.
In the numerous other relationships which the members of our groups have in this country at the present time, we are endeavoring to consistently apply our ideals and purposes outlined not only in this statement but also in other similar statements of position made during our past four centuries of history. The purpose of this letter, however, is to bring to your attention the quotation noted above with the request that your office give consideration to some technique by which our members could consistently aid their government with the loan of financial means at their disposal without violating conscience.
In this connection and through the agency of the National Service Board for Religious Objectors… Paul Comly French, Executive Secretary, we have on a number of occasions during the past months contacted individuals in your department — among these, Mr. Graves, Mr. Houghtling, and Mr. Kuhns — and have also explained our concern to Wayne Coy, Senator Robert A. Taft, and others. Inasmuch as our constituents in Canada were faced with a similar situation earlier than we, and since the Canadian government arranged to make available to them two special types of investments (a Series B, noninterest-bearing, nonnegotiable certificate, whose proceeds were designated for reconstruction and relief work; and special stickers for the regular Victory Bond Series, which served to designate such funds for the same purpose), it was our earlier assumption that perhaps similar offerings might be made available to our members in the United States. Through Mr. French, however, we now learn that your Department has investigated this Canadian provision and has stated that such provision would be too expensive from the standpoint of administrative cost. Representatives of the Treasury Department in Ottawa have advised our own leaders in Canada of their satisfaction with the arrangement and of their appreciation of the subscriptions to date. From the angle of our own position such an arrangement as is provided in Canada would be entirely satisfactory. In the matter of the cost of administration to the government in making such or similar offerings available to our people here, we believe also that a plan could be worked out to cover this administrative cost by and within our own group.
We have also been advised by Treasury Department representatives that the type of certificate, bond, or evidence of indebtedness which would meet these purposes is not available in the United States and could not be made available except by an Act of Congress. On this point we, of course, recognize that you yourself would be in the best position to know what might be best or could be arranged. It has occurred to us however — inasmuch as our Government does continue to have financial needs along a number of civilian lines as heretofore — that perhaps some form of special, long-term, low-interest-bearing, nonnegotiable Treasury Note might be made available in units of One Hundred Thousand Dollars or more bearing a statement on its face to the effect that the amount of money in question represents aid to the Government in certain of its continuing civilian interests. We think, for instance, of the budget requirements allowed to Selective Service — Camp Operations Division — by which funds are provided for the “Work of National Importance” technical agencies co-operating with our present Civilian Public Service program. We do not know what this amounts to annually but assume that the total is at least several millions of dollars. We would be happy to have the proceeds of loans made by our people so indicated on the face of the aforementioned Treasury Note.
The provision of such an arrangement as outlined in the foregoing paragraph would also imply that the Treasury would recognize local subscriptions to these on the part of our members as acceptable in lieu of subscriptions to the regularly offered Defense Bond Series; in fact, it would be entirely satisfactory to us to have such subscriptions channeled through the regular local soliciting agencies as is being done in Canada.
The membership of Mennonite and co-operating groups in the United States totals, in round numbers, 125,000 — our total constituency, including children, is perhaps something under 200,000. We believe that the average wealth and income of Mennonites is about the same as that of the average of other American citizens, and we are certain that if a Treasury offering were made available to us consistent with our group’s historic position on this question our members throughout the country would subscribe their full share and more. We will be glad to give you further full assurance of this, and also as noted before, we will be happy to arrange to carry the additional administrative costs for making available and handling such offerings received through one of our group agencies. Because of the large number of inquiries received at this office on this point we have made available some months ago to our members a printed statement of “Readiness to Purchase Civilian Government Bonds” as per attached copy. The large quantity of these that have been ordered from our office and the continued large number of letters received by us convince us of the growing concern of our members throughout the country that if at all possible something consistent with the position we hold might be arranged.
We will be glad to meet with you or any one in the Treasury Department whom you designate to discuss this matter further at any time and place that you suggest. We do hope for your favorable consideration of this petition and request at any early date.
MENNONITE CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Orie O. Miller
Subsequent to this presentation and discussion of same in the office of Under-Secretary of the Treasury, Daniel W. Bell, there was the following further exchange of correspondence between Paul Comly French and the Treasury.
Mr. Henry Morgenthau, Jr.
Secretary of the State
Dear Mr. Morgenthau:
This will confirm our conversation regarding the problem confronting the members of the religious groups represented by the National Service Board for Religious Objectors who feel conscientiously unable to purchase Defense Bonds. They understand that there are continuing expenses for the regular functions of the Government, totalling some six billion dollars annually. Would it be possible for us to purchase regular issues of Treasury bonds and notes and then redistribute them to our people in smaller denominations through a nonprofit corporation we are organizing?
Any rate of interest established by the Treasury is agreeable to us, but we would prefer a rate lower than that paid on Defense Bonds. We are willing to accept notes with any maturity date which seems right to you. We would handle all subscriptions, and the Treasury would not be required to assume any additional clerical burden on our behalf.
If this plan is satisfactory to you, would it be possible for us to explain to our neighbors that we are aiding in the financing of the Government in ways that our consciences permit and that the United States Treasury has approved our plan?
Paul Comly French
Dear Mr. French:
This will acknowledge your letter of
In line with our recent conversation, I think you understand that the Treasury needs some six billion dollars annually to maintain civilian services of the Government which are essential to the basic needs of human life, to conserve our national resources, and to keep in repair our national plant. The Treasury would be willing to have the funds to be subscribed by your people invested in Treasury bills, Treasury certificate of indebtedness, Treasury notes, and Treasury bonds which the Treasury offers publicly to the people of the United States from time to time, and which are not designated by their terms as “war issues.” I shall be glad to see that you are notified each time an offering of this kind is made.
It is our understanding that you will buy such securities as are issued, in amounts in line with the financial resources of your people, and then distribute certificates of participation in smaller denominations through a nonprofit corporation you are organizing. This plan is agreeable to us and will, we believe, satisfy the American people that the groups you represent are contributing to the support of the Government in ways their consciences will permit.
We understand that the groups you represent are making contributions to the support of the Civilian Public Service Camps for conscientious objectors authorized by the Congress and the Selective Service System which would otherwise have been a charge on the Treasury of the United States.
We are all seeking the same objectives and ail glad that our American democracy is able to recognize the conscientious convictions of a minority of our citizens.
H. Morgenthau, Jr.
Secretary of the Treasury
After receiving the letter from Mr. Morgenthau’s office, a meeting of representatives of interested groups was called together in Philadelphia for discussion of further procedure. It was there concluded that as intermediary between the subscribers and the government for these bonds and as agent for these subscribers and the groups they represent, an established, well-known, financial institution would be preferable to any other plan that might be devised. Provident Trust Company of Philadelphia was suggested. Contact was immediately made through one Provident Trust Company’s Vice-President and the group was assured that this institution would endeavor to serve in this capacity. A series of conferences with officials of Provident Trust Company and a further conference with Under-Secretary Daniel W.B[illegible] ironed out and developed further details necessary before the plan could be presented to the groups concerned. By , however, it was felt that the plan was ready for such presentation.
