The Passionate War Tax Resistance of Joshua Maule

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

“Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

Emo Philips

In earlier Picket Line entries, I’ve reprinted selections from the journals of Joshua Maule, who wrote extensively about his struggle to convince wavering Friends to stop paying war taxes in the mid-19th century.

He also wrote a pamphlet that touches on this subject, which was published and released by the Ohio General Meeting, and then by the General Meeting of “Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, &c.” The first of these groups was a sub-faction (led by Maule) of the Wilburite faction of a Wilburite/Gurneyite split amongst orthodox (non-Hicksite) Quakers in Ohio. The second was a closely-allied “primitive”/“Otisite” meeting also known as the “Fallsington General Meeting”

Maule’s group would further subdivide a few years after releasing this pamphlet, first by distancing itself from the Fallsington group, and then, in a dispute over that decision, fracturing — with Maule and his family, according to some accounts, leaving to form their own, lonely, one-family Meeting.

It must have been a tense time to be a Quaker.

This pamphlet, then, is one volley in a large and heated battle to delineate and defend the true, real, orthodox teachings of the Society of Friends against a diverse army of heretics. Here is an excerpt regarding war taxes:

A Testimony for the Truth, as Always Held and Promulgated by the Religious Society of Friends; and Against the Departures from the Principles of the Society which Have Appeared of Latter Time

Whatever may be the endeavors of those here, their action is to pay large bounty money and direct war taxes; the sums so demanded being set before tax-payers in a very prominent manner, in the words, “War Tax,” “Bounty Tax,” etc.: they being distinguished and the amounts for these purposes fairly set forth entirely separate from the taxes for other purposes; so that none can claim that they do not know what they pay tax for, unless they willfully close their eyes to the publication of it. They pay this in direct violation of our Discipline; and abundance of the same kind of reasoning as that which emanates from Philadelphia, has been used here, in meetings for discipline and elsewhere, to balk the testimony of truth and prevent the right exercise of the Discipline in different ways. And especially in regard to our testimony against war and direct war taxes, they claim the right, as many of the members of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting do, to think differently about this testimony from the words of the Discipline, and to understand its precepts in a manner to suit their action.

It is with unfeigned sorrow that we see this defection and these departures, and feel the necessity to review them and testify against them; for if we do not clear ourselves of the reproach which these publications and this course of action bring upon the name of Friends, a measure of it lies upon us. Some, perhaps many, who thus depart from our Discipline, may be ready to charge us with faultfinding, and a censorious spirit. But it is not so: we are not the aggressors. It is in defense we speak; in defense of the precious truth, and in defense of ourselves in supporting it. We have not sought this engagement, or desired in our own wills to enter into it. These errors and misrepresentations are urged by others, and brought upon us; and it is incumbent upon us to endeavor to set forth the truth concerning the practice and false reasoning of such as are making a high profession of standing firm for the doctrines and discipline of the Society; and who by the action of their meetings are bringing censure upon Friends who do not unite with them in these violations of our discipline and practical denial of the faith of the Society. Alas! that any should thus vilely cast away the shield in this cloudy and dark day, when the necessity seems greater than for many years past, in this country, for all who really believe that the spirit of the gospel breathes “peace on earth, good will to men,” to show forth their faith by their works.

The noble institutions of our country, and the liberal form of government under which we live, protect us in the free enjoyment of our religious profession; and we are permitted to worship the Father in the way of his requiring, safe from persecution and suffering, such as was endured by those who first raised the standard and held forth these testimonies. Yet it is a lamentable truth, that the more we have received from Divine Goodness, of outward blessing and prosperity, and enjoyed freedom from all bodily suffering for his cause, the more as a people we have turned from his covenant and law. And now, in the first trial of their faith which has come upon the Society for many years in this land, from the laws or requirements of the Government, a great portion of it has flinched and given back, and proved unfaithful to this testimony to the peaceable nature of the Redeemer’s Kingdom, and ungrateful to the hand that has hitherto preserved us, and greatly blessed us in basket and in store; and has now wonderfully disposed the hearts of the rulers and heads of the Government, to show great kindness and leniency to such as have stood and maintained their allegiance to Him. This we esteem a signal and unmerited favor, for which we desire to express our gratitude to Him from whom all good comes, and our thankfulness to those who administer the Government, and have shown such kindness to us and to our brethren. We can truly say that it is not from any hostile feeling toward the Government, or to those who manage its affairs, or from sympathy with such as oppose it, that we decline to pay taxes for war, and to, perform military duty. But it is that we may be found walking in the fear, and fulfilling the law as manifested to us, of Him to whom “every knee shall bow,” “and every tongue shall confess;” and in this feeling we endeavor peaceably and patiently to submit to whatever the laws may do with us or our property.