Quaker meetings would occasionally distill their discussions over war taxes and the payment of militia exemption fines into a consensus statement, which they would publish as a record of the current understanding of the Meeting.
Here are some examples:
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting,
When goods have been distrained from any Friends, on account of their refusal to pay fines for non-performance of military services, and the officers, after deducting the fines and costs, propose to return the remainder, it is the sense of this meeting, that Friends should maintain their testimony by suffering, and not accept such overplus, unless the same or a part of it is returned without a change of the species.
By “a change of the species” I believe what is meant is that a Friend whose property was seized is free to take back the property itself, or some part of it, if it is later returned to him, but he is not free to take back money in exchange for any of the property.
Kingwood Monthly Meeting,
An extract from the Minutes of the last Q.M. held at Burlington concerning such as make profession with us that pay fines to screen themselves from distress for their neglect or refusal to act in military services was read and the clerk is desired to enter the same at large in the Monthly Meetings books of Minutes which is as follows vizst. At a Q.M. held at Burlington as to that part of the report from the Bethlehem requesting the advice of this meeting touching those that pay fines to screen themselves from distress when it is likely to come among them through their neglecting military service, after weighty consideration it is the judgment of this meeting that such ought to be tenderly but earnestly labored with to convince their judgments of the manifest breach of our ancient Christian testimony such a conduct must always make, as well as the inconsistency of it with our profession, and, after a suitable labor and Christian forbearance it appears there is no hope of such being reclaimed, judgment is to be placed upon them in the manner prescribed by the discipline.
London Yearly Meeting,
We are sorrowfully affected to find that some Friends have failed in the maintenance of our Christian testimony against wars and fighting, by joining with others to hire substitutes, and by the payment of money to exempt themselves from personal service in the militia: a practice inconsistent with our testimony to the reign of the Prince of Peace.
Rhode Island Yearly Meeting,
We are sorrowfully affected, by the answers to the queries, that some friends have failed in the maintenance of our Christian testimony against wars and fighting, by joining with others to hire substitutes, and by the payment of money to exempt themselves from personal service, in the militia; a practice inconsistent with the testimony to the reign of the Prince of Peace which our ancients received, and were concerned to maintain through cruel sufferings, and which the faithful in this day dare not shrink from. This defection from our Christian testimony and general practice having been matter of sorrow to this meeting, we are concerned strongly to advise against it, and that friends everywhere stand faithful and single in their dependence on the Lord for preservation, who alone is forever able to keep in perfect safety. And if suffering be the lot which does result from such obedience to the divine requiring, such will, as they abide in the simplicity and innocence of truth, reap the fruits of peace in their own bosom. Let therefore the care of friends, in their several monthly meetings, be exerted to prevent any contributions for hiring substitutes, or other methods of exempting themselves from the militia, inconsistent with our well-known testimony.
Rhode Island Yearly Meeting,
It is our sense and judgment, that we cannot, consistently with our well-known principles, actively pay any rate or assessment on any town or class of men, which may be imposed for not raising the quotas or number assigned them to raise for any military purpose; whether it be as a fine for neglect, or as an equivalent for such quotas or detachment; nor any rates or assessments made for the advancing of the hire or enlisting-money of volunteers, or which may be expressly therein ordered to be given or paid to military men.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting,
[A]s many Friends have expressed that a religious objection is raised in their minds against receiving or paying certain bills of credit, issued expressly for the purpose of carrying on the war, apprehending that it is a duty required of them to guard carefully against contributing thereto in any manner, we therefore fervently desire that such who are not convinced that it is their duty to refuse those bills, may be watchful over their own spirits, and abide in true love and charity, so that no expressions or conduct, tending to the oppression of tender consciences, may appear among us. And we likewise affectionately exhort those who have this religious scruple, that they do not admit or indulge any censure in their minds against their brethren who have not the same; carefully manifesting, by the whole tenor of their conduct, that nothing is done through strife and contention, but that they act from a clear conviction of Truth in their own minds; showing forth, by their meekness, humility, and patient suffering, that they are followers of the Prince of Peace.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting,
It is the judgment of this meeting that a tax levied for the purchasing of drums, colors, or for other warlike uses, cannot be paid consistently with our Christian testimony.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 1778
We find in several different quarters a religious scruple has appeared and increases among Friends, against the payment of taxes, imposed for the purpose of carrying on the present war; they being deeply concerned and engaged faithfully to maintain our Christian testimony against joining with or supporting the spirit of wars and fightings, which has remarkably tended to unite us in a deep sympathy with the seed of life in their hearts.
