Today, some news accounts and testimony of resistance to the annuity and other church taxes by Scottish and other British nonconformists in the .
These accounts include such tactics as passively-resisting arrest (going limp), disrupting auctions of seized goods, boycotts of such auctions by sympathetic auctioneers and carters, intimidation of auctioneers, public shaming of businesses that participated in tax auctions, publicizing of tax auctions so as to draw a crowd of sympathizers, disrupting arrests of resisters, going into hiding to evade arrest, use of barricades to prevent property seizure, resignation of government officials, and raising money by subscription to assist resisters who had property seized.
First, an article from The British Friend:
An Address to the Inhabitants of St. Austell, on the Subject of the Church Rate.
It is painful to our feelings to be engaged in differences with our friends and neighbours; but when matters of principle are in question, and especially those connected with civil and religious liberty, we dare not shrink from avowing our sentiments, and maintaining them to the utmost of our power. The subject of the church rate, which is now agitating this parish, is, with us, one of these matters of principle. We consider that the end and object of every good government is the protection of our dearest rights; that is, person and property, and the worship of God in the manner which we conscientiously believe to be most acceptable to Him.
Perhaps many of you are not aware of the forcible seizure of our goods to support a place of worship from which we conscientiously dissent. We therefore deem it to be our duty to give you the following information upon the subject:—
For a church rate of 7s., demanded of J.E. Veale, articles were taken value £1 7s.
For a church rate of 5s. 1d., demanded of R. Veale, articles were taken value £1 12s.
For a church rate of 2s., demanded of W. Veale, articles were taken value £1 5s.
For a church rate of 12s. 5½d., demanded of W. & A.H. Veale, articles were taken value £2.
For a church rate of 7s. 1d., demanded of W. Clemes, articles were taken value £2 10s.
You see, then, that our property has been forcibly taken from us in direct opposition to all the precepts of the Gospel. Christianity is to be spread through the world by persuasive and spiritual means. The people who meet in an Episcopal place of worship have no more moral right to forcibly take our property from us to support their worship, than we have to take their goods to support ours.
Now, if we honestly pay the taxes levied by Government for the support of civil society, we have a right to its protection. While a man does this, and fulfils the social and relative duties of life respectably, conscientiously refraining from doing any injury to any one, the State has nothing to do with the manner in which he conceives it to be his duty to worship his Maker. This is a matter entirely between his God and himself, with which no earthly power has a right to interfere; and therefore, since mutual protection is the sole object for which we submit to a form of government, and pay taxes, laws made to compel subjects to support any particular form of religion are unjust in their principle, and ought not to be complied with.
Now, overlooking for a moment the circumstance, that these rates can be legally enforced only by a majority of rate-payers in any given parish, let us examine this position, on which, the advocates for the compulsory maintenance of an ecclesiastical establishment take their stand. The whole force of their argument lies in the very words employed by those who condemned the Saviour of men, “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die,” (John ⅹⅸ. 7.) We will, in the first place, tell them, that the mere circumstance of having a law, is not sufficient to justify them in the execution of it. Have they never heard of unjust, cruel, and wicked laws? Can they forget, that Bishops Ridley and Latimer, and a glorious company of martyrs, were burnt to death according to law, because they could not conscientiously conform to the State religion? Had these champions for law lived in Spain and Portugal, when the laws of the land in those countries subjected conscientious men and women to the horrors of the Inquisition, would they have considered it their duty to support those proceedings, because there was a law for it? But we will tell them, that every law which is contrary to the precepts and doctrines of the Gospel, is more honoured in the breach than in the observance; and ought not to be considered binding upon any Christian. And be it ever remembered, that it was because they could not conform to the State religion, that the early Christians suffered martyrdom; that the Protestants on St. Bartholomew’s-day were butchered; and that a great number of the members of the religious society to which we belong, laid down their lives in prison, in the time of King Charles the Second.
Under these circumstances, we appeal to the liberal portion of the Church of England resident in this parish, whether they think it right to compel their brethren to support forms of worship to which they conscientiously object? and whether it is fair, or consistent with common honesty, to put their hands into the pockets of their Dissenting neighbours, for the support of their own particular forms and ceremonies of religion?
With best wishes for all our neighbours, we are, their sincere friends,
John Edey Veale.
Andrew Kingston Veale.
St. Austell, .
The British Friend editorialized thusly:
State Church Injustice And Oppression.
