Meaning of No Taxation Without Representation

The basic meaning of the slogan 'no taxation without representation', has been discussed here, also an explanation of, what we call today the law of rights, duties and freedoms. Let's take a look at the explanation.
The expression, though just a slogan, is the foundation of one of the greatest revolutions that created the United States. The American revolution, was not just spur of the moment decision that was taken by the people of the 13 colonies, the entire revolution was a series of events, and the Declaration of Independence describes the primary purpose, of the American revolution and also the purpose of no taxation without representation. Meaning of the term is very straight forward and its roots can be traced back to the English Civil War and comment by John Hampden, which goes: "what an English King has no right to demand, an English subject has a right to refuse". The following is the legal background that tells more about the said term.


The word revolution is a very heavy and important word. This word implies the fact that something new and everlasting has been established, that overcomes the flaws of the earlier systems. The first major revolution in the history of modern civilization is the French Revolution. The people effectively established a republic as a solution to the tyranny of the king and nobility. The industrial revolution made commerce faster and more advanced, as a replacement to the old slow ways of production. Thus we can see that every revolution as a staunch belief that drives it to success as finally makes its objective an institution, that is something that lasts forever. Since the 1750's the Americans, who at that time were British subjects were discontented with several unfair British policies, that included the Sugar Act, Currency Act, Townsend Acts and the Tea Act. Tyranny, taxation and economic problems were the core grievances that the British crown had been unable to solve. Apart from that, the British parliament adopted a corrupt policy of using the colonies as sources of cheap resources to feed the economic development that was going on in Europe. The British policies began to grow more and more unjust and cruel to the interests of the colonists, incidences such as the Boston Massacre, where physical violence and death were prominent, grew. In short, things had been set into motion which could not be undone.


Now, a group of people known as the Patriots, which included great thinkers and visionaries such as Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Paine, rightfully argued that being British subjects they were being deprived of a basic right of Englishmen. The Bill of Rights, 1689, was legislation that stated that the crown was not authorized to tax without proper permission from the parliament. However, the colonists were not at all represented in the parliament, and hence the term. Reverend Jonathan Mayhew of Boston used the term in 1750, in a sermon for the first time and before long it became the slogan of the Patriots.

In due course of events, as things started to go out of hand, some thoughtful parliamentarians, including Pitt the Elder and Joseph Galloway, came up with the proposition of making the British parliament a Federal body, with appropriate representation from colonies and British provinces such as West Indies, Ireland and America. In 1773 and 1765, the colonists rejected the Tea Act and the Stamp Act that were aimed at further taxation. The parliament considered any rejection of legislature as a crime, and sought to use military force. However, the response of the colonists was unexpected, as they threw out the Royal Governors by force and formed regional militias and took control of the legislatures for each colony, marking the start of the revolution. A frightened Prime Minister George Grenville, argued that the colonists were 'virtually represented' in the parliament by the British subjects living in England. This claim was however rejected by the Americans. In 1775 the British made another attempt to tax the colonists by passing the Conciliatory Resolution, but it was in vain.

Overall, the term, 'no taxation without representation', became the slogan of not just the Patriots, but was adopted by all the revolutionaries. In the modern era the term is also used for political protests in several regions and nations. Of late, it has been used in Washington D.C. protests and was used by Gilles Duceppe, a Quebec politician.
By Scholasticus K
Last Updated: 9/29/2011
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