Explain what the British meant by virtual representation.hae support details.

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Virtual representation was a theory proposed by George Grenville, British Chancellor of the Exchequer just after the French and Indian Wars. It was Grenville who had proposed collecting taxes directly from the colonies by means of the Sugar Act of 1764 and the infamous Stamp Act. He hoped to collect some amount of taxes from the colonies to pay for the costs of the wars and also put a stop to Salutary Neglect. The colonists loudly protested Grenville's attempts to tax them; they argued that they were denied the rights of Englishmen to be taxed only by their duly elected representatives. They neither wanted nor expected representation in Parliament; but firmly believed that any tax levied on them should be imposed by those who represented them, namely the colonial legislatures.

Grenville was ready for the protests, and responded that many Englishmen did not have representation in Parliament as they lived in areas which were not properly apportioned, even though they were taxed. He argued that each member of Parliament in fact represented the entire British Empire, including the colonies, not just the districts from which they were elected. Thus, any city in America had as much representation as any city in England. Thus the colonists had "virtual" representation in Parliament. Grenville overlooked (perhaps conveniently) the fact that all members of Parliament were Englishmen living in England. The colonists branded his theory as nonsense almost immediately.

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