Quaker War Tax Resister Joshua Evans

Joshua Evans () left a record in his journal of his war tax resistance around the time of the American Revolution, which led him eventually to avoid all imported goods so as not to pay an excise tax which would go to military spending and paying off war debts.

In , he wrote:

Although I was thus led by precept and example, I was much reproached by some on account of my testimony against war, because I could not pay my money in a way which I believed was to defray, in a measure at least, the expenses of shedding human blood. This exercise came on me in ; at the time a bloody war subsisted between France and England.

A number of our young men being drafted as soldiers to go on an expedition, some of the inhabitants concluded to open a subscription for money to hire volunteers in their stead. This seemed plausible, even to some under our profession, and a number were taken therewith: but when it was proposed or demanded of me, I felt a scruple, and told them, if on considering the matter, I could be free to pay money for such a purpose, I could hand it forward. On this occasion I had none to confer with; but it was opened clearly to me, that to hire men to do what I could not, for conscience’s sake, do myself, would be very inconsistent. This led me, in deep humility, to seek for wisdom to guide me rightly; and I found it best for me to refuse paying demands on my estate, which went to pay the expenses of war: and although my part might appear but as a drop in the ocean, yet the ocean, I considered, was made up of many drops.

Thus I had to pass through reproach, because I had enlisted under his banner who declared his kingdom was not of this world, or else his servants would fight. When my goods were taken to answer demands of a military nature, (which I was not free to pay voluntarily) and sold perhaps much under their value, some would pity me, supposing it likely I should be ruined. Others would term it stubbornness in me, or contrary to the doctrine of Christ, concerning rendering to Caesar his due. But as I endeavored to keep my mind in a state of humble quietude, I was favored to see through such groundless arguments; there being nothing on the subject of war, or favorable to it, to be found in that text. Although I have been willing to pay my money for the use of civil government, when legally called for; yet have I felt restrained by a conscientious motive, from paying towards the expense of killing men, women and children, or laying towns and countries waste. Through all my trials in these cases, my wife encouraged me to be faithful, saying, “If we suffer in a right spirit, we shall obtain that peace which the world can neither give, nor take away.”

I found, when closely attentive to the pointings of the true Light, I was enabled, at times, to pray for my opposers and persecutors, and to magnify the name and power of God. So let all be encouraged to hold on their way, who are given up to serve him in sincerity. In this situation, no weapon formed against them shall prosper. After these trials, some of my greatest opposers in time came to own my testimony, and great was my peace in having attended to my tender scruples; yet I had still many baptizing seasons to pass through.

I cannot see how to reconcile war, in any shape or color, with the mild spirit of christianity; nor that devouring disposition, with the peaceable, lamblike nature of our blessed Saviour. It seems to me we might as well suppose, theft and murder do not contradict his royal law, which enjoins the doing to others as we would have them do to us.

Whilst these storms on account of my peaceable principles, were permitted to continue, I endeavored to keep close to the heavenly Light within. But afterwards, I was told, it was concluded, that as I gave myself up very much to the service of Truth, it was not proper I should be troubled on account of military demands; and I understood my name was erased, or taken from their list.

, he wrote:

I have sometimes apprehended I felt that love which proceeds from the inexhaustible Fountain, to flow in my heart towards all people; and under these feelings I have craved that all, through christian vigilance, may be prepared to harmonize in singing praises to him who in the beginning made all things good; and I have longed that this pure influence may spread more and more, until it comes to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Oh! the sweetness, that would thereby be introduced among the children of men. The hungry would be fed, and the naked, clothed. Liberality would be found among those who are possessed of outward substance, and relief would be extended to the different situations of the depressed and afflicted poor. There would be no hard thinking one of another; nothing like jangling or contending in lawsuits or otherwise, about worldly interest, either among near connections or others. These and all other animosities would disappear, together with the unchristian spirit of strife by which so many garments come to be stained with blood, — and many houses, great and fair, to be left desolate. Alas! how many souls, the numbers of whom are not to be reckoned, are hurried into eternity, I fear, in an unprepared state, through the unrighteous ambition or lusts of potentates and rulers, many of them being yet willing to be called by the name of him who is Prince of peace, notwithstanding they are thus actuated by a cruel anti-christian spirit. Under these considerations, which to me have been awfully alarming to think of, I have, as before mentioned, been induced to refrain from any voluntary contributions, either in the way of taxes on my property, or other demands, unless I was clearly informed that such demands had no connection with warlike proceedings; — let the consequence of loss of goods, or property taken and sold under value, be whatever it might.

, after the American Revolution had come and gone, Evans was still staying true to his war tax resistance:

About , I understood a law was made for raising money to defray the expenses of war, by means of a duty laid on imported articles of almost every kind. This duty, I believed, was instead of taxing the inhabitants, as had been done some time before. I had felt myself restrained, , from paying such taxes; the proceeds whereof were applied, in great measure, to defray expenses relating to war: and, as herein before-mentioned, my refusal was from a tender conscientious care to keep clear in my testimony against all warlike proceedings. When the matter was brought under my weighty consideration, I could see no material difference between paying the expenses relating to war, in taxes, or in duties.

Although for several years past, I had made very little use of goods imported from foreign countries, because of the corruption attending the trade in these things; yet, on hearing of this duty, and considering the cause of its being laid on imported goods, my mind was much exercised. I saw clearly that the blessed Truth stood opposed to all wars and blood-shedding; teaching us to do to all as we would have them do to us. Though I had much refrained from using imported goods, in general; yet, as I was frequently engaged in travelling in the service of Truth, I saw great difficulty, as I thought, in refraining from the use of salt; as people generally used it in almost every kind of food.

On this subject my mind was again led into deep exercise; but as I endeavored to apply, as at the footstool of my heavenly Father, for counsel and preservation upon the right foundation, I was made sensible, that it would be better for me to live on bread and water, than to balk my testimony. I likewise believed he would not lead me forward, though in an uncommon path, without giving me strength to maintain my ground, as I humbly put my trust in him. I therefore thought it right for me to make a full stand against the use of all things upon which duties of that kind were laid. Since which, I have to acknowledge, my way has been made much easier than I looked for. Blessed be the Lord my Redeemer: He has renewed my faith and confidence in him, and has preserved me hitherto; — he has not left me to the will of those who waited for my halting; but has given me victory through patient suffering; insomuch that people appear more loving towards me now, than ever, and bear my plain doctrine much better than formerly. I can, with thankfulness, say, I love the brethren, with mankind; universally, and the Lord above all. Let his great name be praised and magnified forever and ever. Amen, says my soul.