Now that We Won’t Pay!: A Tax Resistance Reader is complete and I’ve finished patting myself on the back for a job well done, I’ve started to work on a spin-off project: a reader that concentrates on war tax resistance by American Quakers .
I planned to take the existing sections of this material from We Won’t Pay! and add a little more context and a handful of additional works. But the more I researched, the more I found, and so this is turning out to be a bigger project than I’d anticipated.
I’ll share some of what I find here on The Picket Line as I uncover it. Today, some excerpts from Isaac Sharpless’s book about the Pennsylvania colony: A Quaker Experiment in Government.
There was a difficult balancing act in Pennsylvania, where Quakers for the first time held political power and were able to try to turn their ethical principles into guidelines for social organization. The English government, under which the colony was founded, was sporadically tolerant of and persecutory towards the Quakers — and so the colony felt the need to mollify the mother country and assure it of their loyalty and harmlessness. From time to time, the demands of the crown would conflict with Quaker principles.
In , a requisition was made on Pennsylvania for eighty men with officers for the defense of New York. The Council advised calling together the Assembly, but not until harvest was over. The Assembly united with the Council in refusing the bald request, reminding the Governor of Fletcher’s promise that the last appropriation should not “be dipped in blood,” but should be used “to feed the hungry and clothe the naked” Indians, and suggested the such of it as had not been used as promised should go towards the present emergency. The Council finally offered two bills, one to make an appropriation, and one to demand a return to Penn’s Frame of Government, which was held in abeyance since his return to power. As the Governor had to take both or neither he dissolved the Assembly. he was willing to make the required concession, and urged that the money was needed in New York “for food and raiment to be given to those nations of Indians that have lately suffered extremely by the French, which is a fair opportunity for you, that for conscience cannot contribute to war, to raise money for that occasion, be it under the color of support of government or relief of those Indians or what else you may call it.” The Assembly made the necessary vote and the Constitution of was obtained in payment.
The next time the pacific principles of the Assembly were tried was in , when the English Government asked for £350 for the purpose of erecting forts on the frontiers of New York on the plea that they were for the general defense. Penn, who was then in the Province, faithfully observed his promise “to transmit,” but declined to give any advice to the Assembly. The members were evidently greatly agitated, and repeatedly asked copies of his speech, which was in fact only the King’s letter. After some fencing two reports appeared. One, from the Pennsylvania delegates, urged their poverty, owing to taxes and quit-rents, also the lack of contributions of other colonies, but added plainly, “We desire the Proprietor would candidly represent our conditions to the King, and assure him of our readiness (according to our abilities) to acquiesce with and answer his commands so far as our religious persuasions shall permit, as becomes loyal and faithful subjects so to do.” The other answer came from the Delaware portion of the Assembly, excusing themselves because they had no forts of their own.
When the Assembly met, a month later, Penn again referred to the King’s letter, but nothing was done, and the matter was not pressed.
Governor Evans made several attempts to establish a militia, but the Assembly refused any sanction, and the voluntary organizations were failures.
Lewis Morris, a colonial official in New Jersey and New York, noted that Quakers outside of Pennsylvania at this time, who were being subjected to military taxes, were refusing to pay and having their property seized by tax collectors — “generally above ten times the value, which, when they came to expose to sale, nobody would buy, so that there is or lately was a house at Burlington, filled with demonstrations of the obstinacy of the Quakers, there was boots, hats, shoes, clothes, dishes, plows, knives, earthenware, with many other things and these distresses amount, as is said, to above 1,000£ a year, almost enough to defray the charges of the government without any other way.”
The military question came up in in a more serious form. An order came from the Queen to the various colonies to furnish quotas of men at their own expense towards an army to invade Canada. New York was to supply 800, Connecticut 350, Jersey 200, and Pennsylvania 150. In transmitting the order Governor Gookin, who evidently anticipated difficulty, suggested that the total charge would be about £4,000. He says, “Perhaps it may seem difficult to raise such a number of men in a country where most of the inhabitants are of such principles as will not allow them the use of arms; but if you will raise the sum for the support of government, I don’t doubt getting the number of men desired whose principles will allow the use of arms.”
This was too manifest an evasion for the Assembly to adopt. Its first answer was to send in a bill of grievances. The opportunity was too good to be lost, and David Lloyd, then Speaker, made the most of it.
