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The Picket Line — 23 October 2010

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23 October 2010

Wat Tyler is another name that frequently comes up when mention is made of English tax resisters of yore. From what I’ve been able to find out about the Tyler case, it seems to be more complicated than a case of tax resistance, though tax resistance seemed to play a part.

Here is chapter 38 from the Reverend John Adams’s 1813 textbook The Flowers of Modern History, telling one version of the Wat Tyler story:

Of the Insurrection occasioned by a Poll Tax, A.D. 1379.

In the reign of Richard, II. a poll tax was passed at twelve pence per head, on all above the age of sixteen. This being levied with severity, caused an insurrection in Kent and Essex.

A Blacksmith, well known by the name of Wat Tyler, was the first who excited the people to arms. The tax-gatherers coming to this man’s house, while he was at work, demanded payment for his daughter, which he refused, alledging that she was in the age mentioned in the act. One of the brutal collectors insisted on her being a full grown woman; and immediately attempted giving a very indecent proof of his assertion. This provoked the father to such a degree, that he instantly struck him dead with a blow of his hammer. The standers by applauded his spirit; and, one and all, resolved to defend his conduct. He was considered as a champion in the cause, and appointed the leader and spokesman of the people.

It is easy to imagine the disorders committed by this tumultuous rabble. The whole neighborhood rose in arms. They burnt and plundered wherever they came, and revenged upon their former masters, all those insults which they had long sustained with impunity.

As the discontent was general, the insurgents ...

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The Picket Line — 15 October 2010

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15 October 2010

The Vote

From the 15 October 1910 issue of The Vote come these reports of speeches given at a mass meeting in Trafalgar Square:

Mrs. Cobden Sanderson.

In the course of a well-reasoned speech, Mrs. Cobden-Sanderson said: We live in revolutionary times. The will of the people must prevail. The Portuguese Royal Family fell because it did not consider this. Berlin has also revolted, and the revolt there would have been more sanguinary had it not been for women, who placed themselves in the front — themselves and their children — and it takes much self-sacrifice to sacrifice your child. Here the women are also in revolt against the social and economical condition of things, for similar grievances prevail here to those which prevail in Tariff Reform Germany.

Mr. Lloyd George will be attacked more severely. Hitherto he has had some unpleasant moments; now we are going to attack his pocket. We are going to have our say in the spending of twelve millions on Dreadnoughts, and also on the reform of Poor Law system. I am a Poor Law guardian, but I am almost ashamed to own it, for I find the whole system of Poor Law administration is rotten to the core, and I work harder as such than in presenting petitions at Downing Street.

Our next move is to pay no taxes. It is the most direct and unanswerable method. If we are not good enough to vote, we are not good enough to pay. No vote, no tax. Those little income-tax forms, Form IV. or VI., or some other number, will be just thrown into the basket and not returned. Everyone who perhaps has not an income to be taxed can have a dog, and then refuse to pay tax.

We all at the ...

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The Picket Line — 14 October 2010

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14 October 2010

Remember good ’ol J. Bracken Lee? Governor of Utah in the 1950s? Decided to stop paying his federal income tax because he thought the Feds were unconstitutionally spending good American taxpayer dollars on foreign projects of various sorts?

From the 14 October 1955 Sarasota Journal:

Letters Pour In Backing Governor’s Tax Stand

By Frank Wetzel

Salt Lake City (AP) — The post card from Monroe, La. to Gov. J. Bracken Lee reads:

“Two, four, six, hut—

“We want a tax cut—

“Seven, eight, nine, ten—

“We want to know when—

“We don’t want no hem or haw—

“We’re for the governor of Utah.”

The Louisiana doggerel was among more than 500 letters and cards piled across the desk today of Harold W. Simpson, Lee’s administrative assistant. Lee is a Republican.

Simpson said all but four letters praised Lee’s statement he will not pay all his income tax next year, hoping to prod the government into a suit in which he can challenge the constitutionality of using income tax funds for foreign aid.

“These letters would surprise a lot of politicians,” said Simpson. “Judging from them, I believe a nationwide referendum would go against continuing foreign aid.”

Utah Democrats have blasted Lee’s proposal. They asked the governor to either retract or resign. Lee refused to do either. State Republicans have said “No comment.”

Challenged Two

Lee’s assistant said 90 per cent of the letters came from outside Utah. Of the four opposing Lee’s stand, Simpson challenged two. He said they appeared to come from the same typewriter, although different names were typed a[t] the bottom. Both were postmarked Los Angeles.

One congratulatory message came from Vivien Kellems, a Stonington, Conn., manufacturer who in 1948 stopped withholding income taxes from employes of her cable grip firm. She contended the government couldn’t make her serve as an unpaid tax collector. The government seized $7,819 in penalties from her firm’s bank accounts, but Miss Kellems and her brother David sued and got most of that amount back.

