The Grievances of the Colonists

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What arguments did the colonists use to object to the new taxes in 1764 and 1765?

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The colonists' objection was that they were denied the rights of Englishmen; specifically the right to be taxed only by their duly elected representatives.

The Seven Years War (the French and Indian War in America) had been costly to the British Empire, and since the war had been fought to protect the colonists, it seemed reasonable to George Grenville, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the colonists should assume some small part of the debt. He also was determined to put a stop to the smuggling that had been rampant in the colonies. Among the measures Grenville pushed through Parliament:

  • The Sugar Act of 1764 which cut the tax on molasses but levied new taxes on sugar, wine, coffee, indigo, and foreign textiles. It was significant because it was the first attempt by Parliament to raise revenue from the colonies. Previous taxes and regulations pursuant to the Navigation Acts had been solely for the purpose of regulation to protect Britain's Policy of Mercantilism.
  • The Stamp Act of February, 1765 which was scheduled to take effect on November 1 of that year was a documentary stamp tax (in common use in this country today) placed a tax on legal documents, dice, playing cards and newspapers.

Englishmen had always been taxed only by representatives duly elected by them. This was among the precious "rights of Englishmen" under Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights of 1688.  The colonists regularly paid taxes levied by colonial legislatures with no objection; now, however they were being taxed by Parliament where they had no representation; hence the protest of "taxation without representation." The colonists were not interested in representation in Parliament, which was not feasible; they wanted any tax to be imposed by those whom they had elected. They were proud of their status as Englishmen and believed that they deserved the same rights as their brethren in Britain.

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