Accompany Tax Resistance Campaigns with Petitions to Government

Some tax resistance campaigns have accompanied their resistance with petitions to the government asking it to change its policies or to rescind the tax. Here are some examples:

  • Some 14,000 American Amish petitioned Congress, putting aside that sect’s usual reluctance to participate in political affairs and asking the government to exempt them from the Social Security program, participation in which they felt was anti-Christian. At the same time, some Amish were actively resisting the tax and suffering from government reprisals. Congress eventually did carve out an exemption for the Amish and certain other sects.
  • American Quaker meetings frequently petitioned state legislatures when those bodies were considering laws that would force conscientious objectors to pay a fine or to hire a substitute — neither of which Quakers felt they could conscientiously do. Here are two examples: from and .
  • On one occasion, American Quakers successfully petitioned the government to call off unscrupulous tax collectors who were seizing their property to pay such fines, in amounts that far exceeded the amount of the fine, and keeping the surplus (or sometimes the whole amount) for themselves.
  • In several Quakers wrote to the Pennsylvania Assembly to tell them they would be unwilling to pay a tax that body was contemplating for “purposes inconsistent with the peaceable testimony we profess.”
  • African-American entrepreneur Paul Cuffee petitioned the Massachusetts legislature in and to complain that he was not permitted to vote, although he was a taxpayer — and he backed this up by refusing to pay. His petition arrived at a time when the state Constitution was in flux, and may have helped influence its drafters to omit a clause restricting voting to white citizens.
  • The Benares Hartal in , began with “the people deserting the city in a body, and taking up their station halfway between Benares and Secrole, the residence of the European functionaries, about three miles distant. A petition was presented to the magistrate, praying him to withdraw the odious impost, and declaring that the petitioners would never return to their homes until their application was complied with.”
  • Before launching the Bardoli tax strike, representatives from the Indian civil disobedience movement petitioned the government, asking patiently for the concessions they would later demand via satyagraha.
  • The Rebecca Rioters, with their pseudonymous campaign of midnight toll-gate destruction, had the government nearly begging them to present a list of grievances they could at least pretend to address. Many groups of Welsh farmers did meet and draft lists of grievances. A London Times reporter gained the confidence of one Rebeccaite assembly, and set out their grievances in the form of a Times article describing the meeting. Another group of farmers met to draft a petition of their grievances which they sent to a government representative via a trusted intermediary. On at least one occasion a group of parishes had petitioned the Turnpike Trust that ran one of the offending toll gates to remove it, before it was destroyed by Rebecca and her daughters.
  • During the 17th century Croquant tax rebellions in France, the rebels carefully worded petitions to the king that assumed his benevolence and that the tax hikes must have been snuck past his royal highness by deceitful advisors.
  • In , nonconformists in Massachusetts successfully petitioned the King to free imprisoned resisters to a tax meant for the establishment church there, and to affirm that Quakers should not have to pay taxes to maintain the ministers of another church.
  • Abby Smith addressed the Glastonbury town council in to explain why she would not be paying her property tax to politicians who took advantage of her voteless state. A newspaper obtained and publisher her speech, saying that “Abby Smith and her sister as truly stand for the American principle as did the citizens who ripped open the tea chests in Boston Harbor, or the farmers who leveled their muskets at Concord.” Soon the Smith case became a cause célèbre nationwide.
  • During the Annuity Tax struggle in Edinburgh, Scotland, “40,000 citizens of Edinburgh petitioned the House of Commons for [the Tax’s] abolition. The town council, the magistrates of Canongate, the Merchant Company, the Anti-state-church and the Anti-annuity-tax Associations, all exerted themselves with the legislature and the government to procure its repeal…”
  • The hut tax war in Sierra Leone was preceded by petitions from a variety of groups there asking the government to rescind the tax, and explaining why the tax was felt to be particularly offensive. In this case, the petitioning may have backfired, as the government stubbornly pushed forward with the tax, but, forewarned of opposition by the petitions, it “came to the conclusion that the exercise of force, peremptory, rapid, and inflexible, was the element to be relied on in making the scheme of taxation a success.”