Other letters offered to help. Several included small amounts of money to help finance Lee’s battle.

Lee declared last week he would withhold his income tax on a portion of his salary. “I shall put my tax in the bank here in Salt Lake City,” he said. “Not a dollar of it will they get until legality of this case is tested in the United States Supreme Court.”

Samples from other letters:

Boulder, Colo. — “Good for you — both for having the courage to stand up to this tax-despotic government of ours and its paid press, and for BEING RIGHT.”

Santa Ana, Calif. — “When a man of your stature comes out as you have on such a vital issue it rekindles the hopes of the American people that all is not lost and that there is still a chance.”

Houston — “I doubt if you can muster much support — the people are just too ignorant of what is going on to be impressed, but I urge you to carry on.”

The Vote

From the 14 October 1911 issue of The Vote:

Holloway: Woman's “Polling Booth.”

“We began with a Mud March; I wonder whether we shall end with one!” So said a marcher last Saturday afternoon; the relentless rain and the merciless mud gave point to the observation. Neither rain nor mud deterred the women from their protest procession long ago, nor did they have any daunting effect on Saturday in the march from Kingsway to Holloway. The change in attitude of the onlookers was extraordinary and emphasises the educative influence of such demonstrations. No word of scorn or ridicule was heard on Saturday; such words have passed; little but amazement remained, amazement at the courage shown in trying weather conditions.

Truly it was a brave show. Bands and banners lend splendid aid on such occasions, but the gratifying sight was to see the solidarity and co-operation of many societies. The Women's Tax Resistance League led the way, and were followed by the Women's Social and Political Union, the Women's Freedom League, the New Constitutional Society, and Actresses' League, the Fabian Women's Group, and, finally, the men's societies; the Men's League for Women's Suffrage, the Men's Political Union for Women's Enfranchisement, and the Men's Committee for Justice to Women. Faithful friends these, whose help is always available, and one could not help noticing that some of the men were bringing up their small sons in the way they should go! Let us hope that the boys will not have to do much more marching for the Suffrage Cause!

An hour of it! Who can describe the determination and courage needed? But we arrived, and in a very few minutes the chairman, Miss Christabel Pankhurst, was in her place on the cart, surrounded by the speakers. One's eyes were rivetted by the sight of the tall, self-possessed lady, quiet and undemonstrative, who scarcely twenty-four hours before had been inside those prison walls. The singing and the enthusiasm were to reach her in her cell, but the action of the authorities in releasing Miss Housman enabled her to be the seen instead of the unseen centre of the demonstration. Her words, too, carried great weight. Humorously she contrasted the treatment of men voters and of voteless women: agents to do everything for the men, motors to take them to the polling booth. Turning to the prison, Miss Housman exclaimed dramatically, “Holloway is woman's polling booth; it is there that I have been able to register my vote against a Government that taxes me without representation.” Only words of courtesy were heard concerning all the officials with whom Miss Housman had come into contact, and she was cheered to the echo when she declared that, glad as she was to be outside Holloway, she was ready to go back again to win the fight for the recognition of woman's citizenship. “If that great act of justice, the Conciliation Bill, fails to carry next year, there will be not merely one but hundreds of women in prison to make the nation realise that justice is not being done.” Thus spoke Mr. Laurence Housman, whose pride in his sister's devotion to the woman's Cause was shared by those who listened. Women were only doing what men had gloried in doing in times past, he added, they were struggling for constitutional liberties; women, too, had caught the spirit of democracy. Mrs. Despard, heedless of the drenching rain, made an appeal which touched the hearts of all who heard it; she rejoiced in the victory won by Miss Housman's courageous act of self-sacrifice, and said that tax resistance was drawing women together in a bond as strong as death. She laughed to scorn the idea that men had all the chivalry and clear-sightedness, women the tenderness and self-sacrifice; neither sex had a monopoly of these qualities, but she looked for the coming of the new day when man and woman should stand side by side as equals. Miss Adeline Bourne, speaking for the actresses, amused the audience by insisting that if women united in a protest such as Miss Housman had made, the Government would be powerless to deal with them. Mrs. [Margaret] Kineton Parkes, who succeeded Miss Pankhurst in the chair as soon as the resolution had been moved, gave some remarkable facts as to the predicament of the officials with regard to women tax resisters; amazing differences of treatment were recorded for the same offence, as also the practical sympathy of some who have to carry out a disagreeable duty towards women resisters.

