Code Pink Explains “Don’t Buy Bush’s War” Tax Resistance Campaign

, Zanne Joy, Cynthia Papermaster, Janet Weil, and Dorothy Hansen from Code Pink were on KPFA explaining the “Don’t Buy Bush’s War” war tax resistance campaign.

Code Pink has only been in the tax resistance promotion business for a few months now, but already they put on a polished act. You can hear the complete show on-line.

I got levied again . , as you may remember, the IRS comically levied an account I was in the process of closing, and so they only ended up with $5.16. This time it’s more serious: they hit a savings account I have, and in the process managed to tap into a joint account my sweetie & I have at the same bank that we use for household expenses. This time they’ll get about $4,350 — still short of the $5,700 or so that they’re looking for, but a much bigger dent.

The bank has frozen both accounts, and plans to cut a check to the IRS . Until that happens, we can’t withdraw from either account, and if we deposit any money it’s in danger of being swept up into the levy. (This contradicts some other things I’ve read about levies, which say that a levy only applies to the amounts that are in the accounts at the time the levy is received, and any additional deposits aren’t affected unless another levy comes in.)

There are two or three outstanding charges that I charged to a credit card that’s linked to the joint account. I’m not sure how that’s going to play out. In addition, the bank’s policy states that “You’re responsible for any losses, costs, or expenses we incur as a result of any dispute or legal proceeding involving your [account].” I have no idea what that might translate to in dollars and cents, but I assume I’ll find out.

Inconvenience-wise, we’re no longer going to be able to use the joint account to pay our bills, buy groceries, and so forth. We’ll have to go back to accounting for that differently and settle our accounts manually.

In retrospect, it clearly wasn’t a smart idea for me to put my name on our joint account (and then to tempt fate further by having that account at the same bank as my own interest-bearing savings account). Live and learn.

Barbara Andrews’s Tax Resistance in American History has helped me track down some more evidence of Quaker tax resistance around the time of the American Revolution. This comes from the journals of Quaker Warner Mifflin:

The American Revolution now began to make its appearance; and as I was religiously restrained from taking any part therein, the epithet of toryism was placed on me, by interested holders of slaves. Insinuations were also thrown out, that my labour for the freedom of the blacks was in order to attach them to the British interest; notwithstanding I had liberated mine, on the ground of religious conviction, before this revolutionary period arrived. Added to this, on the issuing of the bills of credit, by Congress, I felt restricted from receiving them, lest I might thereby, in some sort, defile my hands with one of the engines of war. From this circumstance, I was further dipped into sympathy with the condition of the blacks; for, by declining to use the paper money, I was in danger of being declared an enemy to my country, and like them, to be thrown out from the benefit of its laws: and this for no other crime, but yielding to the impulses of Divine grace, or obedience to the law of God, written in my heart; which I ever found the safest ground to move upon.

Abundant threats were poured out, that my house should be pulled down over my head; — that I should be shot, carted, &c. This proved a fiery trial, and my mind was almost overwhelmed, lest I should bring my family to want, and for fear that it might be through a deception. In the bitterness of my soul, I left my house in the night-season, and walked into a field; but without any sensible relief, returned again to the house. On stepping in at the door, I saw a Testament, and opening it at the 13th chapter of Revelations, found mention there made of a time when none should buy or sell, but those who received the mark of the beast, in the right hand, or forehead. Now, it fixed in my mind, that if I took that money, after receiving those impressions, I should receive a mark of the bestial spirit of war, in my right hand, and then, the penalty which is annexed, and described in the ensuing chapter, must follow. I then resolved, through the Lord’s assistance, (which I craved might be afforded,) let what would follow, never to deal in any of it. This afforded me some relief; and, finding my wife so far united with me, as to refuse it likewise, she saying, though she did not feel the matter as I did, yet, for fear of weakening my hands, she was most easy not to touch it, — I became much strengthened, and resigned to suffer what might be permitted; feeling, at times, the prevalence of that Power, which delivers from all fear of the malice of men, or infernal spirits, and which reduces the soul into perfect subjection to the holy will, and ordering of the Divine Providence.

Light seems to be increasingly spreading, on this subject; or, at least, more are disposed to yield to its emanations, than heretofore. An instance of this appears in a pamphlet, written by a clergyman, in England, and lately reprinted in Philadelphia, which I would recommend to the perusal of my readers. In it are these remarks:

Such is the dread of singularity, in dissenting from opinions, sanctioned by public approbation and applause, that but few have courage to forsake the beaten track, and think for themselves, in matters confessedly of the highest importance. And thus, the specious reasonings and conclusions of men, who have no better claim to infallibility than ourselves, — are suffered to divert us from a simple attention to the example, and un-ambiguous precepts of him, who has presented to us, in his own sacred person, celestial excellence, and the most complete pattern of all moral virtue. On subjects, which do not relate to the great truths of religion, we may be indifferent; and it is, doubtless, best not to be earnest and tenacious for either side of the question: but, in relation to doctrines, upon the establishment and promulgation of which, the temporal, and perhaps the eternal welfare of millions, to some measure, depends, — it is the duty of interest of every one to search for truth, as for hid treasure; — to be fully persuaded in his own mind, that his principles are founded in immutable Truth, and unerring rectitude. Let such then unfold the sacred volume, and say in what part of it they can find any passage, that will, either directly or indirectly, prove war to be justifiable, on Christian principles; — that will furnish one argument in favour of a Christian’s endeavouring to injure his fellow-creature, even his most bitter and inveterate enemy, so much as in thought; — or, what is more, that can justify him in dislodging a human soul from its appointed tabernacle, by destroying that life, which he neither gave, nor can restore. Do not the doctrines of the New Testament uniformly declare against it; and most expressly and unequivocally prove, that war is directly opposed to the very aim and end of Christianity; which offers reconciliation to the greatest offenders, and makes our acceptance with God, absolutely to depend on our forgiveness of those, by whom we, ourselves, have been injured.

What can be said in extenuation of the guilt of those who set others on to war, who never saw each other’s faces, nor even had any possible occasion for hatred or animosity? Who can say that such are more innocent, than the duelist and suicide, or less deserving the punishment due to such heinous offences against the Divine law?

An occurrence took place, which produced renewed exercise of mind, and, in the hour of affliction, sealed further instruction on this subject. I received a severe hurt on my leg; and while under extreme anguish in dressing it, was brought into sympathy with a poor soldier, whose leg being fractured, he was left without help, in the field of battle. Even since arriving to years, capable of judging, I have had a testimony against war; but never so powerfully impressive, as at that time. So that I told my wife, if every farthing we possessed was seized for the purpose of supporting war, and I was informed that it should all go, unless I voluntarily gave a shilling, I was satisfied I should not so redeem it.

Shopkeeper Isaac Martin decided to stop dealing in imported goods rather than pay an import duty:

[A] weighty concern attended my mind on account of a tax on shop keepers, who dealt in foreign articles, to be appropriated towards carrying on the war against England. I felt much scrupulous in my mind, respecting the consistency thereof with our peaceable principles. For I had kept an apothecary shop; which business suited my inclination and capacity; being from my youth circumscribed, both in shop-keeping and my trade of a hatter, on account of the prevailing fashions. After much seeking to the Lord for counsel and direction, I believed my peace of mind would be affected, if I paid the said tax. So I resigned myself to the Lord’s will, let the event be as it may. But scarcely a day passed, that I had not to turn customers away, who applied for articles which I had on hand, but could not sell, on account of the heavy penalty. But I am well satisfied, feeling the testimony against war to be very precious, and worth suffering for, if thereby the peaceable government of the Messiah may be promoted.

After the Revolution, the concern about war taxes did not go away, and Quakers continued to hold “scruples” about contributing to military defense and repaying Congress’s war debts. Rufus Hall reported:

, was our preparative meeting, in which life arose and light shone triumphant over all, to the encouraging of some of our minds. It being the time of answering the Queries, some things were closely searched into; particularly that of paying a tax, which many Friends thought was principally for the support of warlike purposes; such as building fortifications, ships of war, &c. But this tax being so blended with other taxes and duties, made it difficult: some Friends not being free to pay it, as believing it inconsistent with their religious principles and testimony against war; while others had paid it. A concern was felt that Friends might be preserved, so as to act with consistency therein. It was understood by some that Friends in New York generally paid it; and it was alleged that formerly while we were under the king of England, we had to answer a query in relation to not defrauding the king of his dues; and they could see no difference in this respect between king and congress; and that therefore we might pay those taxes now as well as formerly. On the other hand, it was stated that the ground on which we were raised to be a separate people or society, was that of tender scruples of conscience; and it was on this ground, or principle of Divine light, that the reformation had always stood, and must still stand, if it is carried on; and therefore that Friends would not do well to look to New York or London, nor even to former customs, for direction; seeing we had to go forward and not backward, nor yet to stand still with the work of reformation. As to defrauding any of their dues, there was no such thing in the case; for to defraud was willfully, obstinately, or craftily to detain a thing from the right owner. But in this case there was neither will, obstinacy, nor craft; but purely a tender scruple of mind or conscience; and therefore it ought to be attended to, and Friends should not desert the ground (now in a day of ease) on which their predecessors stood, and nobly maintained it in the times of hot persecution.

On the whole, it appeared to me that the weighty concern of the meeting was against paying the tax; but as the subject was new to some, and others were not altogether clear, by reason of long custom, so as to see the inconsistency of paying it, — it was thought best to let every Friend act according to their freedom therein. I was truly thankful that Friends were preserved in such unity and harmony, that I did not discover any hardness towards one another; but all spoke with coolness of mind, and none showed any symptoms of heated zeal; which is too often the case in such matters.