A special meeting of representatives of the operating Mennonite and associated groups was, therefore, called to meet with the M.C.C. at the Mennonite Home Mission… on . The Secretary of the Mennonite Central Committee presented to this gathering the provision for purchase of Civilian Bonds by those who cannot conscientiously purchase War Bonds and gave at the same time a review of the work which had been done in this matter by the representatives of the Committee and of the National Service Board, and stated: (a) that Provident Trust Company will serve as agent for the purchase of Civilian Government Bonds to be distributed to individuals, (b) That a representative of the Mennonite Central Committee, with representatives of the Brethren Service Committee and the American Friends Service Committee would constitute a Civilian Bond Committee to supervise the plan and to apply for specific Government Bond purchases, (c) That a charge of $1.50 for each bond purchased by subscriber would cover all costs of the service.
A letter from Provident Trust Company to the M.C.C. tentatively outlining the arrangement for their services as agent was read. Further explanation was also made to the gathering concerning the method of promoting the sale of these bonds and of explaining the plan to our people. After clarification of specific points in the plan, the gathering gave consideration to it and what attitudes our several groups would want to take toward same in separate M.C.C. constituent group meetings. Following this, the gathering reassembled for receiving the reports from the several groups. Inasmuch as these were practically unanimous in favoring the plan, the following resolution was then moved and seconded as the evident mind of the meeting and passed by unanimous vote:
That we approve the Civilian Bond plan submitted by Orie O. Miller, Executive Secretary of the Mennonite Central Committee, and charge the Mennonite Central Committee with the responsibility of representing the co-operating Mennonite and associated groups in the administration and promotion of the plan, and in any further needed representation to the government or private agencies.
At this point the Mennonite Central Committee membership then took over further action as noted in the following minutes:
That the Mennonite Central Committee accept the charge assigned to it in the matter of the Civilian Bond Plan by the co-operating Mennonite and associate groups and proceed to set up the organization and policies necessary to carry out the plan.
Moved and passed that the promotion of the Civilian Bond program in the churches be made the responsibility of the Peace Section, together with the responsibility for raising the finances necessary for this work.
Moved and passed that Orie O. Miller be appointed the M.C.C. representative on the Civilian Bond Committee.
Moved and passed that the Executive Committee appoint an advisory committee to assist O.O. Miller in his work as Mennonite representative on the Civilian Bond Committee.
The Brethren Service Committee has similarly approved for its constituency the program as outlined and has designated its representative on the Civilian Bond Committee. The American Friends Service Committee still has the plan under advisement with indication that this constituency will also co-operate. A publicity folder approved by Provident Trust Company and the Civilian Bond Committee, has been prepared and is in the printers’ hands now. A packet of these with accompanying explanatory letter will be mailed to all M.C.C. constituent group pastors just as soon as these are available from the printer, from which time the plan then becomes operative.
Orie O. Miller,
Secretary of M.C.C.
Ⅱ. How to Use the Plan
Many anxious inquiries have come to us during the past few months, asking whether we had a solution to offer to the growing pressure to buy Defense or War Bonds. It was necessary for us repeatedly to inform you that nothing was yet developed, but that we were diligently and hopefully employed in an attempt to meet your requirements. Our hopes, prayers, and labors have at last borne fruit. We can now offer our people subscriptions to Government Bonds that are not for war purposes. Provision also is made for the recognition of such subscriptions to alternative bonds, both by church group as well as by county quota. This opens up an avenue of service for which many of our people have long been hoping.
In the Chicago meeting of , after explanation had been made by the Secretary of the Mennonite Central Committee, it was practically unanimously agreed by all groups represented that we should go ahead with the proposed plan as submitted. It was further agreed that the M.C.C. should be the implementing agency for the Mennonites and their affiliates. The further promotion and publicizing of the program was given into the hands of the Peace Section.
The circular which has been prepared will outline in detail the operation of the plan. These descriptive circulars are being mailed to each minister or pastor on the available mailing list, as furnished us by the various conferences represented in the M.C.C. If for any reason your pastor does not receive the circulars and application blanks within a few days, we invite you to get in touch with the Mennonite Central Committee, Akron, Pennsylvania.
The Provident Trust Company will receive funds in denominations of $50.00, $100.00 $500.00, or $1000.000 [plus $1.50 for each bond purchased to cover costs of service] to be held by them until the Civilian Bond Committee approves their subscription to a specified Government Bond issue. When such subscription has been completed and the Treasury Department has made proper registration of the bond, the bond will be returned to the Provident Trust Company, which will in turn forward the bonds to the subscriber or to the person or institution for whom the subscriber ordered it registered.
Anyone so desiring may subscribe to a bond in the name of a charitable institution. The subscriber may designate a church institution, for example, as the one for whom the bond is to be registered. Receipt for such subscription would be forwarded to the subscriber. Such receipt would provide him with evidence of his subscription to government obligations and he would receive credit in the community quota. Such receipt would also be evidence for income tax deductions. The bond would be mailed to the institution for which it was subscribed and registered. The institution would be recipient of the proceeds of the bond at its maturity.
The question of pay-roll allotment plans of certain industrial organizations is also provided for. The employee concerned may instruct the proper officials of the industrial organization to reserve that part of his pay roll which they ordinarily deduct until sufficient has been accumulated for the purchase of at least a minimum $50.00 bond. The industrial organization should be instructed to forward such funds with the subscription order form to the Provident Trust Company. The Provident Trust Company will subscribe the designated funds in the next available issue of bonds as authorized by the Civilian Bond Committee.
If you prefer, you may subscribe through the Defense Bond solicitor in your local community. In case you use this method, proper precaution should be used to insure the funds being invested through the channels outlined above. If satisfactory arrangements can be agreed upon with the solicitor, it would probably be helpful in more directly meeting the pressure by local groups for Defense or War Bond purchases.
The Provident Trust Company is not prepared to receive funds in denominations smaller than $50.00. In cases where individuals are not prepared to subscribe for at least a minimum $50.00 bond but where they desire to have evidence of smaller subscriptions which are possible for them to make, it might be helpful to set up a plan in the local church congregation to put these smaller amounts into a common congregation bond or to be held in trust by the congregation with proper individual receipts. The specific application of such suggestion would necessarily vary widely with local conditions. If there are difficulties in the administration of a plan in your local community, or if there are points which are not clear, please address all inquiries to the Mennonite Central Committee…
Jesse W. Hoover,
Secretary, Peace Section.
