No Taxation Without Representation


Reverend Jonathan Mayhew
Photo by: Magnus Manske Creative Commons

No taxation without representation” refers to the slogan from 1750s and 1760s that encapsulates the prime grievance of the Thirteen Colonies. It is actually part of a sermon given by Jonathan Mayhew in 1750. It was also one of the causes of the American Revolution. The lack of representation in the British Parliament was a clearly a violation of the rights of the colonists. Thus, taxation and all other laws that affected the colonists directly and indirectly were not constitutional at all. During the American Revolution, there were only a few British citizens that were represented and they were not even a part of the colonies. The phrase summarizes the sentiments that caused the English Civil War, as told by John Hampden. He said in the ship money case who said that an “English King has no right to demand and an English subject has no right to refuse.”

Tax, tax, tax

The British Parliament controlled colonial trade and implemented the taxing of imports and exports since 1660. This historic right was deprived to the Americans by the time the 1760s came. Under the English Bill of rights, the imposition of taxes without consent of the Parliament was utterly forbidden. Since colonists were devoid of representation in the Parliament, this was in violation of the rights of the colonists. In the end, the British Parliament insisted on the fact that the colonists had virtual representation.

Pitt the Elder was a famous Briton and North American like Joseph Galloway who debated and spread plans to create imperial structure or federal representative of the British government. This involved taxation powers that included American, Irish, West Indian and British Members of Parliament. The ideas seriously underwent debates and discussions from different sides of the Atlantic. However, there was no formal demand that was sent to Westminster in the end.

Virtual Representation?

Representation was very limited in Britain with only 3% of men that were allowed with the utmost controlled being done by the local gentry. The British Government then said that colonist had virtual representation to their advantage. No taxation without representation meant that the government had to pass all taxes. This is according to English history. The representation used to be land until it became virtual representation. Samuel Johnson trashed the plea of colonists who had no vote to be unrepresented. According to him: “They are represented by the same virtual representation as the greater part of England.”

The virtual representation theory was lambasted in Britain by Charles Pratt, 1st Earl of Camden and William Pit, Earl of Chatham, his ally. The colonists also rejected it as a whole saying that it was hid political corruption and was unidentifiable with the beliefs of the republicans. There is not representation if a man is not allowed to vote.

In the Parliament’s first speeches, Lord Camden trashed the proposal to mollify the crown when the Stamp Act was repealed. When the “no taxation without representation” was first affirmed, Camden received the ire of PM Greenville, Chief Justice James Mansfield, 1st Earl of Northington and Robert Henley.

Essentially the British Parliament had no right to impose tax on the Americans.

15 Responses to “No Taxation Without Representation”

  1. Joseph says:

    It’s a good article. But I think the date is wrong. It is not 1960, but It should be 1660.
    *The British Parliament controlled colonial trade and implemented the taxing of imports and exports since *1960. →1660.

  2. Tiffany Malone says:

    I like this article thank you.

  3. tommy says:

    this was a good article but i can fijnd better information

  4. corinne says:

    how do I cite your website? who is the author of the no taxation without representation website?

  5. daneille smith says:

    this description does not review the ultimate cause and effect of no taxation without representation, if not fixed it can be reported for any stolen property you have took from other sites and from my declaration i can see that there is some prove stolen property. thank-you!

  6. daneille smith says:

    this description does not review the ultimate cause and effect of no taxation without representation. thank-you!

  7. Bobbi says:

    I need more of a definition for “No Taxation Without Representation.” I’m still not fully sure what it is.

  8. Zelduh says:

    With the GOP redistricting in a couple of states, so that no Democrat will win in the state’s house – AND – so that no Democratic presidential candidate will ever win in that state; do you see a possibility of another rebellion? There will be “taxation without representation”…

  9. J. Spierling says:

    I have understood that Benjamin Franklin was sent to London as a representative for several colonies, including Virginia. As a representative of Virginia, he was instructed not to agree to representation in Parliament under any conditions for this would mean that the colonists would be greatly outnumbered in any taxation vote and then, as part of the membership of Parliament, the colonists would be represented and therefore taxation could be levied on the colonies legally. So, in essence, according to Virginia, the slogan of “no taxation, without representation” refers to colonial assemblies only. Without the consent of colonial assemblies, there is no taxation without representation. So, “No taxation without representation” is not a call for representation in Parliament, it is only in reference to the power of local representatives to tax fellow colonists. Am I the only one with this understanding of the colonial political consciousness?

  10. Casey says:

    This is very helpful to me.

  11. Savannah Gehman says:

    Thanks, this article helped alot with my website I needed to do for a histroy project on no taxation without representation.

  12. Yo mama Jones says:

    What does “No taxation without representation.” mean to you today?

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