Quaker Job Scott Meditates on War Tax Resistance in His Journal

From Job Scott’s journal:

On , I made a visit to my dear friend, Jonathan Farnum, at Uxbridge, who was very far gone in a consumption. I sat up with him during and in we had some serious conversation together, in the course of which, after mentioning that he had given up all expectation of recovery, and felt resigned in mind, and willing to leave all, even his dear children, he said considerable about the taxes and something about the paper money that he had been much exercised upon these subjects, and it appeared clear to him that Friends ought to have nothing to do with either. It also appeared to him, he said, that such as took the money helped the people to use the sword, “And oh!” said he, “that Friends may keep their hands clean, and not defile them with blood.” I suppose his meaning was that the money, being made expressly for the support of war, to give it currency was at least remotely helping forward and promoting war, and in that sense assisting people to use the sword.

Some time after he said: “Such as have tender scruples in their minds ought not to be discouraged, but otherwise. But how can those who are in the spirit of the world judge of these things? They must be redeemed before they can be judged. They must come out of the spirit and reasonings of the world; for it is not reasoning upon policy that is the thing, but waiting to feel what the Lord requires; and there is no way of safety when we have tender scruples, but in attending to them, and not reason and reason ourselves into the dark. I believe I had, when the first bill was presented to me, a sufficient check, had it been attended to, to have prevented my touching it. I believe so. We must have a care of that spirit which says, “We cannot live without taking it.” David said he had never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread; and I believe God never will forsake the faithful, nor will their seed beg bread. This spirit of the world — oh! that Friends may be redeemed out of it.”

Having for nearly a year declined taking the paper currency, agreeably to the secret persuasion which I had of my duty therein, as before mentioned, I have now the satisfaction of comparing the different rewards of obedience and disobedience. For though, from the very first circulation of this money, I felt uneasy in taking it; yet fears and reasonings of one kind or another prevailed on me to take it for a season; and then it became harder to refuse it than it would probably have been at first; but growing more uneasy and distressed about it, at length I refused it altogether, since which I have felt great peace and satisfaction of mind therein; which has, in a very confirming manner, been increasing from time to time, the longer I have refused it: and although I get almost no money of any kind, little other being in circulation, yet I had much rather live and depend on divine Providence for a daily supply, than to increase in the mammon of this world’s goods, by any ways or means inconsistent with the holy will of my heavenly Father: and the prayer of my soul to him is, that I and all his children may be preserved faithful to him in all his requirings; and out of that love of things here below, which alienates from the true love of and communion with him.

About the latter end of , an old acquaintance of mine, being now collector of rates, came and demanded one of me. I asked him what it was for. He said, to sink the paper money. I told him, as that money was made expressly for the purpose of carrying on war, I had refused to take it; and, for the same reason, could not pay a tax to sink it, believing it my duty to bear testimony against war and fighting. I informed him, that for diverse years past, even diverse years before the war began, and when I had no expectation of ever being tried in this way, it had been a settled belief with me, that it was not right to pay such taxes; at least not right for me, nor, in my apprehension, right in itself; though many sincere brethren may not at present see its repugnancy to the pure and peaceable spirit of the gospel. I let him know I did not wish to put him to any trouble, but would be glad to pay it if I could consistently with my persuasion. He appeared moderate, thoughtful, and rather tender; and, after a time of free and pretty full conversation upon the subject, went away in a pleasant disposition of mind, I being truly glad to see him so. Diverse such demands were made of me in those troublesome times for diverse years: I ever found it best to be very calm and candid; and to open, as I was from time to time enabled, the genuine grounds of my refusal; and that, if possible, so as to reach the understandings of those who made the demand.

At our Yearly Meeting this year, , the subject of Friends paying taxes for war, came under solid consideration. Friends were unanimous, that the testimony of truth, and of our Society, was clearly against our paying such taxes as were wholly for war; and many solid Friends manifested a lively testimony against the payment of those in the mixture; which testimony appeared evidently to me to be on substantial grounds, arising and spreading in the authority of truth. It was a time of refreshment to an exercised number, whose spirits, I trust, were feelingly relieved, in a joyful sense of the light which then sprung up among us. On the whole, I am renewedly confirmed that, however the burden-bearers of the present generation among us may hold on their way, or fall short and give back, the Lord will raise up a band of faithful followers, who, preferring Jerusalem’s welfare to their chief joys, will press through the crowd of and follow the Lamb whithersoever he leads them.