In the meantime the Quaker members of the Council met some of their co-religionists of the Assembly “and there debated their opinions freely and unanimously to those of the House, that notwithstanding their profession and principles would not by any means allow them to bear arms, yet it was their duty to support the government of their sovereign, the Queen, and to contribute out of their estates according to the exigencies of her public affairs, and therefore they might and ought to present the Queen with a proper sum of money.”
The Assembly the next day sent an address to the Governor which said, “Though we cannot for conscience’ sake comply with the furnishing a supply for such a defense as thou proposest, yet in point of gratitude of the Queen for her great and many favors to us we have resolved to raise a present of £500 which we humbly hope she will be pleased to accept, etc., etc.”
To this the Governor replied that he would not sign the bill. If the Assembly would not hire men to fight, there was no scruple which would prevent a more liberal subscription to the Queen’s needs. The Assembly was immovable, and asked to be allowed to adjourn, as harvest time was approaching.
The Governor refused consent, when the House abruptly terminated the whole matter.
Resolved, N.C.D., That this House cannot agree to the Governor’s proposal, directly or indirectly, for the expedition to Canada, for the reasons formerly given.
Resolved, N.C.D., That the House do continue their resolution of raising £500 as a present for the Queen, and do intend to prepare a bill for that purpose at their next meeting on , and not before.
The House then adjourned without waiting for the Governor’s consent.
The Governor sadly admitted that nothing could be done with such an Assembly, and gave a rather facetious but truthful account in a letter to London, two months later. “The Queen having honored me with her commands that this Province should furnish out 150 men for its expedition against Canada, I called an Assembly and demanded £4,000; they being all Quakers, after much delay resolved, N.C, that it was contrary to their religious principles to hire men to kill one another. I told some of them the Queen did not hire men to kill one another, but to destroy her enemies. One of them answered the Assembly understood English. After I had tried all ways to bring them to reason they again resolved, N.C, that they could not directly or indirectly raise money for an expedition to Canada, but they had voted the Queen £500 as a token of their respect, etc., and that the money should be put into a safe hand till they were satisfied from England it should not be employed for the use of war. I told them the Queen did not want such a sum, but being a pious and good woman perhaps she might give it to the clergy sent hither for the propagation of the Gospel; one of them answered that was worse than the other, on which arose a debate in the Assembly whether they should give money or not, since it might be employed for the use of war, or against their future establishment, and after much wise debate it was carried in the affirmative by one voice only. Their number is 26 [Eight from each county and two from Philadelphia]. They are entirely governed by their speaker, one David Lloyd.”
The service performed by “one David Lloyd” to the integrity of the Quaker testimony against war is strikingly revealed in this letter. The Assembly, more emphatically than the official records show, took effective measures to maintain their position with perfect consistency.
The issue came up again :
In a… request was made by the government, and in response £2,000 was voted for the Queen’s use. This money never aided any military expedition, but was appropriated by a succeeding Governor to his own use, and the fact was used as an argument in against similar grants.
“We did not see it,” Isaac Norris says, in , “to be inconsistent with our principles to give the Queen money notwithstanding any use she might put it to, that not being our part but hers.”
This dodge of granting money “for the Queen’s use” when military requisitions were requested, as a way of avoiding making direct military expenditures, became a habit, but its dodgy nature was pretty clear. This would come back to bite Quakers later, when they would be reminded how flexible their principles could be.
[B]eginning with , the gradual alienation of the Indian tribes made a disturbed frontier ready to be dangerous at the first outbreak of war, and new conditions prevailed.
Hitherto the relation of the Friends to these inevitable military solicitations had been largely that of passivity. They would not interfere with the movements of those who desired to form military companies. If the Governor chose to engage in the arming and drilling of voluntary militia, he had his commission from the Proprietors, and they from the Charter of Charles Ⅱ. It was no matter for the Assembly. The meeting organizations would endeavor to keep all Quakers from any participation in these un-Friendly proceedings, and the Quaker Assemblymen had their own consciences to answer to, as well as their ecclesiastical authorities, if they violated pacific principles.
