Lies Your Fifth Grade History Book Told You: The True Importance of Taxation Without Representation
American complaints about taxation without representation are often overstated in regards to their influence on the Revolution; in fact, these complaints were only a moral pretense for many other problems that the colonists had with the British and their rule. This lack of representation was indeed a reality for the colonists; their tax burden paled in comparison with that of the British, giving them few sympathizers in Parliament or among the commoners. The colonists were supposedly “virtually represented” by the members of Parliament who kept the best interests of everyone in the empire in mind. The American colonists, however, were too remote and independent for this to be a reality for them. The Stamp Act Congress officially denounced virtual representation in their resolution, stating simply that, “[T]he people of these colonies are not, and cannot from their local circumstance be, represented in the House of Commons in
If the colonies had been, for so many decades, without true advocates in
Thomas Paine added to the developing revolutionary sentiments by publishing Common Sense. In this pamphlet, he made many connections between current events and the need for revolution. Paine wrote of how the king was also involved in the supposed conspiracy and how kingship in itself was a tradition of danger and superstition. He also confirmed a growing belief that it was becoming unnatural for a group of people who were thriving and living upon their own continent to be ruled by a distant and much smaller island. For many Americans, the pamphlet signified the final severance of their ties with
Taxation without representation was certainly a reasonable complaint of the Americans, but solving this discrepancy would have, in no way, dissolved the great tensions that developed between the two sides in the decades before the war. Americans grew to believe that the British had plotted a scheme to rob them of the basic rights and basically make their lives miserable; furthermore, writing like Paine’s and Locke’s convinced Americans that they deserved their own chance at true self-determination. When it came time to actually fight the war, taxation without representation was only one of a myriad of American gripes. This cause, however, probably developed such great significance because it was inherently moral and an easy ideal for all the colonists to get behind.