We direct attention to the Address, in another column, by some Friends at St. Austell to their townsmen, on the subject of church-rate exactions. Their case is calmly, yet pointedly reasoned; and we feel persuaded, these Friends have the sympathy of their brethren in religious profession throughout the nation. In connection with the above, we have given an account from the pages of a cotemporary, of certain proceedings at Edinburgh for refusal to pay the Annuity Tax; this Tax being the mode adopted for obtaining the stipends of Clergymen belonging to the Established Church of Scotland in that city. We quote these proceedings, not by any means because we approve of the conduct of the parties who attended the Roup, and obstructed the Auctioneer in disposing of the articles; but as evidence of the strong feeling which exists in the minds of the citizens of Edinburgh, against the unjust and oppressive system by which the State Church is upheld;— a system, the agents of which may, for aught we know, be one of these days laying their hands, as they have done before, on the goods or furniture of some of our own members; thus robbing those to whom the Clergy “perform no services, and on whom, consequently, they can have no equitable claims.”
At a public meeting of the inhabitants, held subsequently to the attempted Roup, resolutions approving of the refusal of the poinded parties to pay the Annuity Tax, and condemnatory of the State Church oppression and in justice, were passed; and it affords us pleasure to find the Chairman, Professor Dick, disapproving of the uproarious conduct manifested by the populace on occasion of exposing the Furniture for Sale:— “He was not at all surprised,” he said, “at the offering of passive resistance in Edinburgh to tho Annuity Tax, on the ground, first, that they considered the principles of an Established Church to be unsound; and on the ground, secondly, that they did not believe in the doctrines of an Erastian Church. He must take leave to say, that he did not agree with all the steps which had been adopted at the sales for Annuity Tax the other day. They did not want anything like physical force to put down the Annuity Tax. He did not consider that it was proper to defeat the officers of the law in their purpose. He deeply sympathised with the feeling which existed against the Annuity Tax, but he did not think that the exhibition made the other day was the best way of showing that feeling. The proper way to get quit of this obnoxious impost was by a quiet, determined, and peaceful agitation. He was persuaded that by a moral force resistance, they would eventually overcome the iniquity. He was convinced that if they showed a bold front — if they told the Government that there was an unparalleled injustice perpetrated on the inhabitants of Edinburgh — with the exception of the town of Montrose — they would be successful in getting exempted from it.”
These sentiments are highly creditable to the learned Professor; they were warmly applauded by the meeting, and encouragingly indicate an advance towards the views and the practice of our Society; and we do sincerely trust, that should any Friends in Edinburgh be called upon to suffer after a similar fashion, they may be enabled to “adhere stedfastly to the original grounds of our testimony; not allow themselves,” in the words of the Book of Discipline, page 260, “to be led away by any feelings of party spirit, or suffer any motives of an inferior character to take the place of those which are purely Christian. May none amongst us shrink from the faithful and upright support of our Christian belief, but through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ seek after that meek disposition, in which our Society has uniformly thought it light to maintain this testimony, and which we desire may ever characterize us as a body.”
Next, from the Portland Guardian and Normanby General Adviser (Australia):
“The Established Church of Scotland,” says the Spectator, “is in very hot water at this moment, in consequence of the wrong-headed policy which has maintained the Annuity-tax, and which now logically compels the responsible official functionaries to enforce payment. Strange scenes have occurred in Edinburgh. An order went forth that the tax should be demanded from certain persons. Three were pounced upon. Two, a Mr. Fairbain and a Mr. William Brown, went quietly to gaol, rather than pay. A third, Mr. Hunter, conceived the brilliant idea of refusing to pay the tax and of offering no resistance, beyond a passive resistance, to the constables. Forthwith ensued a scandalous scene of lugging and hauling. Hunter, a heavy person, was carried out of his shop by the head and feet. Thrust into a hack cab, he lay on his back with his legs dangling outside. Handcuffs were placed upon him in order apparently that the chief of the arresting party might obtain a greater purchase on their passive prisoner. A mob intervened. Resistance to the law is not a Scotch characteristic. If a felon were apprehended in the streets of Edinburgh, the mob would, if it were needed, assist in the capture. But in this case, the phrase ‘arrested for refusing to pay Annuity-tax,’ roused the passions of a people who have always been ready to take fire at the sight of what looks like religious persecution. When it was the fashion to seize the goods of those dissenters who refused to pay the odious tax, a great array of soldiers and police was required to protect the auctioneer instructed to sell the goods; and when purchasers could not be found in Edinburgh, they were sought for and found in Glasgow. Opposition to the payment of this impost, therefore, is an idea familiar to the minds of the people of Edinburgh. Moreover, there was an air of novelty in the attempt to imprison the malcontents. It was deemed a harsh measure to distrain, it is regarded as odious to arrest. To the multitude, the officers, hauling at the passive and manacled Hunter as he lay helpless beneath their hands, appeared somewhat in the light of familiars of some Scottish inquisition. The people acted on the impulse of the moment, obstructed the constables, and put them to flight; and we have no doubt it would now require a strong armed force to arrest the man in broad daylight. He therefore goes free; but we hear that the constables are on the alert each night to catch the marked men; and that, fearing a visit in the dark, these persons quit their homes and sleep abroad.”
