Taxation without Representation

The rallying cry for the start of the American Revolution was “taxation without representation.”

It was brought about by the intensely oppressive taxes that the British government put on the colonists in the New World, and they had no one in the government to represent them or their causes.

The British had been involved in the Seven Years’ War from 1756-1763, and it was very expensive. They needed a way to get a lot of the money back, and instead of trying to slowly get a return with the profits being made in the colonies, they wanted it back fast.

To get faster money, they levied heavy taxes on the colonies, which they thought was ok because the war was fought to bring benefits to them as well.

  • The Stamp Act of 1765 was imposed on the colonists by the British Parliament. This act required that any printed material that was used inside the colony had to have an embossed stamp. This tax was on the number of pages, and this is the reason that the average newspaper began being printed on larger sheets. That tradition is carried through today with newspaper printing. The printed materials included documents, newspapers, playing cards, and anything that was printed.
  • The colonists didn’t have anyone representing them in the British Parliament and George Grenville, the Prime Minister proposed the Stamp Act, and it was quickly passed.
  • The American colonists objected to the Stamp Act, and it was then that the famous patriot, Patrick Henry gave his speech at the Virginia colonial meeting: “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
  • In an effort to coordinate representation for the 13 colonies, those in charge of the colonies required that they have a direct representative in Parliament to plead their case, especially in the situation of direct taxes.
  • Twenty-seven delegates from the 13 colonies met at New York City’s Federal Hall to create a resolution that indicated the issue of taxation without representation while affirming that the loyalty to the Crown was not in question. Known as the Stamp Act Congress, they created three petitions that were to be given to the King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons requiring representation.
  • When their petitions had been ignored by everyone in the British government and the King, the colonists made the decision to boycott all British products and goods. The Stamp Act was then repealed by March of 1766.
  • However, this was just the first of taxation efforts by the Crown, and it wasn’t too long before the British Parliament passed the Declaratory Act, which was basically reminding them that they were under the power of the English. A year later, Parliament passed three more acts that affected the colonists while they continued to not be represented to plead their case: The Townshend Revenue Act, the Tea Act, and a group of five acts that were wrapped in the Intolerable Acts.
  • Each of these acts was attempts at repressing the colonists and requiring them to pay taxes and abide by laws that were unacceptable. The tension increased, and anti-British groups began to form, such as the Sons of Liberty, to fight against the new laws.
  • While the colonists did try to reason with the British government, they were essentially ignored, and this led to skirmishes that then started the American Revolution in 1775.



What did the Stamp Act require that the colonists pay?
A tax based on an embossed stamp on every printed material

Why did the British continue to impose such high taxes on the colonies?
To make up for the expenses from the Seven Years’ War

What did Taxation without Representation mean?
Paying taxes without representatives in Parliament for the colonies

What other four “acts” did Parliament pass against the colonists?
The Townshend Revenue Act, the Tea Act, and a group of five acts that were wrapped in the Intolerable Acts

Why did the British think the colonists should pay for the expenses of the war?
Because winning benefited the colonies as well as the British

What war did the high taxes eventually cause?
American Revolution