On July 11, 1775, the Lancaster County Committee of Correspondence published a broadside urging German immigrants to give as much money as they could afford to the cause of American independence. These German immigrants were targeted, the broadside notes, because they were pacifists — Christians who linked their religious beliefs to counter-cultural practices like the refusal to participate in war. If their “religious scruples” prohibited them from taking up arms, the broadside suggested, perhaps these conscientious objectors could contribute toward the “necessary and unavoidable” expenses of the town.
According to an Associated Press article about this recently discovered broadside, such Christian pacifists of Anabaptist, Quaker, and Moravian stock were “frequently greeted with scorn” in the fledgling republic.
Here’s a bit more about the historical context, via the AP:
As war approached, leaders in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County sought to ease tensions by urging the growing number of German immigrants with religious objections to war to demonstrate their patriotism by giving as much money as they could afford to the revolutionary cause.
The proposition is spelled out in a July 11, 1775, public notice known as a “broadside,” which is on display at the Moravian Archives & Museum [in Bethlehem, Pa.]. Experts recently confirmed it as the only known English-language copy.
Lancaster played an important role in the nation’s early history. It was the largest inland town in America, said Scott Gordon, an English professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem. It was the nation’s capital for one day – Sept. 27, 1777, while the Continental Congress was fleeing British troops who had captured Philadelphia. And it was Pennsylvania’s capital from 1799 to 1812.
Of course, Lancaster County was also the region that witnessed the birth of the Brethren in Christ, known initially as “River Brethren.” Though historical records from this period are scarce, extant sources indicate that the River Brethren came together around this time (the mid-to-late 1770s). The nascent community’s earliest confession of faith indicates a strong resistance to “bearing the sword for revenge or defense,” and at least some of the early River Brethren came out of the Mennonite tradition. Thus, it stands to reason that the committee’s broadside appeal could have been considered by some early River Brethren adherents (or those who would become River Brethren).
Thanks to Jeff Piepho for the tip!