And this comes from the Hobart Mercury:
Another annuity tax seizure has been made in Edinburgh on behalf of the city clergy. The victim in this case was Mr. James Millar, an extensive furnishing ironmonger in Princess street. From Mr. Millar’s residence, Hope-terrace, the whole dining-room furniture was carried away, even to the carpet, which was torn off the floor. The goods taken are in value upwards of £150; the tax refused to be paid is less than £8. “Such,” says the Caledonian Mercury, “is a specimen of Christian Edinburgh, with its Synod sitting, and its assemblies, with her Majesty’s representative, about to sit, to further the cause of Christ and His kingdom.”
And now, some excerpts and other notes from the Report from the Select Committee on the Edinburgh Annuity Tax Abolition Act (1860) and Canongate Annuity Tax Act.
“Abolition” as used here was a misnomer, if not a deliberate attempt at deception, since the act did not abolish the tax, as many had hoped it would, but instead tried to disguise it by subsuming it within the police tax and explicitly refraining from itemizing it, as critics quickly pointed out:
By the 11th section it is enacted that the “increased assessments under the powers of this Act shall not, in the imposing, levying, or collecting thereof, or in the notices or receipts relative thereto, be in any way separated or distinguished from the assessments to be imposed, levied, and collected under the said Edinburgh Police Act, , and Edinburgh Municipality Act, .” It will be observed that the only object of this clause is to conceal from the inhabitants the amount in which they are assessed for the support of the established clergy…
David Lewis, a member of the Edinburgh town council, testified about the effects of the Bill that lumped the annuity tax in with the larger police tax. People who conscientiously resisted the small annuity tax and only paid the police tax portion found that their entire tax bill was rejected for being underpaid, and then the sheriff came after them (and penalized them) for the whole amount. The sheriff had a good motive to do this, as he could then collect a percentage of the total and keep it for himself.
Q: Just to illustrate the working of the arrangement, supposing a shop or a house is rated for the police rate at 60l., and the police rate 1s. 3d., that would be 3l. 15s., would it not?
Q: Then there would be 5s. added for this penny [annuity tax] which is in dispute?
A: Quite so.
Q: Then for your house, which is rented at 60l., you tender 3l. 15s. for the police, and you tender all the small rates for registration and everything else, but you refuse to pay this 5s., unless you are compelled, for the penny?
Q: Then the collector gets 12½ per cent. on the 4l., because you have refused to pay 5s.?
Q: You offered the town council 3l. 15s., and they would not take it, but they have taken 3l. 10s. through the sheriff’s officer — because they never levy the 10s. from the recusants at all; they cannot recover it, and it is a loss to the city fund, is it not?
A: Quite so; I have a case which illustrates the question perfectly. One of my neighbour’s (a clergyman) rates come to 2l. 19s. 7d., he refuses to pay this penny, which amounts to 3s. 4d.; in consequence of refusing to pay the 3s. 4d., there are expenses to the amount of 1l. 1s. 4d. charged against him in the recovery of the 3s. 4d., and the city are charged 12½ per cent. on the entire amount of 2l. 19s. 7d.
The effect of this was that for tax years , the government pursued 861 tax refusers (of some 3,475 warrants they issued) in order to try to get £2,981, of which only £497 were actually being resisted for conscientious reasons. In order to get this disputed £497 from the resisters, the town paid the sheriff’s office 12.5% of the total, which is to say, £372. Some of this included costs of prosecution, which were charged against the resisters: “although the warrants cost the council only 3d. or 4d. per head,” Lewis testified, “those who are prosecuted were charged from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. per head; so that we are making a large profit out of the prosecutions in addition to the enforcement of the rate.”
Q: Are you personally sure of that fact; because it is a serious charge to make against the council that they collect money under false pretenses?
A: I am personally sure of it.
Q: Besides those expenses, am I correct in assuming that the sheriff’s officer charges all the legal expenses and the expenses of cartage, and everything of that kind over and above?
A: He does.
Q: And these expenses amount to a very considerable sum?
A: I should say they average about 10s. where there are no sales, and from 15s. to 18s. where there are sales, in addition. There is one statement I should like very particularly to submit; and it is with regard to a gentleman, a Quaker, one of the most respectable of our citizens, and I should say one who upon no condition could be objected to as not having conscientious scruples. His rates amounted to 2l. 18s., the amount which he disputed was 3s. 3d.; he offered to pay the whole of the money less the 3s. 3d.; it was repeatedly refused; the officer carried away goods to the amount of exactly 9l.; (I have the receipt here); the goods were sold; in conscience he refused to purchase them; and he got back out of the 9l. the sum of 9d.; so that refusing to pay 3s. 3d., cost him 8l. 19s. 3d.
