French and Indian War about Colonies

Taxation and Representation

In the years between the end of the French and Indian War and the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, 1763-1775, the colonies and the mother country debated the right of Parliament to legislate for the colonies. The British claimed that Parliament held this right without question, while the colonies insisted that only a body which they actually elected could tax them. While the British espoused the commonly-held notion that Parliament represented all British possessions virtually, the colonists drew on their experiences with their colonial legislatures, maintaining that the only true representation was actual representation. In this discussion you will read the accounts below, which are written from either a British or a colonial point of view and in a statement of 3-4 paragraphs select a position in the debate over taxation and representation. (Meets Course Learning Objectives: 3 and 9)

Suggested Readings

  • Patrick Henry: Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death. Yale University. Avalon Project.
  • Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists.
  • Great Britain, Parliament: The Declaratory Act, March 18, 1766. Yale University. Avalon Project.
  • Great Britain : Parliament: The Quartering Act, June 2, 1774 Yale University. Avalon Project.
  • Soma Jenyns, The Objections to the taxation Considered, 1765:

Focus Question I

Use the following questions to guide your thinking and to prepare for the class discussion.

  1. According to the documents that state the Parliamentary position (those from the Parliamentary Acts and Jenyns), what rights did the mother country have over the colonies? If these documents mention the right to tax, what specifically do they say about this right?
  2. Do you discern in the documents written by the British an acknowledgement of political rights belonging to the colonists?
  3. What do the colonial leaders (Henry, Adams and the members of the Continental Congress) say about the right of taxation?
  4. According to these men, what political rights belonged exclusively to the colonies? Were any powers to be shared by the colonial legislatures and Parliament.


1. What was the colonial reaction to the Stamp Act?  Include acts by

(a) colonial legislatures

(b) colonial merchants and

(c) colonists themselves.

2. How was colonial reaction to the Coercive or Intolerable Acts different from their response to the Stamp Act?  Why do you think this led to violence?

3. Not all colonists joined the protests.  Why do you think some colonists resisted overt action against their legitimate government?

4. Imagine that you were living in the colonies at the time and you had the  same station in life you now have, how do you think that you would have reacted?  Be honest, think of you attitude today toward the authority of the national government, and to taxes levied by that government. 


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