The resolution, which was passed unanimously and with enthusiasm, ran as follows:

That this meeting, held at the gates of Holloway Gaol, congratulates Miss Clemence Housman on her refusal to pay Crown taxes without representation, a reassertion of that principle upon which our forefathers won the constitutional liberties which Englishmen now enjoy, and also upon the successful outcome of her protest. It condemns the Government's action in ordering her arrest and imprisonment as a violation of the spirit of the Constitution and of representative government; and it calls upon the Government to give votes to women before again demanding from Miss Housman or any other woman-taxpayer the payment of taxes.

Miss Housman's communication to the Home Secretary, asking for information as to a definite term of imprisonment, contains so able a statement of her point of view that it should be widely known. It runs thus:—

That she has resolved to abide by the conditions by law appointed for a woman who, lacking representation, has personally fulfilled a duty — moral, social, and constitutional — by refusing to pay taxes into irresponsible hands. But, while willing to satisfy the requirements of the law at the expense of her personal liberty to any extent, she learns that no limit has been set to these claims either by statute or by judgment, and she believes that it rests with his Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department to rectify what she feels to be a grievance not intended in such a case as hers. She begs, therefore, that he will be so good as to define her term of imprisonment, and she desires this not on personal grounds only, but that, thereby, the comparative cost and value of a woman's liberty and a man's vote may be officially recorded for the understanding of others, women and men.

Also from the same issue:

A large and enthusiastic crowd listened in Hyde Park on Sunday morning to Mrs. Clarkson Swann, who explained fully the Conciliation Bill now before Parliament, and to Mrs. Emma Sproson, who has recently served six weeks in Stafford Jail for non-payment of her dog-tax.…

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The Picket Line — 9 October 2010

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9 October 2010

Last month I shared an Associated Press dispatch from 1978 about a then-upcoming meeting of Quakers, Brethren, and Mennonites who were planning to coordinate war tax resistance. Today, an article reporting on how the conference went, from the 9 October 1978 Milwaukee Sentinel:

Sects Urge Tax Protest for Peace

Green Lake, Wis. — A national meeting of “historic peace churches” — Quakers, Mennonites and Brethren — agreed Sunday to support those who refuse to pay “the military portion” of their federal taxes.

The possibly illegal “war tax resistance” position is a giant step for many in the churches from the passive refusal to bear arms and turning the other cheek.

Statements such as “we are praying for peace but paying for war” prodded the more than 300 delegates at a New Call to Peacemaking conference to back what advocates called an economic moral equivalent to military conscientious objection.

The lengthy statement also urged total disarmament after arms reduction, formation of a peace church delegation to President Carter, establishment of a world peace tax fund and simpler lifestyles.

It is not binding on the 350,000 members of the churches in the US or the nearly one million members worldwide.

The four day conference at the American Baptist Assembly here followed 26 regional meetings with participation by more than 1,500 Quakers, Mennonites and Brethren.

The joint meetings in themselves were a new ecumenical venture in breaking stereotypes. It was the first time in recent years representatives of the churches had met in such a conference.

The national conference challenged congregations and church agencies to consider refusing to pay the military portion of their federal taxes, generally thought to be about half, as a response to Christ’s call to radical discipleship.

It also asked them to “uphold war tax resistors with spiritual, emotional, legal and material support,” and to consider requests of employees who ask that their taxes not be withheld.

As I mentioned last month, the “New Call to Peacemaking” isn’t so new anymore — but it’s still active, as is its sister project Every Church a Peace Church. I think the new $10.40 for Peace campaign may also spring from these roots.

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The Picket Line — 5 October 2010

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5 October 2010

The Vote

From the 5 October 1912 issue of The Vote:

Great Protest Meeting Against the Imprisonment of Mr. Mark Wilks.

“No Government Can Stand Ridicule. The Position is Ridiculous!”

The great meeting of indignant protest against the imprisonment of Mr. Mark Wilks, held at the Caxton Hall on September 25, under the auspices of the Women’s Tax Resistance League, will be not only memorable but epoch-making. The fight for woman’s citizenship in “free England” has led to the imprisonment of a man for failing to do what was impossible. Throughout the meeting the humor of the situation was frequently commented upon, but the serious aspect was most strongly emphasized. Sir John Cockburn, who presided, struck a serious note at the outset; for anything, he said, that touched the liberty of the citizen was of the gravest importance. He remarked that it was the first occasion on which he had attended a meeting to protest against the action of law.

The resolution of protest was proposed by Dr. Mansell Moullin, whose many and continued services to their Cause are warmly appreciated by all Suffragists, in a very able speech, and ran as follows:—

That this meeting indignantly protests against the imprisonment of Mr. Mark Wilks for his inability to pay the tax on his wife’s earned income, and demands his immediate release. This meeting also calls for an amendment of the existing Income-tax law, which, contrary to the spirit of the Married Women’s Property Act, regards the wife’s income as one with that of her husband.

