1763 – end of French & Indian War; Proclamation of 1763; Grenville Program, 1764-65; writers react to the Stamp Act 1765 argue over Parliament’s right to tax the colonies and representation Thomas Whatley



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1763 – end of French & Indian War; Proclamation of 1763; Grenville Program, 1764-65;
writers react to the Stamp Act 1765

argue over Parliament’s right to tax the colonies and representation
Thomas Whatley, “The Regulations Lately Made…” 1765

He was a member of Parliament

argued that there was nothing unusual about the tax

** Why would a people who benefitted from the war mind to pay taxes?

** Argued for virtual representation – colonists, like the majority of English residents who did not vote for representatives in the House of Commons, were virtually, if not actually, represented in Parliament;

Parliament represented not just the constituency they sat for or the voters, but the whole of the British world


“No new law whatever can bind us that is made w/o the concurrence of our representatives”

“The Acts of Trade and Navigation, and all other Acts that relate ether to ourselves or to the Colonies, are founded upon no other Authority; they are not obligatory if a Stamp Act is not, and every Argument in support of an exemption from the superintendance of the British Parliament in the one case is equally applicable to the others.

“The Constitution knows no Distinction; the colonies have never attempted to make one; but have acquiesced under several parliamentary taxes”

“The right of making such a law has never been questioned”


Daniel Dulany, “Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies…” 1765

He was a Maryland lawyer


** Refutes virtual representation argument;

says it applies to Great Britain, bc the people in the home islands have much more in common; but, does not apply to the colonies bc they have dissimilar interests/problems


** He distinguishes btn Parliament’s right to legislate and its right to tax;

says Parliament could impose taxes if they were intended to regulate trade, but does not have the right to tax for the purpose of revenue



William Pitt

Member of Parliament; disagreed with idea of virtual representation

"...I assert the authority of this kingdom over the colonies, to be sovereign and supreme, in every circumstance of government and legislation whatsoever"

"The idea of virtual representation of America in this House, is the most contemptible idea..."

"...this kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies."
Stamp Act is repealed and the Declaratory Act is passed late 1765
Lull from Jan. 1766 to Summer, 1767, expect for NY where they were getting into trouble for not complying with the Quartering Act
New tax program under new leader of Parliament Charles Townshend; called Townshend Acts; instituted in 1767 to punish NY and reassert Parliament’s authority in the colonies
John Dickinson, “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania..." (1767-68)

"Let these truths by indelibly impressed on our minds--that we cannot be HAPPY, WITHOUT being FREE--that we cannot be free, without being secure in our property--that we cannot be secure in our property, if, without our consent, others may, as by right, take it away--that taxes imposed on us by parliament, do thus take it away..."


"...the single question is, whether the parliament can legally impose duties to be paid by the people of these colonies only, for the sole purpose of raising a revenue,...If they can, our boasted liberty is but
Vox et proeterea hihil.

A sound and nothing else."



Massachusetts Circular Letter (Feb. 11, 1768)

[drafted by Samuel Adams] Mass. House of Representatives sent letter to the speakers of other colonial lower houses. Declared Townshend Rev. Act unconstitutional.


"That in all free States the Constitution is fixd; & as the supreme Legislative derives its Power & Authority from the Constitution, it cannot overleap the Bounds of it without destroying its own foundation: That the Constitution ascertains and limits both Sovereignty & allegience, & therefore, his Majestys American Subjects who acknowlege themselves bound by the Ties of Allegiance, have an equitable Claim to the full enjoyment of the fundamental Rules of the British Constitution. That it is an essential unalterable Right in nature, ingrafted into the British Constitution...that what a man has honestly acquired is absolutely his own, which he may freely give, but cannot be taken from him without his consent...."
Again, somewhat of a lull. Then events in Massachusetts take center stage.

The Boston Massacre occurs in March, 1770

Townshend dies in late 1767 and is replaced by Lord North, who repealed the Townshend Acts except for the tax on tea; colonies are actively boycotting British goods

In December, 1773, the Boston Tea Party occurs

In retaliation, Britain institutes the Coercive or Intolerable Acts in 1774

This causes another flurry of colonial writing in opposition to Britain’s policies


Arguments swing from representation to the authority of Parliament over the colonies and the role of the King; statements are more desperate, but still not advocating independence; First Continental Congress meets in 1774
James Wilson "Considerations on the authority of Parliament" Aug. 17, 1774

"Those who launched into the unknown deep...sill considered themselves as subjects of the English monarchs...but it nowhere appears that they thought the authority of the English parliament extended over them. They took possession of the country in the King's name...held lands under his grants...no application for those purposes was made to the parliament...as is usual in England....

