I found some additional information about his tax resistance in The Voice of Peace, the journal of The Universal Peace Union. Its edition included the following note:
Just as we were going to press we learn that our young friend and earnest co-laborer, Zera C. Whipple, has been thrown into prison by the authorities of Connecticut, for non-payment of militia fines, which he is conscientiously opposed to doing. This is the second time he has been thus incarcerated with felons for conscience sake.
The next issue began with a report of the seventh annual meeting of the Connecticut State Peace Society, at which the Whipple case was a major topic. Alfred H. Love wrote to the meeting:
The mail of brings me the word that your good and true Secretary, Zerah C. Whipple, has been taken away by the military tax collector. Right well I know he will not yield his conscience for liberty of his person. Be firm, and the opposition shall give way. “One can chase a thousand” when the divine right is on his side. But, friends, your duty and mine is to stand by this valiant young man. Proclaim then the rights of conscience on this American soil. Shame on Connecticut law! Two years to the Centennial of American independence, and yet a son of New England dragged from home for maintaining a conscientious right, and that right one which opposes the taking of human life, or the mad expenditure of the nation’s wealth in the unchristian system of war! Rejoice that one man dares to stand against this deep-seated mistake of the world. If there ever was a time when it needed brave hearts for Christ, this is the time. Go to your Governor, — petition, pray, appeal, and add my word for it, that with a liberation of Zerah C. Whipple will come an emancipation for your State that shall make happy hearts and prosperous days for all.
John J. Copp read a selection of quotes from various legal documents and worthies on the subject of the inviolability of conscience. A committee was formed to visit Whipple and to lobby for his release. A series of resolutions were unanimously approved, including these:
Resolved: That a law, or an officer under the law, that requires a human being to stultify his conscience by forcing the payment of military taxes or the performance of military service, is inquisatorial, anti-republican, and worse than any pro-slavery persecution that the North arose in indignation to abolish.
Resolved: That in the recent arrest of Zerah C. Whipple, the Secretary of this society, and an estimable citizen of the State of Connecticut, for simply adhering to a God-given right of conscience, in refusing to pay military taxes, we see a total abnegation of Connecticut’s greatest wealth, — a conscientious people; and whenever a state or nation ignores it, there is an entire overthrow of the first principles of the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States.
Resolved: That we point with pride to the Bill of Rights of Pennsylvania, which declares, “That no human authority can in any case whatsoever control or interfere with the rights of conscience;” and to the lately amended Constitution, which provides that “the Legislature may exempt persons having conscientious convictions from paying military taxes or performing military service;” and we ask that under the laws of God, the spirit of our American institutions, and the true intent of our own laws, Zerah C. Whipple shall not be deprived of his freedom, or suffer loss in any way for daring to carry out the principles of truth, justice, and Christianity, as he conceives them.
Resolved: That the Peace cause, like all other righteous ones, demands more or less of self-denial and self-sacrifice, yet only such as truly sustains its devotees, and ultimately repays all pains with a hundred fold of unselfish and universal good.
Resolved: That in the light of these great truths, every individual is solemnly called on from heaven to weigh these opposite fundamental principles of war and Peace in the scales of conscience and reason, and then to choose which of them he or she will serve.
Resolved: That solid moral character is indispensable to human happiness in all states and relations of existence; that fidelity to conscientious convictions is indispensable to solid moral character; and that moral heroism transcends in glory all other heroisms of mankind.
Resolved: That the grandest of all moral principles which can command the devotion of moral heroes is that pure love to God and man which worketh no ill to its beloved, and will suffer martyrdom, rather than kill, injure, or harm the worst human enemy.
Resolved: That self-sacrifice and suffering even unto death for righteousness sake, and especially for the sake of that Christ-like righteousness which blesses and curses not, is the supreme and indispensable motor of human redemption, elevation and progress.
Resolved: That these sublime truths are receiving, this day, a most remarkable illustration in the example of our imprisoned brother, Zerah C. Whipple, and of his faithful, sympathizing family.
Resolved: That it is a great, previous, and sanctifying privilege of us all, to feel that in his bonds we are bound with him, and to pour our heart’s holiest sympathies into his cup of trial.
Resolved: That this wanton incarceration of a most upright, exemplary, and peaceable young citizen, among felons in the common prison for his conscientious refusal to pay a strictly military tax, is only one of the manifold evil manifestations of the war principle and system, whose iron despotism rules our boasted civilization.
Resolved: That the State of Connecticut stands deplorably disgraced in the eyes of all truly enlightened people, by such brutal military laws and inflictions, which assume to compel men to kill, learn to kill, or pay for learning to kill, their fellow-creatures, against the dictates of a Christ-like conscience.
Resolved: That we will testify against all such laws and compulsions most earnestly and persistently, by solemn protest, remonstrance, petition, and all other Christian modes of regenerating public opinion; and that we appeal to all honorable citizens, however adhering to the general war principle and system, to wash their hands of such outrages, and demand such a change of these military laws that those only shall be compelled to practice or learn the art of war who trust in its grim violence for their own protection.