Lewis also testified about the solidarity area businesses were exhibiting with the tax strikers and against the government seizure-and-sale apparatus:
Q: Does it consist with your knowledge that no auctioneer could be got to sell the goods?
A: It does.
Q: Does it consist with your knowledge that none of the dealers in old furniture in Edinburgh will buy the goods that are exposed?
A: None, to my knowledge
Q: Is it pretty generally arranged that somebody buys them at the Cross?
A: Yes; in many cases there is such an arrangement.
Q: Does it consist with your knowledge that there has been great difficulty in getting any carter to hire his cart for carrying away the property?
Q: In point of fact, were the council checkmated in their efforts to get a carter?
A: They were.
Q: You know that personally?
A: I do.
Q: Can you mention an instance?
A: I may mention that, after two carts had been engaged belonging to two different parties, there was an action of damages raised on both occasions against the proprietor of a journal for having notified the circumstance that these parties had so hired their carts.
Q: It was held to have a damaging influence on the business of the carters, was it?
A: Yes; these were the points argued in court.
Next interviewed was John Greig, who had been a town council member:
Q: Do you remember the introduction of the lorry or police cart?
A: I read it in the newspapers.
Q: Has that made a considerable difference in inducing people to pay?
A: Applying the screw, which has been done very severely, has had very great effect in bringing in arrears.
Thomas Menzies, a dissenter, was questioned next.
Q: Was there a feeling among the Dissenters so strong against the tax, that it induced some of them to leave the Council, and prevented others from coming forward as candidates at the municipal elections?
A: That was very striking indeed, in the case of such men as Bailie Russell, Bailie Grieve, Ex-Counsellor Burns, and other distinguished Dissenters, who retired from the Council rather than administer the Act.
Q: Until the last year, has it prevented others from coming forward as candidates for the vacant wards?
A: Most decidedly there has been great difficulty in getting voluntary Dissenters to go into the Council, and in consequence of voluntary Dissenters not going into the Council, the Free Church dissenters have found great difficulty in carrying out this measure in the Council, and many of the most influential of them also retired.
Q: Have great complaints been made in consequence of expensive prosecutions being brought forward in the Court of Sessions against parties?
A: An intense feeling of indignation has been roused at the selection of some of our most distinguished citizens, and dragging them into the Court of Session. We felt that we were under persecution, and as to two of the parties in particular, subscriptions were raised to mark our indignation at such a mode of prosecuting Dissenters. I refer particularly to the late Thomas Russell, who when the money was presented to him, said, “We shall give it to the Annuity Tax League, to enable them to carry out their operations in the abolishment of the tax.”
Q: When was that?
A: That was in . A similar sum was raised for Mr. M‘Laren, of Saint Andrew’s Hotel, and the expenses in each of those cases were from 27l. to 30l. Mr. M‘Laren was dragged into Court the year following, and very summarily dealt with, because Mr. Caw would not take the money, unless it was immediately presented to him, although a very respectable citizen; Mr. Dixon, of the firm of Knox, Samuel, and Dixon had offered him the money. The furniture was taken away; his dining-room was left almost empty; and he spent to the extent of between 30l. and 40l. in pleading for redress before the sheriff. He employed Mr. Trainer as his advocate.
Q: Do you know the result of the application to the sheriff?
A: The sheriff decided against Mr. M‘Laren, and he had, of course, to pay all costs.
Q: What was the amount for which he was sued?
A: I could not get the accounts before I came up, and I am ignorant of the expense.
Q: Was it a large sum?
A: In the first prosecution, between 20l. and 30l.
Q: In that case was there a distraint?
Q: Do you know that 52 police officers were employed to distrain?
A: I have seen police officers in great numbers, in several detachments, waiting on these sales, in quiet corners.
Q: Has any action been taken against you for the recovery of your arrears?
A: Yes; I was summoned to the Sheriff’s Court for three years’ arrears, and a decree was obtained against me, but no action has been taken, and those three years’ arrears are still in my hands; I tendered to the sheriff’s clerk, the police tax proper; the sum for the clerical tax is 4s. 2d. Previously to this, I also tendered it to Mr. Thomson, the collector, by a draft on the bank, and the same to Mr. Saunders, who was employed as his agent. I have their respective letters, showing that I have done so, but it was refused, because I would not pay the clerical portion of the tax.