And feeling a sincere desire for the advancement of the kingdom of the Prince of Peace, in such a gradual progress as may be consistent with his Divine will; we earnestly recommend to all the members of our religious society, that in singleness of heart we may be truly exercised in giving due attention to the dictates of unerring grace, and strictly careful not to stifle or suppress the secret monitions thereof in our own minds. And that all may be closely excited to watchfulness and care to avoid complying with the injunctions and requisitions made for the purpose of carrying on war, which may produce uneasiness to themselves and tend to increase the sufferings of their brethren; which we apprehend will be the most effectual means of advancing our Christian testimony in purity, and preserving us in a conduct consistent with the holy principles we profess. And we shall experience fervent love and concord to prevail among us, which will enable us to seek and promote the edification one of another, in that faith which works by love, freed from every censure inconsistent therewith
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting,
We are desirous and earnestly recommend, that Friends in every quarter be encouraged to attend to their tender scruples against contributing to the promotion of war, by grinding of grain, feeding of cattle, or selling their property for the use of the army, or other such warlike purposes.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting,
That our Christian testimony to the principles of peace may be consistently maintained, Friends should scrupulously avoid selling, hiring or renting their property for military purposes, as well as all transactions in the line of their business occupations, which directly contribute to furnishing military supplies. They should not share in the spoils of war by purchasing or selling prize goods, nor ship goods in armed vessels. They should refrain from paying taxes for the express purpose of war, from hiring substitutes, or paying money in lieu of personal military service, and from taking part in public meetings intended to promote the prosecution of war, or writing or speaking in advocacy of it. Where deviations in any of these respects occur, tender dealing and advice should be extended to the individuals in order to their convincement, and if this proves ineffectual, Monthly Meetings should proceed to testify against them.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting,
A living concern for the advancement of our testimony to the peaceable kingdom of Christ, continuing to spread in many minds, we fervently desire that the members of our religious society may carefully avoid engaging in any trade or business promotive of war; sharing or partaking of the spoils of war by purchasing or selling prize goods; importing or shipping goods in armed vessels; paying taxes for the express purpose of war; grinding of grain, feeding of cattle, or selling their property for the use of the army: that through a close attention to the monitions of divine grace, and guarding against the suppression of it either in themselves or others, they may be preserved in a conduct consistent with our holy profession, from wounding the minds or increasing the sufferings of each other; not at all doubting, that He to whom appertains the kingdom and the power, who is wonderful in working, will continue to carry on and perfect his blessed cause of peace in the earth. A solid attention to this concern is recommended to Quarterly, Monthly, and Preparative meetings, and to our brethren in general; it being the judgment of this meeting, that if any of our members do either openly or by connivance, pay any fine, penalty or tax, in lieu of personal service for carrying on war; or allow their children, apprentices or servants to act therein; or are concerned in arming or equipping vessels with guns, or in dealing in public certificates, issued as a compensation for expenses accrued, or services performed in war; that they be tenderly dealt with.
London Yearly Meeting,
It is recommended to Friends everywhere, to take into their serious consideration the inconsistency of any under our profession suffering their temporal interest to induce them in any manner to contribute to the purposes of war.
Rhode Island Yearly Meeting,
We advise that all friends carefully avoid censuring or judging each other, in respect to the payment or non-payment of any taxes, a part whereof goes to the support of war, and a part for civil government.
And it is recommended to friends every where, to take into their serious consideration the inconsistency of any under our profession, suffering their temporal interest to induce them in any manner to contribute to the purposes of war.
