Taxation without Representation Ryan Vote March 8, 2010 U. S. History It can easily be said that the Stamp Act of 1765 was the beginning of the revolution for the colonies of North America, Before the Stamp Act, there were other failed attempts to tax the colonies by the British parliament. Each attempt to gain money from the colonies was unlawful because there was a lack of representation from Parliament. The Stamp Act of 1765 was very detailed and expensive for the colonists. The Stamp Act was the final act of taxation by Parliament before the colonies started to fight back and seek independence from Britain.
Britain was struggling with a growing debt from previous wars. For example, the French and Indian War that lasted from 1756 until 1 763 was very expensive for Britain. It nearly doubled their debt. The debt was so expensive that “Merely to pay the interest would require a heavier burden of taxation that had been known before” (Morgan, 21). Moreover, it continued to be expensive after this war was over due to the fact that Butt Ministry decided in early 1763 to keep ten thousand British regular soldiers in the American colonies.
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It was said that the soldiers were kept in the colonies because many would be out-of- ark otherwise. Also, the American colonies “were a liability: until the Englishmen outnumbered the hostile French and Indian population, there would be constant danger of repossession by France in a future war” (Morgan, 22). Therefore, British Parliament felt that it was necessary to keep soldiers within the colonies. Because of this, Parliament looked directly at the colonies for money to help their own debt. “In all fairness the Americans should help support the army protecting them” (Morgan, 22).
George Greenville of British Parliament, who became the Prime Minister in April of 763, undertook the Job of finding ways to alleviate his country’s debt. He thought “Americans were grossly under taxed by comparison with Englishmen” (Morgan, 23). Giving the British people more taxes was out of the question for Greenville because the Cider Tax was proof that there would be continued protesting if they received another. Greenville found that there were already laws on the books that should have been making money for Parliament from the Americans.
However, “the returns from these duties demonstrated equally the success of the American smugglers and the failure of the royal custom collectors” (Morgan, 23). Greenville demanded that the deputies stop taking bribes instead of customs, that colonial governors start checking in on the deputies and that the Navy to start patrolling the American ports. “To obtain a satisfactory revenue from them, he would have to get Parliament to revise them” (Morgan, 24). George Greenville did much research before going ahead and taxing the colonists with the Sugar Act of 1764.
The Sugar Act of 1764, it was usually called, because the part of It which drew most attention was the three-penny tax on stamp duties. “Greenville evidently doubted that the revenue from the new [Sugar Act] duties would be as much as he wanted from the colonies… He simply announced his intention of levying a stamp duty??that is, an excise tax on various documents and articles made of paper??sometime in the future” (Morgan, 26). Greenville received much advice from other Parliament members about how much the Sugar Act tax should be set at.
He knew that “duties on foreign molasses, whether large or small, were an advantage to the British sugar planters. But in order to benefit the Treasury, the duties must be set at a figure which, though high enough to yield a good income, loud not be so high as to stop the flourishing trade and hence the revenue” (Morgan, 26). After much debate, in May of 1764 the colonists received news of the sugar tax that was to be imposed upon them. It was settled on a tax of 3 pence a gallon of molasses instead of 6 pence. That was not being enforced before; Parliament accepted it without a stir.
Also, with the Sugar Act came restrictions of lumber exports. Colonial lumber (a big export of the colonies because there was so much) was now only allowed to export to Great Britain. ‘Though from there it could be shipped, the increased costs might well destroy the trade” (Morgan, 29). Moreover, there were also new wine duties and an abolition of drawbacks on foreign textiles. The colonists were shocked and upset at the high taxes being imposed upon them. It seemed that all the colonists’ money-making exports were being taxed. The old solution of smuggling was no longer practical, for the risk of seizure was so great that the added cost of smuggling would have the same effect as the payment of duties” (Morgan, 29). The British Navy residing in America made sure that every tax was collected, even for the smallest load. The colonists found that the Ana was extremely strict and UN-bending to even loads being sent over rivers. Every ship was found by the Navy in need of a seize and detain method. The American merchants started to fight back. They boycotted pilots who brought naval vessels into port, offered mates and midshipmen higher wages than the Navy was allowed to pay, and raised howling mobs” (Morgan, 30). Afterwards, Parliament prohibited paper money as legal tender and the colonists feared that they would have to go back to bartering. A small outcry of unconstitutionality started in Boston in mid 1764. James Otis published a pamphlet of colonial rights “arguing that nature and the English Common Law entitled the colonists to the same rights as Englishmen” (Morgan, 35).
