Debating the Issues in Colonial Newspapers: Primary Documents on Events of the Period

By David A. Copeland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17
"No Taxation without
Representation," 1765-1766

Before the Stamp Act crisis of 1765 (see Chapter 16), Americans in the thirteen colonies shared similar interests and concerns on many issues. All had been attentive, for example, to newspaper reports about the French and Indian War and the effect a French victory would have had on America. The Stamp Act was regarded as an attack on them by their own government. It led to the formation of a protest group known as the Sons of Liberty, and of the Liberty Tree, a place within towns where people joined together to protest and to post complaints.

The Stamp Act launched American objections to taxes and to the way colonists were represented in Parliament. Each colony had its own assembly made up of representatives from all over the colony, but any law passed by those assemblies ultimately had to be approved by Britain. If Americans were not truly represented in Parliament by delegates chosen by Americans, many colonists reasoned, Parliament had no right to pass laws that affected the colonies or to enforce those laws.

The English concept of representation for the people of Great Britain was called virtual representation, and its merits--or lack thereof--became a point of contention in 1765. The debate continued to the Revolution. In both America and England, people argued about the validity of virtual representation. George Grenville, Lord of the Treasury and the Stamp Act's chief proponent, used a pamphlet written by one of his secretaries, Thomas Whately, to explain how virtual representation worked in relation to the American colonies.

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