The rollout had some glitches, as this release from the Peace Section noted:
The expected release on Civilian Government Bonds has again met with unexpected delays. We are fairly certain that the publicity materials will reach you nearly as soon as this news note, perhaps before. Should there be a mistake again, we trust that you will be sympathetic with the problem. There are some things which cannot be hurried.
In addition to the suggestions given in the previous article, a plan is being made available for local congregations to hold in trust the fund of an individual subscriber until sufficient has accumulated for the purchase of a Civilian Government Bond. It was previously suggested that several individuals might participate in a common Bond, to be registered in the name of one person as trustee of the group. Or such Bond might be subscribed by the congregation in the name of a properly authorized official. All this is of course designed to enable the smaller contributor to share in this type of service.
The brought this “Civilian Bonds” boosterism:
We are in receipt of a copy of a letter from the Peace Section of the Mennonite Central Committee, signed by Bro. O.O. Miller, Executive Secretary, and Bro. Jesse W. Hoover, Peace Section Secretary. Six items are listed, to be sent to some minister or other leader in each of the Mennonite congregations. The literature explains in detail the opportunity for conscientious objectors to subscribe for civilian bonds, instead of bonds to finance any enterprise connected with war. The plan proposed is worthy the consideration of all nonresistant people.
And here are some of the administrative details (from the issue), along with a tally of how many Civilian Bonds had been sold thusfar via the Mennonite Central Committee:
Quite a few of our people seem to be misinformed concerning the service charge on Civilian Bonds. A service fee is charged by the Fiscal Agent, (Provident Trust Company) at the rate of $1.00 for each subscription of bonds for each individual subscriber. This does not mean $1.00 for each bond, unless each bond is registered in a different name.
For example, if John Doe wishes to subscribe to a $500 bond for himself, he should forward $500 for the purchase of the bond plus $1.00 service charge. Likewise, if John Doe wishes to subscribe to $250 of Bonds (for which he will receive three (3) bonds; one at $50 and two at $100), he should forward $250 for the purchase of the bonds plus $1.00 service charge, not $3.00. Quite a number of orders have come in with remittance of service charge on the basis of $1.00 per bond rather than $1.00 per subscription order. This necessitates the return of the extra fees by the Provident Trust Company, making added work and expense.
Subscriptions received at the offices of the Provident Trust Company up to from our M.C.C. constituency, totaled $76,160.
Information available from the Treasury Department indicates that it will be two or three weeks before a suitable issue of bonds will be available to which our funds can be subscribed.
A few more details, and another tally, from this Peace Section note by Jesse W. Hoover ():
We would like to emphasize some further points of correction in filling out the Subscription Orders for Bonds. Please use the full first name and not an initial. If only the initial is used, it is necessary to write to the subscriber asking for his full name before the order can be entered. In the case of a wife making a subscription, she would use her own first name. For example, Mrs. Mary Smith rather than Mrs. John Smith.
Postcard Receipts for subscriptions are sent directly to the individual subscriber rather than to the treasurers or representatives of the groups. The representatives of Provident Trust Company have agreed that they will write a letter to such treasurers, listing the names registered with the appropriate amounts, which will serve as receipt to the treasurer, if that is desired. May we suggest that church treasurers, when sending in subscriptions for a number of people, should ask for such letter of recognition from Provident Trust Company.
Subscription orders to date from our M.C.C. constituencies have reached a total of $108,400.00.
The tally continued to rise, as shown in this Peace Section note from Grant M. Stoltzfus ():
A report from the Civilian Bond Committee shows that civilian bonds have been purchased by persons in 150 counties of 28 states during .
During $18,200 worth were purchased and during the amount was $188,300 bringing the total to $206,500. Subscriptions by Mennonites for totalled $183,150.
Hoover & Miller co-wrote a Peace Section note that described the “Civilian Bonds” it this way: “the Treasury Department is not issuing special bonds for us. They have only agreed to make available from time to time certain of their regular offerings which are not specifically for war purposes.”
In connection with the Civilian Bond Plan we have been getting a great many inquiries about the rate of interest and maturity dates of these alternate Civilian Bonds. This is explained in the folder, but perhaps not made sufficiently clear. One should consistently keep in mind that the Treasury Department is not issuing special bonds for us. They have only agreed to make available from time to time certain of their regular offerings which are not specifically for war purposes. It is thus easy to understand that one offering may be entirely different from another. The Civilian Bond Committee aims to select such issues as will be most suitable to our people and which in a general way compare in interest rate and maturity with current war bond issues. Usually, however, the interest rate will be somewhat lower. It is impossible in advance to issue a given rate of interest or any definite maturity date.
To those congregations which have appointed solicitors among their own people, we would like to give one bit of instruction: It is imperative that the subscriber should sign his own subscription order form when sending in the order to the Provident Trust Company. One other common difficulty is that our people give the name of their local church or congregation rather than the general church affiliation. This is confusing. We urge all who are making out subscription forms to give the general church affiliation rather than the local church.
, the Civilian Bond Committee authorized Provident Trust Company of Philadelphia to invest all funds then on hand in two per cent United States of America Treasury Bonds of . This particular offering was, however, not available in $50 denominations. Therefore, only subscriptions of $100 and higher could be invested in this offering. A total of $233,600 was used in this issue. Subscribers of $100 or higher whose subscriptions were with Provident Trust Company before should be receiving their registrated bonds shortly. As of , there was again available at Provident Trust Company a total of $113,650.
Hoover & Miller again coordinated for a Peace Section Note, which reassured readers that their Civilian Bond purchases would be reported to their local war bond czars so that they would get credit for pitching in along with everyone else:
We call attention again to the necessity of having your full name on bond subscriptions. Bonds cannot be registered with only the initials. Unless you sign your full name, it only causes delay and added correspondence.
Civilian bond subscriptions continue to come to Provident Trust Company at the rate of about $40,000 per week. The total subscribed from the beginning of this plan to amounts to $527,100.00. Approximately eighty-five per cent of this total so far has been from Mennonite sources. No investment of funds at Provident Trust Company has been authorized since that of . The Civilian Bond Committee is assured that government issues suitable for these funds will very soon be available. The Treasury Department representatives have requested and are getting monthly reports of all subscriptions received by Provident Trust Company, and we understand are now making the information available to all county and state Bond Sales Headquarters, concerned.
Grant M. Stoltzfus gave another tally update:
As of a total of $602,050 worth of Civilian Bonds have been subscribed. Of this amount $505,800 worth are subscribed by Mennonites. The remaining subscriptions have been made by Brethren, Quakers, and other peace groups.
