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Taxation without representation: lesson overview

KC‑3.1.II.A (KC)
KC‑3.1.II.B (KC)
KC‑3.1.II.C (KC)
KC‑3.1.II.D (KC)
Unit 3: Learning Objective C
WOR (Theme)
After the Seven Years’ War, the British attempted to increase control on the colonies, resulting in the colonists rebelling against the change in policy. This eventually led to the Revolutionary War.

Key terms

Salutary neglectThe unofficial policy of the British crown where they avoided strict enforcement of parliamentary law in the colonies.
Virtual representationA theory that members of Parliament were obligated to defend the interests of British subjects and colonists alike and that colonists did not need colonial representatives.
Stamp Act (1765)Passed by British Parliament, it was a direct tax on all printed material in the North American colonies.
Stamp Act CongressDelegates from the colonies who drew up formal petitions to the British Parliament and King George III to repeal the Stamp Act.
Declaration of Colonial Rights and Grievances (1765)Written by the Stamp Act Congress, it declared that taxes imposed on British colonists without their formal consent were unconstitutional.
Declaratory Act (1766)A law that stated that the British Parliament’s taxing authority was the same in America as in Great Britain.
Townshend Acts (1767)A series of laws that placed new taxes on glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea.
Boston Massacre (1770)British soldiers stationed in Boston opened fire on a crowd, killing five townspeople and infuriating locals.
Boston Tea Party (1773)A direct response to British taxation policies and the Tea Act by the North American colonies.
LoyalistsA colonist of the American revolutionary period who supported the British cause.
Sons of LibertyA secret society formed by radical colonists to protest British taxation policies.
Daughters of LibertyA Patriot association that formed in response to increased taxes by organizing and participating in boycotts of British goods.
Intolerable Acts (1774)Also called the Coercive Acts, consisted of four separate legislative measure: the Boston Port Bill, the Government Bill, the Administration of Justice Act, and the Quartering Act.
First Continental CongressA representative government made up of elected officials from 12 of the 13 colonies created to create a unified front against the British government.
The EnlightenmentA cultural and intellectual movement in the 1700s that emphasized science and rationalism.
John LockeEnglish philosopher who influenced the Enlightenment with his writings on sovereignty and governance. His ideas influenced the separation of the colonies from Britain.

The Boston Massacre

Key dates

1754Start of the Seven Years’ War
1763End of the Seven Years’ War; Proclamation of 1763
1764The Sugar Act
1765The Stamp Act; The Quartering Act of 1765
1766The Declaratory Act
1767The Townshend Revenue Act
1770The Boston Massacre
1773The Tea Act; The Boston Tea Party
1774The Intolerable Acts; The First Continental Congress

Core historical themes

American identity and democracy: As the Seven Years’ War came to an end, Britain had massive financial debts for its role in the war. In order to pay that debt, the British parliament began passing a series of taxes, including the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and the Tea Act. The colonies resented the fact that they were being taxed, and some colonists argued that Britain did not have the right to tax the colonies, as there were no colonial representatives in Parliament. The colonies did believe that they were British citizens, but they also argued that they deserved representatives who understood what the colonies needed. This is where the phrase “no taxation without representation” comes from!
Influence of the Enlightenment: Ideas about individualism and the role of government were derived from the Enlightenment. The era of Enlightenment was at its peak in the mid-1700s, and philosophers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau influenced colonial cries for equality and, eventually, independence. Concepts like consent of the governed, the rights of a citizen of a state, and republican self-government can be tied directly to the Enlightenment.
Consolidation of American colonies: Never before had the colonies worked together in a unified political front. The First Continental Congress was made up of elected representatives from 12 of the 13 colonies. While the colonists still considered themselves British subjects, the First Continental Congress was a separate government that directly challenged British rule through boycotts. The creation of the First Continental Congress showed how the colonists were gradually separating themselves from British rule.

Review questions

  • How did British control of the American colonies change after the Seven Years’ War?
  • In what ways did American colonists develop a unified sense of identity before the American Revolution?
  • What were three factors that led to increased tension between Britain and the colonies?

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