The Education Act Tax Resistance Campaign: March 1906

We’re up to in our traipse through the newspaper coverage of the “passive resistance” movement against the Education Act.

The first example comes from the Essex Newsman. Excerpts:

Sale of Passive Resister Goods at Earls Colne.

Stong Language.

On the goods distrained upon for the non-payment of the Education-rate at Earls Colne were sold by auction by Mr. Thomas Howard. The auctioneer said: We have met, I trust, for the last time to rock this cradle of iniquity, woven out of the bleached bones of the women and 15,000 innocents who were done to death in the murder camps of South Africa.…

To understand this requires some context. The Conservative government, which had passed the Education Act, had come into office with a sort of Nixonian pledge to end the war in South Africa with honor. The British had pioneered the infamous art of “concentration camps” during the Boer War. One of the complaints of the Nonconformists was that the Conservatives really only had a mandate for their war policy, and things like the Education Act had been muscled in by opportunists without any democratic legitimacy. Howard continues:

…This cradle was wrought by the most blatant set of scolopendra and scallywags that ever defiled our House of Parliament, made at the behest of the idolatrous priests and bishops of the great lying church, who hold a brief for the Man of Sin, the great Hierarch of the Papal See.

The second article comes from the Derby Daily Telegraph. One of the resisters in this case sought to expand the grounds on which he was resisting. Excerpts:

Passive Resistance In Derby.

Mr. H. Davison’s Objections to Paying.

There were no fewer than 212 summonses returnable at the Derby Borough Court for the non-payment of rates, and amongst the defendants was Henry Davidson, furniture dealer… He also had an objection on another ground, and that was a legal one. Some time ago, he continued, he heard one of the borough elective auditors had objected to an item of £41 for “spirituous liquors, whiskies, and cigars” for the Asylum, these being supplied to the servants for services rendered. Many years ago the Truck Act was passed, and he understood that that Act prohibited the supply of intoxicating liquor in lieu of wages. The ratepayers of Derby ought not to be taxed for these things, and he objected to the ratepayers’ money being spent in this way. If people wanted these things they ought to pay for them themselves, and if they had servants at the Asylum they ought to pay their proper wages, and not provide these things. He objected to being called upon to have to pay towards these things.

The authorities were unmoved and made their usual distraint orders.

The following comes from a sort of local history column in the Cheltenham Chronicle:

The Revolt Against the Poll Tax

A Government can always cause a revolution or an attempt at one by increasing taxation to the point where the taxpayers prefer the trouble and expense of revolting to the worry of being bled to death. For it is worry to a man who has been toiling for years to support his wife and family and himself to find that a large proportion of his earnings have to go to support a lot of people whom he has never seen and who ought to be able to support themselves without his help. We remember how an attempt to levy a poll tax of one shilling per head caused the men of Essex to assemble in their thousands, armed with clubs, rusty swords, and bows and arrows, and to march on London like the men of Kent and the men fo Hertfordshire, with this result amongst others, that the treasurer and chief commissioner for the levy of the poll-tax were beheaded. That was a foolishly and wickedly drastic proceeding, which defeated its own object. If they had stopped short of murder we should have more sympathy with the tax-resister of Wat Tyler’s time. But did the men of Gloucestershire take down their bows and arrows from the wall and pick up their chibs and swords and start out to murder the poll-tax collectors? It seems they did not, for “The names of certain malefactors who lately in divers parts of the kingdom of England, against their fealty and allegiance due to our lord the King of England and the peace of the same Lord the King, rose with other malefactors and perpetrated very many treasons felonies, and other misdeeds,” do not include those of any Gloucestershire folk, but only people living in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Herts., Middlesex, London, Winchester, Kent, Somerset, and Canterbury.…

Gloucestershire Patriots Refuse To Pay Illegal Taxes in Few Words.

It is well to recall sometimes the names of those to whom we owe the fact that to live in England is by no means the same thing as to live within sight of a Russian prison. The following are the names of “such as refused to subscribe and pay the loan unto his Majesty within the county of Gloucester” about : Sir Robert Poynts, Sir Morris Berkley, Sir William Master, Sir John Prettyman, Richard Berkley, Esq., Henry Poole, Esq., John Dutton Esq., Thomas Nicholas, Esq., Nathaniel Coxwell, Esq., Nathaniel Stephens, Esq., Walter Bourcher, Esq., John Croker, Esq. Others did not positively refuse, but simply stopped away — Sir Edmund Cary, knight. Sir Baptist Hickes. Bart., Sir Walter Pye, Sir Thomas Thynne, Sir Giles Fettyplace, Sir Nicholas Overbury. Sir Henry Rainsford, Samuel Burton. Archdeacon of Gloucester, Anthony Abbington, Esq., Richard Delabere Esq., Thomas Chester, Esq. William, Earl of Northampton, and John Brydgeman wrote from Gloucester on , to the Privy Council:— “May it please your Lordships, … I met with the Commissioners for this County Gloucester, being in number 25, of which 12 denied both payment and subscription, as by the bends sent up to your lordships will more plainly appear. Pardon me to advertise your lordships that these knights and gentlemen that thus refused, did so in the fewest words and arguments that could be imagined, and when they were moved to enter into bond, they did it as willingly, and did submit themselves as dutifully to his Majesty and your lordships’ pleasure (the premisses excepted) as can be expressed. The City and County of the City of Gloucester have consented, and four other hundreds, so that we are in good hope of the rest. The next hundred I am to go to (for I intend out of the duty and affection I have to perfect the service to visit whole shire), are such as the chiefest of those gentlemen which refused to subscribe do dwell in, we urging them that their denial might be a great hindrance to the service in respect of their neighbours; they answered that they would by no means hinder it, either by persuasions or other ways, and pressing them to assist the Commission (the neglect whereof I thought would be very ill taken by his Majesty and your Lordships), their answers were that it was not fit for them to persuade others to do that which they in conscience had refused to do.”