The following letter from Whipple to his wife was read:
When I last wrote you I little thought that the next letter I should write to you would be dated from a jail, but the Lord knows best. It might be a great deal worse. If I were here for having committed a crime, for instance, how much more terrible my imprisonment would be. I can realize to-day better than ever before the meaning of that passage in Scripture, which says: “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” I will not try to write much now, my object in writing is chiefly to ask you to send by someone a lot of those papers that we saved when we looked over the contents of those barrels, and put up some of those magazines that Miss Reidder gave me. The poor fellows here have a dismal time of it, with nothing to do but wait for the time of their deliverance. Some of them are to be tried next month, some have been tried and are serving out their sentence. I tell you Jennie, it is hard to “remember those in bonds as bound with them,” when one is out in the world enjoying the blessing of liberty. “God moves in a mysterious way,” and who knows what good results may flow from my confinement here. Mr. Hervitt is the keeper of the jail, and is one of the pleasantest men I ever met. He has treated me so far just as well as a prisoner could be treated. I need not tell you that the moments seem like hours. But, what is one day? Some of the prisoners have been here for months, and have still longer to stay; but what is my imprisonment compared with the great principle which I profess to believe, and which I am trying to live? If my friends were opposed to my belief — if you, my darling, blamed me, it would be much harder to bear. Last night when I was ready to go to bed, I felt as if I could not sleep until I had asked the Lord to be with me, and give me some of his strength. I was surprised to notice how still it was as soon as I began to pray, for I had expected some at least would make sport. This morning one of the men said to me in a whisper, — all of our talking has to be done in that way, — “Whipple you have done some good by coming here any way. Did you notice how still the fellows were last night after you commenced to pray? It took hold of them when you asked for a blessing on them, and I heard praying this morning, the first time I have heard it since I came here.”
Good-bye, kiss Daisy for me, and tell grandfather and grandmother that they must not worry about me, for I am well treated, and getting along well. Love to all, yours as ever. Z.C. Whipple.
Adin Ballou told the meeting “that when he was informed of the imprisonment, it was a question of interest to know how Zerah’s wife and friends would stand up under it.”
He was highly gratified to find they were all a unit in sympathy with his great and heroic act, and determined to stand by him. One of my own brethren had to pay such a tax, or go to prison. His wife and others protested, and said it was not the true method, and would not reach the public mind. I said to myself, I could not encourage any one to pay such a tax. The question is what is he incarcerated for? It is a strict military tax, and not a substitute. He said he could not pay it. I would not pay it. It is a matter of principle. Our forefathers made a great ado over a three-penny tax of tea. Which is the greatest? It is no new doctrine that when a principle is involved, it should not be compromised. If it had been two cents the principle would have been the same. A great many people have so little idea of the consequence of a principle, that it is hard for them to realize it. That great power, the Government, puts out its iron claw, and says, you shall pay that tax, or go to prison. He says, then I will go. So his wife packs up his things and he goes; the prisoners little dreamed that an incarcerated angel was there.
Prayer comes, and every one of those hard wretches, as you call them, are silent and subdued, as they drank in the gentleness of his language and demeanor. The jailor had found it impossible to quiet them, but a word from him, or a look would do it. Such is human nature, susceptible of being touched by gentle and loving words. Now we hear it said the county could well afford to give him a salary. I need not refer to his character among those who knew him when he was a little toddling boy. Every one knows that he is not a criminal, that he has done nothing but sow the seeds of good order. I shall go home ten thousand times paid for the journey. This hits the nail on the head far better than anything I could say.
Levi K. Joslin said:
When I received the news, every drop of Puritan blood in me boiled at the thought that such an outrage could be committed in a land that calls itself free. Zerah is a man whose teachings if followed would wipe crime out of the State of Connecticut. Men and women of Connecticut, you stand arraigned before the world to-day. Thomas Jefferson says, Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. If one violation of liberty is permitted, who can tell but it may go throughout the State? I saw the Governor and other officers of the State going to review the troops. I regret that the State is not on a higher plane. The best fruit of civilization is personal liberty; and personal liberty can only exist through Peace. The peaceful spirit, in spite of all the folly that is uttered, is growing. This is not the first time this thing has happened — James Whipple and Zerah have suffered before.
A “Mr. Crandell” rose in anti-pacifist dissent, saying that he felt that the American Revolutionary war was justified, as was the war to abolish slavery. “I come from the town that is disgraced to-day. I have nothing against Zerah C. Whipple, but it is not the two dollars we are after; the law must be sustained.”
An offer had been made by an officer to bring Zerah to the meeting, provided he could receive ten dollars; the money had been placed in the hands of a party to be given to the officer when he brought him here. The officer had not been gone a great while before Zerah came walking into the meeting. After the excitement was over, Zerah, much excited by the demonstration, said: “This morning when I looked out through the grated windows, and saw what a beautiful day had dawned for the Peace meeting I thanked God. I hope you will pardon me if I am not able to speak so connectedly as I should be glad to. The change from the inside of the prison to this beautiful grove is so great I am almost overcome. The prison was so full that I had no cell allotted to me, and as I saw the men walking back and forward in the eight by ten feet, allotted to them, I was struck with their resemblance to the wild animals I had lately seen in Central Park, New York. Though I suffered a little from the cold, I slept as sweetly as I ever did. I noticed that the profanity decreased. One of the men said, don’t you know why? They are ashamed to swear before you. I left my books and some things I had to eat, for the men who could not get out.”
Following the report on the Peace Society meeting was an editorial by Alfred H. Love:
Whipple in Jail — The Rights of Conscience.
A nation’s health is determined by the pulse of its conscience. The best tribute to America is the price set upon conscience. Conscience was involved in its discovery. The Mayflower and Plymouth Rock meant it, and the settlements of Roger Williams and William Penn confirmed it.
