Revolutionary War record (what does it mean?).

+4 votes
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I found my ancestor listed as a Private during the Revolutionary War (October 1776, in New Jersey), but I don't understand the meaning of the three Pounds money being collected.  It says some men had paid the "fine", so is this a fine for not showing up for service?

Here is what it says:  " You are hereby required to make Distress and sale of the Goods and Chattles of the persons names hereafter mentioned Privits in said Company to the value of three pounds money...persuant to an ordinance of the Convention of New Jersey passed ye 11th day of August" (1776).
in Genealogy Help by Kenneth Kinman G2G6 Mach 5 (59.0k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Where did you find this record? Was there a title, source, or other context you haven't described here?

It does sound like this might be a penalty for not showing up for training or for service.

There are a lot of Shotwells listed (many of whom were Quakers), so maybe it was a "Quaker fine" for not serving.  But Quakers apparently would forbide its members from paying such fines, so the fines had to be seized (or goods seized to be sold to collect the fines).   

However, I'm not sure all the "Privates" on this list were Quakers.  If they never served would they still be classified as a Private?  You can see it here:   https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89WB-9T3J?i=184&cc=2068326

Several of the names have the remark "sick" by them.  This would hint at the idea that the fine was for being AWOL or not showing up.

1 Answer

+7 votes
Any time you didn't appear for militia muster you were fined.  It doesn't mean that the ancestor wasn't otherwise in good standing with the military, sometimes you missed a muster because of a sick family member or crops that needed tending.  Often, these "fines" were issued and waived when the militia member came to the next drill and had a good reason.  But monthly drills weren't always recorded because they were "ordinary," and often, we only have remnants from the past for events that were not ordinary.

If you could post a link and/or the full text and title of your record it would help us to understand it better.
by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)

The odd thing is that everyone being fined is apparent a Private (no Corporal, Sergeants, etc.).  Three of the Cole brothers are listed, and my ancestor's brother David Cole is listed as having paid the fine.  I don't think they were Quakers though, and if David was a Quaker, I think he would get into trouble with the Church for paying such a fine.  And I haven't yet found any other records showing them on Muster Rolls in the Revolutionary War.

Here's a link:  https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89WB-9T3J?i=184&cc=2068326

I could be mistaken but I believe that the Quakers blessed the paying of fines to avoid military service.

There are many on the list who did not pay.  I believe that on first muster, those who didn't show - maybe to test if it would be enforced - showed after they were threatened with fine.  It seems that most didn't pay the fine, they probably took the warning and thereafter began to turn out for muster.

If you left click the photos a few to the left, you'll get to image 182 and it gives a good description:

A list of names of men in Capt. William Garthwait's Co., Col. Edward Thomas Battn., New Jersey Militia, in which Capt. Garthwait directs any of his Co. [Company] Sergeants to make distress and sale of the goods and chattels of his men persuant to a N. J. ordinance passed Aug. 11 - the list being dated Oct. 24, 1775 and list of names with property distrained.

Here's what I found on the subject of Quaker military fines in one source ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quakers_in_the_American_Revolution#cite_note-10): 

Additionally, Quakers rejected not only the conflict itself, but also refused to pay any taxes or fines that supported a militia. The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of 1776 outlined this rule for its constituents:

It is our judgment [it laid down] that such who make religious profession with us, and do either openly or by connivance, pay any fine, penalty, or tax, in lieu of their personal services for carrying on war; or who do consent to, and allow their children, apprentices, or servants to act therein do thereby violate our Christian testimony, and by doing so manifest that they are not in religious fellowship with us.

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