The War Tax Resistance of Quaker “College” Tom Hazard

Here’s a story of the nitty-gritty of Quaker war tax resistance, and the government’s response: seizing and selling goods to make up the tax.

This comes from Caroline Hazard’s Thomas Hazard son of Rob’t, call’d College Tom: A Study of Life in Narragansett in :

[Tom Hazard’s] principles of non-resistance… were very firm; there is no indication that he took any part in the struggle, except as an exhorter to quiet endurance, and a distributer of aid to the suffering.

Matters were going from bad to worse with the finances of the colony. The Colonial Records are full of reports on the state of the money. The bills as they became due were burnt by the proper officer, but fresh ones took their place. A table of value of Spanish milled dollars is given in an act fixing the depreciation of continental bills for each month after . One hundred Spanish milled dollars at that time were worth a hundred and five in paper. The price rapidly increases till three years later, in , they were worth seven thousand paper dollars, and , sixteen thousand in paper. It was made obligatory to accept this depreciated paper in exchange for land, and the general distress can be imagined. During all business was at a standstill in Providence and Newport, and the farmers allowed their produce to decay rather than sell to the merchants at the heavy discount they demanded. The forcing act was brought to the test and declared unconstitutional, But the ruin was already widespread. I have been told by the youngest granddaughter of College Tom, that she had heard her mother relate that her grandmother used to say she saw the money go out of the house in baskets full of gold and silver, and come back in bundles of rags. Not every one in South Kingstown accepted the “rags,” as the spirited protest of William Knowles proves:—

Henry Potter and John Segar both of South Kingston on oath say that on the they saw Col. Samuel Segar make a tender of the sum of two thousand one hundred dollars to Mr. William Knowles of said South Kingston to discharge two bonds & a note said Knowles had against said Segar, but the said Knowles refused to take the same, saying that he would not take such trash as that was, but if said Samuel Segar would pay him & in the same sort of money the said Segar had of the said Knowles he would take it.

(Signed) Henry Potter, John Segar.

Kings County to wit South Kingston Henry Potter & John Segar subscribers to the above Deposition made Oath to the Truth of the same in order to perpetuate the same.

Before Carder Hazard, J.C. Pleas. S. Perry, Justice of the Peace.

William Knowles, cited but did not attend.

Evidence of Henry Potter & John Segar inter Samuel Segar & William Knowles

In , money was at 4000 paper dollars for 100 silver, and it is small wonder it is called “such trash.”

But Thomas Hazard carried out his Quaker principles. He enters his Rate bill this year and the following, and makes the entry for his son as well:—

Rate Bill Signed by Robert Potter, Town Treasurer for Raising Continental Soldiers, Silver money £8 8s, 3d.

Class Bill the Same year Signed by the above Thomas Potter etc. the above named committee £5 7s. 0d.

. Rate Bill , signed by Thomas Potter, John Gardner, Robert Brown & Samuel Babcock.

Class money Silver£15 4s. 6d.
Rowland Hazard0 1s. 6d.
State Tax Silver money18 15s. 4d.
£34 1s. 4d.


Signed by Joshua Clarke general Treasurer. . Continental money tax warrant from the General Treasurer £1176. 6. 0 Continental Town Tax signed by Robert Potter, Town Treasurer 238. 10. 0 Rate bill, dated —— of —— month, A.D. warrant signed by —— demand £2. 9s. 6d. Taken by Timothy Peckham, collector, one yearling bull price £3 12s. 00d. hard money, and one yearling heifer price £3 00s. 00d.

The distrained cattle show how he carried out his convictions, and suffered their loss rather than support the “carnal war and fightings” which disturbed the meeting so much.

Some of the latest entries in the book find him still submissive,—

One cow taken by Daniel Shearman, I know not his Demand by inquiry it appeared He did not come to the House, but spoke to Robert in the field.

A fortnight later—

The Willson Pollock collector took four of my best cows all giving milk he said that he had several taxes against me amounting to £33 & upward hard money but shew no warrant or order from authority I accidentally saw him with the cows as he drove them up the lane that leads to the highway westward from my dwelling house. (Signed) Thomas Hazard.

So he put himself on record as suffering for conscience sake. In Rhode Island finally signed the constitution, having run through almost all possible evils with her currency. She was the last of all the colonies to yield to the common good, — her excessive individuality having been at once the source of her strength and her weakness.

More such stories come from Extracts from the Journal of Elizabeth Drinker :

 — This morning in meeting time, (myself at home), Jacob Franks, and a son of Cling, the Vendue master, came to seize for the Continental Tax; they took from us, one walnut dining-table, one mahogany tea-table, 6 handsome walnut chairs with open backs, crow feet, and a shell on the back, and on each knee — a mahogany framed Sconce looking-glass, and two large pewter dishes — carried them off from the door in a cart to Clings.

 — Jeremiah Baker took a mahogany folding, or card-table from us this morning for a Northern Liberty Tax, amounting to about 18 shillings — the table worth between 3 and 4 Pounds.

 — We have taxes at a great rate almost daily coming upon us. was seized, but not yet taken from us, by Adam Lapp and Henry Snyder, a walnut dining table, 5 dozen chairs, and a pair large kitchen end-irons, as our part of a tax for sending 2 men out in the militia. 10 half joes were taken from Abel James for the same tax.

 — On Adam Lapp came for the goods he had seized some days past, said the sub-lieutenant told him he had not taken sufficient; he however left the table without giving any reason — but came this morning and seized, for the same tax, (having sold the kitchen end-irons and 5 chairs for £96), the dining-table before mentioned, Six walnut chairs, a ditto tea table, a pair brass end-irons, and 2 brass kettles, the amount of the tax £235.15 Continental money — 60 for one. From Josa Howel whose tax was upwards of an hundred pounds more than ours, they seized several pieces of furniture, but as he made some stir in the matter, they sold only one pair end-irons, shovel and tongs, and a small looking-glass.