U.S. Quakers Petition Congress for Exemption from Military Taxes

A printed sheet, origin unknown to me but dated “ reads: “ a deputation of the religious society called Quakers, attended the house of Representatives of the United States with the following address and memorial asserting the rights of conscience and the reasons of their restraint from complying with military requisitions.”

To the President, Senate, and House of Representatives of the United States, in

Congress Assembled

The Address and Memorial of the People called Quakers, convened at their Yearly-Meeting for Pennsylvania, New-Jersey, Delaware, and the Eastern Parts of Maryland and Virginia, held in Philadelphia, by adjournments, from .

Through the continued favour of Divine Providence, being once more permitted to assemble for the purpose of preserving circumspection of life, and decent order throughout our religious society, and as far as infinite wisdom may be pleased to qualify us to promote an increase of gospel righteousness and peace in the earth. In the course of our weighty deliberations we have been informed, that a bill is published by direction of the house of representatives, that the public sentiment may be obtained on the subject, entitled, “A bill more effectually to provide for the national defence, by establishing a uniform militia throughout the United States;” in which, although we perceive that some parts thereof appear intended for the relief of such who are conscientiously scrupulous of taking any part in war, yet we apprehend it our duty to remark, that if enacted into a law, will materially affect us, and our fellow members in general, in the free exercise of conscience, as in section the sixteenth, where it enacts, that every person of the age of eighteen years, and under fifty years, who are exempted from personal service in the militia, by the second section of the said act (except all ministers of religion actually having charge of a church or congregation, all principals, professors, and other teachers of, together with the students in, universities, colleges, and academies, all schoolmasters actually having the charge of a school, and all mariners employed in the sea service of any citizen or merchant within the United States as aforesaid) shall pay an annual tax of two dollars into the public treasury of the United States, to be applied towards the support of the civil government thereof, &c.

Although we cannot but gratefully acknowledge our obligation to the divine author and source of every mercy and blessing, that he hath so illuminated the understandings of men, and disposed the minds of the rulers of this land, as to allow that degree of freedom in matters of conscience which is already enjoyed, yet duty to Almighty God, revealed in the consciences of men, and confirmed by the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, is an invariable rule which should govern their judgments and actions, he being the only Lord and sovereign of conscience, as by him all men are finally to be judged.

By conscience we mean, that apprehension and persuasion a man has of his duty to God, and the liberty of conscience we plead for, is a free and open profession, and unmolested exercise of that duty; “Such a conscience as keeps within the bounds of morality in all the affairs of human life, and requires us to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world,” on which depend the peace, safety, and happiness of religious and civil society; and it must be allowed on serious reflection, that every deviation from such religious duty, essentially disqualifies for that adoration and worship, which is incumbent on all men to perform, to the Supreme Being from whose bounty all our blessings are derived, and every restraint imposed or attempted by human laws on the free exercise thereof, is not only an infringement on the just rights of men, but also an invasion of the prerogative of Almighty God.

Under these considerations we apprehend, that we may reasonably solicit an exemption from being subjected to sufferings on account of our conscientious scruples; but at the same time, we may assure you that many of us are more solicitous to promote the prevalence of the dominion and government of the Prince of Peace, than to escape the sufferings we may undergo by the operation of such a law, firmly believing that all revenge, animosity, strife, and contention are utterly forbidden by Christ our Lord, as appears by his own declaration, Mat. v. 38. viz. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you that ye resist not evil,” &c. And Mat. v. 43, 44, 45. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your father which is in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just, and on the unjust.”

Convinced of the necessity of a strict adherence to these, and numerous other divine precepts to the same effect, as well as to the peaceful spirit of the gospel; our religious society have not only uniformly declined joining personally in war, but have also considered themselves conscientiously bound to refuse the payment of any sum required in lieu of such personal service, or in consideration of an exemption from military employment, however laudable the purposes are, to which the money is intended to be applied, as it manifestly infringes on the rights of conscience.

