No taxation without representation

No taxation without representation

"No taxation without representation" is a slogan originating during the 1750s and 1760s that summarized a primary grievance of the British colonists in the Thirteen Colonies, which was one of the major causes of the American Revolution. In short, many in those colonies believed the lack of direct representation in the distant British Parliament was an illegal denial of their rights as Englishmen, and therefore laws taxing the colonists (one of the types of laws that affects the majority of individuals directly), and other laws applying only to the colonies, were unconstitutional. However, during the time of the American Revolution, only one in twenty British citizens had representation in parliament, none of whom were part of the colonies. In recent times, it has been used by several other groups in several different countries over similar disputes, including currently in some parts of the United States (see below).

The phrase captures a sentiment central to the cause of the English Civil War, as articulated by John Hampden who said “what an English King has no right to demand, an English subject has a right to refuse” in the Ship money case.

Contents

American Revolution

"No Taxation Without Representation!" was used by Reverend Jonathan Mayhew in a sermon in Boston in 1750.[citation needed] The phrase had been used for more than a generation in Ireland.[1][2] By 1765 the term was in use in Boston, and local politician James Otis was most famously associated with the phrase, "taxation without representation is tyranny."[3]

The British Parliament had controlled colonial trade and taxed imports and exports since 1660.[4] By the 1760s the Americans were being deprived of a historic right.[5] The English Bill of Rights 1689 had forbidden the imposition of taxes without the consent of Parliament. Since the colonists had no representation in Parliament the taxes violated the guaranteed Rights of Englishmen. Parliament contended that the colonists had virtual representation.

However, Pitt the Elder, amongst other prominent Britons and North Americans such as Joseph Galloway, debated and circulated plans for the creation of a federally representative British Parliament or imperial structure with powers of taxation that was to consist of American, West Indian, Irish and British Members of Parliament. Despite the fact that these ideas were debated and discussed seriously on both sides of the Atlantic,[6] it appears no Congressional demand for this constitutional development was sent to Westminster.[7]

The Americans rejected the Stamp Act of 1765 brought in by British Prime Minister George Grenville, and violently rejected the remaining tax on tea imports, under the Tea Act passed in May 1773, at the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. The Parliament considered this an illegal act because they believed it undermined the authority of the Crown-in-Parliament. When the British then used the military to enforce laws the colonists believed Parliament had passed illegally, the colonists responded by forming militias and seized political control of each colony, ousting the royal governors. The complaint was never officially over the amount of taxation (the taxes were quite low, though ubiquitous), but always on the political decision-making process by which taxes were decided in London, i.e. without representation for the colonists in British Parliament. In February 1775, Britain passed the Conciliatory Resolution which ended taxation for any colony which satisfactorily provided for the imperial defense and the upkeep of imperial officers.

Patrick Henry's resolution in the Virginia legislature implied that Americans possessed all the rights of Englishmen, that the principle of no taxation without representation was an essential part of the British Constitution, and that Virginia alone had the right to tax Virginians.[8]

Virtual representation

In Britain, representation was highly limited; only 3% of the men could vote and they were controlled by local gentry.[9] Therefore the British government argued that the colonists had virtual representation in their interests. In English history, "no taxation without representation" was an old principle and meant that Parliament had to pass all taxes. At first the "representation" was held to be one of land, but by 1700 this had shifted to the notion that in Parliament all British subjects had a "virtual representation." "We virtually and implicitly allow the institutions of any government of which we enjoy the benefit and solicit the protection," declared Samuel Johnson in his political pamphlet Taxation No Tyranny. He rejected the plea that the colonists, who had no vote, were unrepresented. "They are represented," he said, "by the same virtual representation as the greater part of England."

The theory of virtual representation was attacked in Britain by Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden, and his ally William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. It was wholly rejected in the colonies, who said the "virtual" was a cover for political corruption and was irreconcilable with their republican belief that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. Colonists said no man was represented if he were not allowed to vote. Moreover, even "If every inhabitant of America had the requisite freehold," said Daniel Dulany, "not one could vote, but upon the supposition of his ceasing to become an inhabitant of America, and becoming a resident of Great Britain." The colonists insisted that representation was achieved only through an assembly of men actually elected by the persons they were intended to represent.[citation needed]

In his first speeches in Parliament, Lord Camden vigorously attacked the declaratory act which was proposed to mollify the crown on the repeal of the Stamp Tax. After his first affirmation of "no taxation without representation" Camden was attacked by British PM Grenville, Chief Justice James Mansfield, Robert Henley, 1st Earl of Northington, and others.[10] He responded:

[T]he British Parliament have no right to tax the Americans. I shall not consider the Declaratory Bill now lying on your table; for to what purpose, but loss of time, to consider the particulars of a Bill, the very existence of which is illegal, absolutely illegal, contrary to the fundamental laws of nature, contrary to the fundamental laws of this constitution? A constitution grounded on the eternal and immutable laws of nature; a constitution whose foundation and centre is liberty, which sends liberty to every individual who may happen to be within any part of its ample circumference. Nor, my Lords, is the doctrine new, it is as old as the constitution; it grew up with it; indeed it is its support; taxation and representation are inseparably united; God hath joined them, no British parliament can separate them; to endeavour to do it, is to stab our very vitals. ... My position is this—I repeat it—I will maintain it to my last hour,—taxation and representation are inseparable; this position is founded on the laws of nature; it is more, it is itself an eternal law of nature; for whatever is a man's own, is absolutely his own; no man has a right to take it from him without his consent, either expressed by himself or representative; whoever attempts to do it, attempts an injury; whoever does it, commits a robbery; he throws down and destroys the distinction between liberty and slavery. Taxation and representation are coeval with and essential to the constitution. ... [T]here is not a blade of grass growing in the most obscure corner of this kingdom, which is not, which was not ever, represented since the constitution began; there is not a blade of grass, which when taxed, was not taxed by the consent of the proprietor. ... I can never give my assent to any bill for taxing the American colonies, while they remain unrepresented; for as to the distinction of a virtual representation, it is so absurd as not to deserve an answer; I therefore pass it over with contempt. The forefathers of the Americans did not leave their native country, and subject themselves to every danger and distress, to be reduced to a state of slavery: they did not give up their rights; they looked for protection, and not for chains, from their mother country; by her they expected to be defended in the possession of their property, and not to be deprived of it: for, should the present power continue, there is nothing which they can call their own; or, to use the words of Mr. Locke, ‘What property have they in that, which another may, by right, take, when he pleases, to himself?’”[11]

In an appearance before Parliament in January, 1766, Prime Minister William Pitt stated:

The idea of a virtual representation of America in this House is the most contemptible that ever entered into the head of a man. It does not deserve a serious refutation. The Commons of America, represented in their several assemblies, have ever been in possession of the exercise of this their constitutional right, of giving and granting their own money. They would have been slaves if they had not enjoyed it.[12]

Grenville responded to Pitt, saying the disturbances in America "border on open rebellion; and if the doctrine I have heard this day be confirmed, nothing can tend more directly to produce a revolution." External and internal taxes are the same, argued Grenville.[13]

Modern use in the United States

The standard-issue District of Columbia license plate bears the phrase, "Taxation Without Representation."

In the United States, the phrase is used in Washington, D.C. as part of the campaign for a vote in Congress. In November 2000, the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles began issuing license plates bearing the slogan "Taxation without representation".[14] In a show of support for the city, President Bill Clinton used the "Taxation Without Representation" plates on the presidential limousine; however, President George W. Bush had the tags replaced to those without the motto shortly after taking office.[15] In 2002, the city council authorized adding the slogan to the D.C. flag, but no new flag design has been approved.[16][17] In 2007, the District of Columbia and United States Territories Quarters program was created based on the successful 50 State Quarters program.[18] DC submitted designs containing the slogan, but they were rejected by the U.S. Mint.[19]

On February 27, 2009, the phrase "No taxation without representation" was also used in the Tea Party protests, where protesters were upset over increased government spending and taxes, and specifically regarding a growing concern amongst the group that the U.S. government is increasingly relying upon a form taxation without representation through increased regulatory levies and fees which are passed via unelected government employees who have no direct responsibility to voters and cannot be held accountable by the public through elections.[20]

British Prime Minister John Major used a modified version of the quote, with the order reversed, in October 1995, when at the United Nations's 50th Anniversary celebrations he said, "It is not sustainable for states to enjoy representation without taxation," in order to criticize the billion-dollar arrears of the United States' payments to the UN, echoing a statement made the previous month at the opening session of the UN General Assembly by UK Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind.[21]

To become citizens of the United States, immigrants most often must be permanent residents for a period of time (usually 5 years).[22] Permanent residents must pay taxes on their worldwide income and, in most cases, cannot vote. However, throughout the 19th century, many states did allow immigrants to vote after they had declared their intention to become citizens. This was primarily because these new states were populated largely by immigrants who had not yet attained citizenship. Throughout U.S. history, non-citizens have been allowed to vote in 40 U.S. states and territories.[23][unreliable source?] Today, non-citizens are allowed to vote in seven jurisdictions in the United States.[24]

The phrase is also used by other groups in America who pay various types of taxes (sales, income, property) but lack the ability to vote, such as felons (who are, in many states, barred from voting), people who work in one state and live in another (thus having to pay income tax to a state they don't live in), or people under 18.[25]