Nearly a hundred years ago, in the Congress of called Resolves of the Continental Congress, we find this magnanimous concession:
As there are some people who from religious principles cannot bear arms in any case, this Congress intend no violence to their consciences, but earnestly recommend it to them to contribute liberally, in this time of universal calamity, to the relief of their distressed brethren in the several colonies, and to do all other services to their oppressed country which they can, consistently with their religious principles.
Shall a century find us bigoted and cruel? Shall a Connecticut jail blot America’s rerecord? Let us see: Zerah C. Whipple, a young man of irreproachable character, from a long line of ancestors eminent for their rigid adherence to their conscientious belief, the head of a public institution for teaching deaf mutes to talk and understand ordinary conversation, has the military tax levied upon him, — a tax which he can no more pay than he can enter the army. He stands upon Connecticut soil and declares his conscience will not allow him to contribute a farthing to support that which God forbids. It is his religion — his church. The collector of the town of Mystic accepts no explanation, and without even following the law, which provides that a demand shall be first made upon personal properly, and then upon real estate before the person is seized, arrests and hurries to New London jail Zerah C. Whipple, this ornament of the State. Connecticut could neither afford to snatch so useful a citizen from his daily work, where he was a producer of the common wealth, nor tarnish the glory of the Centennial of the nation, by declaring by deed, if not by word, that her sons cannot enjoy the rights of conscience.
It will be a sad day for this country when such action shall go unrebuked. Promptly, by a meeting of thousands of her people, was such rebuke uttered a few days after the oppressor’s key imprisoned this young man with a dozen criminals.
If the Continental Congress in could be generous and just in the midst of war and extreme emergencies, how much more Christian should we be in , when the nation’s life is not imperiled! An increase of population should not deaden our respect for the grandest gift of the Creator to his children. If three millions could excuse conscientious citizens from military obligations, surely forty millions should not do less.
How did Whipple meet his fate? In twenty minutes his wife had made up a bundle of clothing, and he bade her and their babe farewell, and turned his back upon home and that liberty we all love. In prison he found wretched men, but his prayers and blessings asked upon them softened their hearts. They were respectful to him, and although they offered him the seats, he preferred to stand or walk, as there was an insufficiency of such accommodations; nor would he accept better fare, but shared everything with them. More than this, he sent for books and commenced teaching them, and the keeper told him he had accomplished much good by coming, and hoped he might have some appointment there regularly, as the men were more easily managed than ever before. A deaf mute was brought to him while in prison, and he commenced teaching him to talk.
Thus was this Joseph of to-day employed, and his five days of imprisonment were blessed. “The Lord was with him and showed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”
At an unexpected moment an entire stranger called at the prison and desired to know the amount of the tax and costs, which he paid, saying he knew the worth of Mr. Whipple, and that his family for generations back had never paid the military tax, and he wished to save the State from the disgrace of imprisoning a person guilty of no crime.
The money was paid and the door opened, and this friend took the receipt to his children and said, “Keep this as a reminiscence that in your father paid this bill to release a young man from prison, that he might enjoy the rights of conscience.” This man was not a member of the Peace Society.
But, people of Connecticut, you are not released from an obligation you owe your country and your countrymen, your duty to justice and the Father of us all. That obligation is to strike from the statute books everything that militates against the first and highest right of a human being, the religious right of the fullest enjoyment of truth as revealed by the light within, — the purity of conscientious right.
Alfred H. Love asked Whipple to do a write-up about his experience. Here is what Whipple wrote:
I don’t know how to comply with your request. I have tried several times since receiving your letter, asking for an account of my imprisonment, to write it out for you; but one after another the attempts have been laid aside. Do you ever think that as we are passing through the world, we see only a little way on each side of our path? And how little of what passes before our eyes do we really see after all? That was what I thought when I was forced into New London jail. There were men, confined by walls of stone and bars of iron, living a life so different from your life and mine, that we cannot comprehend it until we have been there, any more than a man, blind from birth, can comprehend light and colors. In one sense I felt myself a prisoner. When I longed to go out into the open air, when I thought of home and the loved ones there mourning my absence, and of the work that was waiting for me, then I realized that I was in prison. But that was all. My friends, the true and good, were left, and I was at peace with my conscience and with my God. Was not that enough? I felt so.
If I could see you and tell you by word of mouth my personal and private experiences, I would gladly do so. So far as I am concerned, the arrest, imprisonment, and release were the smallest items of that week’s experience. My acquaintance with the prisoners, with the keeper, and with the county commissioners, the very warm friendship manifested, the faithfulness of my relatives in preferring to be true to principle even at the cost of personal unhappiness, the great and unexpected interest manifested by people who had never heard of me before, and who had themselves paid the militia tax without a scruple, — those were the important developments. The imprisonment was of no consequence in itself, any more than a percussion cap is of consequence when the heavy granite walls of a fort are to be battered down.
But that trial has been endured, and I am ready to go on with the work, and I shall try to accept with thankfulness whatever task the Lord sets. I found there was no need to be idle in the prison. There was enough to do. I never found a field where the laborer was promised such a rich reward for his toil.
