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Stamp Act and Declaratory Act, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1109

Essay

Although several arguments made by the colonists to British Parliament were articulated against the passage of the Stamp Act, the punitive law was passed and scheduled to be implemented on November 1, 1765.  As a result, the colonists found more violent and vigorous ways to vehemently protest the Act. Patrick Henry, a politician from Virginia, delivered a fiery speech in addition to pushing through five resolutions through the Virginia Assembly. In New York, the Stamp Act Congress, which consisted of nine delegates, petitioned both Parliament and the King. In Boston, Sam Adams inspired an angry mob and the Sons of Liberty damaged the property of a known Stamp Act agent (). Merchants in New York and Philadelphia refused to purchase or sell any British products until the deplored tax was repealed. Such heated protest and storm of resistance eventually led to the repeal of the Stamp Act, and Stamp agents had to resign their positions before ever selling stamps to any of the colonists. The Stamp Act was repealed the following year and was replaced by the Declaratory Act, which gave the British government latitude to pass any law they pleased and enforce it in the colonies.  The American colonists vehemently deplored and resisted against the Stamp Act because they decried taxation without representation, which resulted in its eventual repeal. The passage of the Declaratory Act, however, solidified the inevitability of the American Revolution in which the Americans sought to divorce ties with their British overlords.

The colonists viewed their rights through the lens of the British Constitution because they believed that as free people only a representative government retained the right to exact any taxes on them. As such, the colonists argued that the British Parliament did not represent them because no colonial representatives were involved in the decision-making process. As such, the Stamp Act was an internal tax, and the colonists argued that Parliament lacked the authority to levy it on the colonists. Viewed as insidious directive against the colonists, the Stamp Act was designed to procure revenue from the colonists’ activities, and agents would have the power to seize the property of colonists without their consent. As such, the law directly violated their liberty as free colonists (“The Stamp Act,” 1765). Moreover, although the colonists retained the power to choose whether or not to purchase goods that were taxed under initiatives such as the Sugar Act, they could not escape the diverse activities that were taxed under the reviled Stamp Act. Taxation without representation thus emerged as the impetus for colonial resistance to the Stamp Act.

To better understand the arguments articulated by the colonists regarding the repeal of a coercive and punitive law, it would be helpful to reflect on the writings of conservative lawyer Daniel Dulany from Maryland, who penned a pamphlet entitled Propriety of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies, for the Purpose of Raising a Revenue, by Act of Parliament, which was disseminated and read by a broad audience. Dulany succinctly summarizes the position of the colonists on the Stamp Act in addition to rebutting all of the justifications for the passage of the law. Moreover, through the resolutions and Dulany’s pamphlet, the colonists articulated their view of the power of the British Parliament over the American colonists as limited, and the view that legislation and taxation were unequivocally distinct from one another. The Stamp Act was repealed not because of the violent protests spearheaded by the colonists but rather because of the fact that the boycotting of British goods was interfering with commerce and shipping, thereby hurting the British economy.

Despite the fact that the Stamp Act was repealed, it was essentially replaced with a far more punitive act, the Declaratory Act, which enabled the British government to enforce any policy they saw fit. The passage of this law mirrors the English perception of empire because it conveys the belief that the English monarch and Parliament retained total control over the colonists and thus could make decisions and pass laws regulating the colonists in a manner that benefited the mother country. The British did so against the consent of the colonists, which starkly contrasts from the belief amongst the colonists that they were fit to govern themselves and render their own decisions without the interference of a monarch who was out of touch with their reality and lived thousands of miles away. Indeed, without government representation, the colonists argued, they should not be required to pay taxes at the behest of a foreign entity. Indeed, the Declaratory Act was an immediate reaction of the British Parliament to the failed efforts of the Stamp Act because Parliament refused to stray from the principle of colonial taxation. As such, the British government asserted its legal right to tax colonies through the invocation of imperial principles. Conversely, within an imperial framework, subjects never have government representation and thus submit to the laws and directives of the ruling power. To refute the claims made by the colonists, the Imperial government argued that they retained the right to legislate their colonies vis-a-vis “virtual representation” since the colonies were members of the British Empire. As mentioned previously, the colonists proffered an argument based on the premise that they only had representation at the micro level. Moreover, colonists contended that only internal legislative bodies were legally able to levy internal taxes, not the prerogative of their imperial overlord.

Ultimately, this paradigm of virtual representation acknowledged that the British Parliament in theory represented all British citizens and the interests of those residing in Britain all we those located across the Atlantic in North America, not just those located in the districts that elected the officials. As expected, this notion was eschewed by the colonists since the British government never guaranteed to safeguard British subjects living abroad. It was impossible for the colonists to procure physical representation due to the distance between Britain and the United States. The only practical way for virtual representation to work would be through a provincial government charged with the power to implement internal taxation.

References

Bullion, J.L. (1992). British Ministers and American Resistance to the Stamp Act, October – December 1765. The William and Mary Quarterly, 49(1), 89-107.

Declaratory Act of 1766. Retrieved October 11, 2014 from file:///home/chronos/u-02c710ee7512500a428058227636109084998a5a/Downloads/Declaratory%20Act%20of %201766.pdf

Dulany, D. (1765). Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies, for the Purpose of Raising a Revenue, by Act of Parliament. Oberlin. Retrieved October 11, 2015 from http://www.oberlin.edu/faculty/gkornbl/H397F10/Dulany-Considerations.htm

Meier, P. (1972). Resistance to revolution. Colonial radicals and the development of American   opposition to Britain, 1765-1776. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Morgan, E.S., & Morgan, H.M. (1953). The Stamp Act crisis, prologue to Revolution. Williamsburg, VA: University of North Carolina Press.

National Humanities Center. (2013). Colonists respond to the Stamp Act. National Humanities Center. Retrieved October 11, 2015 from http://americainclass.org/sources/makingrevolution/crisis/text3/stampactresponse17 65.pdf

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