John Payne, writing as “Pacificus,” published the following tract on . It includes a remarkably sophisticated discussion of how people who traffic in government debt are a source of war funding — an argument that differs only in terminology and long “ſ”es from ones made today.

To the Society of the People Called Quakers

There is not in this kingdom, nor in any other that I know of, a religious society whose profession is so extensive as yours; it being no less than that of being “led and guided by the Spirit of Truth;” and you hold the possibility of attaining perfection on earth, by a steady attention to this “unerring Guide.” It is not for me to gainsay this principle; being too steady a friend to the dignity of human nature not to wish, if not hope, that this theory of yours may be practicable. Your principles in detail, if I am rightly informed, give you a preeminence, as citizens of the world, and friends of the rights of the human race, over every other denomination of Christians: and most certain I am, that, if the consistency of your practice had kept pace with the sublimity of your profession, the world would long before this have esteemed your example as the greatest of all blessings; and, instead of a diminutive band of humble Christians, you would have been called upon politically to distribute to the nations the palm of “peace and good-will to mankind.”

It seems the misfortune of humanity, that our theories are commonly just, and receive universal assent; but they having not been found reducible to practice, superficial reasoners condemn abstract ideas as visionary, without examining whether the want of success in the practice has not arisen from some defect in the execution. I am fully convinced of the truth of the proposition in its fullest extent, that every thing that is just in theory, is equally so in practice.

For a society to be strictly uniform as to the conduct of individuals, is not my purpose to notice, any farther than that it is I believe impossible to attain strict uniformity, when we consider the different passions and situations of men: but we can easily conceive both the possibility and necessity of an uniform attention to the principle on which a society is founded, by such society in its collective capacity.

The grand fundamentals, which distinguish the principles of a Quaker from those of other religious societies, are, the Negation of War and all military operations, and the support of a hireling Priesthood. The history of the world convinces us of the rectitude of your opposition to all wars; and common sense, as well as the tyranny of church-government at Rome, convinces us of the inconsistency of mixing religion with politics: but if these two instances were not conclusive, we have a third which no Christian can oppose, and that is, the words of our Saviour, who has expressly declared that “His kingdom was not of this world.”

Your testimony against supporting a hireling priesthood, I firmly believe to be consistent. And although, from certain defects in the Constitution of this kingdom, the clergy have been suffered to atchieve a degree of power over the properties of Englishmen, which the Church of Rome, in the plenitude of its arrogance, never assumed; — although tythes in England are just now collected with greater rapacity by the clergy than they are in the Pope’s territories, or in the territories of the most despotic prince in Europe; — although the number of suits instituted by them, for claims unknown to their predecessors, has been within these few years so great as almost to exceed belief, and their success in their litigations has nearly kept pace with their avarice: — yet it is evident that the understandings of men are opening, and they are beginning to see the folly of submitting to such endless and every year increasing impositions; and it requires not great political foresight to discern that the reign of tythes and priests is fast approaching to its eternal dissolution.

Was your principle against War supported as it is against Tythes, these remarks had never appeared. It is true, if a member of your society enlists as a soldier, you immediately reject communion with him: but if he only lends money to Government, for the avowed purpose of enlisting soldiers, you object not to him, but admit him to eldership, and even the ministry! The meanest jesuitical sophist cannot display any difference in the principle of a man who will not fight himself, but hires another to fight, and him who openly declares that War is a just and necessary measure.

It is within my knowledge that you disowned a great number of your members, about ten years ago, for carrying guns aboard their vessels, for the purpose of defence only; and at the same time the most active of your members, and the most approved by your body, lent money to Government for the avowed purpose of active operation against the enemy!

Men who do not profess so highly as to be “led and guided by the Spirit of Truth,” or in other words the Divinity itself, will plainly see that an honest conscientious Christian may very safely carry defensive weapons, to protect himself from the violence of a savage, a robber, or a wild beast, who cannot see the necessity of his aiding and assisting other men in the commission of crimes which none but savages, wild beasts, and ferocious conquerors, ever were capable of committing.

During the continuance of the feudal system, the King had the power of summoning the barons to the field, and the barons their retainers: by these means armies were raised, fields fought, and blood-stained laurels acquired. But now immense sums are wanted; and without them War would be an impossibility. The magnitude of the money necessary, infinitely exceeds any resource which the kingdom can immediately supply: therefore the ingenuity of ministers has recourse to the aid of Funding; that is, of establishing a fictitious capital, which shall bear a certain rate of interest; and any person, purchasing of Government a portion of this fictitious capital, is put into the receipt of interest according to the sum he purchases, and the country is burthened with taxes to support the payment of such interest.