Modern use in Canada

In Canada, Québec politician Gilles Duceppe, former leader of the Bloc Québécois, has repeatedly cited this phrase in defending the presence of his party in Ottawa. The Bloc is a Québec sovereigntist party solely running candidates in Canadian Federal elections in the province of Québec. Duceppe's evocation of the phrase implies that the proponents of Quebec's sovereigntist movement have the right to be represented in the body (which they are), the Canadian Parliament, which levies taxes upon them. He will usually cite the sentence in its original English, whether speaking English or French.[citation needed]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ McCullough, David (2001). John Adams. New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster. pp. 61. ISBN 13:978-0-7432-2313-3. 
  2. ^ For a critical and detailed account of how the slogan came about, see the series of three articles posted on the blog Boston 1775, on April 25, 26 and 27, 2009, titled respectively, Who Coined the Phrase “No Taxation Without Representation“?, James Otis, Jr., on Taxation Without Representation, Looking for “Taxation Without Representation”
  3. ^ Daniel A. Smith, Tax Crusaders and the Politics of Direct Democracy (1998), 21-23
  4. ^ Unger, pg. 87
  5. ^ John C. Miller, Origins of the American Revolution. 1943. pp. 31, 99, 104
  6. ^ The politics of liberty in England ... - Google Books. Books.google.co.uk. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=uPcBYBteYKEC&pg=PA345&lpg=PA345&dq=the+declaratory+act+imperial+representation. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  7. ^ http://www.sagehistory.net/revolution/topics/representation.htm; http://www.jstor.org/pss/550146
  8. ^ Miller p 122–25
  9. ^ Miller p 212
  10. ^ 16 Parliamentary History of England, London: Hansard, 1813, pp. 170-77. "Lord Northington, leaving the woolsack, commenced in a tone most insulting to the new Peer, and, what was much worse, most insulting to the people of America,--Benjamin Franklin being a listener below the bar ... .” 5 Lord Campbell, Lives of the Lord Chancellors, p. 181.
  11. ^ 16 Parliamentary History of England, London: Hansard, 1813, pp. 177-81.
  12. ^ Walford Davis Green, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham and the Growth and Division of the British Empire, 1708-1778. 1901. p. 255.
  13. ^ see http://journals.cambridge.org/production/action/cjoGetFulltext?fulltextid=275183 for legal questions surrounding the constitutional nature of the Imperial Crown-in-Parliament's right to legislate and tax for the British Isles and Empire, and the colonies' chartered rights to legislate and tax themselves
  14. ^ Chan, Sewell (November 5, 2000). "Message Gets Rolling; D.C. Government Enlists Residents' Vehicles In Campaign for Congressional Representation". The Washington Post: p. C01. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost/access/63411917.html?FMT=ABS. Retrieved August 6, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Political License Plate Is Out, Bush Says". The New York Times. January 19, 2001. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C06E0DB173CF93AA25752C0A9679C8B63. Retrieved July 5, 2008. 
  16. ^ District of Columbia Flag Adoption and Design Act of 2002.
  17. ^ Nakamura, David; Woodlee, Yolanda (December 11, 2003). "First Mayor's Widow Favors a Fighting Flag". The Washington Post: p. DZ02. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A53056-2003Dec10&notFound=true. Retrieved August 6, 2008. 
  18. ^ U.S. Mint: District of Columbia and United States Territories Quarter Program . Retrieved January 9, 2009.
  19. ^ Duggan, Paul (February 28, 2008). "Mint Rejects Voting Rights Message". The Washington Post: p. B03. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/27/AR2008022703445.html. Retrieved August 6, 2008. 
  20. ^ "Protestors Gather for Self-Styled Tea Party". Myfoxchicago.com. 2009-02-27. http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/TeaParty. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  21. ^ "Chronology of the United Nations Financial Crisis: 1995 - Global Policy Forum". Globalpolicy.org. http://www.globalpolicy.org/finance/chronol/fin1995.htm. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  22. ^ "USCIS Home Page". Uscis.gov. http://uscis.gov/graphics/services/factsheet/howdoi/B3.pdf. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  23. ^ "Histories of Immigrant Voting Across the U.S". Immigrantvoting.org. http://www.immigrantvoting.org/statehistories/statelist.html. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  24. ^ "Current Immigrant Voting Rights Practices and Movements". Immigrantvoting.org. 2005-04-20. http://www.immigrantvoting.org/statescurrent/statelist.html. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  25. ^ Top Reasons National Youth Rights Association of Southeast Florida Wants a Lower Voting Age, 16tovote.com

References

  • William S. Carpenter, "Taxation Without Representation" in Dictionary of American History, Volume 7 (1976)
  • John C. Miller, Origins of the American Revolution. 1943.
  • Edmund Morgan. Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America (1989)
  • J. R. Pole; Political Representation in England and the Origins of the American Republic (1966)
  • Slaughter, Thomas P. "The Tax Man Cometh: Ideological Opposition to Internal Taxes, 1760-1790."
  • Unger, Harlow, John Hancock, Merchant King and American Patriot, 2000, ISBN 0785820264
  • William and Mary Quarterly 1984 41(4): 566-591. ISSN 0043–5597 Fulltext in Jstor

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