Echoes of Oregon History Learning Guide
Church of the Brethren Petition, 1856
Transcript of original document:
To the Honorable The Legislative Assembly of the Teritory of Oregon We the undersigned Respectfully represent to your Honerable Body that at a Church Meeting of the Church of Brethren (commonly called German Baptists or Tunkards) held on the first nunday of September 1856 at the Hamilton Creek School house in Lyn County that the undersigned (members and brethren of the Church aforesaid) were chosen a committe and instructed to present to your Honerable Body the following petition
Wm B Carly
We your petitioners Respectfully request of youre Honerable Body that where as by the presant Military Law we are compelled to do violence to our consience by bearing Arms to be trained in the art of killing our fellow men or pay an exhorbitant fine and where as we are taught in the gospel to be obedient to the Laws their remains no alternative but to submit and pay the fine- therefore our request is that you shold take our case in to faivorable concideration and so amend the aforesaid Military Law as to permit us to Laibor on the highway that portion of time that we are by the presant Law commanded to bear arms and we you petitioners as in duty bound do pray &c Signed each and everymember of the Church aforesaid
Passed by a unanimous vote
Members of the Church of the Brethren came to Oregon from settlements in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. Their practices included simple dress, refusal to swear oaths, and pacifism. These beliefs often caused suspicion and hostility among outsiders. This petition requests the territorial legislature to exempt members of the Church from the provisions of the militia law. The petitioners offer to work on the roads in lieu of militia service. The following year the legislature decided to allow religious exemptions from the militia act.
Words and Terms
For Further Discussion
1. What do the members of the Church of the Brethren want from the legislature?
2. How do you think their neighbors would have reacted to their attitude?
3. What reasons do the members of the Church of the Brethren give for making this request?
4. Do similar beliefs exist today?