When it came to voting money in lieu of personal service, the legislators had a difficult road to follow. If the government needed aid, it was their duty, in common with the other colonies, to supply it. Even though the need was the direct result of war, as nearly all national taxes are, they were ready to assume their share of the burden. Caesar must have his dues as well as God, and a call for money, except when coupled directly with a proposition to use it for military attack or defense, was generally responded to, after its potency as an agent in procuring a little more liberty was exhausted. They would not vote money for an expedition to Canada or to erect forts, but they would for “the King’s use,” using all possible securities to have it appropriated to something else than war expenses. The responsibility of expenditure rested on the King. There were legitimate expenses of government, and if these were so inextricably mingled with warlike outlay that the Assembly could not separate them, they would still support the Government.
It is easy to accuse them of inconsistency in the proceedings which follow. It was a most unpleasant alternative thrust before honest men. The responsibility of government was upon them as the honorable recipients of the popular votes. Great principles, the greatest of all in their minds being freedom of conscience, were at stake. Each call for troops or supplies they fondly hoped would be the last. Their predecessors’ actions had secured the blessings of peace and liberty to Pennsylvania for sixty years, and if they were unreasonably stringent, their English enemies held over their heads the threat to drive them from power by the imposition of an oath. Then the persecutions of themselves and their friends, which their forefathers had left England to avoid, might be meted out to them, and the Holy Experiment brought to an end.
Nor is it necessary to assume that their motives were entirely unselfish. They had ruled the Province well, and were proficients in government. Their leaders doubtless loved the power and influence they legitimately possessed, and they did not care to give it away unnecessarily. They tried to find a middle ground between shutting their eyes to all questions of defense on the one side, and direct participation in war on the other. This they sought by a refusal for themselves and their friends to do any service personally, and a further refusal to vote money except in a general way for the use of the government. If any one comes to the conclusion that during the latter part of the period of sixteen years now under consideration the evasion was rather a bald one, it is exactly the conclusion the Quakers themselves came to, and they resigned their places as a consequence. The iniquities of others over whom they had no control brought about a condition where Quaker principles would not work, and they refused to modify them in the vain attempt. For a time rather weakly halting, when the crucial nature of the question became clear, and either place or principle had to be sacrificed, their decision was in favor of the sanctity of principles.
Entwined in the debates over military requisitions were power struggles and political battles between the Governor and the Assembly, between England and its colonies, and between poorer rural Pennsylvanians on the western frontier (who were more threatened both by hostile Indians and by taxes) and wealthier urban Quakers in the east (who held political power).
A voluntary company was… organized and supplied by private subscriptions. This took away from their masters a number of indentured servants, whose time was thus lost, and in voting £3,000 for the King’s use the Assembly made it a condition that such servants such be discharged from the militia and no more enlisted. The Governor refused to accept it, and in wrath wrote a letter to the Board of Trade not intended for home reading, berating the Quakers for disobedience, stating how they had neglected following his advice to withdraw themselves from the Assembly, but had rather increased their majority there. He advised that they be refused permission to sit there in the future. A copy of this letter was secured by the Assembly’s agent in England, and great was their indignation. The disturbances culminated in an election riot in Philadelphia in in which both sides used force, the Quaker party having the best of it and electing Isaac Norris. They re-elected their ticket, with the aid of the Germans, and controlled the Assembly by an overwhelming majority. To show their loyalty they voted a considerable sum for the King’s use, but refused Governor Thomas any salary till he had given up his pretentious show of power and signed a number of bills to which he had objected. After this he worked very harmoniously with them till .
the Governor asked them to aid New England in an attack on Cape Breton. They told him they had no interest in the matter. He called them together again in harvest time to ask them to join in an expedition against Louisburg. A week later came word that Louisburg had surrendered, and the request was transferred to a call for aid in garrisoning the place, and in supplying provisions and powder. The Assembly replied that the “peaceable principles professed by divers members of the present Assembly do not permit them to join in raising of men or providing arms and ammunition, yet we have ever held it our duty to render tribute to Cæsar.” They therefore appropriated £4,000 for “bread, beef, pork, flour, wheat or other grain.” The Governor was advised not to accept the grant, as provisions were not needed. He replied that the “other grain” meant gunpowder, and so expended a large portion of the money, There is probably no evidence that the Assembly sanctioned this construction, though they never so far as appears made any protest.
