, I related John Churchman’s story behind the “epistle” that, as much as anything, launched the American war tax resistance movement.
John Woolman, in his Journal, gives a postscript that shows that war tax resistance was a hard sell even among Quakers:
Copies of this epistle were sent amongst Friends in the several parts of the province of Pennsylvania, and as some in the society who were easy to pay the tax spake… openly against it, and as some of those who were concerned in the conference… believed themselves rightly exercised in putting forward the epistle, they in the next Yearly Meeting expressed a willingness to have their conduct in that case enquired into, but Friends in the Yearly Meeting did not… enter into the consideration of it. When the tax was gathered many paid it actively and others scrupled the payment, and in many places [the collectors & constables being friends] distress was made on their goods… by their fellow members. This difficulty was considerable and at the Yearly Meeting at Philadelphia the matter was opened and a committee of about… forty Friends were appointed some from each quarter to consider the case, and report their judgment on this point whither or no it would be best at this time publicly to consider it in the Yearly Meeting.
At this meeting were our Friends William Reckett, John Hunt, and Christopher Willson from English, Benjamin Ferris from the province of New York, and Thomas Nicholson from North Carolina, who at the request of the Yearly Meeting all sat with us,—
We met and setting some hours adjourned until the next morning: It was a time of deep exercise to many minds, and after some hours spent at our second meeting the following report was drawn & signed by a friend in behalf of the committee:
Agreeable to the appointment of the Yearly Meeting we have met & had several weighty & deliberate conferences on the subject committed to us and as we find there are diversity of sentiments we are for that & several other reasons unanimously of the judgment that it is not proper to enter into a public discussion of the matter & we are one in judgment that it is highly necessary for the Yearly Meeting to recommend that Friends everywhere endeavour earnestly to have their minds covered with fervent charity towards one another, which report was entered on the minutes & copies sent in the extracts to the quarterly & monthly meetings.