Hoover & Miller were back on to explain the latest glitch in the program:
Many inquiries are reaching us as to the reason for the delay in the issuance of bonds. No suitable issue has been available to us since . We are at present endeavoring to work out a method that will be a bit more prompt, therefore, more acceptable.
It might be noted, however, that even though subscriptions are uninvested, yet as soon as they reach Provident Trust Company they are recorded on the State and County Quotas. We get credit for them at once in lieu of war bonds.
Total number of subscriptions for Civilian bonds to Provident Trust Company from beginning to — 5,439. Total subscriptions in dollars — $774,350. Of this total subscriptions from Mennonites — $641,650. Total funds at Provident Trust Company not yet invested in bonds $540,750.
The federal government marketed their Series E U.S. Savings Bonds as “War Savings Bonds.” The Series F and G bonds, though they served the same purpose, did not carry the “War” or “Defense” marketing slogan. That was good enough for the “Civilian Bond” promoters, as shown in this Peace Section Note from Jesse W. Hoover:
Inasmuch as the new F and G United States Government Savings Bonds are not designated as “war issues,” they are being used currently by the Civilian Bond Committee for all civilian bond subscriptions to Provident Trust Company. We understand that the revised printing of the F and G’s is not yet available except through this channel. In any case, it is the only channel through which the subscriptions for these can be handled and due recognition given to the subscriber’s conscience in the matter of purchasing war bonds and for recognition of the subscription on state and county government bond sales quotas.
The revised civilian bond folder indicates that these issues are available currently in four denominations. G’s are available in denominations of $100, $500, and $1000. This piece matures in twelve years — is a registered bond with interest payable semi-annually at the rate of 2½% per annum. The fourth piece available costs $18.50 and matures in twelve years at $25.00. The subscription fee of $1.00 continues for all four of these items. Copies of the revised folder describing the present plan in detail can be ordered from the Mennonite Central Committee, Akron, Pa.
Inasmuch as no $50.00 bonds have been available to the committee, nor promised to be available, a letter has recently gone out from Provident Trust Company, Philadelphia, to all $50.00 piece subscribers indicating how their subscription can be handled in light of the F $18.50 availability or the $100.00 G. From now on subscribers to Provident Trust Company of any of the foregoing four available pieces will find their subscription promptly handled. Oridinarily, the government bond certificate should be in the hands of the subscriber within two to three weeks at the longest. The Civilian Bond Committee is continuing its contacts with the Treasury in an endeavor to procure still more suitable offerings to take care of subscriptions from those who for reasons of conscience cannot subscribe to the war issues.
In the meantime, the arrangement now in effect will, we believe, provide for most of our people and has been approved by the Mennonite Central Committee.
Civilian Bond Subscriptions Total $859,400
Provident Trust Company report as of , shows a total of $859,400.00 in Civilian Bond subscriptions entered at that date. $712,500.00 of this was subscribed from Mennonite sources. The total number of subscriptions was 5,948.
Gospel Herald went so far as to promote something of a competition of which state could sell the most “Civilian Bonds” (the magazine would periodically print updated rankings throughout the war):
Following are the ten highest states with their total subscriptions to Civilian bonds:
1. Pennsylvania $220,724.50 2. Ohio 153,259.50 3. Iowa 141,801.50 4. Illinois 107,978.00 5. Kansas 105,932.50 6. Indiana 78,635.50 7. California 35,797.00 8. South Dakota 35,521.50 9. Virginia 29,755.00 10. New York 22,607.00
Or which county:
Counties 1. Lancaster, Pa. $86,312.00 2. Kane, Illinois 50,400.00 3. Harvey, Kansas 45,519.50 4. Montgomery, Pa. 43,115.50 5. Washington, Iowa 41,228.00 6. Wayne, Ohio 36,665.50 7. Elkhart, Indiana 36,305.00 8. Fulton, Ohio 36,180.50 9. Johnson, Iowa 35,032.00 10. Bucks, Penna. 25,595.50
Another tally update, from Grant Stoltzfus:
As of a total of 6,896 bond subscriptions had been made. These subscriptions totaled $1,063,293.50. Of this amount $914,440.00 has actually been covered by bond issues, the balance awaiting further issue of government bonds. Mennonite subscriptions total $818,688.00.
Stoltzfus also tried to answer the question of what made these “Civilian Bonds” different from any other bonds. The answer: When you buy the bonds through the “Civilian Bond” program, you thereby register a “witness of sensitivity” which indicates “such bonds as having been bought by persons with a conscience against war financing.” This is selling your conscience mighty cheaply, says I. Gospel Herald, :
What is the difference between bonds available at local banks and the bonds purchased according to the plan of the Civilian Bond Committee through Provident Trust Co. of Philadelphia[?]
There is a difference and an important one. Bonds purchased through the church-approved plan are registered with the United States Treasury as having been bought by persons conscientiously unable to finance war. A witness of sensitivity is thereby made to the government relative to this problem.
This testimony is lost when the bonds are bought locally since the United States Treasury does not recognize such bonds as having been bought by persons with a conscience against war financing.
Do bonds bought through the church-approved plan count on the county quota?
Yes, they do. Each month the Civilian Bond Committee reports to the United States Treasury the amount of the bond purchases made by conscientious objectors through Provident Trust Co. of Philadelphia. The Treasury informs the leaders in each county of the purchases thus made by conscientious objectors within their area and in turn the respective leaders can make the necessary adjustments for their counties.
Another tally (Stoltzfus):
The investments in government securities in the Civilian Bond program totalled $1,602,338.50 as of . Investments by Mennonite subscribers accounted for $1,260,030.00 of this sum.
As of the above date a total of 10,321 subscription orders have been made for Civilian Bonds from subscribers of the various religious denominations.
And a further update (Stoltzfus, ):
During the recent national war bond drive there was a large purchase of government bonds made by our people through the Civilian Bond Program. In fact the subscriptions for Civilian Bonds were of such volume that subscribers will have to wait a few weeks longer for their bonds than would normally be the case. The postal card receipts, however, should reach the subscriber about as usual.
The Committee regrets the delay but feels confident of the understanding of our people in the matter.
The “Civilian Bond” program eventually was able to create its own “stamps” with which people could invest gradually, in smaller amounts (Stoltzfus, ):
The Civilian Bond Saving Stamps have been designed for use in the purchase of Civilian Bonds. As such they correspond to the War Saving Stamps which are used for investment in War Bonds. The Civilian Bond Saving Stamps were prepared by the Mennonite Central Committee’s Peace Section in response to requests for such stamps.
- Interested congregations should appoint a treasurer who could well be the regular person handling the Bond or C.P.S. matters.
- The congregational treasurer can secure the Stamps (in denominations of $1., 50¢, 25¢, and 10¢) from the treasurer of his respective church group.