A Husband the Property of His Wife.

Dr. Moullin expressed his pleasure in supporting his colleague, Dr. Elizabeth Wilks, in the protest against the outrage on her husband. The case, he said, was not a chapter out of “Alice in Wonderland,” but a plain proof that, although imprisonment for debt has been abolished in England, a man may be deprived of his liberty for non-payment of money which was not his, and which he could not touch. The only argument that could be used was that Mr. Wilks was the property of his wife. Twice distraint had been made on the furniture of Mrs. Wilks, the third time the authorities carried off her husband; it is the first occasion on which it has been proved that a husband is the property of his wife. The law allows a man to put a halter round the neck of his wife, take her to the market-place and sell her, and this has been done within recent years; but there is no law which allows the Inland Revenue authorities to sell a husband for the benefit of his wife. Governments, he added, can stand abuse, but cannot stand ridicule, and the position with regard to Dr. Wilks and her husband is both ridiculous and anomalous. The serious question behind the whole matter was how far anyone is justified in resisting the law of the land. The resister for conscience’ sake is the martyr of one generation and the saint of the next. Dr. Moullin doubted whether the Hebrews or Romans of old would recognise what their laws had become; we are ashamed of the outrageous sentences for trivial offences passed by our forefathers; our children will be ashamed of the sentences passed to-day. Everything in the law connected with women required reconstruction from the very foundation, declared Dr. Moullin. Constitutional methods, like Royal Commissions, were an admirable device for postponing reform; all reformers were unconstitutional; they had to use unconstitutional methods or leave reform alone. The self-sacrifice of an individual makes a nation great; that nation is dead when reformers are unwilling to sacrifice themselves.

No Man Safe.

Mr. George Bernard Shaw was the next speaker, and gave a characteristically witty and autobiographical address. He said that this was the beginning of the revolt of his own unfortunate sex against the intolerable henpecking which had been brought upon them by the refusal of the Government to bring about a reform which everybody knew was going to come, and the delay of which was a mere piece of senseless stupidity. From the unfortunate Prime Minister downwards no man was safe. He never saw his wife reflecting in a corner without some fear that she was designing some method of putting him and his sex into a hopeless corner. He never spoke at suffrage gatherings. He steadily refused to join the ranks of ignominious and superfluous males who gave assistance which was altogether unnecessary to ladies who could well look after themselves.

“If my wife did that to me, the very moment I came out of prison I would get another wife. It is indefensible.” — George Bernard Shaw

Under the Married Women’s Property Act the husband retained the responsibility of the property and the woman had the property to herself. Mr. Wilks was not the first victim. The first victim was G.B.S. The Government put on a supertax. That fell on his wife’s income and on his own. The authorities said that he must pay his wife’s supertax. He said, “I do not happen to know the extent of her income.” When he got married he strongly recommended to his wife to have a separate banking account, and she took him at his word. He had no knowledge of what his wife’s income was. All he knew was that she had money at her command, and he frequently took advantage of that by borrowing it from her. The authorities said that they would have to guess at the income; then the Government passed an Act, he forgot the official title of it, but the popular title was the Bernard Shaw Relief Act. They passed an Act to allow women to pay their supertax. In spite of this Act, ordinary taxpayers were still apparently under the old regime, and as Mrs. Wilks would not pay the tax on her own income Mr. Wilks went to gaol. “If my wife did that to me,” said Mr. Shaw, “the very moment I came out of prison I would get another wife. It is indefensible.”

Women, he added, had got completely beyond the law at the present time. Mrs. [Mary] Leigh had been let out, but he presumed that after a brief interval for refreshments she would set fire to another theatre. He got his living by the theatre, and very probably when she read the report of that speech she would set fire to a theatre where his plays were being performed. The other day he practically challenged the Government to starve Mrs. Leigh, and in the course of the last fortnight he had received the most abusive letters which had ever reached him in his life. The Government should put an end to the difficulty at once by giving women the vote. As he resumed his seat Mr. Shaw said: “I feel glad I have been allowed to say the things I have here to-night without being lynched.”

Bullying Fails.

Mr. Laurence Housman laid stress on the fact that the Government was endeavouring to make Mrs. Wilks, through her affection, do something she did not consider right. Liberty could only be enjoyed when laws were not an offence to the moral conscience of a people. Laws were not broken in this country every day because they were not practicable. Every man, according to law, must go to church on Sunday morning, or sit two hours in the stocks; it was unlawful to wheel perambulators on the pavement. If the police were compelled to administer all the laws on the Statute Book, England would be a hell. To imprison Mr. Wilks for something which he had not done and could not do was as sane as if a servant were sent to prison because her employer objected to lick stamps under the Insurance Act. The Government had tried bullying, but women had shown that it did not pay. Self-respecting people break down a law by demonstrating that it is too expensive to carry.

