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What does 'Taxation Without Representation' mean

Taxation without representation is a situation in which a government imposes taxes on a particular group of its citizens, despite the citizens not consenting or having an actual representative deliver their views when the taxation decision was made. This situation was one of the triggering events that spurred the original 13 American colonies to revolt against the British Empire.

BREAKING DOWN 'Taxation Without Representation'

To recoup losses Britain incurred defending its colonies during England’s Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), Parliament began taxing colonists directly. One tax, the Stamp Act of 1765, required affixing an embossed revenue stamp to printed documents used or created in the colonies. Stamp Act violators were tried in vice-admiralty courts that operated without a jury.

Revolt Against the Stamp Act

Colonists believed the tax was illegal because they had no Parliamentary representation and were denied the right to a trial by jury. On Oct. 9, 1765, 27 delegates from nine of the 13 colonies met at New York City’s Federal Hall to create a Stamp Act Congress. William Samuel Johnson from Connecticut, John Dickinson from Pennsylvania, John Rutledge from South Carolina and other prominent politicians met for 18 days. The delegates approved the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, stating the delegates’ joint position for other colonists to read.

Resolutions three, four and five clarified the delegates’ loyalty to the crown, stressing taxation without representation was the issue. A later resolution disputed admiralty courts conducting trials without juries, citing violation of Englishmen’s rights.

The Congress drafted three petitions for the king, House of Lords and House of Commons. Although initially ignored, boycotts of British imports and other financial pressure from the colonists led to the Stamp Act’s repeal in March 1776.

American Revolution

Due to years of increasing tensions over unjust laws and taxations, along with violence from British troops for nonconformance, the American Revolution began on April 15, 1775, with battles in Lexington and Concord. After the war ended in 1783, 4,435 troops were reported dead and 6,188 wounded.

Declaration of Independence

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution to the Congress declaring the 13 colonies free from British rule. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were among the representatives chosen to word the resolution.

The first part was a simple statement of intent, including phrases about all men being created equal and having unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The second section listed the colonists’ grievances, including King George’s attempts to create tyranny, and why the colonists sought independence. The final paragraph dissolved the colonists’ ties with Britain.

Following Congressional debate, the colonists approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. As president of the Congress, John Hancock signed the document. After defeating the British in the American Revolution, the 13 colonies were officially independent of Britain.

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