The Education Act Tax Resistance Campaign: December 1903

As came on, coverage of the passive resistance movement against taxpayer-funded sectarian education dwindled, at least in my sample.

The Rev. A. Gray of Briercliffe penned a letter for the Burnley Express of that begins:

Notices have been posted in Burnley to the effect that the general rate must be paid on or before . This rate includes the education rate. Passive Resisters are therefore advised to deduct a sum equal to 1½d. in the £. We are not sure whether any instructions have been issued by the overseers to the rate collectors with reference to receiving part payment. Such part payment has been accepted at the office. Collectors will, therefore, probably accept whatever sum is tendered by the ratepayer and take out a summons for the remainder. It is intended to call together at as early a date as possible those interested both practically and sympathetically in the Passive Resistance movement in Burnley.

An auction in Pembury of goods seized from three resisters, with “a large gathering of villagers to witness” seemed to indicate some amiability between the local overseers and the resisters, as reported in the Kent & Sussex Courier of :

The office of “auctioneer” was assumed by Mr Penn (overseer of the parish), this step being taken to save expense, and the whole of the proceedings passed off without the least disturbance.…

Shortly after , Mr Penn mounted the barrow and explained that he was a little out of his ordinary place there (hear, hear). His senior overseer had expressed a wish that this distress for rates should be carried out with as little friction as possible (hear, hear); and he did not see any reason why they should not sell the goods themselves to save the resisters the costs which would otherwise occur. They wished the whole thing to be carried out in a kindly spirit; hence the reason he was there as auctioneer for the first time in his life (hear, hear). The goods he had to sell that day were valuable. They would begin with a real gold watch, which might be worth five or ten guineas, but he was not going to ask either of these prices — the price he was going to ask was 8s 1d (laughter).

The other items similarly went to the same sole bidder for similarly low prices (presumably the exact amounts being resisted).

Mr Penn concluded by saying that, unfortunately, there were many people who were threatening to have their goods sold next time. It was not a pleasant business for him, and he was sure the overseers would be most willing to meet them pleasantly.

Upon the call of Dr. Usher, three cheers were accorded the “auctioneer.”

One of the speakers at a protest meeting that evening (W.H.C. Palmer) said:

We are glad to notice the Passive Resistance movement is rapidly spreading throughout the country, and that 110 resister’s goods are being sold by auction at Reading , so that we are in good company all over the country.

At the conclusion of the meeting nine hands were held up as pledges, declining to pay the education rate in the future.