- Those desiring to purchase Stamps will do so through their local treasurer who will hold the money received from the sale of Stamps until the purchaser submits at least $19.50 worth of Stamps. This amount will purchase an $18.50 bond and will cover the $1.00 service fee. Bonds can be registered in the name of the purchaser of a beneficiary and subscribed for through the local treasurer.
(It should be kept in mind that Civilian Bond Saving Stamps are not issued by the government and hence their official recognition may vary with localities.)
Another tally (John H. Mosemann, ):
The following statistics on Civilian Bond purchases indicates a total of $2,000,263.00 invested up to :
Up to Total Total $1,843,954.50 $156,308.50 $2,000,263.00 Mennonites 1,436,940.00 71,157.50 1,508,097.50 Brethren 213,248.50 67,405.00 280,653.50 Friends 79,622.00 4,918.50 84,540.50 Others 114,144.00 12,827.50 126,971.50
This next update (John H. Mosemann, ) puts the matter amusingly. The purpose of “Civilian Bonds” is not to allow purchasers to avoid violating their consciences, but to allow them “to register their desire for non-participation in any effort which violates the Christian conscience” (emphasis mine). This note is the first explicit indication in Gospel Herald that Mennonites were at all conscious of the utter bogosity of the “Civilian Bonds” scheme:
The present increased interest in Civilian Bonds is indicated by a larger volume of inquiries which has been reaching the Akron office. Many continue to appreciate the opportunity to register their desire for non-participation in any effort which violates the Christian conscience. The limitations of the present plan are readily recognized but appears to be the only course open for those who are interested in making such purchases in line with our profession.
Another tally (Irvin B. Horst reporting):
The following statistics on Civilian Bond purchases reveal that up to the amount invested was $2,156,915:
From to there was an increase of $76,880.
Cumulative Total $2,093,049.00 $63,866.00 $2,156,915.00 Mennonites 1,583,244.00 48,183.00 1,631,427.00 Brethren 288,336.50 3,172.00 291,508.50 Friends 87,464.00 3,600.00 91,064.00 Others 134,004.50 8,911.00 142,915.50
The first indication of strong skepticism about the propriety of the “Civilian Bonds” scheme is found in the issue:
The drive for the $15,000,000,000 Third War Loan is on at the present time. Naturally it vitally concerns all those who have conscientious scruples on the matter of taking part in war bond drives and of investing money in this way. The Peace Section of the Mennonite Central Committee has in the past worked out with the Treasury Department an arrangement for the purchase of Civilian Bonds, with which most of our people are familiar. We publish herewith a statement released to ministers of the Mennonite Church and the Brethren in Christ Church by the Peace Section. It gives their viewpoint at the present time. Following this we print an article by Bro. John M. Snyder who gives another side to the picture. We print both of these articles in this open forum so that people may be able to get a better grasp of the issues involved in this matter. “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5).
Another War Bond campaign will soon begin. In this connection a few words of information regarding our Civilian Bond program may be helpful.
The plan for investment in Civilian Government Bonds, as arranged by the Mennonite Central Committee, continues essentially as begun, with apparent satisfaction and value to a great many people. The total in subscriptions now approaches $2,250,000. We appreciate the response to this alternate method f6r conscientious investment, which demonstrates to the United States Treasury officials that a considerable group of people have a conscience against war in the matter of finances.
In the new War Bond drive we may expect renewed pressure for purchasing War Bonds. Mennonite ministers again need to clarify the issues and help our people in their thinking. Some are confused by local bankers who tell them that the Civilian Bonds purchased through the channels set up by the Committee are just the same as the non-war bonds which are for sale at the local banks. Technically this is true, but morally there is a vast difference. All bonds bought through local banks are counted in the War Bond quotas, which means that their purchasers take part directly in the War Bond campaign. Bonds bought through the Provident Trust in Philadelphia are not counted on the quota, and hence their purchasers do not take part in the War Bond campaign.
What advantage has the Bond Purchase Plan, as sponsored by the M.C.C.? Simply this: by subscribing through the program provided, we leave a united witness of conscience against war. The plan is not altogether what was desired at the beginning, but is the best that could be gotten. Your committee has consistently recognized this, but we have also consistently pointed out that it is a step far in advance of anything achieved heretofore. By our response and adherence to it we hope eventually to gain greater recognition and respect on this issue.
But these Civilian Bonds are not counted on the quotas, someone objects. Is this not exactly what our conscience desires? We do not want to be counted with the war-supporters. It is true, however, that each county receives a full record of alternative Civilian Bond purchases from the United States Treasury, and accordingly the local quota board knows just what Civilian Bonds have been purchased. These reports are furnished from the Treasury at Washington, on the basis of the data furnished by our own secretary in the Provident Trust Company office, which are in turn based on the subscriptions of our people. Thus the local bond quota board knows that we are doing our part in bond-buying and knows that it is not a part of the war campaign.
Should we continue to invest in this way? We are not a promotion agent of the United States Treasury, and we do not presume to tell our people whether or how much they should invest in Bonds. But if they do wish to subscribe in Government securities, we believe they should leave a witness of conscience in this matter of war financing. There is no other way to witness for our position and still purchase government bonds, than the M.C.C. Civilian Bond plan. Please help your people to understand this and hold the line of conscience firm and clear.
Harold S. Bender, Chairman
Jesse W. Hoover, Secretary
On the Civilian Bond Question
By John M. Snyder
The cost to the United States of this second World War is so tremendous that it staggers the imagination. Hundreds of millions and billions of dollars are being poured into armaments and the maintenance of armies greater in size and destructive power than anything this world has ever seen. Words cannot adequately convey, nor can our minds grasp, the stupendousness of the expenditures being made for the prosecution of the war effort.
Where do these vast sums of money come from? Since the prosecution of the war is a government function, and since our government is primarily not a producing enterprise, it is apparent that the finances for the war program, as well as for the civilian functions of government is authorized by law to obtain funds for carrying on its authorized functions by two principal means, namely, taxation and borrowing. Ultimately, taxation, used in a broad sense to include various forms of levies upon the property of its subjects and others with whom it maintains trade relationships, etc., is the principal source from which the government must derive the funds to defray the costs which it incurs in the prosecution of its various undertakings.
Concerning the first of these means by which the government obtains needed finances the Scriptural attitude of the Christian is clearly and specifically defined. The example and teaching of Jesus (Matt. 17:24–27; 22:21) and the teaching of Paul and Peter (Rom. 13:6; Ⅰ Pet. 2:14, 15) make it clear that it is the Christian’s duty to pay taxes levied upon him by the State, even though that State be a military power, as was the case with Rome. It is not the purpose of this discussion to enter into the principles of the power of governments to tax their subjects. Suffice it to point out that the State has legal right to confiscate and take possession of property belonging to its subjects in payment of taxes levied, and the New Testament does not dispute this right, but rather admonishes Christians to pay the taxes assessed by the State.
