Evesham Monthly Meeting Takes Radical War Tax Resistance Stand

On , Quaker David Cooper reported in his journal:

The committee on Sufferings, appointed in , had in reported that the statement of sufferings sent from Evesham should in their judgment not be sent forward, but remain with the Quarterly Meeting’s papers, as being so clear and explicit as to answer the direction of the Yearly Meeting. This report was confirmed. In the standing committee reported that statements of sufferings unmixed and wholly for declining the payment of war taxes, ought to remain among the papers of the Monthly Meeting, and go no further. This report was objected to, and a minute was made suspending a final decision upon it, till the sense of the Yearly Meeting could be obtained. In it was moved to appoint a committee to aid the clerk in framing a minute for the Yearly Meeting; the necessity of which in so plain a case caused a little debate. Ten Friends were, however, appointed, in which number I was included, and we met on seventh-day preceding the Quarterly Meeting at Salem at this time, when the object of the appointment appeared very obvious, from the means employed to prevent the matter being sent forward. The effort failed, however, and our statement of the subject being laid before the Quarterly Meeting was approved, and the clerk directed to send it to next Yearly Meeting. Thus it stands at present. This matter appeared rather marvelous to me, when I consider the very small number in this large Quarterly Meeting who suffer on this account, and the great opposition that has constantly been shown, and endeavors even in a Quarterly Meeting capacity, to deny such distraints as being sufferings for our peaceable testimony. Whether, under the very great falling away from this scruple that we have seen of late, any advantage will arise from sending it up at this time, remains to be seen. Could the directions of the Yearly Meeting have been simply complied with, it would have been abundantly my choice, in preference to sending up this question.

The story has a happy ending, as Cooper reports in a later journal entry:

These New England Friends were truly exemplary in their conduct and conversation. They declined using West India produce, as coming through the channel of slavery. Joseph Mitchell had other scruples which did not feel to me of equal weight. He avoided going to the houses or partaking with those who imported or retailed such produce; he also avoided wearing silver and the use of silver utensils…

At our Yearly Meeting in , were John Storer, from Old England; Job Scott, from New England; Daniel Haviland, Edward Halleck, and Tideman Hull, from York Government. The question sent from our Quarter, respecting war taxes, was referred to a committee of thirty-six Friends, including three, who, in our Quarterly Meeting, had opposed the sending forward of sufferings on that account. This committee reported their unanimous sense that an account of such sufferings ought to be kept and sent up as other sufferings are. This report was confirmed without one word of opposition. John Storer informed the meeting that he had attended each of the sittings of the committee, and was sensible that Divine good attended their deliberations. Thus the clear, full, united sense of the body is given, owning those sufferings to be for the testimony of truth; which, I trust, occasioned in many minds reverent thankfulness to the Master of our assemblies, and tended to strengthen and encourage to faithfulness in suffering for his cause and truth. For, indeed, that this matter should be so calmly and unitedly resulted, appeared marvelous in the eyes of some of us.

I haven’t seen a copy of Cooper’s journal, but have taken these excerpts from an issue of the Friends’ Review (Volume 16, ) where they were published. The editor of the Review adds here: “This question of taxes appears to have elicited much discussion, which was carried on with warmth, and, on one side at least, with no little sophistry, evidence of which is contained in letters now laying before us. Our Lord’s miracle, providing for the payment of tribute, was much harped upon.”