The capital being, as I observed, all fictitious, has nothing to support it but public opinion. When, therefore, the public opinion is affected by any untoward circumstance, the capital has been known to sink to half its original value. Therefore, the interest being constantly uniform, those who are obliged to dispose of their share become a constant and helpless prey to those who have money to buy with; and numbers of men have given 90£ or 100£ for an annuity of 3 pounds, who have been obliged to dispose of it for 50£ or 60£. Thus by this system not only War is supported, but a spirit of gaming encouraged, by which thousands and tens of thousands have been ruined.

But this is not the only evil that attends the Funding System: for we are, at the time we furnish this money, making use of that which cannot belong to us; — we are burdening posterity with debts which it never could contract.

If my predecessor leaves me by will 20,000£ and I spend the whole capital, I am a profligate man, and have reduced my children to beggary: but still the 20,000£ was my own. If, after I have spent this 20,000£ another offers me 20,000 more, provided I can give him and his heirs the power of receiving an annuity of 1000£ out of the labour of my children’s children to the latest posterity; I ask, who, that deserves the name of man, would not hold him in abhorrence who made me the guilty offer, as well as the law which gave me a right to dissipate the produce and anticipate the reward of the toils of generations yet unborn?

Such as the man who makes this guilty offer, is every stockholder, be his sect, profession, or character what it may. It is therefore impossible for a stockholder to be a consistent Quaker, or even a man of sound morality.

Some Quakers may perhaps justify the practice of the stockholders, by saying that it is equally bad to pay Government taxes. But let such consider, that there is a wide difference between being compelled by law to pay a tax, and voluntarily coming forward with their purses for the express purpose of supporting a system which their own principles condemn.

No man hazards his veracity by saying that War cannot be now supported without the Funding System. As no man then can deny this solemn truth, is it not astonishing to find Quakers holders of stock, not only in their individual, but in their collective capacity? What then is the conclusion? The Quakers, at the time they declare their fundamental principles prohibit War, are actively and voluntarily supplying the only prop by which the modern system of War is supported.

Your enemies (and I am sorry to tell you your enemies are now much short of the number they were when you first rose up to be a people) will undoubtedly form this conclusion: that your religion teaches you to oppose the priesthood, because you would gain money by its abolition; while it suffers you to support War, because you can get money by dabbling in ’Change-Alley.

There are many evils, and deviations from the pure path of the gospel, occasioned by this spurious branch of traffic, which a sect like yours, by bearing a public testimony against, might have a strong tendency to discourage. Let not, then, your members, like the advocates for the existence of negro-slavery, sacrifice Justice any longer at the altar of human Policy.

You are a society for which, in general, I profess to have the most profound respect; and I know numbers belonging to your body, who entertain the same sentiments respecting your inconsistency that I do. May the God of Peace enable you to purge yourselves from the imputation which with justice is now made against you; and may your consistency in the fundamentals of your body render you an object worthy the imitation of every sect and denomination among Christians, and speedily verify the predictions of those who have declared that “the time shall come when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together in peace; nation shall no longer lift up the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Of course I wanted to know more about John Payne / Pacificus. My research was made more difficult by the fact that around the same time this essay was published, Alexander Hamilton was using the same pseudonym in a series of published debates with James Madison that today are of interest to scholars of the early Constitutional government of the United States.

I finally found some biographical information in the Annals of Smith of Cantley, Balby, and Doncaster, County York. According to that book:

Condemning from the depths of his honest heart the fratricidal war of his country with its North American colonists, he loathed beyond expression the inevitably heavy taxation therefrom accruing, and did not hesitate to display his feelings by action. In , he had built near the Grange a large and excellent mansion, yet sacrificed the use of one third of its windows, building them up to avoid the surcharge…

…taxing buildings by the number of windows was a common mode of property tax, using the number of windows as a heuristic for the value or size of the building, and so boarding- or bricking-up windows was a common form of tax avoidance…

…whilst a new post-chaise was deprived of its wheels and slung up in the coach house, and he would at any time ride miles round the country lanes to avoid a toll-bar. No wonder his strong radical views brought to his acquaintance all the advanced political spirits in the district, who, denounced in the upper circles of society as republicans and levellers, were glad of the countenance of a cultivated and influential gentleman.