“No taxation without representation! ”
That was the angry cry of American colonists when the British Parliament passed laws requiring them to pay new taxes. Britain had spent a great deal of money to protect the colonies, especially during the French and Indian War. In Parliament’s view, the colonists should help pay for that defense. The colonists took a different view. They were used to being taxed by their own assemblies, but they had no representatives in distant Parliament. As they saw it, they were being taxed without their consent.
They especially hated the 1765 Stamp Act. It said that most printed materials – licenses, contracts, wills, newspapers, pamphlets, almanacs, even playing cards – must bear an official stamp, which the colonists had to buy. The act inflamed the colonies. Riots broke out. Mobs attacked the homes of royal tax officials.
Young Patrick Henry rose to speak in the Virginia House of Burgesses. “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell,” he said, citing two famous rulers whose actions had led to their own deaths, “and George the Third -” Some members were shocked. “Treason!” they shouted. Henry continued: “. . . and George the Third may profit from their example. If this be treason, make the most of it!”
Stunned by the furious response, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act on March 18, 1766. But the crisis had made Americans acutely aware of their rights. As John Adams wrote, the people were “more attentive to their liberties, more inquisitive about them, and more determined to defend them.”