Q: Did you ask for a discharge for the whole amount, or were you willing to acknowledge that a balance remained?
A: In the year that partial payments were agreed to be paid I had not signed a document that it was due, because I considered the tax to be unconstitutionally put on, and that we ought to protest against such measures being thrust upon the community.
Q: Did the sheriff’s officer come to your house and carry off your things?
A: He did.
A: ; he carried off a hair-cloth sofa, and a hair-cloth easy chair, which I purchased back. We were in the habit at these sales for the clerical portion of the tax, of allowing our furniture to be taken as a protest. The auctioneer and sheriff officer who are one person (Mr. Caw) put them up slump, and put this out of my power, so that we could not make our protest so decidedly on that point.
Q: What do you mean by “slump?”
A: Instead of putting them up singly he put them up in one lot.
Q: You have stated that you have always taken a deep interest in this class of questions; did that induce you to go and see several of the sales?
A: Yes, it induced me to go to the sales under the small debts summons at the house of the parties to sympathise with them.
Q: Were you present at a sale at the house of Mr. Hope, a wholesale merchant in West Preston-street?
Q: Will you state briefly what you saw?
A: I saw a large number of the most respectable citizens assembled in the house, and a large number outside awaiting the arrival of the officers who came in a cab, and the indignation was very strong when they got into the house, so much so that a feeling was entertained by some that there was danger to the life of Mr. Whitten, the auctioneer, and that he might be thrown out of the window, because there were such threats, but others soothed down the feeling.
Q: There was no overt act or breach of the peace?
A: No. The cabman who brought the officers, seeing they were engaged in such a disagreeable duty, took his cab away, and they had some difficulty in procuring another, and they went away round by a back street, rather than go by the direct way.
Q: Was there a strong body of police present in case, of an outbreak?
A: Not so many on this occasion as on succeeding occasions. They gradually increased.
Q: Did Mr. Whitten, from his experience on that occasion, refuse ever to come to another sale as auctioneer?
A: He refused to act again, he gave up his position.
Q: Were you present at a sale of Mr. Stewart’s furniture, in Rankeillor-street in ?
A: I was.
Q: Did anything of the same kind occur?
A: The house was densely packed; it was impossible for me to get entrance; the stair was densely packed to the third and second flats; when the policemen came with the officers, they could not force their way up, except with great difficulty. The consequence was, that nearly the whole of the rail of the upper storey gave way to the great danger both of the officers and the public, and one young man I saw thrown over the heads of the crowd to the great danger of being precipitated three storeys down. Then the parties came out of the house, with their clothes dishevelled and severely handled; and the officer on that occasion will tell you that he was very severely dealt with indeed, and Mr. Sheriff Gordon was sent for, so much alarm being felt; but by the time the Sheriff arrived things were considerably subdued.
Q: Was the officer (Mr. Caw) then present?
A: Mr. Caw and his assistants.
Q: Were you present at the sale at Mr. Adair’s hotel?
A: I was. That produced great sensation in the city. The whole of the Highstreet between St. Giles’s Cathedral and Tron Church was crowded. I am not a great judge of numbers, but I should say there were from 5,000 to 10,000 people. There was a miller’s cart passing, and some of the policemen were powdered with flour out of the bags by the public.
Q: Is Mr. Adair a Roman Catholic?
A: Yes. I was present at that sale, and Mr. Linton, the superintendent of police, ordered me to be pulled out; but Mr. Adair protected me in his house, and I was allowed to remain. They carried off a sofa, a piano, and a picture to the police office. In that case Mr. Adair was able to give his protest.
Q: What were you doing at the time the superintendent of police ordered you to be taken out?
A: Quietly observing the sale.
Q: Were many complaints made of the rough way in which the police acted on those occasions?
A: Very many complaints, because the inhabitants were very severely handled at these sales, and pulled out of the rooms by the policemen; and even when there was room for them, as at Mr. M‘Laren’s sale, they would not allow them to enter; and at Mr. Musgrove’s sale only six were allowed to enter.
Q: You were also present at Mr. Musgrove’s sale?
A: Yes, but I was refused admittance; although it is a large shop, and will hold 150 persons, Mr. Musgrove had cleared away all his counters, being afraid of damage to his haberdashery goods, and yet only six people were allowed to go in, and the policemen stopped the right of the public to get in.
Q: Is Mr. Musgrove an intimate friend of your own?
A: A very intimate friend.
Q: And the police would not allow you to go into the house and witness the sale?
Q: Practically the police prevented people from bidding by excluding all but six?
A: Yes; and I saw them refuse another gentleman besides myself. I tried it again, but was refused again.
Q: Were you present at Mr. Dun’s, iron merchant, in Blair-street, when his effects were distrained?
