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ISBN: 9781771131797-01

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“Scruples of Conscience” and the Historic Peace Churches in the War of 1812

From: Worth Fighting For

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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.

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Jonathan Seiling

Jonathan Seiling is a Research Associate at the Institute for Peace Church History in Hamburg, Germany, and specializes in the history of radicalism and dissent in Christianity, with a focus on the Anabaptist- Mennonite tradition. He was the Chair of the 1812 Bicentennial Peace Committee, comprised of Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren in Christ. He also publishes translations of early modern sources, primarily from German.