The colonists were not even able to elect government officials for the British Parliament and taxing them was seen as unconstitutional by the colonists. They kept asking to Just levy their own taxes within each colony. “It was an abuse of the Parliamentary power to regulate trade… [it] infringed colonial rights… By imposing duties on branches of colonial commerce which did not conflict with British interests” (Morgan, 38). It kept raising the question of was this Sugar Act a regulation of trade or was it a mere revenue measure? Of course the latter was more unconstitutional than the other.
This created a huge debate and outcry between Parliament and the colonists. However, by the time the Sugar Act was condemned, the Stamp Act was put into place in March 1765. Finally the Stamp Act was in place; George Greenville had been planning this for well over two years, having drafts written up in 1763. “The printed text of the act occupied some twenty-five pages and documents that were now to have an added tax were: court proceeding papers, allege diplomas, bonds, grants, bills of sale, contracts, leases, appointments to public office, liquor licenses, playing cards, dice and newspapers. All these would now have to be written or printed on paper carrying a stamp embossed by the Treasury Office” (Morgan, 73). The taxes on each document was anywhere from 3 pence to 10 pence and pamphlets were taxed a penny a sheet. “The amounts had to be paid in sterling, not colonial currency’ (Morgan, 72). This tax was used to build supplies for the troops stationed in America. Not long after the Stamp Act was introduced to the colonists, riots ensued. Daniel Dually was a famous pamphleteer that really started the uproar.
He was widely read and approved because of his intelligence. He wrote many pamphlets on the Parliament’s right to tax the colonists’ issue. “Dually had been particularly struck by the absurdity of the argument for Virtual’ representation” (Morgan, 80). He read that the “Ministry had argued for the Stamp Act in Parliament on the ground that the colonies were all virtually represented in Parliament, in the same manner as those of the subjects in Great Britain, who did not vote for representatives” (Morgan, 80).
He set out to prove that he colonies were not represented by Parliament and Greensville whole argument would be destroyed. He proved “no English property-holder was in the same situation as an American” (Morgan, 85). He argued for the natural rights of man and that the House of Commons could not make a bill of taxation. Moreover, he argued and wrote that “no British subject could be taxed except by the consent of his representatives. Though the American colonists were British subjects, they were not represented in Parliament but only in their colonial assemblies.
Therefore the colonial assemblies could tax them, but Parliament could not” (Morgan, 88). In addition, many influential people within the colonies made public announcements against taxation without representation. For example, Benjamin Franklin was also concerned about the tax and was noted to say that, “l never heard any objection to the right of laying duties to regulate commerce; but a right to lay internal taxes was never supposed to be in Parliament, as we are not represented there” (Franklin Interview).
Also James Otis, a young lawyer from Massachusetts wrote that “The very act of taxing exercised over those who are not represented appears to me to be depriving them of one of their cost essential rights as freemen, and if continued seems to be in effect an entire disfranchisement of every civil right” (Otis). Their words were admired by many colonists and Delays pamphlets were bought up by the hundreds. Their words were the main reason Americans found courage to revolt and began to send petitions to Parliament.
With the help from the Sons of Liberty, the Stamp Act demonstrations became violent and forced stamp collectors into resigning. Some American merchants even boycotted importing any goods. The colonists were taking a stand against Britain and its unlawful tax. Finally, the Stamp Act of 1765 was repealed in March of 1766. It seems that Parliament had had enough. They may have even agreed with the colonists about their lack of real representation. However, by this time there was a new Prime Minister; Lord Rocking became the new leader in 1765.
George Greenville no longer had the authority to keep the Stamp Act in affect and this may have been part of the reason it was repealed. Most importantly, all of the Stamp Act. Problems between the colonists and an unseen government seemed inevitable. Thomas Paine, author of a pamphlet called Common Sense, said it best about British Parliament, “As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of calling the right of it in question” (Paine).