One could look back to the Stamp Act as a major turning point. The colonists used “no taxation without representation” to demonstrate that they were not going to be taxed in order to support the British Army that was present in America, without having their own benefit from the tax. They began to boycott British goods and impose violent attacks to boycott the act itself. The Tea Act in 1773 and eventual Boston Tea Party were the result of the British replacing one act with another. While many colonists quietly abided by British rule, there were others who would not be silenced. The Boston Tea Party was just an example of militants throughout the colonists who violently opposed British rule and would look to destruction to show it.
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There is what looks to be tension when aligning the values of the British Constitution with what the Crown is trying to impose on the colonists. We look to the Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress on October 19, 1765. Within Dickenson is making arguments that suggest the Constitution is being violated. This would be favorable to the colonists, but not to the Crown that looks to secure the property under British rule.
British rule is driven by the Crown, which is subjective in its alignment with the Constitution itself. “That the only representatives of the people of these colonies, are persons chosen therein by themselves, and that no taxes ever have been, or can be constitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislatures” (Dickenson V). Here, we find that there is a lack of support for the taxes, where there is disagreement within the Crown. That is, Dickenson goes on to suggest that it is “unreasonable and inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the British Constitution, for the people of Great Britain to grant His Majesty the property of the colonists” (Dickenson VI). With respect to the Majesty, it is not favorable under the Constitution to give the property of the colonists to the King.
Samuel Jenyns moves forward to argue against the nature of taxation. “First then, that no Englishmen is or can be taxed but by his own consent as an individual: this is so far from being true, that it is the very reverse of truth” (Jenyns 3). Here, Jenyns is dismissing the argument, where he states, “I believe, is as little likely to be so taxed, as any man in the world,” meaning no man is going to be taxed by his own consent (Jenyns 3). So, we see that there is no man who is going to want to be taxed. Doing so would be foolish, as taxes take away from the monetary progress of the man. Imposing taxes on the American colonies is a theory rejected by Jenyns, who believes that no man should be taxed without his consent. Of course, all men are being taxed without their consent, where the role of the Great Britain empire is to tax.
Great Britain views taxation as a form of control. The thinking is that the Crown needs to uphold a particular level of power and control. In doing so, the Crown is taxing the American colonies in order to maintain the level of order. As a government, taxes are favorable because they ensure that initiatives are funded. Here, we begin to see the argument of the Crown against those who are showing backlash against taxation. That is, the Crown finds it favorable to tax, and necessary to do so in order to uphold the values and authority over the colonists. Whether this is a ploy to maintain control is questionable.
In 1766, Great Britain imposed the Declaratory Act. Here, the Act essentially outlines why it is necessary to maintain this tax and continue to “make laws and statues as aforesaid” (2). Now, Great Britain is in a familiar position of power. From the side of the Crown, it makes sense to continue this dominant position and uphold its Constitution. Whether it is constitutional or not to take the American colonies is less important than securing the appropriate power, and how it is going to lead to more favorable outcomes for Britain moving forward. The Act is influential in describing how and why the Crown moves forward to secure the position it has over the American colonists.
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James Otis continues to impose the rights of the British Colonies. The idea here is that Britain has control of the colonies, and ensuring taxation is needed to maintain control. “Nor then can the subjects in the subordinate government be reduced to a state of slavery, and subject to the despotic rule of others. A state has no right to make slaves of the conquered” (Otis 3). So, British rule cannot over-step its boundaries and make slaves of those who have already been conquered. Whether taxation is a form of slavery is left to interpretation. What is true is the backlash against tyranny and particular forms of rule. “A representation in Parliament from the several Colonies, since they are become so large and numerous, as to be called on not to maintain provincial government…” (Otis 3). Again, we see the desire of the colonists to secure their own form of government. Through excessive taxation, this would not be possible, and it would not be probable that they are going to maintain order if such taxation is imposed on their own government.
Collectively, the grievances hold a strong association with the modern environment. Today, there are gripes against the governing bodies and the laws that they have implemented into society, laws that the people are expected to follow under the threat of consequences. The Declaration of Independence was sure to hold grievances against the British Crown, but does not fully abandon British rule as being favorable to the development of America. Any child is going to hold a grievance against his or her parents; this does not suggest the child does not love the parents. The colonists held grievances against Britain, but there was still a sense of love, the same as a child loving a harsh parent.
- Dickenson, John. The Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress October 19 1765.
- Great Britain: Parliament – The Declaratory Act; March 18, 1766.
- Jenyns, Samuel. The Objections to the Taxation of our American Colonies by the Legislature of Great Britain, briefly consider’d, 1765.
- Otis, James. The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, 1764.
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