From The Friend: A Religious and Literary Journal, Volume 4, (p. 246):
From the Meeting for Sufferings, instituted by the Yearly Meeting of Friends of North-Carolina, for the purpose of acting in behalf of the general and special interests of the Society, in the place and recess of the Yearly Meeting,
To the Quarterly, Monthly, and Preparative Meetings, and to every member of the Society of Friends in the limits of this Yearly Meeting.
Dear Friends:— We have been brought under deep exercise and concern at this time, for the preservation of the members of our Society, on account of the late act of the general assembly of the state, imposing a tax on us, and on others of like conscientious scruples with respect to military duties. We are not so much concerned about the pecuniary loss or sufferings likely to be sustained by our Society from this law, as we are that all our members should stand firm, and be faithful in bearing their testimony against war and military operations; taxes and fines appertaining thereunto, either directly or indirectly; or any way conniving or compromising with the specious and plausible offers of the legislature, by the tax proposed in the late act, to screen us from muster fines or military services. And in order that all our members may be clearly informed on this subject, and be fully prepared to meet the trial likely to come upon us by this law, we have thought it best to send it down in this epistle. The first paragraph repeals the law of , after the first day of the eighth month next, which exempted Friends and other conscientious societies with respect to the practice of war, from military requisitions. The second paragraph reads thus:
2nd. Be it further enacted, That every inhabitant of this state, of any religious denomination, subject to military duty, but who from scruples of conscience shall be averse to bearing arms, and shall refuse personal military service, shall be exempt therefrom, except in time of insurrection or invasion, on paying annually the sum of two dollars and fifty cents for such exemption.
3rd. Be it further enacted, That any person claiming the benefit of the aforesaid exemption, shall, at the usual time of taking the list of taxable property, make known his intention to the magistrate receiving the same; whose duty it shall be, to report the name of every such person, returned by him to court, and to give such person a certificate of that fact, and of his consequent exemption from military duty.
4th. Be it further enacted, That the sheriffs shall collect the said sum of two dollars and fifty cents of every person reported as aforesaid, and account for the same to the public treasurer in like manner with other public taxes.
5th. Be it further enacted, That all sums of money received under the provisions of this act, shall form a part of the literary fund and be applied by the public treasurer accordingly.
6th. Be it further enacted, That all persons claiming exemption from military duty under this act, shall be enrolled and kept on the muster roll, and returned with the return of militia to the adjutant general.
As this is a new subject of trial to the members of our society of the present generation in this state, we have thought it more needful to give our members every necessary information respecting it; and believing as we do that the spirit of the gospel breathes peace on earth and good will to men, agreeably to the testimony of the angels from heaven when they announced to the shepherds the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. And that all his commandments and his example were unitedly opposed to the spirit and practice of war; and that it is the most palpable error, and the greatest contradiction that exists among the professors of Christianity, and above all other evils marks the depravity of man in the fallen state, and the backslidden and corrupt state of the professing Christian world, from the ancient purity of the church when under the influence of the spirit and power of Christ.
We are informed from ecclesiastical history that the professors of Christianity, for more than two hundred years after the introduction of it into the world, refused to bear arms, or to enlist themselves as soldiers at the requisitions of the different governments in which they lived; and that many of them suffered death rather than comply, their reasons always being — “I am a Christian, therefore I cannot fight.” See how clearly this accords with our Lord’s declaration, “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.” And his last commandment, on this subject, was to Peter after he had used his sword in smiting his fellow creature in defence of his Divine Master. He touched the wound and healed it, and commanded Peter to put up his sword into the sheath, and said, “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” There is no account that he ever used it again; neither is there any account in the New Testament of any Christians being engaged in outward wars: but the weapons of their warfare are declared by the apostle Paul not to be carnal, “but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imagination, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and the bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” And how remarkable it is that the Jews made self-defence one of their principal reasons for putting the blessed Jesus to death: “If we let this man alone all men will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our place and nation.” And this accords with the language of those who hold with wars in the present day: “If we were all like you, refuse to fight, other nations would come and destroy us, or deprive us of our liberties;” and how applicable is the language in the parable to the state of all such, “we will not have this man to reign over us.”
The testimony of Friends against war has existed from the time of our being known as a religious Society; and it is perhaps the most peculiar trait that marks the character of this people, and that for which we have suffered more for conscience’s sake than any other. And although we earnestly recommend to all our members the prompt payment of their taxes, and the performance of all their public duties, for the support of civil government, the advancement of internal improvement, and the increase of human happiness; yet we sincerely desire them to adhere faithfully to our ancient and continual testimony against wars and fighting; avoiding to unite with any in warlike measures, either offensive or defensive, or paying the tax prescribed in the late law; in relation to which, it is the judgment of this meeting, and it is the opinion and the practice of the Society from its origin, that it is inconsistent with our principles — for our members to pay any tax or fine on account of their refusal to muster or serve in the militia; although such tax or fine may be applied to the most laudable and humane purposes. And it is the judgment of this meeting and the general usage of the Society of Friends, that when goods have been distrained from any on account of refusal to pay fines for non-performance of military services, and the officers, after deducting the fines and costs, purpose to return the remainder, that Friends should maintain their testimony by suffering loss rather than receive such over-plus, because the accepting of it would be an acknowledgment of the right of their claim; unless the same, or a part of it, is return without an exchange of the species of property; and also that the transferring of debts due to Friends to pay such fines with the consent of the creditor, is equally objectionable, and a balk to our testimony.
And finally, dear friends, we tenderly advise all our members to endeavour to live quiet and peaceable lives, that by the innocency of our conduct we may convincingly demonstrate to others that we are the real subjects of the Messiah’s peaceful reign, and be instrumental in the promotion thereof towards its desired completion; when, according to ancient prophecy, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” and its inhabitants learn war no more.
Signed by direction of the meeting for sufferings, held at Deep River Meeting House, in Guilford county, North Carolina, .
Nathan Mendenhall, Clerk.
By the time of the American Civil War, this had become a more severe crisis, as North Carolina was much more severe with Quakers who would neither serve nor pay the (now much higher) commutation tax. Isham Cox reported for the North Carolina Yearly Meeting in :
The Committee to whom was referred the consideration of the propriety of Friends availing themselves of exemption from the Conscription Act, by the payment of a tax of $500 each into the public treasury, Report: That we have had the subject under serious consideration; and while, in accordance with the advice issued by our last Yearly Meeting, “we do pay all taxes imposed on us as citizens and property holders, in common with other citizens, remembering the injunction, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom;” yet we cannot conscientiously pay this specific tax, it being imposed upon us on account of our principles, being the price exacted of us for religious liberty. Yet do we appreciate the good intentions of those members of Congress who had it in their hearts to do something for our relief; and we recommend that where parents, moved by sympathy, or young men themselves, dreading the evils of a military camp, have availed themselves of this law, that they be treated in a tender manner.
Friends’ Review reported in that the memorial got a friendly reception, but did not succeed in winning a complete exemption from military service for Quakers: “Friends remained subject to a tax or fine of five hundred dollars each, as the price of exemption from the Conscription Act.”
On serious consideration, the Meeting for Sufferings subsequently decided that, “while, in accordance with the advice issued by our last Yearly Meeting, we do pay all taxes imposed on us, as citizens and property-holders, in common with other citizens, remembering the injunction — tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom — yet we cannot conscientiously pay this specific tax, it being imposed upon us on account of our principles, being the price exacted of us for religious liberty.”