“Scruples of Conscience” and the Historic Peace Churches in the War of 1812
From: Worth Fighting For
Upper Canadian settlers in the Niagara region probably suffered greater effects from the land battles of the War of 1812 than citizens of any other region on the continent. Yet the many instances of opposition to the war or sluggish co-operation with the British military authorities cannot be reduced to a principle of pacifist war resistance. On the other hand, the historic peace churches—today called Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren in Christ—made great efforts to be ¿nonresistant¿ by refusing to support violence in any form. By examining how religious beliefs about nonviolence informed resistance to both military action and domestic support of it, this chapter demonstrates that faith-based war resistance and state exemptions for conscientious objection have a long tradition in Canadian history. Detailed glimpses are offered of the social experience of these early war resisters—people whose stories rarely fit into contemporary celebrations of this infamous war but whose actions profoundly shaped the legal foundations of modern recognition of conscientious objection.