Suffragist Tax Resisters at Woodbridge

The Vote

From the issue of The Vote:

Tax Resisters At Woodbridge.

On , there were unfamiliar proceedings in the police-court of the town of Woodbridge. Two people had refused to pay their licenses. A strange thing to do, surely, for has not the Government imposed taxation in order to carry on the business of the nation? The result of refusal must be a fine or imprisonment, or how otherwise can money be collected? People are not all yet such good citizens that they give joyfully. But here were two people, following the example of many others, who deliberately refused payment because they wished to demonstrate to the Government and the local authorities that if they exact taxes they must give the equivalent of representation. The magistrates were very sympathetic and listened patiently to the case we put before them.

“You belong to the superior sex, then, I suppose?” said the Chairman to Mrs. [Hortense] Lane.

“No,” she replied; “we look upon the sexes as equal.”

“Do you plead guilty to keeping a dog unlawfully without a license?” I was asked.

“I do not acknowledge it was unlawful,” was the reply. “I am not a person in the eyes of the law.”

On being asked if there was anything I wished to say, I replied: “Yes. I wish to request the Bench to petition Mr. [Prime Minister Herbert Henry] Asquith to give facilities for the Conciliation Bill put down for to be passed into law. If magistrates would do their part in bringing about this great justice they would not be troubled with Suffragettes in court.”

Afterwards we held a meeting outside, and Mrs. Stansfield and Mrs. [Isabel] Tippett made clear the meaning of our protest. Up to the present no proceedings have been taken, although we, of course, refused to pay the fines imposed. Can it be that the local authorities are not going to take proceedings? If so, we have gained a moral victory, and it is a good augury for the future of our movement.

Constance E. Andrews.

The Vote tends to refer to people as Mr., Mrs., or Miss Lastname, without any prior reference that clarifies more specifically just who it is they’re talking about. I have been unable to find a first name for “Mrs. Lane” for example, which also makes it difficult to find much more information about her (although she will also appear in some other Vote articles).

Thanks to reader Jenny Holmes, Hortense Lane’s great-granddaughter, for giving me the secret of her first name and allowing me to discover more about her remarkable life.

Also in the same issue:

Women and Taxation

To the Editor of The Vote.

Dear Madam,— Since , when distraint was last levied at my residence on account of my refusal to submit to the tyranny of taxation without representation, I have paid no taxes, and, until quite recently, I have not been unduly pressed. Lately, however, I received an official intimation that unless the amount outstanding for income tax be paid forthwith proceedings would be commenced in the High Court of Justice to recover the same. A lengthy correspondence between Mr. F.M. Spencer Lewin, solicitor, acting for me, and the Secretary of the Inland Revenue Department, has ensued. The concluding paragraphs of Mr. Lewin’s latest communication (to which as yet no answer has been received) contain points of interest to tax resisters, and are quoted below:—

…My client desires me to especially invite your reconsideration of the threat of legal proceedings in the High Court.

The whole purport of Section 86, and what I may term the affiliated sections in the Taxes Management Act, 1880, show that distraint is primarily the remedy, and that proceedings in the High Court are only resorted to in the case of a collector making a return of deficiencies.

The words of Sub-Section 1 of Section 86 are, to my mind, obligatory upon the collector to distrain in the first place: “If a person refuses to pay… such collector may, and he is thereunto authorised and required for non-payment thereof, to distrain, &c.” Surely nothing could be clearer than this.

In case there should still be in your mind the same misapprehension as existed at the time of writing me your letter of , I would take this opportunity of pointing out once again that there are goods of Miss Lawson’s upon which the distraint could be made, as it has been heretofore, and this fact most be within the knowledge of the Local Tax Authorities.

One does not like to use the word “oppression” in official correspondence, but I am bound to say that if, in face of my distinct statements in this letter, the authorities still persist in using the ponderous machinery of High Court procedure to collect this small amount, it would be as near an injustice as one would expect to get.

 — Yours faithfully, Marie Lawson.
Women’s Tax Resistance League.