Again in aid was asked of the Assembly towards an expedition against Canada. After forcing the Governor to yield the point as to how the money should be raised, they appropriated £5,000 “for the King’s use.”
This “or other grain” anecdote comes from Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, which makes much of the flexible principles of Quaker politicians. There seems to have been quite a folklore of Quaker hypocrisy at the time, frequently showing Quakers relying on the letter-of-the-law of their principles or the spirit-of-the-law depending on which would be most materially advantageous.
Again and again did successive Governors call for military appropriations. As often did the Quaker Assembly express a willingness to comply provided the money was obtained by loans to be repaid in a term of years rather than by a tax. The governors said their instructions prevented their sanction to this proceeding, and except when the necessity was urgent refused to permit the bill to be enacted into a law. The Assembly frequently reminded the Governor that they were unable to vote any money for warlike purposes, and personally would contribute nothing in the way of service, but that they were loyal subjects of the King and acknowledged their obligations to aid in his government. Had they granted regular aid, war or no war, their position would have been greatly strengthened, but being given “for the King’s use” in direct response to a call for military assistance, knowing perfectly how the money was to be expended, they cannot be excused from the charge of a certain amount of shiftiness. The effect, however, was to save their fellow-members in the Province from compulsory military service, and from direct war taxes. They thus shielded the consciences of sensitive Friends, preserved their charter from Court attack, broke down the worst evils of proprietary pretensions, and secured large additions of liberty. Whether or not the partial sacrifice of principle, if so it was, was too high a price for these advantages, was differently decided in those days, and will be today. An unbending course would but have hastened the inevitable crisis.
That they paid these taxes unwillingly and were generally recognized as true to their principles is evidenced by many statements of their opponents. In the Council writes to the Governors of New York and Massachusetts asking for cannon for the voluntary military companies then forming through Benjamin Franklin’s influence, and says, “As our Assembly consists for the most part of Quakers principled against defense the inhabitants despair of their doing anything for our protection.” Again later Thomas Penn writes on the same subject: “I observe the Assembly broke up without giving any assistance, which is what you must have expected.” This belief that the Quakers in the Assembly would not do anything for the armed defense of the Province was general both in England and America.
Then came the French-and-Indian War:
In the Governor, at the instance of the Proprietors, who anticipated the French and Indian troubles on the western frontier, endeavored to induce the Assembly to pass a bill for compulsory military service for those not conscientious about bearing arms. He evidently did not expect much. “As I am well acquainted with their religious scruples I never expected they would appropriate money for the purpose of war or warlike preparation, but thought they might have been brought to make a handsome grant for the King’s use, and have left the disposition of it to me, as they have done on other occasions of like nature,” he wrote to Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia. “But,” he added, “I can see nothing to prevent this very fine Province, owing to the absurdity of its constitution and the principles of the governing part of its inhabitants, from being an easy prey to the attempts of the common enemy.”
This was after the Assembly had voted £10,000, but coupled the grant with conditions the Governor would not accept. While they were debating the question Braddock came into the country as commander of the combined forces in an expedition against Fort DuQuesne. Pressure came down strong and heavy on the Quaker Assembly. Their own frontier was invaded. Their own Indians, as a result of the wicked and foolish policy of their executive, were in league with the invaders. All classes were excited. To aid the great expedition which at one stroke was to break the French power and close the troubles was felt to be a duty. Franklin diligently fanned the warlike spirit, procuring wagons for the transfer of army stores, and was extremely valuable to the expedition at some cost to himself.
The Governor wrote to Braddock telling him they had a Province of 300,000 people, provisions enough to supply an army of 100,000, and exports enough to keep 500 vessels employed. They had no taxes, a revenue of £7,000 a year and £15,000 in bank, yet would neither establish a militia nor vote men money or provisions, notwithstanding he had earnestly labored with the Assembly, and he was ashamed of them. He does not explain that they had repeatedly offered sums of money, but that he would not accept the conditions. As Braddock himself admitted, Pennsylvania had supported him quite as liberally as Virginia. This was partly done by private enterprise and partly by appropriations of the Assembly, to reward friendly Indians, to open a road to Ohio, and to provision the troops.