Someone named William H. Potter wrote an appeal to the governor on Whipple’s behalf, but the appeal was not sent due to Whipple’s release. The Voice of Peace reprinted it, though:
Dear Sir: — I deem it proper for me to make a statement to you in regard to Mr. Zerah C. Whipple, now in New London jail because he declined to pay his military tax. He is a young man, brought up a Quaker, his ancestors for at least five generations preceding him being of that faith. Neither he nor his father nor his grandfather has ever paid any military tax, purely as such. They pay all taxes to support the State, United States, or Town, always promptly. But in States that have Friends who are scrupulous about paying a purely military tax, the State has wisely levied it with the other taxes in such a way that they could pay it under an implied protest; but where a separate tax is levied on them directly and solely to support the military arm, they decline, preferring distraint or imprisonment. Mr. Whipple is, as you know, at the head of an important educational and benevolent institution, that of teaching the dumb to speak, and had just completed his arrangements for opening his school when the officer, (a forward Republican leader,) in the town of Ledyard, came and hurried the young man off to jail in New London, where felons of all sorts are herded in one room.
First, let me say I have no sympathy with his peace doctrines, but I believe this young man is as sincere as I am in any article of belief. There is no bravado, no defiance, no glorying in his sufferings, as has been sometimes charged upon certain sects, who are reputed to have courted persecution; but he is modest, retiring, but ready to give a reason, intelligent, cultured by reading and public speaking upon the subject of temperance. He has a wife and child depending upon the carrying out of his plans, and would receive gratefully from your hands any reprieve lying in your power, which you can do, it seems to me, for the especial reason that he has never been a subject of military duty. He was sunstruck before he was eighteen while at work in the field, and was near dying, since which time he has never been permitted by the family, nor does he dare, to be out in the open field at work in the sun, as it brings on apoplectic tendencies, and he is laid up for hours or days after such exposure. This is a fact which the authorities willfully overlook, or neglect to inquire properly into. I have called upon them to take notice, but as they did not, I last year paid his fine without Mr. W.’s knowledge. While grateful to me, he said he did not like that method of settling it, and so I decline to pay for him this year.
2. He is not able to endure the hardships of prison life, and in my opinion will not long survive where he is, though he tries to keep up as well as he can.
3. The interests of his school and family demand his release. It is only a few weeks since he was sent for in New Jersey by a Committee to locate a deaf and dumb asylum, who desire to secure his services there when their plans are perfected. His interview with Gov. Parker called forth from that gentleman the highest expressions of admiration and esteem. I think, sir, you would do yourself lasting honor and call forth the gratitude of philanthropists everywhere, if you would reprieve him till the May session of the General Assembly, and then call attention to it. The “Friends” of Pennsylvania and North Carolina are deeply stirred on his account. I herein send you a letter from Mr. Whipple to his wife, written since be was in prison, and put into my hands to read, though I have no permission to show it to you. But I do it confidentially, asking its return, and with it I pray you may see fit to aid a young man who is an honor to the State, and beloved by all who know him. Yours truly,
, the Whipple case was also a subject of the Dutchess County Peace Society at their annual meeting, at which they resolved “That in the imprisonment of our friend and co-worker Z.C. Whipple, for the non-payment of military tax, we have another manifestation of the cruelty and tyranny of the military power against which we protest, and further Resolved: That we tender to him our heartiest sympathy and warmest admiration for his heroic course in thus suffering martyrdom for the principles of peace.”
The October Voice of Peace carried extracts from an address delivered by Whipple to the Connecticut Peace Society, which included these remarks:
Our position is that of pioneers in the cause of peace. We can see the bright future which awaits the faithful, though many obstacles may lie in the way of its realization. Our stand is taken, and we cannot turn back. We have advocated non-resistance toward enemies as the surest, the safest, and the best way of overcoming them. We have declared the sinfulness of national armies and all preparations for war. We have declared our faith in God and in the power of love. Now “let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.” Upon the steadfastness of the friends of peace depends in a great measure the progress which our great cause will make during the next ten years. Unbelievers are watching with the most intense interest every movement of those who profess a faith in non-resistance, and when temptations to fight arise, when the tests are applied, then they watch to learn whether our professions are true or false. It is our duty to carry into every-day life the principles which we profess. Is it consistent for people who profess to abhor war, to furnish for their children to read, stories of the glories of battles, and filled with praises of successful man-killers? We know that this government depends for its support on an army and navy; not on God, but upon men who are trained to disobey the commands of the Prince of peace. Can we consistently take part in such a government, — help to elect its officers and to enact its laws, when we know that we cannot obey the officers nor conform to the laws fully without violating our highest conceptions of right and duty? Can a peace man consistently pay a militia tax, demanded for the express purpose of keeping up a system which he is daily declaring to be wrong and wicked? Friends of peace, the world is looking to us to see lived out the doctrines which we profess. By faith we can see the future, bright with the promise of peace. If we are called upon to make some sacrifices that the good time may not be delayed, shall we not do it willingly?
And Whipple finally wrote up the story of his arrest and imprisonment:
Your request for an account of my recent imprisonment has been in my mind daily, and now I will endeavor to write out the facts of the case as they impress themselves on my memory.
I knew very well that the town authorities intended to make me trouble if I refused to pay the tax, not only from my experience of previous years, but the collector, Christopher M. Gallup, had expressly told me that he had orders from the “selectmen” of Ledyard to collect that tax. So I was not wholly unprepared for what was to follow.
On , Mr. Gallup came to my house, and said he wished to see me. I was at work in the printing office, setting up an anecdote for the Home School Journal, entitled, “How a Quarrel was Settled.” I left the composing stick with a line partly set, and went down stairs. Mr. Gallup said he had called again to get that tax, and added that he was in a hurry as he was going to Westerly that afternoon. I do not remember that I made him any reply at all, and think I did not; for he said, “I will give you half an hour to pay the tax or get ready to go with me.” Seeing that I was not inclined to make any reply, he said, “come, make up your mind quick, for we haven’t much time to talk about it.” I then said my mind was already made up. I have no wish to talk on the subject.
