New National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee Newsletter

A new issue of NWTRCC’s newsletter is out. Contents include:

  • Redirection: Our “Constructive Program” — Bill Ramsey compares redirection (the common practice in war tax resistance circles of giving your due taxes to charity rather than to the government) to the “constructive program” part of Gandhi’s campaigns.
  • Like us! — Erica Weiland points out the various facets of NWTRCC’s social media presence.
  • Counseling Notes — how credit rating worries and student debt may discourage war tax resisters; suspicions of an uptick in the underground economy; lots of bad news for the IRS; and war tax resistance counselor training notes
  • War Tax Resistance Ideas and Actions — a recap of some of the creative outreach and protest actions of the nationwide war tax resistance community
  • How We Want Our Tax Dollars Used — a look at the granting decisions of a handful of war tax resistance alternative funds, which coordinate the redirection of many war tax resisters
  • NWTRCC News — a recap of the NWTRCC national gathering in Asheville earlier this month
  • Passionate for Peace — a profile of war tax resister Aanya Adler Friess

On , American Baptist minister O.P. Gifford addressed a gathering of Christians about the distinctive features of the Baptist approach to that faith. In the course of his talk, he passed on some family folklore about a tithe-resisting ancestor:

“One of my ancestors,” said he, “lived in a time and in a country in which one of the taxes was for the support of the established church. He was a maker of crooked scythe snaths, of which he was the inventor, scythe handles having been made straight before his day. Periodically the tax officers would come around to collect the amount levied upon him for church support. As often as they came he would refuse to pay the money.

“ ‘You will have to go to jail, then,’ the officers said.

“ ‘If you want me, take me,’ was his reply.

“Then the officers would load my ancestor’s crooked sticks, wooden horse and edged tools and himself into a wagon and take him through the principal streets to the jail, where he would be kept until he had worked out his tax. That is the kind of Baptists which existed in those days, and there are plenty of Baptists of the present who would go to jail rather than pay a tax for the support of any church.”

When I read this, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was talking about Father Lamson, an eccentric whom I first heard about when I was reading accounts of him attending abolitionist meetings. He has been credited with inventing a curved scythe snath.

So I did a little googling around. There’s a lot more on-line about Lamson than there was last time I went hunting — including this page, which features a color portrait and the confirmation: “Silas did not approve of government oversight and as such he was routinely placed in jail for failing to pay his tithes, and finally, due to his constant preaching, was condemned to the Worchester and Brattleboro asylums ‘to be treated for insanity and uncustomary methods of dispensing his sentiments’ for a period of six years.”

Finally, when the supporters of church and state orthodoxy made their last effort to return him to the asylum, liberal thinking men headed by Ralph Waldo Emerson, made up a purse for his defense. The resulting lawsuit ended in a court decision that proclaimed his incarceration as a lunatic was illegal.

A commenter on that page notes “that his portrait hangs at Fruitlands, the place where Bronson Alcott had his experimental commune and lived for a couple of summers. They evidently knew each other.” This would put Lamson in the tax resistance lineage of Thoreau as well.