Braddock was defeated. The Indians were let loose on the frontiers. Daily accounts of harrowing scenes came up to the Council and Assembly. Settlers moved into the towns and many districts were depopulated. Strong were the expressions of wrath against the Quakers, who were held responsible for the defenseless state of the Province. [“The people exclaim against the Quakers, and some are scarce restrained from burning the houses of those few who are in this town (Reading).” — Letter of Edmund Biddle]
This was hardly a just charge, even from the standpoint of those who favored military defense, for the Assembly had signified its willingness to vote £50,000, an unprecedented amount, to be provided by “a tax on all the real and personal estates within the Province,” which the Governor refused to accept. While the matter was in abeyance the time for the new election of Assemblymen came around, and both parties, except the stricter Quakers, who were becoming alarmed, put forth their greatest exertions. The old Assembly was sustained, the Friends, with those closely associated with them, having twenty-six out of the thirty-six members.
The new House went on with the work of the old. They adopted a militia law for those “willing and desirous” of joining companies for the defense of the Province. This is prefaced by the usual declaration: “Whereas this Province was settled (and a majority of the Assembly have ever since been) of the people called Quakers, who though they do not as the world is now circumstanced condemn the use of arms in others, yet are principled against bearing arms themselves,” explaining also that they are representatives of the Province and not of a denomination, they proceed to lay down rules for the organization of the volunteers. After the Proprietors had given their £5,000 the Assembly also voted £55,000 for the relief of friendly Indians and distressed frontiersmen, “and other purposes,” without any disguise to the fact that much of it was intended for military defense, though it was not so stated in the bill. Before this was done, while they were still insisting on taxing the Penn estates, in answer to the charge that they were neglectful of public interests, secure in the confidence of their constituents just most liberally given, they say: “In fine we have the most sensible concern for the poor distressed inhabitants of the frontiers. We have taken every step in our power, consistent with the just rights of the freemen of Pennsylvania, for their relief, and we have reason to believe that in the midst of their distresses they themselves do not wish to go further. Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Their position definitely was, We will vote money liberally for defensive purposes, but we will take care to secure our rights as freemen, and we will not require any one to give personal service against his conscience.
The money was largely spent in erecting and garrisoning a chain of forts extending along the Kittatinny hills from the Delaware River to the Maryland frontier.
So now I know the context of that frequently-quoted maxim! Interesting!
Now we’re in the midst of the time when the tension between Quaker principles and political compromises was reaching the breaking point. John Woolman’s journal reflects that individual Quakers were beginning to adopt war tax resistance against the taxes of the Quaker legislature. The Friends Quarterly Meeting at Philadelphia tried to hold things together:
[I]t is remarkable that for sixteen years successively, more than half of which was a time of war, a set of men conscientiously principled against warlike measures have been chosen by those, of whom the majority were not in that particular of the same principle; and this we apprehend may be chiefly attributed to the repeated testimonies we have constantly given of our sincere and ready disposition to provide for the exigencies of the Government, and to demonstrate our gratitude for the favors we enjoy under it by cheerfully contributing towards the support of it according to our circumstances in such manner as we can do with peace and satisfaction of mind. That this has been the constant practice of our assemblies, the records of their proceedings will evidently show.
We consider that in the present situation of public affairs, the exigencies being great, the supplies must be proportioned thereto; and we only desire that as we cannot be concerned in preparations for war, we may be permitted to serve the government by raising money and contributing towards the Public Exegencies by such methods and in such manner as past experience has assured us are least burdensome to the industrious poor, and most consistent with our religious and civil rights and liberties, and which our present Proprietaries, when one of them was personally present, consented to and approved, and to which no reasonable or just objection has ever since been made.
