War Tax Resistance History

400 B.C.E. to 1699 C.E.

411 B.C.E.: Lysistrata Was a Right-On Woman

In Aristophanes’ play, Lysistrata, Greek women refused to have sex with their war-mongering husbands until they agreed to stop fighting, and they provided an early example of war tax resistance.


LysistrataMagistrate
: What in Zeus’ name do you mean by shutting and barring the gates of our own Acropolis against us?
Lysistrata: We want to keep the money safe and stop you from waging war.
Magistrate: The war has nothing to do with money.
Lysistrata: Hasn’t it? Why are Peisander and the other office seekers always stirring things up? Isn’t it so they can take a few more dips in the public purse? Well, as far as we are concerned, they can do what they like; only they’re not going to lay their hands on the money in there.
Magistrate: Why, what are you going to do?
Lysistrata: Do? Why, we’ll be in charge of it.
Magistrate: You in charge of our finances?
Lysistrata: Well, what’s so strange about that? We’ve been in charge of you’re your house keeping finances for years.
Magistrate: But that’s not the same thing.
Lysistrata: Why not?
Magistrate: Because the money purse is needed for the war!
Lysistrata: Ah, but the war itself isn’t necessary.

—From Aristophanes, Lysistrata (411 B.C.), translated by Alan H. Sommerstein, Penguin Classics, reprinted in the Peace Tax Campaign Newsletter from Great Britain.

200 B.C.E.: Egypt

Collective tax refusal was reported in Egypt.

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1197 C.E.: St. Hugh of Lincoln St.

sthugh-3Hugh refused to pay a tax to fund Richard the Lionhearted’s war against the King of France. All his property was seized.

1500s: Dutch Wars

Many people refused to pay a special war tax imposed on the Dutch to finance the wars of Philip II, King of Spain and Duke of Holland.

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1515: Danish Taxes

Norwegian peasants refused to pay tax increases levied by the Danish king to support his war against Sweden. They killed the tax collectors.

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1630s: Norway

There was a widespread movement against paying taxes in Norway.

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1637: Native Americans

Algonquins opposed taxation by the Dutch to improve a local Dutch fort.

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Mid-1600s: Humanists

A group of humanists in the Netherlands refused to pay taxes due to their opposition to violence.

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1672: Quakers in America

Quakers refused tax payments for the repair of fortifications in New York at the beginning of the Anglo-Dutch War.

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1689: Pennsylvania Colony

The Quaker Assembly in charge of the Pennsylvania Colony was resistant to appeals for funds to aid in King William’s War.

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pre-1700s1700s1800s1900–19591960s1970s1980s1990s2000s