Document-Based Question

American History AP


In 1765 the British government imposed a new taxation on the colonies known as the Stamp Act. It called for colonials to be taxed for goods such as playing cards, news papers, marriage documents, and diplomas, in order to fund their supposed protection. Although British citizens were taxed much more for the protection of the colonies, Americans demanded that they not be taxed at all without representation in the parliament. The phrase “no taxation without representation” soon became a motivating force of the American Revolution and of a symbol of democracy.

At first these words were nothing more than an excuse not to pay taxes. Actually the colonies were not striving for a seat in the parliament, knowing that they would be taxed for more than the position was worth to them. Instead they were looking for a way to get around the taxation and maybe even an excuse to rebel. This is evidenced in Document B which states the Stamp Act Congress in 1765, concluded that the colonies should not be represented in parliament, but should not be taxed either.

The colonies did not push for total freedom yet. Daniel Dulany states that the British still should have the right to regulate the colonies’ trade, which was perhaps a greater problem to the colonies’ economy than the tax was. However, the colonists did not have a constitutional right that prevented trade-control as they did with taxation.

The so-called “protection” the colonies, as well as the British citizens were taxed for was a garrison of British solders to be stationed in the colonies. The fact that they were being stationed there at peacetime aroused many suspicions about the real intention of the troops stationed there. Joseph Warren suggested in a speech he delivered in Boston, that the army was there to keep the colonists under their watch, and enforce obedience.

In the Second continental congress held in 1775, reasons were listed for the necessity for the colonists to go to war with the British. The reasons included using the colonists’ money without their consent, depriving them of a trial by jury, controlling and limiting their trade, and exempting murderers of colonists from trial. Americans such as Thomas Paine also thought it strange that a continent as large as America was controlled by the small island of Great Britain.

In time the demand for no taxation without representation became a symbol of democracy. For example, in a 1780 petition of free Negroes for the right to vote, they compared their situation to that of America’s. Just like America was taxed by England without representation in their parliament, freed blacks were being taxed without the right to vote. Their comparison shows how the demand that started the American Revolution is also a symbol of many American ideals.

The Americans reaction to the Stamp Act was in 1765 was a great turning point in the history of the colonies, and the very idea that was used to drive the revolution. Although colonists were treated unfairly this was the only way in which they were treated unconstitutionally and they used it to justify a rebellion against their mother country.