It is the concern of this meeting, to recommend to the several monthly meetings, that they, consistently with our ancient testimony, refuse the payment of all taxes, expressly or specially for the support of war, whether called for in money, provisions or otherwise; and that accounts of distraints for such taxes be sent up; and that such friends as do actively pay such taxes, be dealt with as disorderly walkers. We also desire, that all friends carefully avoid discouraging a tender scruple, which may arise in the minds of our brethren, respecting the payment of taxes, a part whereof is evidently for the support of war; and that all be careful to manifest, by a steady, consistent conduct, that they singly aim to experience an advancement in the truth.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting,
That part of the proposed militia law which offers exemption to such person as conscientiously refuse to serve in the militia, upon condition of paying two dollars yearly towards defraying the expenses of civil government, coming under solid and deliberate consideration, it appears to be the united sense and judgment of this meeting, that no Friend can pay such fine or tax, consistent with our religious testimony and principle, it being a fine in lieu of personal services.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting,
It is the sense and judgment of this meeting, that it is inconsistent with our religious testimony and principles, for any Friend to pay a fine or tax levied on them on account of their refusal to serve in the militia, although such fine or imposition may be applied towards defraying the expenses of civil government; and where deviations in this respect occur, tender dealing and advice should be extended to the party, in order to their convincement and restoration; and where they continue so regardless of the sense and judgment of the body, that the labor of their friends proves ineffectual, Monthly Meetings should proceed to testify against them.
Rhode Island Yearly Meeting,
It is our sense and judgment, that it will not be consistent with our testimony against war, for any of our members to receive pensions from government, for military services performed before they became members, though reduced to necessitous circumstances; but that this necessity should be relieved by monthly and quarterly meetings, and thereby preserve our religious testimony against the anti-christian practice of war, and manifest their sympathy for their brethren, by contributing to their comfortable support.
Ohio Yearly Meeting,
Believing, as we do, that the spirit of the gospel breathes “peace on earth and good will to men,” it is the earnest concern of the Yearly Meeting, that Friends may adhere faithfully to our ancient testimony against wars and fightings, avoiding to unite with any in warlike measures, either offensive or defensive, that, by the innocency of our conduct, we may convincingly demonstrate ourselves to be real subjects of the Messiah’s peaceful reign, and be instrumental in the promotion thereof towards its desired completion, when, according to ancient prophecy, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea; and its inhabitants shall learn war no more.”
That furnishing wagons, or other means for conveying of military stores, is a military service; and the care of elders, overseers, and faithful Friends, should be extended in christian tenderness and love, to such as deviate herein, in order to convince them of their error.
It is the fervent concern of the Yearly Meeting, to recommend to the deep attention of all our members, that they be religiously guarded against approving or showing the least connivance at war, either by attending at or viewing military operations, or in any wise encouraging the unstable, deceitful spirit of party, by joining with political devices or associations, however speciously disguised under the ensnaring subtleties commonly attendant thereon; but that they sincerely labor to experience a settlement on the alone sure foundation of pure, unchangeable truth, whereby, through the prevalence of unfeigned christian love and good will to men, we may convincingly demonstrate that the kingdom we seek is not of this world, but a kingdom and government whose subjects are free indeed, redeemed from those captivating lusts from whence come wars and fightings.
And that the members of our religious society would carefully avoid engaging in any trade or business promotive of war, sharing or partaking of the spoils of war, by purchasing or selling prize-goods, importing or shipping goods in armed vessels, paying taxes for the express purpose of war, or from pecuniary motives grinding of grain, feeding of cattle, or disposing of their property, for the use of the army; that through a close attention to the monitions of divine grace, and guarding against the suppression of it, either in themselves or others, they may be preserved in a conduct consistent with our holy profession, and from wounding the minds or increasing the sufferings of each other; not at all doubting that He to whom appertains the kingdom and the power, who is wonderful in working, will continue to carry on and perfect his blessed cause of peace on earth. A due attention to this concern is recommended to Quarterly, Monthly and Preparative meetings, and to Friends in general; it being the judgment of the Yearly Meeting, that if any of our members do, either openly or by connivance, pay any fine, penalty or tax, in lieu of personal service for carrying on war, or allow their children, apprentices or servants, (who are members,) to act therein, or are concerned in arming or equipping vessels with guns, or deal in public certificates issued as a compensation for expenses accrued, or services performed in war, that they be tenderly treated with, and, if they cannot be brought to an acknowledgement of their error, Monthly Meetings are authorized to disown them.
And finally, dear Friends, upon the calamitous subject of war, you are not ignorant of what adorns our profession. Let us seek peace and pursue it, remembering that we are called to love. Oh! that the smallest germ of enmity might be eradicated from our enclosures; and truly there is a soil in which it cannot live: this soil is christian humility. May we therefore be peaceable ourselves, in words and actions, seeking for that disposition in which we can pray to the Father of the Universe, that he may breathe the spirit of reconciliation into the hearts of his erring and contending creatures.
