Fort Wayne, Indiana
May 1, 2019 thru August 28, 2019
]No Taxation without Representation
the Intolerable Acts and
The Stamp Act
During the colonial period the cost of protecting the frontier settlements was covered by taxes levied on the citizens of England. However, due to the additional costs of the French and Indian war, the tax burden became excessive. In order to cure this difficulty the British parliament attempted to raise revenue by requiring a tax stamp on various documents such as deeds and even newspapers of the citizens of the American Colonies.
The birth of the Revolutionary War, which gave the United States its independence, can be traced back to the colonists' first complaints of taxation without representation. The first British Parliamentary attempt to raise revenue through direct taxation of all colonial commercial and legal papers created an unexpected avalanche of protest from the colonists. The Stamp Tax was a common revenue device in England. However, the colonists had never had an act of Parliament dictate the imposition of an internal tax. Insulted, the colonists effectively nullified the Stamp Act by outright refusal to use the tax stamps as well as by riots, stamp burning and intimidation of colonial stamp distributors. Even Benjamin Franklin was surprised at the vigorous protests and quickly withdrew his son William's name from an application for a position as Tax Collector.
The Stamp Act struck at vital points of colonial economic operations and affected many of the most articulate and influential people in the colonies (lawyers, journalists and bankers). Outraged protesters ignored the fact that the tax money was to be spent in protecting the borders of the American colonies. Taxes for citizens living in England were huge. And so far Americans paid no tax. Soon cries of "No legislation without representation" and "taxation without representation is tyranny" was soon heard throughout the colonies. The idea of colonial members of Parliament, several times suggested, was never a likely solution because of problems of time and distance.
The English idea of empire was thought to be a consolidated empire, where various colonies were together in one connected whole. The British thought of themselves as parents and the colonists as children. Thus colonial insubordination was 'unnatural', just as the revolt of children against parents was unnatural. England had long accepted the fact that an Act of Parliament was the ultimate power and that Parliament's power over England (and the colonies) was essentially unlimited. So when England found itself in the position of having to raise money for the expenses of the French and Indian War, it took the colonists' obedience for granted.
The Americans envisioned a federated empire or a central government consisting of a number of separate states, each of which retained control or 'rights' respecting its own internal affairs. In America, the full implication of the omnipotence of the Parliament was obscured by the fact that historically, parliament's power had been only used for maintaining an imperial commercial system, but leaving the internal concerns of each colony under local direction. This 'benign neglect' resulted in the development of resident control with mostly colonial-born leaders.
This contrast of English and American ideas of representation was fundamental and central to the conflict.
The Boston Tea Party of the year 1773 was evidence that even a bargain low internal tax in place of the normal expensive duty would not tempt the New Englanders to give up their principles. Britain then concentrated on efforts at coercion and passed a series of acts (The Port Acts) which hopefully would have the effect of bringing the colonists to a due respect for imperial power; but, instead of improving, conditions grew worse. The breach slowly widened and the Revolution passed from the stage of controversy to that of war.
The English side of the argument: "We pay huge taxes, Americans pay no taxes, Can't they help out with a tiny amount to support their own border defense?"
The American side of the argument: "We have no voice in the government, Why can't we have representation in the government if we must pay taxes?"