A: Yes: I saw sledge hammers and other instruments there to open the premises and get at the goods, but after labouring for half an hour or more they could not effect an entrance.
Q: Was that because Mr. Dun used some of the metal in which he was a dealer to barricade his premises?
A: Yes; tons of metal were put up against the back door, and it was impossible for them to get in. On the second occasion they got the goods after removing about ten tons of iron from the top of them; but they disputed the things, and Mr. Dun threw them out, and I saw children running away with copper springs, and tossing about sheets of brass.
Q: You were present at the sale at Mr. M‘Laren’s hotel, in St. Andrew’s-street?
Q: Will you briefly describe the state of matters there?
A: That sale reminded me a good deal of the features of the former annuity tax agitation, when the cavalry and infantry were turned out in Hanover-street; although there were no such accompaniments on this occasion, the interest of the public was very great, and so great was it, that when a sofa (for in this case the protest was to allow the clerical portion to be sacrificed), when a sofa was thrown out by the crowd it was burned, and continued to burn half an hour, large crowds occupying each side of the street, and creating a very great sensation; and this is close to one of our great public thoroughferes, Prince’s-street, and at 12 o’clock in the day.
Q: Were there several thousand people there?
A: Altogether there would not be so many as in Mr. Adair’s case; I should think 1,500 people.
Q: Did the police act very roughly to the crowd on that occasion?
A: In driving off, the officers used the whip very freely, because they always came and went off in cabs.
Q: Do you see any prospect of this feeling being diminished?
A: By no means; it is getting more intense every day.
Q: Do you think it will continue to be so as long as any portion of this tax remains?
A: I have not the slightest doubt of it; it is not the amount, but it is the principle, which the Dissenters feel.
Q: Do you think, although greater progress was made last year in collecting the tax by means of that new engine, the lorry, that indicates any change of feeling?
A: By no means; it has just irritated the public more and more; and the indignation against the lorry is so intense, that it has become associated with Treasurer Callender’s name, as the party who invented it and ordered it, and brought crowbars, and everything connected with it.
Q: Is the lorry one of those large low carts such as are used in Manchester, Glasgow, and Liverpool, to take away goods?
A: Four wheel carts, with a large surface.
Q: Is there anything particularly obnoxious in a cart of that shape?
Q: It is an English invention, I suppose?
A: It is obnoxious if crowbars and sledge hammers form part of its fittings.
Q: Is there a contrivance for putting instruments of war behind it in a chest?
Q: Crowbars and sledge-hammers?
A: Yes; otherwise the machine is like any other lorry.
Q: What do you say about the “implements of war”?
A: They are carried in case they are required.
Q: Is there in the lorry a place kept apart for conveying arms?
A: I do not think there are any arms; but I think, on one occasion, our citizens were threatened with arms from one of the officers, but I do not suppose they carried any.
Q: Perhaps they attacked the officer?
A: No; there was some altercation, and the indignation was so great that they came to high words.
And later, under the more hostile questioning of Major Cumming Bruce:
Q: Do you consider that the proceeding in resisting this tax, which you have described in your evidence, favourable to the spread of true religion and morality?
A: I think so.
Q: And in accordance with the spirit of Christian religion?
Q: Then you consider that any minority of people, however small, are entitled to resist a law passed by the Legislature of the country?
A: Not to resist it with violence, but to take the spoiling of their goods joyfully.
Q: Do you consider they took the spoiling of their goods joyfully when the police were called in and the peace of the city endangered?
A: I assure you that the Voluntaries of Edinburgh have sacrificed large sums of money, and it has cost them a great deal to resist this tax.
Q: My question was, whether you considered they took the spoiling of their goods joyfully when the police were called in, and the peace of the city endangered?
A: I believe it will bring about a happy termination of this iniquitous tax system.
Q: Then you consider that the end justifies the means?
A: Not to use violence, but simply to submit to the penalty of the law.
Q: According to your own statement, was there not violence used?
A: Not that I witnessed, although I was told there was some riot.
Q: Do you believe that report which was told you?
A: Yes; I saw one of them, a Sabbath-school teacher, taken along the street with his coat off, irritated by the officer, and he was carried to the police office. I cannot explain how the thing happened; but the officer was blamed for irritating and first attacking.
Q: There was a certain going on?
Q: Do you consider that a minority, however small, were justified in resisting a law which was passed by the Imperial Legislature of this country?
A: On the same principle that John Hampden resisted a law, when it was unconstitutionally put on.
Q: By violence?
A: Submit to the penalty, but not by violence.
Q: You cited the case of John Hampden as analogous. Are you aware what it was John Hampden resisted?