New York Yearly Meeting,
Consonant with the precepts and doctrines of the gospel, which breathes peace on earth and good will towards men, we have found it to be our indispensable duty to bear a faithful testimony against war: it is, therefore, affectionately enjoined on the members of our Society, to demean themselves, on all occasions, in a christian and peaceable manner, demonstrating to the world, that they are uniform in profession and practice. Friends are earnestly advised not to unite with any, directly or indirectly, in a way calculated to promote the spirit of war, or which may encourage or strengthen them therein; to avoid engaging in any business tending to promote war, underwriting on armed vessels, or being concerned in any company where such insurance is made, or shipping or ordering goods shipped, in armed vessels.
But should members of our society be so unmindful of our christian testimony against war, as to bear arms, or actively comply with military requisitions, be concerned in warlike preparations, offensive or defensive, by sea or land, pay a fine, penalty, or tax, in lieu of personal service, deal in prize goods, directly or indirectly, or be concerned in promoting the publication of writings which tend to excite the spirit of war; advice should speedily be given them; and, after being tenderly treated with, in order to bring them to a sense of their error, in departing from this distinguishing testimony of the society, unless they give satisfaction to the monthly meeting, they are to be disowned.
New England Yearly Meeting,
The Representatives of the Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends for New England, being impressed with the importance of diffusing among their own members and in the christian community correct information on some points of our faith and practice, have, believed it right for them at this time to issue this address, to the end that the principles that we have ever maintained in relation thereto, since our origin as a people, may be faithfully supported by us, and clearly understood by others.
It is a time of much excitement in civil and religious society, and we are earnestly desirous that our members may individually seek to manifest on all occasions a meek and quiet spirit, ever demeaning themselves as good citizens, prompt in the support of right order, and in all things adorning the doctrines we profess, This has at all times been the concern of our Society. Acknowledging God as the alone Supreme Ruler of the conscience, they have been ever ready cheerfully to submit to all the laws and ordinances of men that did not conflict therewith, and to contribute to the support of well-ordered civil government,
We do indeed believe that war and fighting are contrary to the Divine Will, and unlawful for us as christians — and we cannot, therefore, in any way, countenance or contribute to military operations.
We believe that, under the Government of the Prince of Peace, swords are to be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning-hooks and men are to learn war no more. The nature of the christian dispensation, in contrast with the fierce passions of man, is beautifully portrayed by the evangelical prophet — “Every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” Isa. ⅸ: 5, 6, 7.
When our Savior walked among men, he inculcated the principles of peace in clear and emphatic language, and by his own shining example. — “You have heard that it has been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth — but I say to you that you resist not evil.” — “You have heard that it has been said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy — but I say to you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven.” And in his own example, when he could have summoned twelve legions of angels to his rescue, he quietly submitted to his persecutors, and in the end offered the intercession, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The Apostle James in allusion to this subject queries, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”
Believing, then, that under the christian dispensation, which was ushered in with the annunciation of “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” we cannot in any way be engaged in war or contribute to its support every faithful member of our body has felt bound conscientiously to abstain from all participation in it; — and in our earlier existence as a people, before our principles were well understood, we were subjected to the spoiling of goods, imprisonment and much suffering, on account of our religious scruples in this respect — but we dare not in the Divine sight do otherwise than steadfastly maintain our testimony, based as it is on the precepts of Him who was emphatically the Prince of Peace, and consonant with the doctrines and practice of his apostles and early followers.
Nor can we for conscience sake agree to any commutation for military requisitions; for hereby should we be consenting to the justness and propriety of the exaction. And in this we trust that those who view this subject differently from us, will discover no disposition to screen ourselves from onerous duties, but will do us the justice to believe that it is for the answer of a pure conscience to God, which is dearer to us than our natural lives. And for the sincerity of our motives we may appeal to the history of our Society, in which no instance will be found where a consistent member has ever borne arms, or voluntarily paid a fine or tax as an equivalent; but has chosen rather patiently to suffer whatever might be inflicted upon him for the support of his religious belief.
