The Education Act Tax Resistance Campaign: September 1906

Skipping ahead to , the passive resistance movement against the Education Act of has lost some momentum, as, at first anyway, it appears that they’re making political progress toward their goals.

On the Hull Daily Mail published a letter to the editor about the possible disenfranchisement of passive resisters:

Passive Resisters’ Votes.

To the Editor of the “Daily Mail.”

Sir,— Allow me to make a few observations on the explanation your reporter has extracted from Mr Douglas Boyd with regard to his action in objecting to the votes of passive resisters.

It is admitted that these gentlemen’s names were found on the register of Parliamentary voters, and that anyone may, if he chose, object to them, but Mr Boyd knows quite well that the law on the question of whether they have the right to remain is, to say the least, very uncertain.

Many Revising Barristers have decided that the vote cannot legally be taken away if the ratepayer has undergone a period of imprisonment. This being the case, why should this public official go out of his way to increase the punishment inflicted upon these men, whose only crime is that their consciences are more sensitive than those of the general run of ratepayers?

Your reporter, however, is not quite correct in saying that the reason why Mr David Wing, the assistant overseer in the other division of the city, has not made a similar objection is because he had no passive resisters on his list. Here is one fact that will settle that question. The Rev W.R. Wilkinson was taken to gaol from his house in Linnæus-street, one night in . The arrest was effected in my presence, so that I speak as an eye-witness. Mr Wilkinson was not objected to by Mr Wing, or anyone else, and remained on the register for the division over which Mr Wing presides, until his transfer to the division over which Mr Boyd has authority, when he gets a notice signed by the latter, objecting to his vote.

To make the matter worse, the Court of Appeal has, by its recent judgment, declared that those clauses of the Act of which prohibit the employment of the rates and taxes for providing religious teaching over which the Authority has no control are still in force, so that the rate itself is as clearly illegal as was the imposition of ship-money by Charles Ⅰ. It is all very well officials telling us they must apply the law. Let them apply the whole law, and not only some parts of it, and the interpretation of those parts very uncertain. You report Mr Boyd as saying: “As a matter of fact, if we had only taken the money which some people were anxious to pay, there need not have been any imprisonment at all.” I think that the public is entitled to an explanation of this cryptic utterance. Who are those “some people” who were anxious to pay? Certainly not the passive resisters. Will Mr Boyd be kind enough to introduce these people to the public of Hull? ―I am, Sir, etc.

G.W.C. Armstrong.
11, Lambert-street, Hull, .

Another letter to the editor, this one from the Derby Daily Telegraph, warned passive resisters not to let their guard down too early:

The Position and Duty of Passive Resisters.

To the Editor of the Derby Daily Telegraph.

Sir,— It seems to me very important that we who have taken up the policy of passive resistance should not be thrown into confusion or uncertainty by the West Riding judgment. We are anxious, of course, that the time should come when passive resistance may be no longer necessary, but it does not appear that the West Riding judgment has caused that time to arrive. Passive resistance is offered to the whole scheme of the Balfour Act in regard to sectarian schools. We did not resist merely the payment of a proportion of the teacher’s salary corresponding to the school time devoted by the teacher to denominational instruction. We also resisted because our rates were asked for salaries which we were not allowed to earn, and which were paid to civil servants under denominational tests. We resisted, moreover, because teachers whose salaries were drawn from public funds were still to be appointed practically by one denomination. Now let us see how many of these reasons still exist. The principle of the West Riding judgment is being acted upon in only two or three out of the 320 local authority areas. The majority of the magistrates refuse to consider the West Riding judgment as in any way affecting the course they have to follow in issuing orders. But even if every education authority acted in the same way as the West Riding our reasons for passive resistance would not be gone. Take the West Riding itself. Here the principle of the judgment of the Court of Appeal is in operation. Deduction is made of that proportion of the salary which is supposed to correspond to the time given sectarian instruction. We have therefore in the West Riding everything that the decision of the Court of Appeal could give us if it were carried out by every local authority. But our grievance is not removed in the West Riding. Teachers are still appointed and dismissed by one denomination. Teachers are still appointed on condition that they belong to a particular Church. The management of schools wholly supported from the rates and taxes is principally in the hands of one denomination. The choice of two-thirds of the managers is in the hands of one denomination. Sectarian teaching is still given by the official staff in the official school hours. And all this in the very district where the principle of the recent judgment is in full force. Consequently, it would appear that the West Riding judgment (while it is helpful and promising to our case) does not relieve us from the obligation we have taken upon ourselves to resist the Balfour Act.

So far for the present. We do not yet know in what shape the bill of the present Government will pass. But if it passes with Clause Ⅳ. in it, and especially with Clause Ⅳ. strengthened and extended to the non-urban areas, there will still be, in my opinion, an unanswerable case for continued passive resistance in Clause Ⅳ. areas.

A declaration to this effect has already been made by the National Passive Resistance Committee, and as far as I am concerned, without attempting for a moment to dictate to other people what their duty will be, no other course seems to be possible consistently with principles that have been publicly avowed. ―Faithfully yours,

J[ames]. Hirst Hollowell.
Rochdale, .

A note in the Gloucestershire Echo said that distress warrants had been made out in Yarmouth against “the Mayor, some aldermen, councillors, magistrates, and one of the overseers.”

In other once-was-news, from the London Evening Standard:


 — At a meeting of five thousand shopkeepers and other persons engaged in trade, held here , resolutions were adopted without a dissentient voice, expressing confidence in the tradesmen’s syndicate, and pledging all present to offer a passive resistance to the collection of the new license tax, and even in the last resort to allow their goods to be distrained rather than pay the dues.

The Minister of Finance, however, persists in exacting the immediate payment of the new impost.