Tax Resistance by Ulster Unionists

Opposition to “home rule” in Ireland by Unionists there led to periodic threats of tax resistance that were inspired by the tax and rent strikes of the nationalists. Here are some skeptical notes about one example, as found in the Pall Mall Gazette of :

Ulster and Passive Resistance.

By an Ulster Protestant.

The Spectator and other Unionist journals are greatly impressed by what they call the policy of passive resistance which the Ulster “Loyalists” threaten to adopt towards a Dublin Parliament. Perhaps they would be less impressed by it if they were more acquainted with Ulster and Ulster “Loyalists.”

The threatened policy of passive resistance is, it seems, to be shown mainly in two ways — by a refusal to pay taxes and by a refusal to return members to a Dublin Parliament. As to the former of these, the “no taxes” plan of campaign is merely a modification of the “no rent” policy; and in the nature of things it cannot be half as effective as the latter, for the simple reason that, while rent was paid by nearly every one engaged in the land war, direct Government taxes are paid by very few, and these few the least earnest of those now banded together to resist Home Rule.…

…the Orange farm labourers and town artisans… are honest fanatics, and like honest fanatics they are prepared to sacrifice much and to go far in support of their views. There is no reason to doubt that many of them would be willing to refuse to pay taxes to a Dublin Parliament and to suffer cheerfully the consequences. But what taxes would they be asked to pay? At present almost, if not altogether, the only direct Government tax now levied in Ireland is the income-tax. How many artisans and labourers pay that? If they do not pay it, they cannot refuse it. As to the indirect taxes — Customs, stamps, &c. the only way in which they can refuse to pay them is by refusing to consume tea, tobacco, and whisky, and to write letters. The latter would be no great privation to the average Orangeman, who is not of a literary turn of mind; but an Orangeman who does not drink whisky, or whose wife does not drink tea or whose sons do not smoke, is a being which the human imagination cannot conceive. At any rate, a refusal to pay taxes taking this form would be nothing short of a national blessing, and would ensure rather than prevent the success of Home Rule government.

A more enthusiastic article can be found in the Dundee Evening Telegraph:

Ulster and Home Rule.

“What is Ulster to do when Home Rule is passed?” is the subject of a long article in the Belfast Weekly Telegraph. The Irish Parliament law and taxes are to be passively resisted, no elections must be allowed, and the Mayors and Sheriffs should publicly burn the writs of Judges and Magistrates appointed by the new Executive. The Court Houses must be closed against them, and Sheriffs, jurors, and witnesses must disregard their summonses. As the Dublin authority would not be brought to a standstill by a mere threat to withhold taxes, it may be necessary to seize the Custom Houses in Belfast, Derry, Larne, and Newry.…

Moving ahead several years, there’s this, from the Aberdeen Journal:

An Ulster Unionist’s Advice.

Mr William Moore, K.C., who was selected as Unionist candidate for North Armagh, in returning thanks said there was a movement on foot to make it perfectly clear to the electors of England that Ulster Unionists would under no circumstance pay taxes to a Home Rule Parliament in Dublin. He awaited that movement with delight. Resistance to those taxes would not be merely passive resistance, but a real resistance.…

The next bit of possibly tongue-in-cheek speculation comes from the Syracuse Herald:

Ulster Refuses to Pay Taxes.

Sir Edward Carson and his fellow founders of the proposed new [Northern Ireland] government talk of passive resistance by the Ulster people and their determination to refuse to pay taxes levied by an Irish parliament. The Belfast workingmen are asking how they can assist the movement. They don’t pay income tax, or land tax, or house duty, but they are paying indirect taxes on tobacco and whisky, and they may give up the use of these luxuries, though it is somewhat unlikely. If they do it will not be the government only that is the loser, for Belfast boasts of some of the largest distilleries and tobacco factories in the country.

Be that as it may, it is certain that the workingmen of Belfast realize that the only way they can assist the landlords and house-owners who sympathize with the proposed new government, to fight the good fight, will be to make it impossible for them to pay an income tax. If they have no incomes how can the government collect the income tax? So there is already a movement afoot to refuse to pay rent. No rent for the landlords will mean a rise of from $1 to $2 a week in wages to the Belfast workingman, and he will not be evicted, for his landlord, refusing to recognize the government at Dublin, will be unable to invoke the help of the law. No wonder anti-home rule is popular among the workers at Belfast.

And the following comes from the Cheltenham Chronicle:

Ulster’s Latest Resolution.

Tax-Resistance by Men of Commerce

Sir Edward Carson, M.P., addressed in Belfast on a gathering of Ulster business men, who met to protest against the Home Rule Bill. Three thousand men assembled in the Ulster-hall, and it was claimed that they represented capital amounting to between £80,000,000 and £100,000,000.

Mr. J.H. Stirling (director of York-street Flax Spinning and Weaving Co., Belfast) moved a resolution condemnatory of Home Rule, and stating:

We, business men of Ulster, representative of every branch of the industries and commerce of the province, hereby declare that we do not deem it to be our duty to supply funds to be used for coercing us into submission to such legislation, and we therefore solemnly resolve to hold back payment of all taxes which we can control so long as any attempt to put into operation the provisions of the Home Rule Bill for Ireland is persevered in.

The resolution was unanimously carried.…