No Taxation without Representation: Meaning & Explanation

Instructor: Molly Richards

Molly has ten years of middle school teaching experience and two master's degrees in teaching.

In the 1700s, the British imposed new laws on the 13 colonies, aggravating them towards independence. The slogan ''No Taxation without Representation'' encouraged a representative government and freedom from tyranny.

Early Settlement

In the 1600 and 1700s, countries such as France, Spain and Great Britain began exploring and colonizing the New World. Settling on what is now the east coast of the United States, Great Britain began establishing settlements full of people looking for a new life, religious freedom, and success. These settlements eventually became colonies, and in 1776 there were 13 of them that declared their independence from Great Britain.

Original Thirteen Colonies

Role of a Colony

Prior to 1776, the 13 colonies were under British rule, with each colony having a governor who answered to the King of England. Although the king was their ruler, the English Bill of Rights gave power to the people through representation in the British Parliament. The Parliament had the power to pass laws, even for the colonies who had no representation. Although the people in colonial settlements were not represented in Parliament and were not free to do whatever they wished, they still had to be loyal to the King of England in every way, especially monetarily. Through trade and commerce, Great Britain's colonies made it the most powerful nation in the world in the 1700s. That is until the American colonists had had enough.

French and Indian War

While Great Britain had control over the present-day east coast of the United States, other countries such as France had a strong hold in other parts. France had control over much of present-day eastern Canada and the Mississippi River, a vital waterway for trade. Great Britain wanted this territory and the two fought for seven years until 1763 when France surrendered. Great Britain won the territory but at great financial cost.

No Taxation without Representation

No Taxation without Representation

As a result of the cost of the French and Indian War, Great Britain began imposing laws and taxes on goods made in the colonies. This included taxes on items such as stamps, paper, sugar, and tea. The colonists were not only angered by the taxes, but also angered at how they had no say in the taxes, which was a complete violation of the English Bill of Rights.

Jonathan Mayhew, a minister at the Old West Church in Boston, began preaching about the need for the colonists to come together and oppose the various Acts (Stamp Act, Sugar Act and Tea Act, to name a few) the British were imposing on them. He is credited with coining the phrase No Taxation without Representation in this particular conflict, though it had been used in times of conflict before. He, and many other colonists, felt that these Acts violated their British right to have colonial representation in British Parliament.

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