Question for the Solicitor to the Treasury.

The legal aspect was the point specially dealt with by Mr. Herbert Jacobs, chairman of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage. He said that it was stupidity, not chivalry, which deprived the husband under the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 of the right to his wife’s earnings, but did not relieve him of responsibility to pay for her. Imprisonment for debt has been abolished; but if it could be shown that a man had the means to pay and refused to pay, he could be sent to prison for contempt of court. Mr. Jacobs suggested that the Solicitor to the Treasury should be asked to reply to the following question: “What has Mr. Wilks done or omitted to do that he should be imprisoned for life?” The law, he added, does not compel a man to do that which he cannot possibly perform. The action of the Internal Revenue authorities may be illegal; it certainly is barbarous and ridiculous.

Bad Bungling

Mr. H[enry].G[eorge]. Chancellor pointed out that the Married Women’s Property Act was an endeavour by men to remove injustice to women, but because they did not realise the injustices from which women suffer and avoided the woman’s point of view, they bungled badly. No one can respect a ridiculous law, and the means to be taken in the future to avoid making ridiculous laws, must be to give women the right to make their opinions effectively heard through the ballot-box. Mr. Chancellor said that he had investigated 240 Bill[s] laid on the table of the House, and had found that 123 were as interesting to women as much as to men; twenty-one affected women almost exclusively; six had relation to the franchise. “When we consider these Bills,” he added, “we rule out the whole experience and knowledge of women. We must abolish sex privilege as it affects legislation. I appeal to men who are Antis to consider the Wilks case, which is possible just so long as we perpetuate the huge wrong of the continued disenfranchisement of women.”

Refinement of Cruelty

In a moving speech Rev. Fleming Williams declared that the case of Dr. Wilks and her husband ought to appeal to men all over the country. He spoke of the personal interviews he had had with Mr. Wilks in the presence of the warder, and of the effect of imprisonment upon him. It was impossible to contemplate without horror the spectacle of the Government’s attempt to overcome the wife’s resistance by the spectacle of her husband’s sufferings. If she added to his pain by humiliating surrender, it would lower the high ideal he cherishes of her principles. “She dare not do it; she will not do it!” exclaimed Mr. Williams. He added that he had had an opportunity of waiting upon the Inland Revenue Board and tried to show them how their action appears to outside people. He had suggested that, in order to bring the law into harmony with justice, representative public men in co-operation with the Board should approach the Treasury to secure an alteration in the law. “But,” declared Mr. Williams, “if women are made responsible by law it will not bring the Government an inch nearer the solution of the difficulty. They may imprison women for tax resistance, but married men would not stand it. The only way is to say to Dr. Wilks, “We will give you the right to control the use we intend to make of your money.”

The resolution was passed unanimously with great enthusiasm, and thus ended a meeting that will be historic.

The Campaign.

A great campaign is being carried on for the release of Mr. Mark Wilks.

On Saturday afternoon, September 28, the Women’s Tax Resistance League held a meeting, followed by a procession in the neighborhood of the prison, and on Sunday there was a large and very sympathetic meeting in Hyde Park. Mrs. Mustard took the chair. Mrs. [Charlotte] Despard and Mrs. [Margaret] Parkes were the speakers. The resolution demanding the release of Mr. Wilks was carried unanomously. Nightly meetings are held in Brixton by the Men’s Federation for Women’s Suffrage.

A great demonstration will take place on Saturday afternoon next, at 3.30, in Trafalgar-square. Members of the Women’s Freedom League and all sympathisers are asked to come and to bring their friends. There will be a large attendance of London County Council teachers — more than 3,000 of whom have signed a petition against the arrest of Mr. Wilks.

A deputation of Members of Parliament and other influential men is being arranged by Sir John Cockburn to wait upon Mr. Lloyd George and to see him personally about the case.

Also from the same issue:

Ignominious Defeat of Law-Makers.

We hope earnestly that before this issue of our Vote appears, news of the relase of Mark Wilks will be brought to us. It seems to us impossible that the authorities of the country can persist in their foolish and cruel action. But, in the meantime and in any case, it may be well for us seriously to consider the situation. We are bound together, men and women, in a certain order. For the maintenance of that order, it has been found necessary for communities and nations all over the world to impose laws upon themselves. In countries that call themselves democratic, it is contended that the civil law is peculiarly binding, because the people not only consent, but, where they have sufficient understanding, demand that the laws which bind them shall, in certain contingencies, be made or changed or repealed according to their need, and because by their voice they place in seats of power the men whom they believe to be honest and wise enough to carry out their will.

