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Taxation and Representation- A Debate British Perspective

  • Type of paper: Essay (Any Type)
  • Subject: Art
  • Pages: 4

The colonies owed allegiance to the Imperial Crown of Great Britain. The Parliament of Great Britain had the power to impose laws and statutes on all of its colonies because it held the supreme authority. The colonies had their own distinct governments but they were all subject to the supreme authority of the Crown of Great Britain. However, in 1763-1775, the colonies and Great Britain argued about the extent that the parliament of Great Britain could legislate over the colonies. It all began after the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act of 1756 which imposed taxes from the American colonies. The British Parliament passed The Declaration Act of March 18, 1776 after the Stamp Act of 1965 was repealed due to pressure from American legislators. This new act solidified the authority that the British parliament had over the colonies. The Act declared that the British parliament had “full power and authority to make laws and statutes to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever” (The Declaration Act). This Act put the colonies under the supreme control of Great Britain despite the fact that they had their own governments. Various Englishmen such as Soame Jenyns defended parliament’s right to tax the colonies. According to The Objections to the Taxation of our American Colonies by the Legislature of Great Britain, 1765, Jenyns explained that the British Parliament had every right to enact laws and statutes such as taxation on the colonies because the members of parliament acted in their capacity for all the King’s subjects and not just the people who had elected them. This meant that their rule extended up to the colonies which were under the Crown. He used the examples of other cities such as Manchester and Birmingham that had no representation in Parliament but they are represented by virtue of being British subjects; just as the Americans. “If the towns of Manchester and Birmingham sending no representatives to parliament are notwithstanding there represented… Are they not alike British subjects or are they only Englishmen when they solicit for protection, but not Englishmen when taxes are required to enable this country to protect them”. He further explained that anyone who enjoyed the benefits of the British and the protection of the British should pay taxes. Samuel Johnson in Taxation no Tyranny, 1775 also reiterated the right of Great Britain to impose laws on its colonies by stating that, “Of every empire all the subordinate communities are liable to taxation, because they all share the benefits of government, and, therefore, ought all to furnish their proportion of the expense”. He said the colonies should share the burden with the mother country since they reaped the benefits of the money “it is their duty to pay the costs of their own safety”. According to the Report of the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting, The Rights of the Colonists, Nov. 20, 1772 by Samuel Adams, the colonists had various rights. Such rights included the natural rights as men. Examples of natural rights included the right to life; the right to liberty; the right to own, support and defend property; the right to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience, peaceably and quietly; and the right to freedom. There were also the rights of the colonists as Christians. They were guided by “the institutes of the great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church” (Adams). They had the right to worship God according to their own consciences and this was protected by the Toleration Act. All Christians except the Papists were allowed liberty of conscience in worship. They also had rights of the colonists as subjects. They had the “rights to personal security, personal liberty, and private property”. Everybody who was born in the colonies was entitled to the same rights as those who were born in the Great Britain. Legislators from the thirteen colonies in America were against the Stamp Act and they petitioned their grievances through The Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress, October 19 1765. The basis of their petition was the argument that Parliament did not have the right to impose taxes on them because they were not represented in the Parliament. They also argued that the imposed taxes would impact the businesses negatively since it would be a burden on the traders, “the duties imposed by from the peculiar circumstances of these colonies, will be extremely burthensome and grievous; and from the scarcity of specie, the payment of them absolutely impracticable”. This is because most of the profits went to the British manufacturers; they only exported the raw materials for the industries. They called for a repeal of the Stamp Act saying it would foster the already good relationship between Great Britain and America. Dickenson says, “the increase, prosperity, and happiness of these colonies, depend on the full and free enjoyment of their rights and liberties, and an intercourse with Great-Britain mutually affectionate and advantageous”.

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