He then laid his hand on my arm and went through the form of arrest. I asked him how much time I could have to get ready. He said “twenty minutes.” My preparations were soon made, I had only to take leave of my folks. My wife, brave woman, was as cool as if I had been preparing to go on a pleasure trip. She put up some little articles that she thought I would need, and said, “good-by,” with just the least tremble in her voice. Little Geneva, not quite a year old, could not understand why her papa was going away in such haste, and after I had left the room I heard her little voice calling “papa, papa.” Grandfather for some time had been so feeble that he could not walk at all without a cane, but he came tottering from his room and spoke as calmly to me and as kindly to the officer of justice (?) as if the visit had been for the purpose of doing the family a favor.
Right here I wish to state what I did not know, in regard to the law, until after my release from jail. That the collector of taxes is obliged to take property if it is tendered, or if it can be found, in payment of taxes; and it is only when no property, either personal or real estate, can be found, that even the law of benighted Connecticut will allow him to take the body. So in taking me to jail, as he did, he not only failed to execute the spirit of the law, which gives every one the privilege of being undisturbed in regard to their religion, but he actually violated the letter far more flagrantly in his illegal seizure of my person, than I did in refusing to pay a tax. If he was ignorant of the law, is he a fit person to be entrusted with the responsibilities of such an office? If he was not ignorant, but took the course he did because he wished to make me all the trouble he could, knowing that I would not prosecute him in return, was it not a very cowardly advantage to take of a neighbor?
We arrived at the jail about noon, and Christopher said to Mr. Hewitt, the keeper, “I have brought you a man who refuses to pay his militia tax, because he is conscientiously opposed to it.”
The keeper looked at me and smiled. I could not tell what his feelings were, whether he regarded me simply with derision, or whether there was a mixture of respect. He did not take me at once to the jail, but invited me into his office, which seemed to be the dining room for the family, and appeared rather curious to know something in regard to my character and occupation. When he learned that I had a school for deaf mutes, and that another term was to commence shortly, he asked me what I should do about my school, if I was in jail, when my scholars returned. I replied that I did not know, that I was only trying to do my duty in my present course, and that I should try to accept the consequences, let them be whatever they might, knowing that all would be for the best.
The idea of teaching deaf mutes to speak seemed to interest him greatly. He asked me if my pupils could really speak so as to be understood. I told him to ask Mr. Gallup, for he had visited the school.
“Yes,” said Christopher, “I can testify to their ability to speak;” and he thereupon gave quite a lengthy account of his visit to the school.
“I should think,” said Mr. Hewitt, “that if Mr. Whipple is such a strong peace man as to prefer going to jail rather than pay a militia tax, he would be a safe person to have charge of children, and if I had a deaf child to educate, I think I should prefer to send to his school on that account if no other.”
Mr. Gallup again added his testimony in my favor, saying that he was well acquainted with the family, and that parents may depend on having their children well treated by that family.
Mr. Hewitt then wanted to know how far I try to instruct my pupils in my peace views. I. told him that little deaf children who have barely learned to read and write a few words, and who cannot converse at all, of course cannot receive much instruction in anything, but that I try to teach all of my pupils to be kind to each other, and never to quarrel or fight. When they are old enough and have learned enough to understand, I explain to them how I look upon war, and why I do so look upon it. If they see force and truth in the reasons I give, well and good. If I can teach them to regard war in the same light that I do, and can explain to them the causes which lead to wars, I shall be satisfied to let them take their own ways after leaving school.
“Well,” said Mr. Hewitt, “don’t you think you could do more good teaching your school than you can staying in jail?”
I replied that I had no choice in the matter. It was only a question with me of doing what I believed to be entirely wrong, or to submit to imprisonment. I could not voluntarily do what I felt would be a sin, and so must suffer the consequences of a refusal, that I would be very glad to go home at once, if I could do so with a clear conscience.
Several times during our conversation Mr. Hewitt made such remarks as the following: “I wish you or some one would pay that tax. I don’t want you. This is no place for you,” &c.
At last he said, “If you are determined to go to jail, I suppose you will have to go.” Whereupon he asked me what I had in my pockets, which I emptied and delivered over such of the articles as he demanded. My knife, a small one, I was allowed to keep, and in fact, I suspect the search was more to satisfy the law than anything else, for Mr. Hewitt only retained such things as I would not be likely to need, and which might get lost or stolen. “You need not search Zerah for weapons or tobacco,” said Christopher, “for I’ll guarantee you will not find anything of the kind to pay for your trouble.” And as I started to follow Mr. Hewitt to the jail, Christopher said, “When you write an account of this affair for the papers, Zerah, don’t be too hard on me. Lay it off on the town. I had to collect the tax, for I had sworn to do it.”
Nearly every man in the jail excepting those who were awaiting trial, were there in consequence of some offence committed while in a state of intoxication.
Having gained permission to converse with the men “in a low tone,” I used the privilege to urge them to reform. As I was myself a prisoner I could talk with them far more freely, and with much more likelihood of gaining their attention than I could have done if I had gone into the jail as a visitor, with the avowed purpose of preaching to them, for they felt sure that I was prompted by no other motive than a desire to do them good. During the six days that I was in the prison, I frequently had occasion to reprove some of the men for using profane or vulgar language, and though I expected at first to receive only curses in reply, to the credit of human nature I will say, that not one of them from the first to the last addressed to me one disrespectful word.
