The Education Act Tax Resistance Campaign: March 1904

We’re up to in our chronological hike through the newspaper coverage of the tax resistance campaign against taxpayer funding of sectarian education in Britain.

The Lancashire Daily Post noted that there was a sale of goods seized from passive resisters in Birmingham , as well as an auction of “[n]early one hundred lots of goods distrained from people who had refused to pay their education rates… in Sheffield,” and the goods of eight additional resisters were auctioned off at Sandbach.

Some people, perhaps from a mixture of motives, were paying the portion of the rates that the resisters were refusing to pay — on their behalf and anonymously. This had the effect of foiling their protest. One wrote to the Portsmouth Evening News ():

Dear Sir,– Possibly the kind friends (or more probably enemies) of the Passive Resisters who are paying the Education Rates for them, are unaware of the fact that they are literally subscribing to the funds of the Passive Resistance League. The amount they pay plus the cost of the summons, will be handed over by those for whom they pay to the funds, which will be considerably benefited thereby (at least they are doing so in other towns, and I believe they intend to do so here). Would it not be advisable for the Passive Reisters not to pay any part of the rate in the future just to try their friends (?) liberality, whether it is equal to 100 per cent. or stops at 5?

The same paper’s “inside contributor” gave the perspective of the resisters in a column . Excerpts:

The Passive Resistance movement shows no sign of having “lapsed” or spent itself. Up to the end of last week there had been over 11,500 prosecutions under the Education Acts, while there had been over 400 sales of Passive Resisters’ goods.

Of course there is [a bible] passage which says “Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s” and this all Passive Resisters are ready to do; but in the same breath the Lord adds, “Render unto God the things that are God’s.” There are, then, things which are not Cæsar’s. Every Passive Resister is ready to say with Dr. Isaac Watts–

“Let Cæsar’s due be over paid
 To Cæsar and this throne;
 But consciences and souls were made
 To be the Lord’s alone.”

The Associate member of the League [that is, those not yet resisting but supporting resisters] should see to it that they are helping the full members all they can. Why should they pay the rate until they have made a protest in Court? If they cannot go the whole way with us, let them not pay until they are summoned, and then, when they do pay, they should write largely, in red ink, across the Demand Note — “Paid under Protest.” There is a growing feeling among the “full members” of the League that the Associate members need just a little more buckram. Verbum sap.

The Berwickshire News and General Advertiser, amidst much anti-Passive Resistance editorializing, reported on the auction of goods seized from eleven or so resisters. Excerpts:

Once on the rostrum, the Auctioneer said he desired, before proceeding with the sale, to take the opportunity of explaining his position. On the occasion of the last sale, he refused to act — because he was in sympathy with the Resisters. (Applause.) He was in sympathy with them still — (applause) — and it was entirely at the instance of the Passive Resisters that he was acting .

The Rev. A. Alexander was the last speaker. He referred to the possible removing from the voters’ register of Passive Resisters. Some unkind friend — (a laugh) — had paid his (the speaker’s) rates, and so he still kept his vote. On his way to this very meeting he was met by a Spittal voter, who said the Spittal Resisters wouldn’t be taken to Court until , and, in the meantime, their names would be taken off the voters’ lists. (“Oh, no,” and laughter.)

Following this, the paper printed this short article:

Rev. Mr Auty at Newcastle.

Extraordinary Statement.

Following the annual gathering in Newcastle of the National Council of the Evangelical Free Churches, was given over to the Passive Resisters, who assembled in the Central Primitive Methodist Church, Northumberland Road, to tell of their martyrdom under the Education Acts.

The Rev. H. Auty, Kirkby Stephen, formerly of Berwick, said he would be glad if Dr Clifford would send a telegram of sympathy to those men living on the lonely hills of Westmorland who were unable to pay this education rate. He himself was sentenced to seven days imprisonment in Berwick for having refused to pay five-pence; but the authorities funked. When the town was just on the verge of a riot, and before the money was paid by an old woman, the police withdrew. Now neither magistrates nor police would have anything to do with him. He believed that magistrates were more afraid of passive resisters than passive resisters were of magistrates. He was sorry that he had not suffered. If he were sent to gaol, he would get a rest, which he had not now.

Finally, the following article comes from the Devon and Exeter Gazette:

The Education Act in Wales.

Severe Rebuke.

The Board of Education inquiry was concluded at Carmarthen . Evidence being called on behalf of the Carmarthenshire County Council, Mr. Llewellyn Williams, for the Council, confined himself to an address giving the reasons which had actuated the Council to adopt its present attitude.

The Commissioner, in closing the inquiry, said it seemed to him that the religious instruction difficulty was unduly magnified in the minds of the Council, who accordingly said they would, rather than carry out a duty which involved any money going to the religious instruction, repudiate their duties as citizens. He thought that neither consistent with duty nor, as it seemed to him, with honour, and he hoped they would adopt a very different course in the near future.