North Carolina Yearly Meeting,
We have had the subject under serious consideration, and while in accordance with our last yearly meeting we do pay all taxes imposed on us as citizens and property-holders in common with other citizens, remembering the injunction, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, yet we cannot conscientiously pay the specified tax, it being imposed upon us on account of our principles, as the price exacted of us for religious liberty. Yet we do appreciate the good intentions of those members of Congress who had it in their hearts to do something for our relief; and we recommend that those parents who have, moved by sympathy, or those young men who, dreading the evils of a military camp, availed themselves of this law, shall be treated in a tender manner by their monthly meetings.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting,
In considering the present state of our beloved country, afflicted by the desolating war brought about by a wicked rebellion, our minds have been affectionately turned towards you, with strong desires that amid the contending passions and angry strifes which agitate many, we may not become forgetful of the responsibility resting upon us, but keep continually in view that we are called to give proof, in all our conduct and conversation, of being the meek and harmless disciples of the Prince of Peace.
We feel the seriousness of thus addressing you at the present time, and are solicitous that each one who is concerned to maintain the principles and testimonies of the gospel which we as a people have professed to the world, may gather to the unction received from the Holy One, which the apostle declared to the believers, abides in you and will teach you of all things, and is truth and no lie; that so we may all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.
The position occupied by Friends in relation to war, to the right of liberty of conscience, and the duty of citizens to obey the laws and support civil government, is sometimes misunderstood for want of a just appreciation of the ground upon which we act. From its rise, the Society has ever entertained and declared views upon each of these subjects, consonant with the doctrines set forth in the gospel.
It has always believed that civil government is a divine ordinance, designed to promote the welfare and happiness of mankind, and that it is a Christian duty to live quiet and peaceable lives under it, in all godliness and honesty; to obey all laws which are not incompatible with the precepts of our holy Redeemer, and cheerfully to bear our full share of the public burdens.
While acknowledging their allegiance to government, and yielding to the powers that be, the right of exercising all the functions necessary for promoting the good of the people, Friends have ever held, that they, in common with all other Christians, are amenable to God alone for the exercise of liberty of conscience, which is an inherent and inalienable right, and that no earthly power possesses authority to take it away. The Great Author of our being requires that we should love Him above all, and worship Him in spirit and in truth. This can only be done as we yield humble obedience to his will, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, or by his Spirit in the heart. Where any believe that will is thus made known to them, it is their duty to act in accordance therewith, and thus show their love and fidelity to Him who is their Creator and their Judge; and it is their right to do this without being hindered or molested by their fellow-man, provided, in all their actions, they have due respect to the rights of others, and violate none of the laws of Christian morality.
The tenor of the gospel establishes these truths, and the New Testament history of the Apostles shows, that they claimed and exercised the right of liberty of conscience — a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man. In pleading for it at the present time therefore, we are advancing no new claim; for since the day when it was declared we ought to obey God rather than man, down to the present time, true hearted Christians have often suffered wrong and outrage therefor; many laying down their lives rather than flinch from the performance of what they conscientiously believed to be their religious duty.
From the earliest rise of our Religious Body it has uniformly maintained a steadfast testimony against all wars and fightings, as arising from the corrupt propensities and lusts of man’s fallen nature, agreeably to the testimony of Holy Scripture; and as being contrary to the pure and peaceable religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the great object of which is to bring “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good-will towards men.” His glorious advent was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah under the character of the Prince of Peace, “upon whose shoulders the government should be,” and that “of the increase of his government and peace there should be no end.” His Kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Within it therefore there can be nothing that will hurt or destroy, but all must be harmony and love. He enjoins upon all to submit to this government and enter this heavenly enclosure. In order to do this, He teaches them to love their enemies, to do good to them that hate them, and pray for them who despitefully use them and persecute them. He declared that He came “not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” He drew a clear and strong contrast between the imperfect dispensation of the Mosaic Law and that of His blessed gospel, showing that the former had allowed the retaliation of injuries, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” but that His commandment now is “I say to you that you resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.” In the prayer which our Saviour gave his disciples, He makes the measure of the forgiveness they are to ask from their Father in heaven, to be that which they show to those who offend them, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” adding, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” These are solemn words, applicable to every one, and which leave no room for the indulgence of those passions in which war and fightings originate and are carried on.
We know of no course of reasoning consonant with the New Testament, nor any circumstances, which can release us from the obligation to obey these plain and positive precepts of our Lord, or that can reconcile with them, the dreadful business of war. We have no more license to indulge in its cruel and revengeful spirit, than had the immediate followers of Christ; neither do we find any narrower limit allowed us for showing our love and good will to man.
