William Mason and Horace Walpole Discuss Tax Resistance

On , William Mason wrote to Horace Walpole to promote a possible tax resistance campaign:

Were I to apologize for my long silence by saying that I waited till I could congratulate you on the going out of that Ministry which you said could not possibly hold its ground after its very first defeat and twitted me not a little, because I held the matter possible, I should think I made a justifiable excuse. Yet as you say you have not been deceived by the return of the Tories to their vomit (’tis a Scripture phrase). I fear you would not admit such apology. Take then the true one, I am sick of writing about politics. The Whigs love wallowing in their mire (’tis another Scripture phrase) full as well as the Tories, there then I leave them, and sit myself down in patient expectation of the Millennium of Despotism, for nothing now can save us but what the people will never have the spirit to resolve upon, I don’t mean a civil war, but a civil and pacific resolution not to pay any taxes; for instance, an excise-man comes to demand my post chaise tax; I suffer him to bear home on his shoulders my piano-forte and so on, preserving all the while a Quaker-like nonchalance. How do you like my system? I know you dislike it, because you would sooner be taxed ten shillings in the pound than part with Cardinal Wolsey’s Hat or Harry the Ⅷth’s Clock Weight, but I God be thank’d have no such valuable personalities.

Walpole replied, :

…In one point I assuredly cannot conform — I mean to your wish that the people would refuse to pay taxes. Alas! what would be the consequence? Some would be committed to prison: the witless mob would break open the prisons, and some of them would be shot, and some of them, for their incendiary leaders would desert them, would be hanged. Oh! my dear Sir, I can never approve of scenes so likely to produces such consequences! I am not so convinced of the infallibility of my principles, of any modes of religion or government, as to risk the blood of a single being. Could I establish my system, whatever it were, should I be able to restore the lives lost in pursuit of my doctrines?

Has Heaven authorised me to make this man happy at the expense of another man’s life? No, no, nor will I ever let you, who are all virtue and humanity, be less tender than I am, who am not a quarter so good.

Walpole had become, from the sounds of it, defeatist about the prospects for political reform. He wrote to Mason later, saying “I think we shall dwindle into an insignificant single island and in which stupidity may at last settle into despotism; but I think there is not only not spirit, but not sense enough any where to bring the contest to an immediate decision, and since we have neither wisdom nor virtue left I hope not, for I am convinced that only the few good men amongst us would be the victims.”

Mason, on the other hand, had become involved with the Yorkshire Association, which had formed to try to exert some organized, popular pressure on the government — something that was a little too seditiously democratic for some tastes. This seems to have led to a breach between the two correspondents, which didn’t heal until after the French Revolution, which had the effect of putting them both back on the side of anti-democratic conservative caution.

And, from :

Palestine Jews Refuse to Pay Taxes to Govt.

Action of Householders’ Association First Step in Program of Peaceful Resistance by Jewry

, . — (AP) — Beneath the outward appearance of at least temporary calm in the Holy Land, Jews were busy today with details of economic measures with which they hope to give expression to their protest against the latest British plan for Palestine.

Jews argued that the intangible aspect of their projected boycott made it more likely to be an effective way of registering dissatisfaction for the plan to give Arabs dominance in Palestine than was revolt by the Arabs against Jewish immigration.

In the Arab revolt, British authorities had to deal with a few thousand Arabs in the hills and accomplices in the city against which troops might operate directly.

With the Jews undertaking national registration of able-bodied males and a general policy of non-cooperation the British were confronted with a manifestation against which tanks, planes, and infantry are useless; except when brought into play by disorder.

In addition, the Arabs still are not satisfied; contending uncertainty remains as to what Arabs are to be accepted as representing their people in the planned independent state and whether they be truly representative.

The Householders’ Association of rural and urban landowners informed the government they would not pay taxes “so long as the white paper policy is effected.” This was regarded as one of the first moves in the Jewish policy of non-cooperation.