And a number of Quakers petitioned the Assembly, saying that they would be unable to willingly pay the proposed war taxes. Sharpless again:
In twenty Friends, including Anthony Morris, Israel and John Pemberton, Anthony Benezet, John Churchman, and others, representing the most influential and “weighty” members of the Yearly Meeting, addressed the Assembly. They say they are very willing to contribute taxes to cultivate friendship with Indians, to relieve distress, or other benevolent purposes, but to expect them to be taxed for funds which are placed in the hands of committees to be expended for war, is inconsistent with their peaceable testimony, and an infringement of their religious liberties. Many Friends will have to refuse to pay such a tax and suffer distraint of goods, [this afterwards happened in numerous cases] and thus “that free enjoyment of liberty of conscience for the sake of which our forefathers left their native country and settled this then a wilderness by degrees be violated.” “We sincerely assure you we have no temporal motives for thus addressing you, and could we have preserved peace in our own minds and with each other we should have declined it, being unwilling to give you any unnecessary trouble and deeply sensible of your difficulty in discharging the trust committed to you irreproachably in these perilous times, which hath engaged our fervent desires that the immediate instruction of supreme wisdom may influence your minds, and that being preserved in a steady attention thereto you may be enabled to secure peace and tranquility to yourselves and those you represent by pursuing measures consistent with our peaceable principles, and then we trust we may continue humbly to confide in the protection of that Almighty Power whose providence has hitherto been as walls and bulwarks round about us.”
As the Assembly was composed, this was an earnest plea from the responsible Friends to their fellow religionists to stand uncompromisingly by their principles. It was not very kindly received. The reply indicated that the signers had no right to speak for others than themselves, that they had not duly considered the customs of the past, particularly the grant of £2,000 in , and the address “is therefore an unadvised and indiscreet application to the House at this time.” Four members of the Assembly dissent from this reply.
On the other hand we have a strong petition sent to the King, signed by numerous influential men in Philadelphia, stating that the Province was entirely bare to the attack of enemies, “not a single armed man, nor, at the public expense, a single fortification to shelter the unhappy inhabitants.” … “We have no hopes of seeing the grievances redressed here while a great majority of men whose avowed principles are against bearing arms find means continually to thrust themselves into the Assembly of this Province.” They ask the interposition of royal authority to insist on proper defense being provided.
The attorneys for the petitioners before the Board of Trade made the most sweeping and unfounded charges, full of errors of fact and unconcealed animus, and ending with the recommendation “that the King be advised to recommend it to his Parliament that no Quaker be permitted to sit in any Assembly in Pennsylvania or any part of America,” and that this result should be produced by the imposition of an oath.
In the minds of the Friends the crisis was reached when the Governor and Council (William Logan, son of James Logan, only dissenting) in declared war against the Delaware Indians, the old allies and friends of William Penn, but now in league with the French and killing and plundering on the frontiers. They were quite sure that peaceful and just measures would detach the Indians from their alliance, and that war was unnecessary. The lines were becoming more closely drawn, and the middle ground was narrowing, so that it was impossible to stand upon it. Either the principle of the iniquity of war must be maintained in its entirety, or war must be vigorously upheld and prosecuted. Some Friends with Franklin took the latter position, but the great majority closed up their ranks around the principle of peace in its integrity. In six of the old members of the house, James Pemberton, Joshua Morris, William Callender, William Peters, Peter Worral and Francis Parvin, resigned their seats, giving as their reason, “As many of our constituents seem of opinion that the present situation of public affairs calls upon us for services in a military way, which from a conviction of judgment after mature deliberation we cannot comply with, we conclude it most conducive to the peace of our minds, and the reputation of our religious profession to persist in our resolution of resigning our seats, which we now accordingly do, and request these our reasons may be entered on the minutes of the house.” In several other Friends declined re-election, and after the next House assembled four others, Mahlon Kirkbride, William Hoyl, Peter Dicks and Nathaniel Pennock, also resigned. “Understanding that the ministry have requested the Quakers, who from the first settlement of the Colony have been the majority of the Assemblies of this Province, to suffer their seats during the difficult situation of the affairs of the Colonies to be filled by members of other denominations in such manner as to perform without any scruples all such laws as may be necessary to be enacted for the defense of the Province in whatever manner they may judge best suited to the circumstances of it; and notwithstanding we think this has been pretty fully complied with at the last election, yet at the request of our friends, being willing to take off all possible objection, we who have (without any solicitation on our part) been returned as representatives in this Assembly, request we may be excused, and suffered to withdraw ourselves and vacate our seats in such manner as may be attended with the least trouble and most satisfactory to this honorable House.”
The places of all these Friends were filled by members of other religious denominations, and Quaker control over and responsibility for the Pennsylvania Assembly closed with and was never resumed.
