From Whence Come Wars and Fightings? (From Your Investments Maybe?)

On , Joseph Metford wrote to the editors of The British Friend to complain of Quaker meetings investing in government war bonds:

“From Whence Come Wars and Fightings” (James ⅳ. 1.)

Dear Friends,— The answer which the apostle James gives to his own question may have been quite conclusive in the experience of that day; but what is termed the progress of civilization has laid bare cases which require the answer to be given in a more detailed form. Modern warfare requires a large provision of the sinews of war; money is its generic term; and this is generally obtained by loans, or by voluntary or forced contributions. The annual taxes barely pay the interest of the loans, after government expenses are provided for; and, although the absence of money may not prevent that covetousness which is brought so prominently in view by the apostle as the lust to be condemned, it may be pretty safely admitted that without abundance of money wars would be very rare and very short.

I am led to make these remarks by having lately attended a Quarterly Meeting in which was produced, by the several Monthly Meetings, a specification of their respective properties. One of these Meetings reported considerable sums as being placed in the “Three per cent. and Three and a-half per cent. Consols,” and perhaps in some other investments of the same parentage. I believe the time was when the property of Meetings, as well as of Friends generally, would not have been disposed of in that manner.

I remember that there existed, some threescore years ago, a fund, which by some Friends was called “The fund of peace.” I believe it was formed in the reign of George Ⅰ. or Ⅱ., and was said to have been created for purposes unconnected with war, and to which some Friends gave a decided preference; but whether that preference was well-founded or not I am not prepared to say; but I do remember the fear (if not the horror) which Friends generally appeared to entertain against sharing in the price of blood.

If a young man on whom the militia lot has fallen refuse to bear arms, he may be sentenced to a long imprisonment. How inconsistent, then, would it be for that young man’s father to lend his money to the government, which money goes to provide the munitions of war — the gun, the sword, and the horrible cat! [I think this refers to the flogging of court-martialed sailors with a cat-o’-nine-tails —♇] Individuals and Meetings appear to have overcome all these objections; but have they done wisely?

I remember once telling a friendly banker that I feared his commercial profession was inimical to the maintenance of national peace, because he must have foregone his objection to placing his money in the Funds. He did not meet me in a hostile spirit; but, shrugging his shoulders, said, “It is too true.” I am strongly inclined to believe that the first framers of our ninth query had no money in the “Public Funds,” as they are called.

I solicit your kind assistance in throwing these thoughts before “Friends,” by giving them a place in your publication. The question is not, If the thoughts be old or new; but I believe it is important that we examine if they be true. — I am, your friend,

Joseph Metford.
Congresbury, near Bristol,