The religious obligation resting on us to act consistently with our Christian faith, is paramount to any which could bind us, to yield an active compliance with the laws for maintaining or enforcing the performance of military duty Friends are restrained from any participation in war or military measures, not from any want of loyalty to the government, nor from a disposition factiously to obstruct the execution of the laws, nor yet to shelter ourselves from danger or hardship; but because the requirements made, in this particular, contravene what we believe to be the will of God, and we are bound to obey Him rather than man.
The wickedness and enormities of the rebellion which has plunged our country into the horrors of war, devastated many portions of it, caused a fearful sacrifice of human life, spread want and misery, and filled so many hearts and homes with sorrow, are abhorrent to our principles and feelings; and it is our fervent desire that it may please the Almighty Ruler of Nations, to quench the spirit of rebellion and anarchy, to stay the effusion of blood, and once more to establish peace and order throughout our afflicted land. But our religious belief as much restrains us from taking part in this war as in any other, and we claim the right of liberty of conscience, to act according to this belief, in this, as in every other article of our faith.
We are aware that large numbers of our fellow citizens look upon war in a different light from ourselves. While we mourn that it is so, we do not interfere with their liberty of conscience, and they can make no just claim to oblige us to conform our consciences to theirs, or to inflict punishment upon us. if we do not so conform.
The founders of the government of the United States upheld this principle, when they declared, in the first amendment to the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It is evident that “the free exercise of religion,” guaranteed in this deliberately adopted amendment, does not relate merely to the holding of abstract doctrines, but to the protection of the people in the exercise of all acts springing from their religious principles, which do not infringe on the rights of others, or violate the laws of Christian morality. Inasmuch, therefore, as the testimony against war has formed a part of the religious faith of the Society of Friends for more than two hundred years, a fact, of which the framers of the amendment, and those who adopted it, could hardly have been ignorant, it is reasonable and fair to conclude, that the conscientious scruple of Friends against participating in warlike measures, is conceded and fully protected by the above amendment; and that they are entitled to exercise and fully enjoy it, not only in virtue of their natural and inalienable right of liberty of conscience, but by the great charter of our national government, the instrument which secures the privileges and immunities of the citizens, and limits and controls the action of Congress and of every other department of the government.
Consistently with these views, Friends — while in accordance with the injunction, “Render to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom” — they have not scrupled to pay the taxes and duties levied for the general purposes of the government — cannot conscientiously and consistently pay money — however small or large the sum — levied solely for warlike purposes, or in lieu of military service; whether to hire a substitute to do that which we believe to be sinful, or as a tax for the exercise of the right of liberty of conscience. To exact such a fine or tax from those who withhold compliance with the law on conscientious ground, they feel to be inflicting a penalty for the religious faith of the sufferer; to be contrary to the spirit and precepts of the gospel, and subversive of our inalienable right, as well as an infringement of the free exercise of our religion, guaranteed in the Constitution. As well might we be required to pay because we believe in the divinity and atonement of Jesus Christ, in the Scriptures having been written by holy men of old as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, or because we decline to support a paid ministry, as that money should be demanded, or a penalty inflicted on us, because we believe the New Testament forbids all war, and that as Christians we cannot fight.
The object to which the penalty or commutation money may be applied does not change the principle. The money is demanded as an equivalent for military service or the price of liberty of conscience: it is not a mere voluntary gift; and though it may be used for that, to which, under other circumstances, Friends might freely contribute, the principle involved is the same; to pay it is an admission of the right of government to interfere with the religion of the citizens. Though the money may be applied to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, the payment of it in lieu of military service, is a practical avowal that human power may coerce a man’s conscience; and consequently that government may establish, by penal enactments, a State religion, and compel a man to pay towards its support; and virtually admits the persecutions of Friends and others, in past ages, for conscience sake, to have been a justifiable exercise of civil authority.
For our beloved friends, who are liable to the military draft, we feel deep and tender sympathy, and a Christian solicitude that, whatever may come upon them, they may not give way to fears or discouragement; but, in quietness and confidence, commit their cause to the keeping of Him who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working. We believe it will contribute to their strength and stability, not to lend a willing ear to unsettling reports and suggestions, which may be abroad, respecting the consequences of not obeying the draft, but cultivate inward retirement and humble waiting upon the Lord; and should any be called to suffer in support of our precious testimony, strive to bear it in the gentle non-resisting spirit of the Lamb of God, who, when He was reviled, did not revile again, when He suffered He threatened not, but committed himself to Him who judges righteously.
