Last year I shared some excerpts from Joshua Maule’s book Transactions and Changes in the Society of Friends, and Incidents in the Life and Experience of Joshua Maule. These concerned Maule’s frustrating efforts to get his fellow-Quakers to take a strong stand against paying war taxes.
One paragraph from these excerpts, from , concerned Ann Branson, one of Maule’s allies in this:
Ann Branson was at our meeting at one time when this matter was under discussion, and, the shutters being opened at her request, she directed her communication very much towards it. She compared those who were paying and encouraging others to pay the war money to the man with an unclean spirit, “who came out of the tombs;” and said it was a “swinish spirit” that promoted this evil work, declaring that the covering would be stripped off them; and, suiting the action to the word, she stripped her shawl from her shoulders.
Branson’s journal was published in , and it tells her opinions on the subject in her words:
— … I told Friends that I had been held captive amongst them week after week, whilst my face had been covered, that I had not seen the ground, or cause of my tarriance, or exercises; that I had to bear my own burdens, and dig through a wall of opposition in order to walk in the obedience of faith; but now I believed it right for me to tell them, that it had appeared to me that I was set for a sign amongst them. Many no doubt querying, What do you? Why tarry you so long amongst us? What good can such a strange and unaccountable act as that of keeping your Minute so long, do? But now it was for me to tell them, that unless there was a deepening in the root of life and speedily turning to the Lord, they would go into captivity, even the princes of the people, and die there, though they should see it, or know it. That this vision concerns the princes of Jerusalem, and all the house of Israel that are with them. Sampson was a strong man, a judge in Israel, but through the importunity of Delilah, he was shorn of his strength, and those who were in any way compromising our precious testimony against war were in danger of being shorn of their strength, and those who could pay a bounty tax to induce volunteers to join the army, had already some of their seven locks taken off. I knew of none in that meeting that had done so, but if there were any, they were in a dangerous situation. Much more I had to say in the way of warning, counsel and encouragement, to turn with the whole heart to the Lord.
.— Received a few lines this morning from a leading Friend of this meeting, saying, that he believed my communication yesterday towards the close of their Monthly Meeting, was in the authority of Truth, and partly, if not altogether for himself. That he had been drawn into a snare to pay the bounty tax, not only for himself, but for several of his friends; that no act of his life had given him so much uneasiness, though it was altogether unintentional, when he went to pay his common tax, to pay the bounty; yet for want of making proper investigation into the matter, and not properly keeping the watch, he had been drawn into the snare, and balked that precious testimony, which he ought to have been the first, or amongst the first, to have supported. Friends have now in the limits of that Monthly Meeting, with one exception, paid the bounty tax upon whom it was levied; several not living in that county (Jefferson) of course not included in the number, or implicated in this breach of our Christian testimony; but some, and I believe most, consider it better to pay, than suffer, or contend. Oh, what a breach! Though several Friends, for whom the tax had been paid, as before stated, were very much tried and distressed therewith. May the Lord heal the wounds that have through unwatchfulness been made.