With fervent desires that you may be favoured to discern the true interests of the people, and be qualified to judge with a righteous precision, in what relates to the important concerns of conscience, that the advancement of the glorious gospel day, prophetically declared, may not be retarded, when mankind shall no longer view each other with an indignant eye of malevolence, but cordially embrace as brethren, and nation shall not life up sword against nation neither learn war any more.

We are, respectfully,
Your sincere friends.

Signed in and on behalf of the said Yearly-meeting, by
Nicholas Waln,
Clerk to the meeting this year

Here is an interesting example of tax resistance that grew out of the African-American “Moorish Science” movement — from the Toledo Blade:

“Moor” Finds He’s Not Tax Exempt

Cited For Annoying Gasoline Attendant

“Annoying” gas station attendants by refusing to pay the tax on gasoline constitutes disorderly conduct, in the opinion of Cleveland police prosecutor Bernard J. Conway.

He filed disorderly conduct charges against Lonnie Merrill Bey, 42, a foundry worker, who insists he is exempt from taxes as a “descendant of the defeated Moorish nation.”

Mr. Bey says the U.S. tax laws do not apply to him because the “Moors” were never granted citizenship.

He was held briefly in jail two weeks ago after refusing to pay tax on gasoline. But he was freed when the prosecutor’s office said there was no law against a consumer refusing to pay a tax.

On his second arrest yesterday, Mr. Conway said:

“Obviously this man is trying to annoy gas station attendants by refusing to pay the tax. That is disorderly conduct.”

Also an interesting example of police flexibility. There’s always some law you can use to arrest someone who bugs you, even if they aren’t doing anything illegal.

The New York Woman’s Suffrage Society celebrated the centennial of the Boston Tea Party by throwing a tax resistance meeting. Here are some excerpts from a New York Times article that covered the event on :

[Mrs. Lillie Devereux Blake] stated that New-York had had its tea party as well as Boston, although its history was not so well known, and proceeded to inform her auditors that the Sons of Liberty, (an organization which existed in New-York at the time,) or Mohawks, as they were sometimes called, had procured the emptying of two cargoes of tea into the waters of the bay, having waited for the vessels which brought the cargoes, the Nancy and the London, for several months. Boston had not, therefore, the exclusive honor which belonged to this tea-party transaction. She wished people could be brought to understand that the demands of women to-day were not less reasonable than those in furtherance of which their ancestors, a century ago, elected to precipitate a revolution. She did not advocate the proposition that women should refuse articles upon which they were unjustly taxed (because if they did that, they would deprive themselves of all the luxuries of life) by throwing them overboard, but she thought the time had come when the tax collectors themselves might be thrown over. [Great laughter.] She said that, of course, only figuratively. What she desired was that women would not consent to pay taxes until they are represented. There should be an anti-tax association in this City which would guide them to this issue. The Rochester women, she said, had been holding anti-tax meetings, and the same order of things had been going forward in San Francisco.

Mrs. Blake narrated several anecdotes of vigorous ladies, who, in the security of their own castles, had defied all the approaches of the tax collector. One lady, she said, was in the habit of barricading herself in her house whenever the tax collector made his appearance, getting into a top room of the house, and from that coign of vantage, delaying the minion of the Government with potations from her parlors. [Laughter.] In this case, Mrs. Blake said it was suspected that the collector had paid the taxes himself, rather than submit to the convincing streams of the lady’s eloquence. [Laughter.] Other instances of ladies who didn’t recognize the right of the Government to levy taxes upon them while in their present condition of bondage were given. The position which they had assumed, she said, was no more than that of their ancestors one hundred years ago, and she proceeded to show that the very resolutions which she submitted were based on the declaration made by their ancestors in Congress in .

…[Miss Susan B. Anthony] then supplemented the list furnished by Mrs. Blake, of interesting ladies who declined any advances by the Government in the matter of levying taxes.…

The resolutions were then adopted by the meeting, and a petition to the Legislature of the State of New-York was also adopted asking them to pass a law exempting women from taxation until they were represented in the Government.