A: He resisted ship-money, because it had been put on by the king, and not by the Parliament.
Q: In this case there is an Act of Parliament by the Legislature of the country, and an act having the force of law by the decision of the Legislature of the country. In John Hampden’s case, was it the law which he resisted, or was it merely a tax levied by the despotic authority of the king?
A: Perfectly so, and in this case it has been despotically put on.
Q: In this case the Act was passed through both Parliaments?
Q: Then there is no sort of analogy with the resistance of ship-money which had been ordered to be levied by the king’s authority?
A: To my mind things pass through Parliament, and are put into Acts of Parliament which are not facts; for instance, that Act states that which is not the fact, because it states that it is an abolition of the annuity tax.
Q: I ask you whether you consider the case of John Hampden’s resistance founded upon an illegal act of the king a parallel case?
A: Not quite parallel, but there is some parallel between them.
Sheriff Clerk Kenmure Maitland was examined next. He was one of the authorities who attended some of the auctions of seized goods. Early in his testimony he quoted from some of the newspaper announcements of these auctions as a way of explaining why he expected trouble:
Rouping for Ministers’ Money. Come and see. R.H. Whitten selling off. East Preston-street. .
Poinding for the Clerico-Police Tax. — Instructions to the Public. — In order to defeat the illegal attempts made to roup the goods of Dissenters for payment of ministers’ stipends, without notice of day or hour given, and without, therefore, the possibility of a real sale being effected, it is recommended that so soon as the goods are poinded, the individuals to whom they belong should have a placard printed, in terms like the following, and posted at their doors: “Poinded for Clerico-Police Tax.” “Goods to be sold here for city clergy, on [give day when notice expires], or following days, between 12 and 3.” “Who’ll buy. Shame! Shame! to so outrage Dissenters and religion!”
In cases where the door may not be suitable, it is recommended that a black flag, bearing the notice or suitable inscription, be suspended from the windows, so as to be generally seen. It is also suggested that in the event of an attempted sale, the proprietors of the goods should bid to the full amount of the police portion of his tax on the first article put up, whether that article be worth 10s. or 10l., leaving the clerico-police portion to be satisfied in whatever way the officers of the law find themselves best able to effect it.
Efforts being made in the name of religion and law to sacrifice goods by a mock sale, or sale without due notice, corresponding efforts must be made in the same name to secure the utmost publicity, and as large an attendance as possible.
To this end it may be worthy of consideration whether the doors of the houses in which the sales are to take place should not be kept locked till they are unlocked by the sheriff officers. This process of unlocking the doors by the police officers will excite the attention of the general public, and an opportunity thus afforded of a fair sale taking place.
Robbery and Religion. — Fellow citizens, the furniture of one of your number is to be sold by public roup, at 4, Rankeillor-street, on , for the behoof of the city clergy. As the effects have been poinded at less than one-sixth of their real value, it is expected that those who “love justice and hate robbery” will be in time to ensure a vigorous competition.
Christians are informed that, among other valuable articles, there is a beautiful engraving of the “Last Supper of Christ and his Apostles” (name of auctioneer unknown).
Another example was given in an appendix:
“To your Tents, O Israel.” — Anti-Clerico Police Tax.
Friends, be at 14, St. Andrew-street before .
“Robbery for Burnt Offering, Isaiah ⅼⅺ. 8. — Annuity Tax Persecution,” &c. &c. &c.
He also describes some of the tactics of auction disruption used by the resisters and their supporters:
A: On the first sale that I attended at Mr. Hope’s in Prestonstreet, I only took two or three police officers with me, and they were in plain clothes to make as little show as possible; but we were very much obstructed in carrying out that sale; we were hustled and rudely used by the crowd, and there was a great deal of noise during the sale. Mr. Whitten, the auctioneer for sheriff’s sales, was so much inconvenienced and intimidated that he refused to take any more of those sales. At the second sale, I arranged with Mr. Linton, the superintendent of police, that he should have a body of police in attendance in case I should require to send for them, and I considered that necessary in the case of the sale in Rankeillor-street.
Q: What took place at the sale in Rankeillor-street?
A: On proceeding there, I found a considerable crowd outside; and on going up to the premises on the top flat, I found that I could not get entrance to the house; the house was packed with people, who on our approach kept hooting and shouting out, and jeering us; and, as far as I could see, the shutters were shut and the windows draped in black, and all the rooms crowded with people. I said that it was necessary to carry out the sale, and they told me to come in, if I dare. I said that I should send for the police to clear the place, if they did not allow me to carry out the sale. They hooted and jeered again. I sent for Mr. Linton, and he brought the police. There was a good deal of opposition to the police at the head of the stairs, and it looked a little serious for a time. The stairs are protected on the outside by a banister and railing, and that banister and railing gave way in a dangerous manner. I was afraid if the resistance was maintained there might be an accident or a breach of the peace, and I sent for the sheriff. Before he arrived, Mr. Linton and his assistants had ejected the most troublesome into the street, and the sale was being carried out when the sheriff arrived.
