Ernest Bromley Refuses to Pay for World War Ⅱ

Ernest Bromley was one of the pioneers of the modern American war tax resistance movement. The following article, from the Lumberton, North Carolina Robesonian, is dated , less than a year after the Pearl Harbor attack, and at a time when war tax resistance in the United States was so rare as to be almost unheard of:

Bath Pastor Refuses To Pay Tax To Aid Nation’s War Effort

 — A statement as to his stand in opposition to the payment of taxes which went to the support of the nation’s war effort was read in Federal district court here by the Rev. Ernest Raymond Bromley, Methodist minister of Bath.

The Rev. Bromley was convicted on two counts of refusal to pay the automobile use tax levied by the federal government. Judge I.M. Meekins of Elizabeth City ordered him to pay a fine of $25 or serve 30 days in jail in each case.

The minister chose to serve the jail sentence rather than pay the fines of $50 when Judge Meekins informed him that the $50 would for the most part be used for the nation’s war effort.

In his statement Bromley said his course was “not one of tax evasion but is one of war tax opposition.”

From the Cambrian:

Committal of Shoni Scyborfawr.

This notorious character underwent his final examination before the Magistrates at Carmarthen gaol, on . It is stated, that he has had something to do with nearly all the worse and most outrageous proceedings of the Rebeccaites. He stands committed upon seven distinct charges, viz., shooting at the wife of Mr. Slocombe during the attack on his house at the Gwendraeth Works — snapping a gun at Mr. Chambers’s gamekeeper with the intent to murder him — stealing another person’s gun — demolishing Spudder’s bridge toll-house — forming one of the mob who destroyed Porthyrhyd gate and toll-house — also one of the party who attacked Mr. Newman’s house at Gwendraeth Works — and beginning to demolish the Porthyrhyd constable’s house. His friend and accomplice, David Davies, alias Dai’r Cantwr, has not rivalled his great leader, but has been committed for trial on two charges, that of being concerned in the riots at the Gwendraeth Works and in the destruction of the toll-house at Spudder’s bridge.

On also, a “large and influential meeting of the gentry and farmers” was held at Llechryd, at which the former hoped to offer concessions to the latter in hopes of getting the Rebecca troubles to end. For example:

Lloyd William, Esq.… alluded to the destruction of the weir upon the river Tivy, the property of Abel Gower, Esq., which was the occasion of much loss to that respectable gentleman. He was, however, happy in being able to state, that he had a proposal to make to the meeting, which he trusted would conciliate all parties, and be the means of restoring peace and good will, namely, the purchase of the weir for the public benefit. Mr. Lloyd, of Coedmore, the proprietor, stated that he was willing to give the weir at a great sacrifice, with a view to the restoration of peace, and for the good of the public, at the low sum of £500.

Mr. Gower, the lessee, assented to Mr. Lloyd’s proposal, and said he would readily give up his lease.

It was then agreed to raise the amount by subscriptions among the resident gentry, Mr. Lloyd Williams stating, that if the subscription reached the sum of £400, he himself would subscribe £100 to make up the amount. This, however, was on the express condition that the weir was not to be obstructed further, but remain in its present condition until the season of next year. A unanimous show of hands was taken, and the people pledged themselves that no further molestation should be given to the weir.

It must have felt enormously empowering for the farmers to be negotiated with like this — for them to hear the wealthy landowners offering to release property back into the commons, rather than hearing that they had acquired and fenced off yet more of it.

It’s a far cry from Gower’s blusterous response when he first got wind that Rebecca planned to attack the weir. At that time (), he had a broadside printed up that read, in part:

I hereby give notice that upon the commission of any such aggression upon that, or any other part of my Property whatsoever, or upon the Property of any of my Neighbours in this District, I will immediately discharge every Day Labourer at present in my employment; and not restore one of them, until the Agressors shall have been apprehended and convicted.

A follow-up article in the Welshman noted that D. Saunders Davies had contributed £25 towards the purchase of the Llechryd Weir, the Rev. A. Brigstocke another five guineas, and another Mr. Brigstocke £20.

But below that was a letter from Edward Lloyd Williams denying a report that he and Saunders Davies had pledged to come up with the £500 themselves if there were not sufficient subscribers. That denial, and another one from Saunders Davies, led “A Tivyside Fisherman” to write in to ask:

…will [Davies] be so kind as to let the Tivy-side fishermen know whether all or none, or who of the different gentlemen present at the notable meeting, and not dissenting from what Mr. Lloyd Williams stated upon that occasion, are in a different position from Mr. Saunders Davies or not? The public believe a pledge was given at that meeting. Is this true? and if so, to what did it extend? and who are bound by it?

If Davies or Williams (or anyone else) made a satisfactory response, I haven’t found it. A letter published in the Welshman on calls out the gentry for, uh, Welshing on their deal:

Llechryd Weir.

To the Editor of the Welshman.

Sir,– My memory is a very short one — more’s the pity! I can’t recollect what it was those horrid London reporters printed in the Times, the Herald, and the Chronicle as the speech of Mr. Edward Lloyd Williams at Llechryd on . But whatever it was, the whole country-side fancied it meant that the gentlemen would subscribe £400 without calling upon the people for a farthing, and that Mr. Lloyd Williams would make up the remaining £100 of the purchase money. It is now as clear as mud that this was a mere fancy, that there was no “pledge” at all, and that neither Mr. Lloyd Williams, nor — as would seem — any of the gentlemen meant any such thing, but merely that they would see what could be done towards such a consummation. I wish you would turn to and rap the knuckles of all those — what shall I call ’em? — reporters, for putting in print what was never meant. The Reporters ought not to have printed the words. It’s “flat burglary” and they should be persecuted for it! Some one in waggish mood might exclaim of the people

“Si sciet, inter-
Noscere mendacem verumque beatus amicum!”

I am, Sir, your’s obediently,
Buttermouth Simpleton Tickler.

A later () report about obstructions on the Tivy put it this way:

The next permanent obstruction in the river is a salmon weir at Llechryd, having four piers of masonry in the stream, the whole width of the river here is 110 feet, of which the weirs occupy 41 feet, leaving 62 feet of clear waterway; the space between the piers is 14 feet, and the depth of the river five and a half feet; but a footway is laid across the top of the piers, and thus all navigation is stopped, except when the floods in the river enable boats to pass over the top of it. The weir is a serious obstacle, and except that it is now almost beyond the influence of the tide, and that there is no traffic above it, it ought to be removed. This Llechryd weir is notorious as having had summary justice inflicted on it by a mob, under the leader, Rebecca, in . “It had long been a source of contention between the fishermen, and people of the adjoining country, and the owner. It precluded salmon, with which the river below swarmed, from ascending, and so inflicted an injury on a long line of country above. At four o’clock one morning, about 400 men provided with crowbars, pickaxes, &c. assembled at the weir, and in two hours demolished it. The owner obtained compensation from the county, and rebuilt the weir.” Contrary, I believe, to the law of the land as declared in Magna Charta, by Hale, ‘De Jure Maris,’ &c., which pronounce all weirs across navigable rivers illegal.

In other news, below the initial report of the meeting in which the “pledge” was made was this note:

Major General Browne, Deputy Adjutant General (who was Colonel in command of the 2nd battalion of the Rifle Brigade, while quartered in this county) passed through Newport last week on his way to Carmarthen, where he went officially to ascertain from personal inspection, the state of the disturbed districts, and to devise means for the suppression of outrage and the restoration of tranquility. He was in correspondence with the civil and military authorities there, and is said to have recommended the distribution of small detachments of military, accompanied by police constables, throughout the county.