Sunday evening, after our supper of cornmeal mush and molasses had been disposed of, the men commenced as they did the evening before, to talk to each other louder than the regulations of the prison allowed, and I dreaded to have the keeper coming every half hour or oftener, to enforce silence. So I went to each man in the jail and requested as a special favor that for that evening all might be quiet. Each promised that he would be still, but most of them added, “but you can’t do anything with the others; they will only laugh at you.” The result proved the wisdom of my action, for during the whole evening the jail was so quiet that the keeper did not feel compelled to make us a single call.
One day one of the prisoners said to me, “I wish you could be employed to stay here and keep order. I never saw any one that could make men do what you can. We used to have a turnkey here, but the prisoners were a good deal worse than they were before he came. He could not do anything at all with them. But I don’t believe there is a man in this jail that would give you a saucy word.” I replied that in all probability if I should be employed to keep order in the jail, the men would not mind me as well as they do now, for now they know that I can only request them to do what I wish, and have no power to compel, and they do things to oblige me, a fellow prisoner, which they would not so willingly do if commanded by an officer.
There was a meeting in the jail on Sunday. About a dozen men came in and exhorted, sung and prayed. The prisoners were told that their efforts to do good and live righteously would be received only with disfavor by the Almighty. That they must “seek the Saviour and be washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.” Not a word was said about the causes which had brought them to the jail. Not a word about the use of profane language, tobacco or strong drink; not a word about the lack of proper training in childhood, and the consequent necessity of putting forth every effort of mind and body to resist temptation.
On Tuesday, father went over to New London to see the County Commissioners, in order to ascertain if there was any way to set me at liberty without requiring me to violate my conscience. My wife accompanied him, and while he stopped at the court house, she went to the jail to see me, if possible. “No,” said the keeper, when she made known her request, “I can’t spend all my time letting him see visitors, besides it is just dinner time, and I can’t attend to it.”
Poor Jenny was not accustomed to such treatment, and though she tried to be brave she could not prevent the tears from starting. She told Mr. Hewitt that she had some things that she would like to leave for me; a few apples and some clothes.
“Some one brought him a peck of apples Sunday,” was the answer, “I’d like to know what he wants with so many apples.” But finally he did consent to let me out, and there by the door of that jail, in the presence of a keeper, I was permitted to spend not over two minutes with my wife. When I went back, Mr. Hewitt said, “Why does not your husband’s friends pay his tax and release him?” Jennie replied “I don’t know whether you profess to be a Christian or not, but my husband’s friends look upon any attempt to get out of difficulty by committing sin, as they do upon trying to reach the kingdom of heaven by climbing up some other way. If people can be persecuted in Connecticut for their religion, it is well for the public to know it.”
When Jennie went back to the court house, father asked her if she had seen Zerah, and she told him, in the presence of the County Commissioners, how rudely she had been treated. The Commissioners apologized for Mr. Hewitt, saying that he had so many rough and wicked persons to deal with that it doubtless often tried his patience sorely, and made him say and do sometimes, that which he would not under other circumstances.
“Come, Mr. Whipple,” said one of them to father, “let us go up to the jail and see your son.” So they all went up together. I was called out and they begun to question me as to why I was there.
“What,” said one of them, “caused you first to think of refusing to pay your tax?”
I replied that I did not know what was the first argument I had heard on the subject of peace. That I rather suspected I inherited a hatred of war from my forefathers. That among the first things I could remember, I recalled sitting on my grandfather’s knee and listening to stories about the wickedness of war. He told me that when he was a young man he was commanded to appear at the muster field and learn to fight, and that when he refused to go, he was ordered to pay a fine, but that he would not do. Then the officers told him “that if he did not pay his fine, he would be put in jail and kept there till he was dead and rotten, and the flies worried him out of the key-hole.” Still he refused to pay the fine, and at last, after hesitating as long as he dared, the officer started to arrest him. He went till he came in sight of my grandfather’s house, and then his heart failed him, and he went back and told his superiors “I will not be instrumental in putting that innocent man in jail. Now, if you want to break me of my office, you can do so.” But to their credit be it said, they also refused to press the matter further, and the whole affair was dropped.
I said further, that in looking over some old papers in my father’s [Jonathan Crouch Whipple, –] desk, when I was young, I found a summons calling on him to appear before the proper authorities, and state his reason for refusing to do “military duty,” and with it was the “reason” which he gave them.
I told the Commissioners that I had lectured on peace before I was twenty-one years old, and consequently before any tax was levied against me, and that in looking for arguments to convince others, I had succeeded in confirming my own views in regard to the sinfulness of war, and all preparations for war.
One of the Commissioners asked me if I did not think Christ set an example in regard to tax paying that I would do well to follow. I replied, “I did not find any place where ‘tax’ is mentioned, especially military tax; but did find where we were commanded to love our enemies, to feed them when hungry, and when thirsty to give them drink. But in no place did I find that Christ had commanded his followers to murder and destroy their enemies.”
“But admitting that you are right,” said one, “what do you expect to accomplish by fighting against the whole State? Don’t you think you could bring more to pass if you were outside? Why not pay your tax under protest, and then work for the repeal of the law that put you here.”