Q: Did you see on that occasion any of those persons whose faces had become familiar to you?
A: Some of the parties there had been at the former sale, and I noticed them again at subsequent sales.
Q: Was that the most serious of the obstructions that you met with?
A: It was; because after that sale the police went down beforehand, and kept the door pretty clear, so that we could get in without obstruction. At Mr. McLaren’s sale everything was conducted in an orderly way as far as the sale was concerned. We got in, and only a limited number were allowed to go in; but after the officials and the police had gone, there was a certain amount of disturbance. Certain goods were knocked down to the poinding creditors, consisting of an old sofa and an old sideboard, and Mr. McLaren said, “Let those things go to the clergy.” Those were the only things which had to be taken away. There was no vehicle ready to carry them away. Mr. McLaren said that he would not keep them. After the police departed, he turned them out in the street, when they were taken possession of by the crowd of idlers, and made a bonfire of.
Q: What is the last sale that took place?
A: Mr. Dunn’s, in Blair-street; I was not present on the first occasion at that sale, where the officials were defeated in gaining entrance; Mr. Dunn had barricaded the door of the room where the poinded effects were, so that an entrance could not be had. My deputy was there, and the other officials; they gave the matter up, and reported that they could not get in. Sometime afterwards the warrant was attempted again; I went down myself on that occasion; I found that the room where the poinded goods were was filled up to above the centre of the room with boxes filled with plates of iron of immense weight. We were told that the poinded goods were lying beneath those, and that we might get at them as we could. I sent for labourers, and had the whole of those boxes removed into the front shop until I got access, after great trouble, to the sheets of brass, which were the poinded articles. These were then declared by the sheriff officers to be of a different description, and inferior to what they had previously poinded; they refused to take them; and the only articles they recognised were some coils of copper wire; those they took to the police office, and those were all that were obtained on that occasion. Mr. Dunn afterwards settled the amount due by him. That was the last sale that was carried out under proceedings at common law; after that sale the summary form of application was adopted, and has been found to work well, I should say principally because the parties who refused to pay on presentment of the summary application having now no notice of the exact day or hour their goods are to be taken, have no opportunity of getting up a scene; and the expense is certainly less to them under the summary form than under the other mode of proceeding.
Q: What was Mr. Whitten’s express reason for declining to act as auctioneer?
A: He was very much inconvenienced on that occasion, and he believed that his general business connection would suffer by undertaking these sales, and that he would lose the support of any customer who was of that party.
Q: It was not from any fear of personal violence?
A: That might have had a good deal to do with it.
Q: Was Mr. Whitten the only auctioneer who declined?
A: No. After Mr. Whitten’s refusal I applied to Mr. Hogg, whose services I should have been glad to have obtained, and he said he would let me know the next day if he would undertake to act as auctioneer; he wrote to me the next day saying, that, after consideration with his friends, he declined to act.
Q: Any other?
A: I do not remember asking any others. The rates of remuneration for acting as auctioneer at sheriffs’ sales are so low that men having a better class of business will not act. I had to look about among not first-class auctioneers, and I found that I would have some difficulty in getting a man whom I could depend upon, for I had reason to believe that influence would be used to induce the auctioneer to fail me at the last moment.
The report then quoted, in one of its appendices, from a paper submitted by a public meeting in Edinburgh which said in part:
So strong was the feeling of hostility, that the town council were unable to procure the services of any auctioneer to sell the effects of those who conscientiously objected to pay the clerical portion of the police taxes, and they were consequently forced to make a special arrangement with a sheriff’s officer, by which, to induce him to undertake the disagreeable task, they provided him for two years with an auctioneer’s license from the police funds. In , it was found necessary to enter into another arrangement with the officer, by which the council had to pay him 12½ percent, on all arrears, including the police, prison, and registration rates, as well as the clerical tax; and he receives this per-centage whether the sums are recovered by himself or paid direct to the police collector, and that over and above all the expenses he recovers from the recusants. But this is not all; the council were unable to hire a cart or vehicle from any of the citizens, and it was found necessary to purchase a lorry, and to provide all the necessary apparatus and assistance for enforcing payment of the arrears. All this machinery, which owes its existence entirely to the Clerico-Police Act, involves a wasteful expenditure of city funds, induces a chronic state of irritation in the minds of the citizens, and is felt to be a gross violation of the principles of civil and religious liberty.