The present is a serious and affecting crisis in the history of our country; and the position of Friends, as the advocates of peace on gospel ground, is one of great responsibility. We have no doubt of the solidity and rectitude of this ground, nor any fear of the consequences of standing upright upon it, in the meek and unresisting spirit of Christ. To all who do so, we believe Divine help and support will be granted in the needful time. Let, then, dear Friends, all our actions show that our profession of a conscientious testimony against war is a reality. Keep clear of business of any kind, which depends for its emoluments on its connection with war. Sorrowful indeed will it be, if any of the professed advocates of peace are found engaged in business which, in the eyes of a quick-sighted world, may cause the sincerity of our testimony to the peaceable principles of the gospel to be doubted, and give occasion for the charge of inconsistency, if not of hypocrisy, to be made against our religious profession.
We deem it cause of thankfulness that we live in a land where so many blessings and privileges are enjoyed, under a mild and liberal government; and desire that we all may evince our gratitude, by an uniformly peaceable and orderly demeanor; by a faithful performance of our civil duties, and a loyal and ready submission to the constituted authorities, in conformity with our religious principles, and as set forth in our Discipline, which says “We cannot consistently join with such as form combinations of a hostile nature against any, especially in opposition to those placed in sovereign or subordinate authority; nor can we unite with or encourage such as revile or asperse them.”
The favor of those in authority has often been extended to us, and demands our grateful acknowledgment; yet the kindness received, or harshness, should it be inflicted, is not to increase our loyalty or limit our obedience. We are bound conscientiously to render dutiful submission and scrupulous fidelity to government, when under suffering from those in authority, as well as when partaking of their favor.
The war in which the country is engaged has given rise to great suffering among those who were held in slavery. A very large number released since the conflict begun, are thrown upon the world in a state of extreme destitution, and under circumstances of great difficulty in providing for their wants. Long dependent on others for a scanty subsistence, and, after life-long toil, poorly requited, turned abroad without means, multitudes have perished from want, and many are dying daily from disease caused by exposure and insufficient food and clothing. Children of our common Father in heaven, these, and those who shall be brought under similar circumstances, have strong claims on our sympathy and aid, and we are glad to observe that Friends are manifesting a lively interest in their welfare, and liberally contributing to the supply of their needs. We trust this will continue and increase, and that Friends will not grow weary in their efforts. In carrying out this work of Christian benevolence, it is important that such measures should be adhered to, as will convey the relief directly to the objects it is intended for, and avoid all complications with military or other arrangements, which would compromise any of our religious principles.
May we all, dear Friends, allow the considerations which are herein brought before us, to rest with weight upon our minds, and incite us to watchfulness and prayer; that we may be redeemed from everything which leads to contention or discord, or betrays into unfaithfulness; and cultivate in ourselves those heavenly dispositions which make for peace; thus evincing that we are really the meek and self-denying followers of the merciful and compassionate Redeemer.
Canada Yearly Meeting,
Consonant with the precepts and doctrines of the Gospel, which breathes peace on earth and good-will towards men, we have found it to be our indispensable duty to bear a faithful testimony against war. It is, therefore, affectionately enjoined on the members of our Society, to demean themselves on all occasions in a Christian and peaceable manner; demonstrating to the world that they are uniform in profession and practice. Friends are earnestly advised not to unite with any, directly or indirectly, in a way calculated to promote the spirit of war, or which may encourage or strengthen them therein; to avoid engaging in any business tending to promote war, or to receive any profits derived from the sale of military or naval supplies, underwriting on armed vessels, or being concerned in any company where such insurance is made, or in shipping, or ordering goods shipped, in armed vessels.
But, should members of our Society be so unmindful of our Christian testimony against war as to bear arms either publicly or privately, or actively comply with military requisitions; should they be concerned in warlike preparations, offensive or defensive, by sea or land; pay a fine, penalty or tax, in lieu of personal service; deal in prize goods, directly or indirectly; or be concerned in promoting the publication of writings which tend to excite the spirit of war; they should be tenderly treated with in order to convince them of their error in departing from this distinguishing principle of the Gospel dispensation. If, notwithstanding this Christian care, they continue to disregard our well-known testimony against all war, they should be disowned.