I’m jumping the gun in posting ’s and ’s entries, as I’ll be off the grid for a few days.
In Lillian Schlissel’s Conscience in America: A documentary history of conscientious objection in America, () is an excerpt from a letter to the Pennsylvania Assembly from that I haven’t been able to find elsewhere, and the author of which remains unknown to me.
That the infliction of fines, or other punishments, would be as ineffectual in reconciling quakers in America, to carry arms, as they proved in prevailing upon them in England to make oath, there is no reason to doubt.
It is therefore, with much uneasiness, that I learn from the 17th clause of the militia bill, which is postponed until the next session of congess, that such citizens as are conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms, are to be exempted from doing so, upon paying a fine — to pay a fine, in lieu of bearing arms, would be as repugnant to the principles of friends, as the performance of the service, from which it were to exempt them; and for reasons synonymous to those, which deter them from contributing to the support and maintenance of hireling ministers — to collect these fines, therefore, the subordinate magistracy of the country must interpose their authority, which will put it in their power (and their inclination to exercise it in general cannot be denied) to impose upon and distress the unfortunate victims of their rapacity, to a degree far beyond every benefit, which the country could derive from such a source of revenue.— It is a maxim, that the law ought not to require impossibilities; and it is the language of reason, and religion, that a man should not be forced to wrong his own conscience: and a quaker must either do the latter, or be incapable of complying with the requisites of this clause of the bill — it would be tantamount to the taxing the opinions of one class of the citizens, in exclusion of every other. To tax a man for not doing a particular service, which his conscience forbids him to do, in order to make up for that omission, is as unreasonable, as it would be to extra-tax the members of a community, who possess one kind of property, to make their contribution equivalent to that, which the public coffers receive from those who possess another kind of property.
This is another interesting attempt to explain why Quakers were unwilling to pay militia exemption fees, though it still leaves me wondering.
It also mentions the Quaker resistance to “hireling ministers” — mandatory tithes to support an official establishment church — which predated and formed the template for later Quaker war tax resistance, but which I haven’t dealt with much here.