That, at least, is the ideal of democracy. For several generations the British nation has claimed the honour of being foremost in the road that leads to its achievement. We (or rather the men of the country) boast of our free institutions, of our free speech, of the liberty of the individual within the law to which he has consented, of the right to fair trial and judgment by his peers when he is accused of offences against that law; above all — and now we have the difference between a democratically governed country and one under despotic rule — not to be liable to punishment for the omission of that which he is unable to perform.

It seems clear and simple enough — what any intelligent schoolboy knows; and yet our so-called Liberal Government, which flaunts in every direction the flag of democracy, which proclaims, here severely and there with dulcet persuasion, that liberty for all is their aim, and that “the will of the people shall prevail,” does not hesitate, when it is question of a reform movement which it dislikes and despises, to set itself in direct opposition to its own avowed principles.

For what do the arrest and imprisonment of Mark Wilks mean? We are perfectly certain that it will not last long. Stupid and inept as it has been, the Government, we are certain, will not risk the odium which would justly fall upon it if this outrage on liberty went on. A Government which has much at stake and which lives by the breath of popular opinion cannot afford to ignore such strong and healthy protest as is being poured out on all sides. To us, who are in the midst of it, that which seems most remarkable is the growth of public feeling. In the streets where processions are nightly held, we were met at first by banter and rowdyism. “A man in prison for the sake of Suffragettes!” To the boy-mind of the metropolis, on the outskirts of many an earnest crowd, that seemed irresistibly funny; but thoughtfulness is spreading; into even the boy-mind, the light of truth is creeping. If it had done nothing else, the imprisonment of Mark Wilks has certainly done this — it has educated the public mind. It is not we, the Suffragists alone — it is women and men in hosts who are asking, What do these things mean?

On the part of these in our movement they mean courage, determination, skilful generalship — aye, and speedy triumph. On the part of our opponents, perplexity and failure.

“This is defeat, fierce king, not victory,” said Shelly’s Prometheus, when from his rock of age-long pain he hurled heroic defiance at his tormentor.

The ills with which thou torturest gird my soul
To fresh resistance till the day arrive
When these shall be no types of things that are.

Woman, in this professedly liberty-loving country, may echo the hero’s words. Defeat, in very truth, for what can the authorities do? Their position is an extraordinary one. In a lucid interval, politicians — not clearly, it may be, understanding the issues involved — passed the Married Women’s Property Act. We believe there were no Antis then to guide and encourage woman-fearing man. This may partly account for it. In any case, the deed was done. Married, no less than single women and widows, became owners of their own property and lords of their own labour. It would have saved the country from much unnecessary trouble if, then, politicians had gone a step further, if they had recognised woman’s personal responsibility as mother, wage-earner or property-owner, and had dealt with her directly. Love of compromise, unfortunately, weighs too deeply on the soul of the modern politician for him to be able to take so wise a course, and it is left for his successor to unravel the tangle.

What are the authorities to do? While, with threats of violence and dark hints of disciplined, organised resistance, Ulster defies them, Suffragists by almost miraculous endurance are breaking open prison doors. While brutal men, under the very eyes of a Minister of the Crown, are torturing and insulting women, in token, we presume, of their devotion to him, the story of the wrongs of women — not only these but others — is being noised abroad. None of our recent publications has been bought so freely as “The White Slave Traffic.” While well-known women tax-resisters are left at large, a man who has not resisted, but who respects women and will not coerce his wife, is arrested and locked up in prison without trial, and, since he cannot pay, for an indeterminate time. A pretty mess indeed, which will take more than the subtlety of an Asquith, a Lloyd George or a McKenna to render palatable to the men on whose votes they depend for their continuance in power! In a few days they will be faced with a further difficult problem. Women are prepared to resist, not only the Income, but also the Insurance Tax.

Let us see what the alternatives are. Mark Wilks may be let out as Miss [Clemence] Housman was; but that will not help the Government. It is a poor satisfaction to a creditor of national importance to know that his debtor is or has been in prison. He wants his money, and the example of one resister may be followed by many others. If so, that big thing the Exchequer suffers. The creditor may, when Parliament comes together, pleading urgency, pass an Act which will make married women responsible for their own liabilities. That might result in a revolt of married women which would have serious consequences. Men who live at ease with their children, shepherded by admirable wives, would find it, to say the least, inconvenient to be deprived periodically of their services. And these men might be in the position of Mark Wilks. They might not be able to pay, while their wives might have no goods on which distraint could be made. Truly the position would be pitiable.

Over the Insurance Act the same difficulties will arise. What is a distraught Government to do?

