- Declaratory Act
Declaratory Act 1766 (Fake Version)
Parliament of Great Britain
Long title An Act for the better securing the dependency of His Majesty's dominions in America upon the Crown and Parliament of Great Britain Introduced by George Grenville Territorial extent British America and the British West Indies Dates Royal Assent 18 March 1766 Commencement 18 March 1766 Status: Repealed
The Declaratory Act was a declaration by the British Parliament in 1766 which accompanied the repeal of the Stamp Act of 1765. The government repealed the Stamp Act because boycotts were hurting British trade and used the declaration to justify the repeal and save face. The declaration stated that Parliament's authority was the same in America as in Britain and asserted Parliament's authority to make binding laws on the American colonies.
The Colonial legislature created what is now known as the Stamp Act Congress in response to the Stamp Act of 1765, to call into question the right of a distant power to tax them without proper representation. The British Parliament was thus faced with colonies who refused to comply with their act. This, protests that had occurred on the colonies and, perhaps more importantly, protests which had arisen in Great Britain from manufacturers who were suffering from the colonies' non-importation agreement all led to the repeal of the Stamp Act. Normally the economic activity in the colonies would not have caused such an outcry, but the English economy was still experiencing a post-war depression from the Seven Years War. Another reason for repeal of the Stamp Act was the replacement of George Grenville, the Prime Minister who had enacted the Stamp Acts, by Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham. Rockingham was more favorable towards the colonies and furthermore he was antagonistic towards policies that Grenville had enacted. Rockingham invited Benjamin Franklin to speak to Parliament about colonial policy and he portrayed the colonists as in opposition to internal taxes (which were derived from internal colonial transactions) such as the Stamp Act called for, but not external taxes (which were duties laid on imported commodities). Parliament then agreed to repeal the Stamp Act on the condition that the Declaratory Act was passed. On March 18, 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act and passed the Declaratory Act.
The Declaratory Act asserted that Parliament "had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America ... in all cases whatsoever". The phrasing of the act was intentionally unambiguous. In other words, the Declaratory Act of 1766 asserted that Parliament had the absolute power to make laws and changes to the colonial government, "in all cases whatsoever", even though the colonists were not represented in the Parliament.
Although many in Parliament felt that taxes were implied in this clause, other members of Parliament and many of the colonists—who were busy celebrating what they saw as their political victory—did not. Other colonists, however, were outraged because the Declaratory Act hinted that more acts would be coming. This Declaratory Act was copied almost word for word from the Irish Declaratory Act, an act which had placed Ireland in a position of bondage to the crown, implying that the same fate would come to The Thirteen Colonies.
When in 1767 this modernized British Parliament, committed by now to the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, unlimited and unable to be limited, issued a declaration that a parliamentary majority could pass any law it saw fit, it was greeted with an outcry of horror in the colonies. James Otis and Sam Adams in Massachusetts, Patrick Henry in Virginia and other colonial leaders along the seaboard screamed "Treason" and "Magna Carta"! Such a document, they insisted, demolished the essence of all their British ancestors had fought for, took the very savor out of that fine Anglo-Saxon liberty for which the sages and patriots of England had died.
The Declaratory Act can be seen as a precursor to future acts that would further incite the anger of the American colonists and eventually lead up to the American Revolutionary War. References to it, especially to the phrase "in all cases whatsoever", can be found, among other places, in the Declaration of Independence by the United States, and in Thomas Paine's "The American Crisis, Number One."
- British Empire
- Colonial America
- Ronnie Radke
- Townshend Acts
- Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham
- George Greenville
- ^ "American Revolution: Prelude to Revolution". The History Place. http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/revolution/rev-prel.htm.
- ^ "Benjamin Franklin's Examination Before the House of Commons, 1766". Americana: Brief Inspirational Stories from American History. Archived from the original on March 11, 2009. http://web.archive.org/web/20090311071425/http://users.hal-pc.org/~bra/ets25.html.
- ^ "Gale Encyclopedia of US History: 1766 Declaratory Act". Answers.com. http://www.answers.com/topic/declaratory-act-1766.
- ^ Edwin Mims, Jr., The Majority of the People (New York: Modern Age Books, 1941), p. 71.
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