Mrs. Harvey’s Protest.
A great gathering assembled at Brackenhill to support Mrs. Kate Harvey in her spirited protest against the Insurance Act. A decorated brake, adorned with Women’s Freedom League and Women’s Tax-Resistance League banners, started from Headquarters’ Office at , conveying some twenty-seven persons, among whom were Mesdames Huntsman, [Anne] Cobden Saunderson, Tanner, Mustard, Catmur, Pierotti, Green, Ball, Kux, Presbury, Johnson, Sanders, Pyart, Watson, Spiller, Sutcliffe, Moser, Miss [Florence] Underwood, Misses [Nina] Boyle, Sanders, St Clair, and Lawrence. Miss F.A. Underwood and Dr. [Elizabeth] Knight, who went down by train, were accompanied by other members, and at the Bromley Police-court were joined by Mrs. Snow, Mrs. Terry, Mrs. and Miss [Emma] Fox Bourne, Mrs. Fisher, and other well-known members of the League.
Mrs. Harvey, charged on ten counts with neglecting to insure William David Asquith under the provisions of the National Insurance Act, pleaded guilty and said she did not mean to pay. Asquith was put in the box to prove that his employer had refused to stamp his card; and the solicitor for the Insurance Commissioners pressed for “special costs” on the strange ground that there was no defence and that therefore the “public” should not be at the cost of such a prosecution. Allusion was also made to Mrs. Harvey’s well-known “objection” to paying taxes of any kind.
Mrs. Harvey then spoke. She said: “I am not resisting the Act as an Act. If it had come straight down from heaven I should resist it just the same. I am doing what every business man throughout the country does as a matter of course — I refuse to pay for goods which I cannot choose.”
Continuing, Mrs. Harvey insisted on her right to choose the men who went to Westminster to make the laws. “I am here because of my right to choose clean-living men to make those laws, to save women from prostitution, to make life more safe and our streets more safe for women and girls — aye, for our children even. I stand here because I refuse to break the law — the law has declared that there can be no taxation without the right of representation.”
After consultation the magistrates imposed the vindictive sentence of £1 for each offence, £10; arrears of insurance due to Asquith, 5s. 10d.; court fees, £4 10s.; and “special” costs (which we presume to be the solicitor’s own fees), £2 2s.; total, £16 17s. 10d.
Before leaving the dock Mrs. Harvey reiterated her intention not to pay. “I would rather die first,” she exclaimed in a burst of fierce indignation as she addressed the Bench. “I stand for justice, and this is injustice, an injustice which will hang round your necks like a millstone and drown you in your own incapacity and folly.” Loud cries of “Shame!” from the Suffragists in court greeted the sentence, and Mrs. Harvey’s concluding remarks were applauded.
The entire party was entertained to lunch and tea at Brackenhill, and in the afternoon a poster parade, with alternate W.F.L. and W.T.R. posters, was organised by Mrs. Huntsman. The placards were inscribed, “We Refuse to Break the Law,” “Taxation of the Unrepresented is not Government, it is Tyranny,” “We Refuse to Pay for Goods We Cannot Choose.”
In the market-place a mass meeting was held at , with Miss Anna Munro in the chair. A large, expectant crowd gathered long before the hour, and it is a significant fact that the extreme hostility so characteristic of other meetings at Bromley was conspicuously absent. A sea of upturned, attentive faces listened without interruption to Miss Munro, who went over the grounds on which women demand the Vote; and Mrs. [Margaret] Kineton Parkes, who as representing the Women’s Tax-Resistance League, pointed out that women resisted the Act as women, as voteless women, and as tax-paying women; and to Miss Nina Boyle, who summed up the position and set forth the policy of the Women’s Freedom League.
On , Dr. Knight’s famous hay waggon was sold again at Woodbridge — this time to recover the amount of her dog license and of the costs connected with the case. Mrs. [Isabel] Tippett, Mrs. Lane, and Miss [Marguerite A.] Sidley represented the Women’s Freedom League. Before the sale Miss Sidley addressed the market, explaining the circumstances of the sale and the reasons for tax resistance. Afterwards Mrs. Tippett gave a most excellent and telling speech which was listened to with the greatest attention. While waiting by the waterside for their train our members listened with much interest to an animated discussion on the merits and demerits of tax resistance, and the speeches of the afternoon and of the preceding evening when the Suffrage Pilgrims were at Woodbridge. The waggon has done duty so often that it has now become historic in the Suffrage Cause; future generations will, no doubt, rank it with John Hampden’s ship.
Dr. Knight is also resisting the Insurance Act, and has received several calls from harassed officials. She has arranged to meet them at some future date to discuss the whole question.
Land Tax Resisted.
Miss Boyle has forwarded to the District Valuer of Worcester the following communication in relation to the Inland Revenue “Forms” sent to her in valuation of property in that neighbourhood:—
Sir,— I am exceedingly obliged to you for the interesting collection of Forms 7, 17, 35 and 36 which you have been good enough to send me from time to time. I trust you will continue and send me many more.
As for the provisional valuation being correct, I should think that in the last degree unlikely. But as I have not the slightest intention of paying anything whatever to the Government so long as women remain unenfranchised, that is a question we need not go into for the present. — Faithfully yours,
C. Nina Boyle.