The answer is clear. The one and only alternative that lies before our legislators is at once to take steps whereby women — workers, mothers, property-owners — shall become citizens. That done, we will pay our taxes with alacrity; we will bring our quota of service to the State that needs our aid, and the unmannerly strife between man and woman will cease.

In the meantime, the law and the legislator are defeated ignominiously, and it is becoming more and more evident that, in a very near future, “the will of the people shall prevail.”

C. Despard.

Also from the same issue:

The “Favouritism” of the Law.

It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to devise a situation which would show more clearly than does the Wilks’ case, how absolutely incapable is the average man of grasping a woman’s point of view, or of realising her grievances and legal disabilities. For seventy years men have been cooly appropriating the Income-tax refunded by the Inland Revenue on their wives incomes. Did anybody ever hear of a man raising a protest against the state of the law which made it possible and legal for a husband to do this? My own experience covers a good many years of Income-tax work, and the handling of some hundreds of cases, but the only complaints I have ever heard have come from the defrauded wives. I have observed that the men always accepted the position with the utmost equanimity. But now, when by the exercise of considerable ingenuity, women have contrived, for once in a way, to put the boot on the other leg, the Press and the public generally is filled with horror, and the air is rent with shrieks of protest from the male sex.

The Evening News sapiently remarks that women might have been expected to have more sense than to seek to show up a law which is “so obviously in their favour”! And The Scotsman says: “One would imagine that the last thing the Wilks’ case would be used for is to illustrate the grievance which woman suffers under the law. Here two laws combine to favour the wife and inflict wrong upon the husband.” And it goes on to deride women and “their inherent illogicality.” Here we see clearly manifest the absolute incapacity of man to realise the existence of any injustice until it touches himself or his fellow man. Nothing could well be more logical than the holding of a man responsible for non-payment of his wife’s Income-tax, since it is the necessary and inevitable corollary of the theory that a wife’s income belongs to her husband, and that all refunds of Income-tax must be made to him, and to him only. It is in accordance with logic and also with strict business principles that no person can claim the advantages of his legal position while repudiating its disadvantages. Thus if a man dies leaving money, his son cannot claim to take that money and at the same time repudiate his father’s debts. He must accept the one with the other. And in exactly the same way, women are no longer going to allow men to claim their legal right to demand re-payment of their wives’ Income-tax, unless they also accept their legal responsibility for its non-payment. The game of heads-I-win-tails-you-lose is played out, and the sooner men realise this fact the better it will be for everybody. The “logic” of The Scotsman and its contemporaries is no longer good enough for women. The law must be forced to take its course where men are concerned as it does where women are concerned.

As to the provisions of the Income-tax Act favouring the wife and wronging the husband, I can only say that Mr. Wilks’ case is the first in all my experience where these provisions acted adversely to the husband. And even in this case they only so acted because women had laid their heads together to bring it about, and thus show how little men relish a law of their own making when it begins to act on the boomerang principle, and they find themselves “hoist with their own petard.”

A few actual instances, casually selected out of a large number, will show how wives have hitherto been “favoured.” A man and his wife have £100 a year each, taxed (at 1s. 2d. in the £) by deduction before they receive it. There are four children, on each of whom the husband is entitled to claim a rebate of £10 a year. (The wife, it should be noted, can never claim any rebate whether she has a dozen or a score of children. And if a widow, having children, re-marries, the rebate on these children goes to thei step-father.) Consequently the husband can, and does, reclaim not only the tax deducted from his own income, i.e. £5 16s. 8d., but also the £5 16s. 8d. deducted from his wife’s income. So he really pays no tax at all, and gains £5 16s. 8d. while she loses a similar amount. Thus the actual position is, that the wife is only worth £94 a year, while he is worth £106 a year, though nominally their incomes are the same. If single, each could claim repayment of £5 16s. 8d., therefore marriage represents a loss to the wife, but a profit to her husband.

A member of the Women’s Freedom League was forced to leave her husband on account of his misconduct, and to bring up and educate her children without any financial aid from him. But for a number of years he regularly drew the “repayment” of her Income-tax, until a merciful Providence removed him from this mundane sphere, by which time it was calculated that she had lost, and he had gained, about £200. At his death she, of course, ceased to be a legal “idiot,” and was allowed to claim her repayment for herself. I may remark here that the Income-tax Act has a favourite method of classifying certain sections of the community, namely, as “idiots, married women, lunatics and insane persons.” I don’t know precisely what the difference is betwen a “lunatic” and an “insane person,” but doubtless there is a difference, though unintelligent persons might think they were synonymous terms.