It was that a number of Quakers composed an “epistle of tender love and caution” to their fellow-Friends recommending war tax resistance. Sharpless again:
was one of difference and perplexity among Philadelphia Friends. On the one side were the men of spiritual power, whose voices exercised the prevailing influence in the meetings for business. On the other were the disciples of Logan, who being manifestly out of sympathy with well-established Quaker views, urged the necessity of vigorous defense, caught the surrounding warlike spirit, and with personal service and money aided Franklin and the militia. Between the two stood the “Quaker governing class,” who controlled the Assembly, who, while admitting and commending the peaceable doctrines of Friends, considered their own duty accomplished when they kept aloof from personal participation and supplied the means by which others carried on the war. This third section was the product of long experience in political activity. To these men and their predecessors was owing the successful administration for decades of the best governed colony in America. They were slow to admit any weakness in their position, but it was becoming increasingly evident that it was untenable. There was actual war, and they were, while not personally responsible for it, indeed while opposing vigorously the policy which had produced it, now a component part of the government which was carrying it on. Would they join their brethren in staunch adherence to peace principles, and thus give up their places in the state as John Bright did afterwards when Alexandria was bombarded? Would they join Franklin, their associate in resisting proprietary power, and throw aside their allegiance to the principles of William Penn, whom they professed greatly to honor?
The question was answered differently by different ones as the winter and spring passed away. Pressure was strong on both sides. The Governor writing to London says: “The Quaker preachers and others of great weight were employed to show in their public sermons, and by going from house to house through the Province, the sin of taking up arms, and to persuade the people to be easy and adhere to their principles and privileges.” This was an enemy’s view of a conservative reaction which was going on within the Society, which was tired of compromises, was willing to suffer, and could not longer support the doubtful expediency of voting measures for others to carry out, of which they could not themselves approve.
We have seen how in the early winter the Assembly rebuked what they considered the impertinence of the protest of a number of important members of the Meeting against a war tax. The Meeting mildly emphasized the same difference in their London epistle of :
The scene of our affairs is in many respects changed since we wrote to you, and our late peaceful land involved in the desolations and calamities of war. Had all under our profession faithfully discharged their duty and maintained our peaceable testimony inviolate we have abundant sense to believe that divine counsel would have been afforded in a time of so great difficulty; by attending to which, great part of the present calamities might have been obviated. But it has been manifest that human contrivances and policy have been too much depended on, and such measures pursued as have ministered cause of real sorrow to the faithful; so that we think it necessary that the same distinction may be made among you as is and ought to be here between the Acts and Resolutions of the Assembly of this Province, though the majority of them are our Brethren in profession, and our acts as a religious Society. We have nevertheless cause to admire and acknowledge the gracious condescension of infinite goodness towards us, by which a large number is preserved in a steady dependence on the dispensations of divine Providence; and we trust the faith and confidence of such will be supported through every difficulty which may be permitted to attend them, and their sincerity appear by freely resigning or parting with those temporal advantages and privileges we have heretofore enjoyed, if they cannot be preserved without violation of that testimony on the faithful maintaining of which our true peace and unity depends.
The Friends who refused to pay the tax thought it peculiarly hard that they were forced to suffer heavy losses through the action of their fellow-members of the Assembly. These Assemblymen and their friends pointed out on the other hand that these taxes had been paid in the past, and that it was ultra-conscientiousness which prevented the willing support of the government in this hour of peril. The question was a difficult one. Quakers had hitherto refused a direct war tax and paid everything else, even when war expenditures were mingled with others. The stricter Friends considered that this tax, though disguised, was of the objectionable sort, while others did not so place it. The difference accentuated itself by condemnatory criticisms, and in the Yearly Meeting appointed a committee of thirty, who reported that it was a matter for individual consciences to determine, and not for the Meeting’s decision.
“We are unanimously of the judgment that it is not proper to enter into a public discussion of the matter; and we are one in judgment that it is highly necessary for the Yearly Meeting to recommend that Friends everywhere endeavor to have their minds covered with frequent charity towards one another.” The Meeting unanimously adopted this report. This appeal seems to have been successful, and we hear no more of the difference.
John Fothergill wrote of a lack of faith in the practicality of pacifist government at the time:
That the majority of the present Assembly were of our Profession who from their known principles could not contribute to the defense of the Country now grievously harassed by the Indians under French Influence in a manner that most people here and even many in Pennsylvania thought necessary it seemed but common justice in our Friends to decline accepting a trust which under the present Circumstances they could not discharge, and therefore advised that we should use our utmost endeavors to prevail upon them neither to offer themselves as candidates nor to accept of seats in the Assembly during the present commotions in America.
