Unit 3 Discussion: Taxation and Representation – A Debate

Taxation and Representation – A Debate

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)

Required Readings

  • Patrick Henry: Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death. Yale University. Avalon Project. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/patrick.asp
  • Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists. http://history.hanover.edu/texts/adamss.html
  • Great Britain, Parliament: The Declaratory Act, March 18, 1766. Yale University. Avalon Project. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/declaratory_act_1766.asp
  • Great Britain: Parliament: The Quartering Act, June 2, 1774, Yale University. Avalon Project. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/quartering_act_1774.asp
  • Soam Jenyns, The Objections to the taxation Consider’d, 1765: http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1751-1775/soame-jenyns-the-objections-to-the-taxation-considerd-1765.php

Focus Questions

Answer ALL of the following questions in the class discussion (*note*: while the following questions are provided in a bullet-list format, your discussion postings should not be. Please respond to these questions–and those of all subsequent discussions–in paragraph style. Discussions that are posted using bullet-points are unacceptable):

  • 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 mentioned the right to tax, what specifically do they say about this right?
  • Do you discern in the documents written by the British an acknowledgement of political rights belonging to the colonists?
  • What did the colonial leaders (Henry, Adams and the members of the Continental Congress) say about the right of taxation?
  • According to these men, what political rights belonged exclusively to the colonies? Were any powers to be shared by the colonial legislatures and Parliament?


For the first part of this assignment, you must make an initial posting of two to three paragraphs in the discussion forum. Your initial posting must fully answer all of the focus questions. It must also include source citations throughout, as well as a Works Cited at the very end. These in-text source citations and your Works Cited must illustrate to the reader which sources you used in writing your posting and what sources influenced your thinking. After you have submitted your initial posting, you must submit response postings to at least two different classmates’ postings. These response posts should be approximately a paragraph long and substantive in content (provide a response and/or critique, along with an explanation of your response/critique to your classmate–that is, your responses must be more than “Good job, So-and-So.”). If you make direct reference to a source in your response posting, you must again provide source citations and a Works Cited. 

For all postings (initial and response), remember to proofread before you submit. Your postings should follow the conventions of grammar and spelling, and they should be written in past tense. As your discussions are meant to prepare you for the essay assignments, please use academic language and do not use first person (such as “I,” “we,” “our,” etc.). Also, again–cite any sources you used in writing your postings.

PLEASE NOTE: You may (and are encouraged to) quote from the sources in your postings; however, quotations should be no more than 3 lines long and should be used for emphasis only. Quotations should not constitute more than a total of 20% of any one post.

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