Regarding the second means used by the State to obtain finances the New Testament is not explicit. In fact, this is not even discussed. Here the State chooses not to exercise its prerogative of taxation, enforceable by confiscation, but instead calls upon its subjects to loan voluntarily to the government from their accumulated wealth on the promise of the government to repay at a stipulated time. For this use of the subjects’ money the government offers compensation in the form of interest. There is no legal compulsion involved here. The individual retains ownership of the wealth loaned to the State, and it may be fairly assumed, and accompanying responsibility as to the use made of it.
During the first World War our government promoted campaigns for encouraging people to loan money for the prosecution of the war. It was presented as a patriotic duty for every American to buy war bonds, known as Liberty Bonds, etc. The majority of Mennonites felt that to aid in the war effort in this way was inconsistent with a nonresistant profession and contrary to the teaching of Scripture. Despite the pressure of aroused public opinion and even persecution and physical violence, many steadfastly refused to buy these war bonds, though some succumbed to the pressure and yielded the point.
When the shadows of war again fell across our nation there was manifested a conviction on the part of many Peace Church leaders that the nonresistant Christian, being also a loyal citizen, ought to do more than refuse to do what he considered to be wrong. He ought to find something which he could conscientiously do, and do that with a will, both as a contribution for the benefit of his country, and also as a demonstration of New Testament Christianity as a constructive force for right ends, not only a negative witness against evil. The C.P.S. Camp program is the outgrowth of efforts to bring about such a constructive witness and contribution in connection with our refusal to accept military service.
This same spirit was a motivating factor in the efforts which were made to find an acceptable alternative to the purchase of war bonds, since it was inevitable that there would again be intensive drives sponsored to promote bond sales for financing the war effort.
Several different possibilities have been explored. One which has received some recognition is that of making outright contributions to the C.P.S. Camp program, evidenced by the special certificates provided for this purpose by the agencies operating the camps. A number of states have agreed to accept these contributions in lieu of war bond subscriptions, inasmuch as the expense of of operating these camps would be an obligation to be financed by the Treasury Department if the churches did not assume it, and it is so recognized in a letter written by Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau.
Another proposal was the issuance by the Treasury of special government bonds, the proceeds of which would be earmarked for some purpose acceptable to people of nonresistant faith, such as relief and reconstruction, the alternate work program for conscientious objectors in lieu of military service carried on in the C.P.S. Camps, or other similar projects. This proposal was not accepted by the government because there is no legal authorization for the issuance of bonds whose proceeds are earmarked in advance for certain specified purposes. All Treasury borrowings and tax receipts go into the general fund from which Congress makes appropriations as it sees fit, and it would require a special act of Congress to authorize the issuance of such special bonds. However, this proposal is still being worked upon in the hope that in some way money received from bonds sold to conscientious objectors may still be designated for uses acceptable to the consciences of the subscribers.
A third proposal, and the one which has been endorsed and put into effect, is that the Treasury Department would recognize our objection to buying bonds designated as war bonds, upon which we would be willing to subscribe to bonds issued by the Treasury which are not so designated. The proceeds of these bonds would go into the same general Treasury fund into which war bond subscriptions are placed and would be appropriated by Congress as it might see fit just as is done with funds received from other sources. The letter which was duly received from Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau states that the government has some six billion dollars of expenses annually for essential civilian activities and would be willing to have the money subscribed by our people invested in regular Treasury offerings which are not designated as “War Bonds.” The question in view in this discussion is, “Does this plan, known as the Civilian Bond Plan, satisfy the scriptural objections to subscribing to war bonds?”
The issues involved in war bond subscriptions include the following four points which will be considered briefly in succeeding paragraphs:
- The scripturalness, according to the Mennonite viewpoint, of the Christian’s loaning money to the government for financing its program.
- The use of the Christian’s money for prosecution of the war effort.
- The express, voluntary support of and alignment with the war propaganda by buying “War Bonds” as such.
- Control of inflationary tendencies by restricting the present purchasing power of the people of the country, with a view to enlarging future purchasing power at the time the bonds will be redeemed.
The question as to the scripturalness of the Christian’s loaning money to the government for financing its program is not limited in its implications to war financing. It applies equally to peace-time financing as well. Should the Christian at any time invest his money in government securities issued to raise funds to finance the costs of government activities? Two points are suggested here for consideration in connection with this question:
First, there must be considered the Christian’s obligation to promote the spreading of the Gospel with material means — his responsibility of Christian stewardship. It is the Christian’s primary responsibility in life to make the glorious message of salvation known to man. And how our present-day world needs this message! This, and not the armies and armaments now being mustered on the world’s battlefields, offers the effectual solution to the world’s problems. God’s blessing of His people with abundance of material things is for this purpose and none other. We have never yet reached the place in the witnessing program of the Church where more funds cannot be used in spreading the Gospel. And if we ever do seem to have reached it, it will not be because too much has been given or the task is finished. It will only mean that some of the givers should become goers, giving themselves to the work of spreading the Message of Grace. In view of the pre-eminent and urgent claim of the witnessing program of the Church upon the material resources of Christians, can we afford — is it right — to divert to the purposes of a secular government the possessions entrusted to our stewardship by God, our control of which is not disputed by our government? The words of Jesus, “Let the dead bury their dead,” perhaps are applicable here. For those functions of government which might not be properly characterized among “the dead,” Christians are willing to be taxed, indeed are being taxed.
In the second place, there is the principle held by our Anabaptist forefathers and still maintained by a large body of Mennonites today that it is not for the Chritsian to enter the sphere of political government and help to rule and control the State. It is this principle which keeps us from exercising our franchise as citizens to vote and hold political office. Is it consistent to enter with our money a sphere which we cannot enter personally without violation of principle? Bear in mind that the money remains ours. We can pay taxes for the support of our government because the State asserts title to the money it collects in taxes and assumes full responsibility for its use. But we retain title to money loaned to the government, and our responsibility for its use remains. It is not argued that to loan money makes the creditor responsible for every act and deed of the borrower, but the question is being raised as to the consistency of entering in a financial way a sphere of interest and activity which we confess to be a violation of principle to enter personally.
A more extreme illustration may bring out the issue involved here more clearly. Suppose a brewer or distiller were to solicit loans among us to finance a liquor manufacturing business. None of us would question the inconsistency of a Chritsian’s being engaged in such a business. Would we think it right to invest our money in his nefarious business? Of course, it is recognized that the two cases are not parallel. Government is a legitimate, constructive enterprise in its proper sphere, while liquor manufacture for beverage purposes has no such proper sphere. And yet both have this in common that neither is within the sphere in which we believe it is Scriptural for the Chritsian to engage. Is it then Scriptural and consistent for us to invest our money in the government enterprise from personal participation in which we hold aloof for conscience’ sake?