I replied: “in the first place, I was not fighting the State, nor any one else. That I had been trying to do my duty as I understood it, and in the performance of my duty, had displeased the town authorities of Ledyard, and they having the law on their side, had tried to compel me to violate my conscience. That in the next place, going to jail, was too serious a matter for me, to make my testimony of no effect, by paying the tax which I had professed to regard as a sin; and that though it was a terrible trial for me to leave home and friends, and my business, that I regarded it as the Lord’s work, and that I had found plenty to do in the jail so far; that I had a Portuguese pupil, whom I was teaching English.” Mr. Hewitt then interrupted me by saying to the Commissioners that though he was sorry to have me confined in the jail, on his account he would be sorry to have me leave, as the men were much more quiet and easy to manage, since I had been with them.
“Then,” said the Commissioners, “if Mr. Whipple is performing missionary work in the jail, the County ought to employ him, and pay him for his services.”
“How does Mr. Hewitt treat you,” asked one of the Commissioners.
I replied, “that as far as I was individually concerned, I had been treated as well as I could be under the circumstances, that I did not expect hotel fare in a prison.” Mr. Hewitt apologized for not granting my wife a longer and more private interview.
The County Commissioners were much distressed because they had no more comfortable place for the detention of persons who were confined for other causes than the commission of crime, and they said to me, “Mr. Whipple, if you will write about this jail, and give it just such a report as it deserves, we will thank you.”
As the proper treatment of criminals comes under our work as peace makers, I cannot do less than refer to some of the cases which came to my knowledge while in jail. One man said to me, “do you not know whether there is any redress for one who is confined for months awaiting his trial, and then is proved to have been innocent of the crime with which he is charged.” I told him that I knew of none, unless he could compel the party who caused his arrest and imprisonment, to pay him a sum of money for damages.
The cell in which that man had been confined for months, was about 5 by 8 feet, and was so damp that his coat had grown mouldy hanging against the wall. He had not been let out for exercise in the open air, but had been treated in every way like the condemned criminals. But he had not been convicted of any crime. He had simply been accused, and even the law, heartless, as it is, would regard him innocent until he had been proved guilty. That man’s trade was one at which he could only work to advantage in the warm season. By being confined in the jail be had been forced into unwilling idleness, and should he be found innocent and turned out in the fall to take care of himself, he will have no money and no clothes fit to wear, will he not be tempted, if in the least inclined that way, to steal, in order to make up for what he can but feel that he has been deprived of wrongfully?
Is it right to confine criminals of all grades into one room, to mete out the same treatment to all regardless of their offense, or of their behavior? Has the State a right to take a young boy who has been unfortunate enough to get intoxicated, and when in that condition to commit a crime, and confine him with hardened criminals, whose conversation is too vile and profane to repeat? Will not his imprisonment, by lessening the chances of his reformation, be a real calamity to the State? Yet, that is just what I found in the New London jail.
There were 28 men, some quiet and peaceable, thoroughly repentant and anxious to live better lives; some accused but not convicted of crime, and some whose minds and hearts seemed filled with the vilest iniquity, all within the round of each others voices, all fed with the same kind of food, only three or four of them furnished with any kind of work, or allowed for weeks to go out into the open air, and confined in a building which the Commissioners say is a disgrace to the county, and which one of the Members of the State Board of Health has declared is a public nuisance, and ought to be pulled down.
The fact that the men are kept in idleness, while no attempt whatever is made to give them instruction, is enough to cause the people of New London County to regard with alarm the school of vice which they are supporting, with the mistaken idea that it is a measure of public safety. A prison, whose inmates grow worse instead of better, is nothing less than a breeding place of crime.
One afternoon Mr. Hewitt left a young man named Hempstead to take charge during his absence. We had a long conversation on the peace question. Mr. Hempstead seemed curious to know why I submitted to be taken to jail rather than pay so small a sum as two dollars.
“I would advise you to pay the tax,” he said. “What do you expect to accomplish by remaining here any longer?” I said that I did not know that I could accomplish anything except the performance of my duty, and that, I felt was reason enough why I should not pay the tax. I told him that I had chosen an occupation which I had intended to follow, but that in pursuing what I felt to be my duty, I had been brought there, and that I chose to regard it as the Lord’s will, and felt sure that it would result in a greater amount of good, some time, than any other course that I could pursue, I said to him. “You advise me to pay the tax, though you acknowledge that it would not be quite consistent with my profession. Would you advise me to pay two hundred dollars, if the town asked for that amount? The amount of the militia tax for the whole State, is about ten thousand dollars. Somebody has that to raise. Each one’s two dollars helps to make the whole amount. I have refused to pay my part of it, which is equivalent to protesting against the whole. If every one should refuse in the same way, the whole would be wanting, and a wicked institution would go down, for want of support. But if I should ‘pay under protest,’ as you say, and all the other tax payers should do the same, the whole sum would be raised, and the protest would go for naught.”
Our friend John J. Copp, proved himself a true friend indeed. Knowing that I would be lonely in the jail, he visited me every day after he learned that I was there, and when the keeper refused him admission, he demanded it as his right to visit his client, and claimed the right to see me alone too, which was granted.
