In John Woolman’s journal is another episode that touches on war tax resistance, this one from . In it, Woolman gives a strong answer to the criticism of tax resistance that sees it as a violation of a social contract:
One evening a Friend came to our lodgings who was a justice of the peace, and in a friendly way introduced the subject of refusing to pay taxes to support wars and perceiving that I was one who scrupled the payment, said that he had wanted an opportunity with some in that circumstance, whereupon we had some conversation in a brotherly way on some texts of scripture relating thereto, in the conclusion of which he said that according to our way of proceeding it would follow that whenever the administration of government was ill, we must suffer distraint of goods rather than pay actively toward supporting it. To which I replied men put in public stations are intended for good purposes, some to make good laws, others to take care that those laws are not broken. Now if these men thus set apart do not answer the design of their institution, our freely contributing to support them in that capacity when we certainly know that they are wrong, is to strengthen them in a wrong way & tends to make them forget that it is so, but when from a clear understanding of the case we are really uneasy with the application of money, and in the spirit of meekness suffer distress to be made on our goods rather than pay actively, this joined with an upright uniform life may tend to put men a thinking about their own public conduct.
He said he would propose a medium. That is, where men in authority do not act agreeable to the mind of those who constituted them he thought the people should rather remonstrate than refuse a voluntary payment of moneys so demanded, and added, civil government is an agreement of free men, by which they oblige themselves to abide by certain laws as a standard, and to refuse to obey in that case is of the like nature as to refuse to do any particular act which we had covenanted to do. I replied, that in making covenants, it was agreeable to honesty and uprightness to take care that we do not foreclose ourselves from adhering strictly to true virtue in all occurrences relating thereto. But if I should unwarily promise to obey the orders of a certain man, or number of men, without any proviso, and he, or they command me to assist in doing some great wickedness, I may then see my error in making such promise and an active obedience in that case would be adding one evil to another: That though by such promise I should be liable to punishment for disobedience, yet to suffer rather than act to me appears most virtuous.
The whole of our conversation was in calmness & good will. And here it may be noted that in Pennsylvania, where there are many friends under that scruple, a petition was presented to the Assembly by a large number of friends, asking that no law might be passed to enjoin the payment of money for such uses, which they as a peaceable people could not pay for conscience sake.