The second and third main points constitute the crux of the whole problem which gave rise to the attempt to find an alternative to the buying of war bonds. They are related and may be briefly considered together. In this connection it is pertinent to raise this question: “Do we object to the purchase of war bonds because of their designation as such, or because of the use to which the money subscribed is put?” Undoubtedly the answer is, “Both.” There is likely to be little disagreement as to our attitudes on these points. We do not want our money to be used for war purposes, and we do not want to support or align ourselves with the war propaganda by buying bonds designated as “War Bonds.” The issues here are clear, and the answer of the Mennonite conscience is definite.
The fourth main point touches an area in which most of us find ourselves on unfamiliar ground. The complexities of our involved economic system are pretty much of a puzzle to us who are not experts in the study of economic laws and theories. There is even some ground for suspicion that the experts, especially those who disregard the Bible and its teachings in their theorizing, are not always as clear on some of these economic problems as they might wish to be. Certainly we regard inflation, with its resultant depression and inequitable distribution of wealth, entailing hardship and suffering upon the masses, as an evil to be averted if possible. And other things being equal, if our government asks us to follow a course of action which its most competent advisers believe will forestall a postwar inflation and depression, we should willingly comply with such a request. Only if the course outlined should involve a violation of Scriptural principles would we be warranted in withholding our co-operation. In the case of war bonds we cannot co-operate because of our conscience against contributing to the war effort, as well as the feeling of some that they should not make loans of any sort to the government.
Having considered some of the objections to purchasing war bonds, let us now revert to the question raised earlier in this discussion, viz., “Does the Civilian Bond Plan satisfy the Scriptural objections to subscribing to war bonds?”
As to the first main point raised it is obvious that any valid objection to buying war bonds on the grounds set forth in the discussion of this point would also apply to civilian bonds, since the point is general and not limited to wartime financing.
The fact that the plan does not entail the purchase of “War Bonds” as such satisfies the objection presented in the third main point, that of the propaganda aspect of war bond subscriptions. Secretary Morgenthau’s letter specifically recognizes our conscience on this point. It is held by sponsors of the present plan that the plan not only does not contribute to war propaganda, but that it bears a positive witness to a conscience against contributing to the war effort. That the plan does register a conviction against buying “War Bonds” will not be gainsaid. However, in the light of the discussion which follows on the use of the money derived from civilian bond subscriptions, it may be questioned whether this witness is nullified at least in the minds of people who give it sufficient thought to inquire into this phase. If the witness value of the plan rests on the failure of the public to inquire into the implications of our course of action, then it can hardly be said to be a sound course of action for us to take.
Regarding the fourth main point, the civilian bonds would be as effective in control of inflation as any other type of bond, so that if the idea of bond purchases for this purpose is approved the civilian bonds offered would also be acceptable. However, if the Mennonite Church is interested in promoting an anti-inflationary effort on the part of its members it might be well as a preliminary step to sponsor an exhaustive study of other possible means for accomplishing the desired result, some of which might possibly be free from undesirable characteristics of the bond purchase proposal.
There remains yet to be considered the second main point, namely, the use to which the proceeds of subscriptions to civilian bonds will be put, which constitutes one of the two principal objections advanced against buying war bonds. Let us examine the plan from this angle:
In the first place, we note that Secretary Morgenthau’s letter calls attention to the fact that “the Treasury needs some six billion dollars annually to maintain civilian services of the government which are essential to the basic needs of human life, to conserve our natural resources, and to keep in repair our national plant.” The wording of the letter creates the impression at first glance that money subscribed under this plan would be used to finance these civilian functions. However, careful examination of the Secretary’s statements makes it clear that he carefully refrained from making any such commitment that it would be so used. The reason lies in the fact that he has no authority to make such a commitment. He can only receive these funds into the general treasury and disburse them according to the direction of Congress.
It might be argued here that it is the normal procedure for the government to finance its normal and essential civilian activities principally by taxation, and such extraordinary expenditures as cannot be met from this source are financed temporarily by government borrowings. Since the taxes collected by our government currently amount to more than six billion dollars annually we might therefore assume that these charges for essential civilian services are already provided for before we are asked to contribute to the government’s finances through bond subscriptions. Even if tax receipts were insufficient to cover this six billion dollars there remains the fact that there are financial institutions and other investors who normally in peacetime buy government bonds and thus provide all the funds necessary to finance peacetime expenditures. These regular bond investors have not withdrawn from the picture. Now, in the face of an extraordinary demand for funds for prosecution of the war, can it logically be supposed that the receipts from these regular sources are diverted for our convenience to others uses and the proceeds of this newly inaugurated Civilian Bond Plan substituted for them as the means of financing the six billion dollars?
The assumptions of the above argument can probably not be substantiated. Due to the intangible nature of our medium of exchange, which in the last analysis usually simmers down to a transfer of credit rather than the transfer of physical wealth itself, it is impossible to trace any certain dollar through the Treasury to its ultimate use. Therefore we are probably not justified in saying that none of the proceeds of civilian bonds actually go into the financing of civilian activities. But if we cannot be certain that all our bond money goes to war financing, as is assumed in the preceding paragraph, then by the same token we have no grounds for assuming that none of it goes there. The most we can justifiably assume is that our contributions, along with all other receipts of the government, are divided between civilian and military uses in the proportion which each bears to the total expenditures of the government, since they are all mixed up together in the same pot. In the present situation, when our President announces that the government this year will need to raise one hundred billion dollars to finance its program, it is obvious that the proportion of essential civilian expenses will be extremely small in relation to the whole.
The Secretary’s letter does not explicitly recognize our desire that the money subscribed under the Civilian Bond Plan be not used to finance the war effort. And we have no such official recognition in writing from any government representative. Even if the government were to offer such recognition without assurance that the funds would not be so used, it would be of doubtful value so far as our position is concerned. It seems clear from the preceding paragraph that Civilian Bond funds are used in exactly the same way as War Bond funds. In fact, most of the offerings in the recent war bond drive were not designated as “War Bonds,” but were “civilian bonds” propagandized as “War Bonds.” The Civilian Bond Plan offers some of the same issues offered in the war bond drive, and Civilian Bond Plan subscriptions go to fill the quotas set by the Treasury as necessary for financing the war program.
There has, furthermore, been given official recognition in another connection by the Mennonite Central Committee to the fact that funds which go into the general Treasury without specific designation for other uses are used to promote the war effort. The objection to the turning of emergency farm labor wages earned by C.P.S. men over to the Treasury is referred to. Here is a case in which the pressure of public sentiment has not been a factor to influence our thinking, and in this case we have objected to turning over to the general Treasury certain funds on the specific grounds that funds so turned over would be a contribution to the war effort. And yet the funds raised by Civilian Bond subscriptions have no more guarantee of not being used to finance the war program than do the funds raised by labor of C.P.S. men.