As regards the point of resemblance between the “idiot” and the “married woman,” it is rather obscure, but after intense mental application I have succeeded in locating it; and really when somebody illuminates it for you it becomes clear as daylight. It is quite evident to me that our super-intelligent legislators are convinced that the woman who is capable of going and getting married is an utter “idiot,” and in fact next door to a “lunatic.” Well, men ought to know their own sex, and if they say that the women who marry them are idiots, it must be true, I suppose. We may therefore take it that a woman evinces her intelligence by remaining unmarried. I ought humbly to explain that, being married myself, I am only one of the idiots, and therefore my ideas on any subject must not be taken to have the slightest value. But to return to our instances of “favouritism,” another man has £230 a year and his wife £170 a year. She pays Income-tax (deducted before receipt) to the tune of £9 18s. 4d., and he pays 2s. 6d.. It sounds impossible, perhaps; but when you know the rules it is quite simple. To begin with, he gets an abatement of £160, which leaves him with £70. Then he gets a further abatement of £67 for insurance premiums, a great part of which premiums are paid by his wife on her own life. This leaves him with a taxable income of slightly over £3, on which he pays 9d. in the £1., amounting to half-a-crown. This couple have no children. If they had any he would begin not only to pay no tax himself, but to have some of hers repaid to him. She, however, under any circumstances, will always be mulcted of the £9 18s. 4d.; unless she becomes a widow, when she will be able to reclaim the whole amount. (The official forms supplied to those reclaiming Income-tax read: “A woman must state whether spinster or widow.”) If we reverse the financial position of this couple, and assume that she receives £230 and he only £170, she would then be paying £13 8s. 4d. Income-tax. Contrast this with his payment of half-a-crown in the same circumstances, and observe how highly she is “favoured.” He, however, would then pay nothing and would receive a “refund” of nearly £3 10s. a year.

A very enterprising and smart young fellow was able to treat himself to a really nice motor-cycle — not the sort that has a side-car for a lady — out of his wife’s “repaid” tax; repaid to him, I mean. He can’t support himself, but depends on her, as she has just about enough for them both to rub along on, though she can’t afford luxuries for herself, and wouldn’t have paid for his. But the Inland Revenue gave him her money quite cooly and without the slightest fuss.

The “Scotsman” will be pleased to hear that this poor husband manages to bear up quite bravely under his “wrongs,” and seems indeed to get a considerable amout of satisfaction out of them. His wife, I am truly sorry to say, doesn’t properly appreciate the favour shown to her by the law.

But then men are naturally brave, and women are by nature a thoroughly ungrateful lot I expect, if they could only see themselves as The Scotsman and The Evening News see them.

Ethel Ayers Purdie.

Are you sure you are not paying too much tax to John Bull? We have recovered or saved large sums for women taxpayers. Why not consult us? It will cost you nothing. Women Taxpayer’s Agency (Mrs. E. Ayres Purdie), Hampden House, Kingsway, W.C. Tel 6049 Central.

Another article from the same issue reads:


In this connection it is interesting to note that three years ago two members of our Edinburgh Branch, the Misses N[annie]. and J[essie]. Brown, walked from Edinburgh to London, chatting of Woman Suffrage with the villagers all along the line of route southwards, many of whom had then not even heard about this question. They started from Edinburgh in June and reached London before the end of July. A further point of interest is that the father of these ladies was the last political prisoner in Claton Gaol in 1859. Mr. Brown’s offence was his refusal to pay the Annuity Tax which he considered an iniquitous imposition. He was imprisoned for one week, but received the treatment of a political prisoner; he had the satisfaction of knowing that his protest led to the repeal of the Annuity Tax. The next people who committed a political offence in Edinburgh were two Suffragettes, who last year — fifty-two years later than Mr. Brown’s incarceration — were imprisoned, but were not treated as political prisoners.

Another article from the same issue:

In Hyde Park.

Notwithstanding the showers a good crowd gathered on Sunday to hear Mrs. Despard, who spoke of the anomalies existing in our laws affecting women and taxation, and referred at length to the imprisonment of Mr. Mark Wilks for his inability to pay his wife’s taxes on her earned income. A resolution expressing indignation at this and demanding Mr. Mark Wilks’ release was passed with only five dissentients. The chair was taken by Mrs. Mustard, who told the audience of the indignation felt by the Clapton neighbours and friends of Mr. and Dr. Elizabeth Wilks over his imprisonment.

A note in another article about the activities of local branches said, in part:

…On Friday evening we had our usual open-air meeting. Mr. Hawkins kindly chaired, and Mrs. Tanner spoke with her usual excellency, bringing in the “Wilks” case in her speech, as a specimen of anomaly in law in which the man suffers. The crowd was sympathetic as regarded “poor old Wilks,” but was swayed otherwise by mistaken ideas of our aims and motives.…

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