The Pennsylvania Peace Society held its annual meeting in December, and passed a resolution stating “That we rejoice in the protection given by our State in the enjoyment of the right of conscience against bearing arms, or paying military taxes; and we deeply regret that the State of Connecticut, where Zerah C. Whipple was recently imprisoned for non-payment of war tax, has not advanced beyond such persecution.” Zerah spoke at the meeting, and war tax resistance was on people’s minds during the open discussion that followed:
Edward M. Davis said, I have asked myself what good has been done by the resistance to an unrighteous law. I presume the supreme good is that there is one honest man, who has sacredly obeyed his conscience. The next good is the agitation that has resulted from this. We naturally ask, what is there in such a man, that will make him risk imprisonment. In the next place, what is the difference between this and the general tax which we are accustomed to pay to the government? One is a direct tax, and the other indirect — but they are both used to support war, and the question comes up, which is the best to do. The non-resistant declines to support the government in any way, others pay the general tax, while many are willing to pay all.
Zerah C. Whipple said, Edward M. Davis has asked a fair question, whether we are just as guilty in paying an indirect tax as a direct one? I think not, seven-eighths of the tax is for a good purpose. The government is very useful in many ways; the post-office, all educational purposes are good, and we want to do our part to sustain them. But the war tax is altogether wrong, and I could not pay that.
A letter writer in a later issue of The Voice of Peace (Zachariah Crouch) recounted the story of James E. Whipple’s earlier () arrest for tax resistance:
I often think of a circumstance which took place at one of these [Yearly Grove Peace Meetings], some years ago. I left the platform and took a seat in a carriage near by. As I was attentively listening to one of the speakers, the Tax Collector of the town of Ledyard suddenly came to me, and after shaking hands very friendly, (apparently,) said, “I am here after James Whipple to take him to jail: can you tell me where he is?”
Although I had previously heard that this Collector had threatened to take him to jail for refusing to pay a military tax, I was struck with astonishment to think that a peaceable citizen, — a man who makes the world better for living in it, — should be persecuted for conscience-sake in this nineteenth century, and in a country, too, which boasts of its inalienable rights, and its freedom to worship God each one according to the dictates of his own conscience. The circumstance reminded me of the way our Saviour was taken eighteen hundred years ago, and I said to myself, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”
The same issue also reproduced a letter Zerah Whipple had sent from jail to John J. Copp:
As the most interesting communication which I could possibly send to you for publication, I enclose a copy of a letter received from friend Zerah C. Whipple, while incarcerated for conscience-sake. It is written from New London Jail, . It is written with a lead pencil, on a piece of wrapping paper. It seems to me very sweet and precious, both for the submission which it shows (“But I say unto you that ye resist not evil,”) and also for the joy and peace, — (“My peace I give unto you.”)
John J. Copp.
Dear Friend Copp: — I had expected to attend our Grove Meeting to-morrow, but the time is near at hand, and there is at present no prospect of my liberation from this jail. I have tried several times to write a letter to the friends who will assemble in the dear Peace Grove to-morrow; but when I would begin, I could not find expression for the thoughts and feelings that came into my mind, and I had to give it up. You cannot realize what a disappointment has now given place to another feeling, — that of joy, — that I have had strength given me to “hold fast the profession of my faith without wavering.”
I had planned how I would spend the remaining days of my vacation; but God planned differently, and here I am. Now, friend Copp, if you attend the meeting from which I am debarred, tell the friends, for me, please, that I thank them for the interest they take in the cause of Peace, and for taking the trouble to do what they have done for the spread of a knowledge of our blessed gospel. I shall have my peace meeting, too; for though my body may not, perhaps, go beyond the bars of my prison, in mind and spirit I shall be with you, and shall hope that by the efforts of those present the cause may be greatly advanced.
Tru[l]y, your friend,
A later issue included this heartwarming anecdote:
An Incident in Whipple’s Imprisonment.
Quite unexpectedly, Z.C. Whipple was called upon by a man who had been imprisoned with him, and whose heart had been touched by his good advice.
The man had been released six weeks before the expiration of his sentence for good behavior, and had walked through the rain, seventeen miles, to see Whipple, whom he regarded as his teacher. His feet were bleeding with the long walk, and yet he was on his way home, fifty-four miles, and was now turning toward it to walk.
He wanted to tell Whipple that he would never forget his kindness, and would try to reform himself, and to help others to do so. He said, since meeting him in jail, he had prayed to his Heavenly Father for strength.
We may well be assured that he was assisted on his way, and it is an encouragement to know, that such results come from placing a conscientious man in jail among men who had committed many crimes. It is in this way we are enabled to bear suffering.
This research has also been an interesting look into the emergence of the nonsectarian American peace movement. It was then, as it is today, a mix of pacifists, sentimentalists, advocates of stronger institutions of international law, feminists, anarchists, socialists, Christians, liberal reformers, and the occasional crackpot, and they often seemed to spend more time trying to convince each other of the superiority of their own specialized doctrines than in reaching out beyond the circle of their movement. Alfred Love wrote in one issue about the diversity in the movement:
The Pennsylvania Peace Society, in its Constitution, says, “In the work of peace, we leave all to co-operate according to their own conscientious convictions.” So we feel inclined to encourage all to work for peace in the way which to them seemeth best, from those who only feel called upon to speak in favor of peace, to those who hold the most ultra non-resistant doctrine in which they refuse to vote, pay taxes to the government, and as far as possible avoid the use of all goods upon which duties have been levied.
We would say to one and all, be faithful to the light you have, and you will receive your reward, and when any advance is required of you, you will be prepared to take it. … Let us then not stop to ask what others may be doing, or to censure them because they fail to do what we think they ought to. But rather do that which our own hands find to do with all the ability which God gives us…