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Taxation Without Representation


"TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION" was at the center of the ideological underpinnings of the American Revolution. Resistance to the practice originated with the establishment of parliamentary supremacy in England, especially during the seventeenth century, when "no taxation without representation" was asserted as every Englishman's fundamental right. Colonial leaders also struggled during the seventeenth century to establish their provincial assemblies' sole power to tax within the colonies. When Parliament attempted to raise revenues in the colonies after 1763, colonial leaders vigorously protested, arguing that their rights as Englishmen guaranteed that, since colonists were not directly represented in Parliament, only their representatives in the colonial assemblies could levy taxes.


Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Enlarged ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1992.

Greene, Jack P. The Quest for Power: The Lower Houses of Assembly in the Southern Royal Colonies, 1689–1776. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1963.

Morgan, Edmund Sears. The Birth of the Republic, 1763–89. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956.

Aaron J.Palmer

See alsoAssemblies, Colonial ; Colonial Policy, British ; Stamp Act ; Sugar Acts ; Taxation andvol. 9:Massachusetts Circular Letter ; Patrick Henry's Resolves ; Stamp Act .

Taxes are not to be laid on the people but by their consent in person or by deputation… these are the first principles of law and justice and the great barriers of a free state, and of the British constitution in part. I ask, I want no more—Now let it be shown how 'tis reconcilable with these principles or to many other fundamental maxims of the British constitution, as well as the natural and civil rights which by the laws of their country all British subjects are entitled to, as their best inheritance and birthright, that all the northern colonies, who are without legal representation in the house of Commons should be taxed by the British parliament.

SOURCE: James Otis (Massachusetts lawyer and pamphleteer), "The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved," Boston, 1764.

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