The colonists ought to be dependent on the king, because they ave hitherto enjoyed, and still enjoy his protection.

The connection and harmony between Great Britain and us...will be better preserved by the operation of the legal prerogatives of the crown, than by the exertion of an unlimited authority by parliament."


William Pitt - colonial sympathizer, called Boston Tea Party "a criminal act"

Isaac Barré – supporter of colonies, said in response to the Boston Port Bill - "embrace it for its moderation"
Thomas Jefferson "A summary view of the rights of British-America" (August, 1774)

Argues that Parliament had no authority over colonies, bound to Britain through allegiance to the King; warned the King that his actions might drive colonists to separation


"That settlements having been thus effected in the wilds of American, the emigrants thought proper to adopt that system of laws under which they had hitherto lived in the mother country, and to continue their union with her by submitting themselves to the same common Sovereign, who was thereby made the central link connecting the several parts of the empire thus newly multiplied."

Joseph Galloway letter to Richard Jackson (August 10, 1774)

Argues for a compromise; eventually would side with the British

"both countries should retreat a little....Great Britain ought not in Equity to exercise a Law-making authority over the Colonies, while they are destitute of any opportunity or constitutional Mode of communicating....And that the Colonies ought...to be vested with a constitutional Power of communicating that Knowledge...."
fighting breaks out at Lexington & Concord in April, 1775, and Bunker Hill in June, 1775; second Continental Congress meets in emergency session, 1775
Thomas Jefferson Declaration of the causes and necessities of taking up arms (July 6, 1775)

"Resolved to dye free-men rather than live slaves"

"Our forefathers...left their native land, to seek on these shores a residence for civil and religious freedom. At the expence of their blood, at the hazard of their fortunes, without the least charge to the country from which they removed...they effected settlements in the distant and inhospitable wilds of America.... Societies or gov'ts, vested with perfect legislatures, were formed under charters from the crown, and an harmonious intercourse was est. btn the colonies and the kingdom from which they derived their origin.

...we assure them that we mean not to dissolve the Union which has so long and so happily subsisted btn us, and which we sincerely wish to see restored. Necessity has not yet driven us into that desperate measure.... We have not raised armies with ambitious designs of separating from Great Britain, and establishing independent states."


Jacob Duché, "The American Vine" (July 20, 1775)

"Testify to the world, by you example as well as by your counsels, that ye are equally the foes of VICE and of SLAVERY --- Banish the Syren LUXURY, with all her train of fascinating pleasures, idle dissipation, and expensive amusements from our borders. Call upon honest industry, sobr frugality, simplicity of manners, plain hospitality and christian benevolence to throw down the usurpers, and take possession of their seats."


Advocation and eventual acceptance of independence argument
Thomas Paine, Common Sense (January, 1776)

Attacked the British Constitution and the system of Monarchy

Says the constitution was too complex and too easily corrupted to be responsive to the people

Called the king a “royal brute” who was a “hardened, sullen-tempered Pharoah”

Reasoned for complete separation and the creation of a continental government
Landon Carter, Diary (May 1, 29, 1776)

feared social chaos

"...my only dread has been on account of this separation which she, her King, her ministry and her Parliament have barbarously driven us into, least from the secret inclination of some to an arbitrary sway themselves we might fall into a worse situation from internal oppression and commotions than might have been obtained by a serious as well as cautious reconciliation."
John Dickinson, "Arguments against the Independence of the Colonies..." (July 1, 1776)

"Great Britain after one or more unsuccessful Campaigns may be induc'd to offer Us such a share of Commerce as would satisfy Us, to appoint Councillors during good Behaviour, to withdraw her armies, to protect our Commerce, Establish our Militias--in short to redress all the Grievances complain'd of in our first Petition. Le Us know, if We can get Terms from France that will be more beneficial than these. If we can, let Us declare Independence. If We cannot, let Us at least withold that Declaration, till We obtain Terms that are tolerable."



John Adams to Abigail Adams (July 3, 1776)

"Britain has been filled with folly, and America with wisdom."

"Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in that day's transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not."

The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
…whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


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