Is it possible that we have accepted a specious line of wishful reasoning in our desire to provide an acceptable alternative to the purchase of war bonds, thus sparing ourselves the unpleasantness of an aroused public opinion due to refusal to buy war bonds? Have we proceeded on the basis of a fiction created in our own minds and not even participated in by the government to the extent of offering us an unofffcial assurance that our funds would be used only for civilian purposes?
It appears that we have come to a position similar to that of a boy who protests that he doesn’t want to go swimming, and then justifies his swimming excursion in violation of his father’s command by the fact that the boys in the gang solemnly recognized his laudable desire not to go swimming, all the while urgently pressing him to come along. We are co-operating with the government in its announced intention to finance the war with public bond subscriptions, satisfying our consciences with the reflection that “we said we didn’t want to go,” and that the government seemed to be sympathetically understanding in recognition of our desires. Why should they not be sympathetic when by so doing they attain the ends which they set out to accomplish, namely, the raising of a certain amount of money to finance the costs of the war program? Do we not, like the boy, nullify our stated intentions by our action in pouring our funds into the purse which pays the war bills?
I’m glad somebody had the nerve to speak up.
That said, the money kept rolling in. Irvin B. Horst offered this update:
The following statistics indicate Civilian Bond subscriptions according to the fifteen highest states as of . The total amount subscribed by all states was $2,748,289.00
Pennsylvania $667,239.00 Illinois 442,096.00 Ohio 359,625.50 Kansas 253,394.50 Iowa 249,194.00 Indiana 179,271.00 California 85,106.00 Virginia 69,615.00 South Dakota 60,250.50 New York 48,956.50 Nebraska 39,792.50 Oklahoma 37,792.50 Oregon 30,628.50 Minnesota 27,944.50 Missouri 16,722.50
And he also noted that in Canada (as of ) some $2 million dollars had been contributed for “non-interest bearing certificates” and “Victory Loan Bonds with a sticker attached (designating the use of the funds for relief work)”.
A further update noted that “The total amount subscribed by Mennonites in Civilian Bonds as of was $2,205,796.00. The amount subscribed by all groups was $3,097,475.00.”
Civilian Bond Sales: During the period of , 368 subscriptions were registered by the Provident Trust Company, amounting to $68,892. Of this amount $43,660 was subscribed by Mennonites.
In the issue Irvin B. Horst acknowledged the “not entirely satisfactory” nature of the “Civilian Bonds” program — and for the first time also acknowledged that some Mennonites might “feel that they cannot buy civilian bonds” — and he promised negotiations were underway for something better (spoiler alert: nothing better was in fact on the way):
During the coming Fifth War Loan Drive, , civilian bonds will again be available for conscientious objectors. The plan remains the same as in other drives.… Savings stamps and albums in various denominations are also available for school children and others.
Civilian Bonds are Series F and G bonds registered through the Provident Trust Comapny. While the same series may be secured through local channels, Provident Trust Company is the only fiscal agent authorized to register them as “conscience money.” Civilian bond subscriptions are officially reported to county chairmen and there should be no difficulty to buy them in lieu of war bonds.
The civilian bond plan is not entirely satisfactory and negotiations are under way to secure a more satisfactory plan. Until a better arrangement is secured, the plan will remain as before. To members who feel that they cannot buy civilian bonds, relief certificates and stamps are recommended. Relief certificates and stamps are, however, donations and not investments.
As of , “Civilian Bond” subscriptions totaled $4,527,748.50; $3,286,315.50 of that came from Mennonite or Brethren in Christ groups. By the total had climbed to $4,769,673.00.
An unsigned editorial, in the edition, titled “Let Us Pray” bemoaned the fact that “Somewhere between thirty and fifty per cent of our young men have accepted military service, even though the government has made it possible for the church to maintain a system of nonmilitary alternative service. Others of the brotherhood are entangled in the war effort through employment in defense plants and the voluntary purchase of war bonds.” So even with the silly “Civilian Bonds” making such an option relatively painless, some Mennonites were not going along with the doctrinal nonresistance position.
The way this was put in the minutes of the Ohio Mennonite and Eastern Amish Mennonite Joint Conference was: “Numbers of our people continue to be employed in defense and other questionable industries and to purchase war bonds in lieu of civilian bonds…”
Efforts to come up with something meaningful that could replace the policy of purchasing ordinary U.S. Savings Bonds and calling them “Civilian Bonds” went nowhere, according to this Peace Section Note from Jesse Hoover ():
The Peace Section has been trying for several months to interest the Treasury Department in a special Relief Savings Bond to finance the Congressional appropriation for United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association. Recently we received what appears to be the final reply from the Treasury officials. There does not seem to be any prospect of obtaining such an issue.
With the probability of another Bond Drive in the not too far distant future, we will have nothing more to offer our churches than the plan followed previously. And while it has not been entirely satisfactory to many of our people, we do want to urge again that if investments are made in government securities, we should leave our testimony of nonsupport of war by registering such investments through Provident Trust Company, by the plan which has been in operation.
The issue announced the end of the “Civilian Bonds” program:
Inasmuch as the current bond drive, which officially came to a close , is the final war bond drive, the M.C.C. Executive Committee agreed on to a proposal that the civilian bond plan arrangement be terminated. The civilian bond plan was the result of negotiations, in , of a Civilian Bond Committee with the U.S. Treasury Department and was an arrangement whereby persons who felt unable to purchase war bonds could subscribe to Government securities.
According to a summary of subscriptions under this plan, the amount of securities purchased as of , was $6,604,675.64. Of this amount, $4,786,276.50 was subscribed by Mennonites, $1,103,800.00 by Brethren, $322,046.64 by Friends, and the remaining $392,552.50 by other groups. A full report of subscriptions will be released at a later date.
Those numbers had risen somewhat by :
As announced earlier, the Civilian Bond plan terminated on . During the time the plan was in operation 33,006 subscriptions were made; these subscriptions amounted to $6,740,161.14. Of this total, $4,911,277.00 were subscribed by Mennonites; $1,108,592.50 by Brethren; $323,246.64 by Friends; and $397,045.00 by all other groups.
when the “Civilian Bonds” program was in effect, the vast majority of money the U.S. government was receiving from taxes and bond sales was being spent on its war effort. By purchasing “Civilian Bonds,” Mennnonites in the United States contributed over $4 million to prosecuting the war, while congratulating themselves all the while on having registered “our testimony of nonsupport of war” with each bond purchase.