For should any disaster befall the Province and our Friends continue to fill the Assembly, it would redound to the prejudice of the Society in general, and be the means perhaps of subverting a constitution under which the province had so happily flourished.
And James Pemberton wrote:
Our situation is indeed such as affords cause of melancholy reflection that the first commencement of persecution in this Province should arise from our brethren in profession, and that such darkness should prevail as that they should be instruments of oppressing tender consciences which hath been the case. The tax in this country being pretty generally collected and many in this city particularly suffered by distraint of their goods and some being near cast into jail.
The House has been sitting most of the time since the election, and have as yet done little business; they have had under their consideration a militia law, which hath been long in the hands of a committee, and is likely to take up a great deal more of their time; also a bill for raising £100,000 by a land tax of the same kind as yours in England; if these pass it is likely Friends will be subjected to great inconvenience. As the former now stands, as I am told, the great patriot Franklin, who hath the principal direction of forming the bills, has discovered very little regard to tender consciences, which perhaps may partly arise from the observations he must have made since he has been in that House of the inconsistent conduct of many of our Friends. That it seems to me he has almost persuaded himself there are few if any that are in earnest relating to their religious principles, and that he seems exceedingly studious of propagating a martial spirit all he can.
Later, he wrote: “The number of us who could not be free to pay the tax is small compared with those who not only comply with it but censure those who do not.”
Once the pacifist Quakers were out of the Assembly, they could try to apply their principles outside of the existing formal political structure. Sharpless:
The French were busy in the north, and could not do more to aid the Pennsylvania Indians than furnish them with supplies. Hence it seemed possible to detach the Delawares and Shawnese from the hostile alliance. For this purpose the “Friendly Association” was formed. This was composed of Quakers, now out of the government, but anxious to terminate the unfortunate warfare. They refused to pay war taxes, but pledged themselves to contribute in the interests of peace “more than the heaviest taxes of a war can be expected to require.”
While this Association was objected to by the State authorities as an unofficial and to some extent an impertinent body, and charged with political motives, it succeeded in a remarkable way in bringing together the Indians and the Government in a succession of treaties, which finally resulted in the termination of the war and the payment to the Indians of an amount which satisfied them for the land taken by the Walking Purchase and other dubious processes. Representatives of the Association, either by invitation of the Indians or of the Governor, were invariably present, and their largesses to the Indians much smoothed the way to pacific relations.
In addition to extra-governmental activism of this sort, there was a tendency to react in repulsion to the compromises of politics by retreating from public life:
There was growing up in the Society a belief, which was vastly strengthened by the military experiences of , that public life was unfavorable to the quiet Divine communion which called for inwardness, not outwardness, and which was the basic principle of Quakerism.… [T]he Yearly Meeting was strenuously engaged for several years after in pressing on its members the desirability of abstaining from civic business.
This was done under the plea that, as matters were, it was impossible to hold most official positions without administering oaths or voting war taxes. The former violated Quaker principles directly, and the latter enjoined on their brethren a service against which their consciences rebelled. In the interests, therefore, of liberty of conscience, the meetings urged on the members not to allow themselves to be candidates for judicial or legislative positions, and in time were largely successful.
In a report came in to the Yearly Meeting from a large and influential committee advising against furnishing wagons for the transport of military stores, and warning against allowing “the examples and injunctions of some members of our Society who are employed in offices and stations in civil government” [The distinction between the ecclesiastical and political Quakers is further indicated in the following: “Thou knows that we could not in every case vindicate our Assembly who had so greatly deviated from our known principles and the testimony of our forefathers.” — Israel Pemberton to Samuel Fothergill, .] to influence anyone against a steady support of the truth. They also recommend that the Yearly Meeting should “advise and caution against any Friends accepting of or continuing in offices or stations whereby they are subjected to the necessity of enjoining or enforcing the compliance of their brethren or others with any act which they may conscientiously scruple to perform.”
In any case, Quakers would never again regain political power to the extent that it would present these same sort of controversies and opportunities for compromise.