News of Interest to Tax Resisters

Today: some things from hither and yon that have caught my eye, but that I haven’t managed to weave into a Picket Line post yet:

  • Thanks to Amazon’s on-line reader, you can read excerpts from Gregory Vistica’s Fall From Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy concerning the anti-WMD activism of Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, and the FBI / Naval Investigative Service / Knights of Malta campaign to discredit him. Hunthausen at one point resisted a portion of his federal taxes to protest against the United States government’s policy of threatening to attack its enemies with nuclear weapons.
  • Here’s an old article from The Libertarian Forum about a property tax strike in Chicago in that bears a lot of resemblance to the organized Chicago property tax strikes of the 1930s. I wonder if we’ll see more of this during the current economic troubles.
  • Here’s an undated report about Australian war tax resister Robert Burrowes. “Robert has been refusing to pay part of his taxes in ‘legal tender’ (as stipulated by Regulation 58 made pursuant to the Tax Act ) because he does not want to contribute to military expenditure. Instead he has attempted to pay ‘in kind’ with such constructive and symbolic items as shovels, trees and Aboriginal land… and by donating the balance of the claimed money to various peace and development organisations.” There’s other stuff on-line about Burrowes’s case but I haven’t had time to look into it yet.
  • Glenn D. McMurry wrote up some memories of his time at Bethel College in the 1930s, including his recollections of Benny Bargen.

    I had the opportunity of living in the Bargen home for an entire summer session. That experience further confirmed my knowledge of Bennie’s character. He was a dedicated Christian and a staunch pacifist, believing and practicing all forms of non-violence. In conversations with Bennie one could almost be persuaded that all wars in which our country had participated could have been prevented by pacifist methods.

    Non-violence for Bennie didn’t end with his war philosophy. He didn’t want any of his money to be used for violence of any type. Therefore, in order not to pay federal tax on his income, he would accept only a very low salary. The Bethel administration wanted to raise his salary. They tried every loophole in the book to help Bennie, and still conform to his desire to pay no income tax. He remained content to live on his meager salary in order to be true to his moral beliefs.

    To live out such a life style, Bennie had to make decisions that made life difficult for his family. Near poverty became the family’s lot! The administration gave the most meager housing. Usually it meant an upstairs apartment requiring his climbing to the top with great difficulty [Bargen’s legs were paralyzed from polio]. It didn’t bother him, but it bothered Esther, his very dedicated wife. She had high aspirations for herself and her two children, and she found it difficult to attain them because of Bennie’s demands. Even his eating habits were affected. He would figure his calories and eat only the minimum amount of food he felt he needed to keep alive.

  • In excerpts from his book Experiments in Moral Sovereignty, taxpatriate Jeff Knaebel investigates the link between war and taxes, as exemplified in Thomas Paine’s observation that “In reviewing the history of the English Government, its wars and its taxes, a bystander would declare that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but wars were raised to carry on taxes.”

Hugh of Lincoln is occasionally mentioned as an early (12th century) conscientious war tax resister. I haven’t found much information about him, and what I have found doesn’t make the case for conscientious war tax resistance so much as resistance against a burdensome tax that happened to be being raised for war (as so many were). Here’s a version of the story from Benjamin Stites Terry’s A History of England from the Earliest Times to the Death of Queen Victoria:

…discontent was spreading among all classes, and steadily solidified into a stubborn determination to pay no more taxes; and when in Richard sent over a demand not only for more money but for men as well, even the saintly Hugh of Avalon, bishop of Lincoln, who was reverenced in England as no other man since the death of Anselm, protested against the unheard-of exaction. At a great council held at Oxford he faced the justiciar with the noble words: “Ye know well, my lords, that I am a stranger in this land, one called from the plain life of a hermit to be bishop. But when our Lady’s Church of Lincoln was given into my unskilled hands, I set about learning what its rights and burdens were, and these thirteen years I have walked in all the ways of my forerunners. I know very well that this church is bound to furnish knights for the king’s service in England, but not for service abroad. And I will go back at once to my old hermit’s life rather than lay fresh burdens on this bishopric committed to my charge.” Herbert, the bishop of Salisbury, a member of the family of the great Roger, also supported Hugh, and Hubert, quailing before opposition such as this, durst not press the demand for men, although the barons finally submitted to the levy of a carucage, at the rate of five shillings on each carucate. No one, however, paid the tax willingly; the monks refused outright, and were brought to terms only by threat of outlawry. Poor Hubert was now pressed from all sides. The taxpayers held him responsible for the exactions, and the absent king held him responsible for the tardy payment… Hubert resigned…

And here’s another take, from William Stubbs’s The Constitutional History of England in its Origin and Development:

…[] furnishes two events of great importance. In a council of the barons held at Oxford, the archbishop laid before them a demand made by the king that they should provide him a force for his war in Normandy; three hundred knights were to be furnished, each to receive three English shillings every day and to serve for a year. There can be no doubt that the demand was unprecedented, whether we consider the greatness of the amount, £16,425, or the definiteness of the proposition. But neither point caused the actual objection. The bishop of Lincoln, Hugh of Avalon, the Carthusian friend of Henry , declared that he would not assent to the grant. In vain the archbishop, and the treasurer the bishop of London, pleaded the royal necessities; the independent prelate declared that the lands of his church were bound to render military service within England and there only: he had, he said, fought the battle of his church for thirteen years; this impost he would not pay; rather than do so, he would go back to his home in Burgundy. To the archbishop’s further discomfiture, the example of Hugh was followed by Bishop Herbert of Salisbury, who had had the regular ministerial training and was closely connected with the ruling officers of the Exchequer. The opposition was so far successful that the archbishop withdrew the proposal, and shortly after resigned. This event is a landmark of constitutional history: for the second time a constitutional opposition to a royal demand for money is made, and made successfully. It would perhaps be too great an anticipation of modern usages to suppose that the resignation of the minister was caused by his defeat.

[The government then imposed the carucage tax, but] …the tax was not collected without difficulty. The religious houses having demurred to the payment, the king directed a proclamation to be made by which the clergy were practically outlawed: if any man injured a clerk or regular he was not to be forced to compensate him; but if the clerk or regular were the aggressor, he must be brought to justice. The threat was sufficient to bring the monks to submission, and they purchased a reconciliation.