No Taxation Without Representation

This is the second part of a series intended to help us better understand the original intent of our Founders.  Understanding this concepts is essential in a correct understanding of the Constitution.  It also helps us to understand why certain elements of the Constitution came into being.

It is sometimes stated that this expression originated from a sermon by Peter Mayhew in Boston sometime around 1750 however it was fiery Boston Lawyer James Otis who took it as an expression that fueled the flames of the fire of Independence.  Citing Otis on his arguments on the Writs of Assistance, John Adams wrote:

From the navigation act the advocate [Otis] passed to the Acts of Trade, and these, he contended, imposed taxes, enormous, burthensome, intolerable taxes; and on this topic he gave full scope to his talent, for powerful declamation and invective, against the tyranny of taxation without representation.

From the energy with which he urged this position, that taxation without representation is tyranny, it came to be a common maxim in the mouth of every one. And with him it formed the basis of all his speeches and political writings; he builds all his opposition to arbitrary measures from this foundation, and perpetually recurs to it through his whole career, as the great constitutional theme of liberty, and as the fundamental principle of all opposition to arbitrary power.

The argument was a simple one.  Since the colonists were considered citizens of the British Empire, they had the same rights as an Englishman.  According to the English Bill of Rights 1689 the imposition of taxes without consent in Parliament was forbidden. Since the colonists had no representation in Parliament the taxes violated the guaranteed Rights of Englishmen.  Parliament argued that the Colonists had Virtual Representation

The notion of Virtual Representation claimed that the members of Parliament spoke for the interests of all British subjects rather than only for the interests of the district that elected them.  This notion was completely rejected throughout the Colonies and by many in mother England. That is important so remember that.

Prior to the 1750, the Crown and Parliament interfered very little with colonial Governance.  When the Crown or Parliament needed revenue an appeal was made to colonial ruling bodies who would then decide how that revenue was to be collected.  That all rapidly began to change in part because of the almost constant state of War between England and France.

In American classrooms, we talk about the French and Indian Wars as an isolated event in world history that took place on the American Front with the French and the Amer-Indians combining forces to take on the American Colonies protected by England..  Actually it was far from something isolated to the Colonies and many agree that it was in fact, the first World War.  There was not a continent that was not affected by it or not engaged in some manner in the conflict.  To the rest of the world this is the Seven Years War.

From 1740 through 1748 England had been engaged in a bitter conflict known as the War of the Austrian Succession.  The dust had hardly settled on that conflict when, in 1754, a young Colonial Officer encountered a French patrol early in the morning in the British owned territories near the Allegheny River.  The Colonial Officer led his small unit in for the attack winning the day but essentially launching the French and Indian Wars which escalated into the 7 Years War.  That young Colonial Officer was George Washington.

England had suffered great financial loses in this war and the somewhat prosperous Colonial settlements were seen as a way to help recoup those loses and pay for the war.  That began exertions of power through taxation that sparked men like James Otis to rise.

Now it is obvious that actually having Representatives from the Colonies serving on Parliament was simply impractical due to the distance alone, generally the colonists were not looking for serving in Parliament.  The opposition was not really about having to pay the taxes.  It was all about how the taxes were implemented.

Rather than working through the various Colonial Legislatures, Parliament began to bypass these legislative bodies and to tax the Colonies directed through the appointed Governors.  Governors were appointed by the Crown.  In Colonial charters the Governor had authority but that authority was expressed through the Colonial Legislatures. Colonial Legislatures were elected by the people. Now all of that was rapidly changing.  Governors’ were being told to by-pass these legislatures and implement laws, taxes and regulations without the consent of the Colonial Legislatures.

This history played a critical role when our Founders began to frame the Constitution of the United States of America.  Three branches of government were instituted giving Congress legislative Authority but limiting that authority by enumerated powers and granting individual State Rights as expressed through their own charters and Constitutions.  Each State would send representatives to represent their own state in Congress allowing them to represent the interests of their state in the Federal Government.  The elected representation had dual roles, to protect the Union of the States while also protecting the Individual rights of the state they represented.

While the election process for these representatives followed principles of a Democracy, the law was something different.  Laws passed through Congress had to first consider the limits of the Constitution of the United States and then to respect the individual state Constitutions through the representative powers in Congress.

Through the years this has changed, mostly through abuses in the executive branch.  The Constitution allows for the executive branch to establish a cabinet and advisers but these appointments were to be made with the approval of Congress.  Likewise, any suggestions for new laws was also to made through an appeal to Congress for consent.

Committees could form, but those Committees made recommendations, not rules, laws, mandates and regulations.

That is no longer this government.  Once again we have appointed people serving in Departments who are making rules, laws, mandates and regulations without the consent of elected representation.  Each of these acts places a financial burden on the citizen who is virtually helpless to do anything about it because they have little to no voice through elected representation.  This financial burden results in higher taxes and so here we are, largely thanks to a movement that identifies themselves as being Progressive having moved us back to Pre-Revolutionary times of Taxation without Representation.  It should be obvious to any thinking person that this is not Progressive, this is Regressive.

Let’s take a moment to consider just one aspect of Taxation without Representation.  Your community wants to build a new playground for their children.  Your community leaders know they do not have the money to build the playground the community wants so they consider how to raise the money to get the playground built because there is an election coming up and without the playground, the representative’s ability to hold on to their office is in jeopardy.  Enter the Department of Parks and Recreation.  No one in this Department is elected but they are offering grants to communities for just such a project.  Your community’s elected official apply for the grant and they are approved.  Their reasoning “If we don’t take it, somebody else will.”

The important factor left out of the discussion is that since the money is coming from the Federal Government, the money is generated through taxes.  People who live no where near your community and have no way of using this playground have been taxed to provide for the grant that built your playground.

At the same time, playgrounds like this are being built all across the country so you are paying for playgrounds in other communities based solely on the argument that “If we don’t take the money, somebody else will.”

This is Taxation without Representation.  A grant like this should go through Congress, not through some appointed body.  There is no one to hold accountable as a representative and no one really to blame except your local municipality who takes the money.  It might help them get re-elected but at what cost?

Other examples include heavy regulations put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency that results in lost jobs and revenue through the expense of compliance.  Again, these rules do not go through Congress resulting in legal battles at the expense of the tax payer.  You can get mad at your rep and vote them out but the EPA is still going to be there.  You are still going to be taxed without a representative voice to fight for you.

Your local school board takes a lot of heat, some of it rightly so.  At the same time, some of the local school board’s financial obligations is meeting compliance with regulations established by the Department of Education, all appointed without elected representation.  They design curriculum, programs and regulations all at exorbitant cost, none of which has to be approved by Congress.  This is Taxation without Representation.

While Unions make up less than 13% of the workforce with public sector unions accounting for about a third of that.  Non-Union citizens (who are the vast majority) have no say in those elections.  Through strikes and collective bargaining rights, these unions negotiate wages, pensions and other benefits that are often out of line with private sector workers.  All of this results in higher taxes even though the majority of the population has no elected representative in that process.  This is also Taxation without Representation.

There are countless other examples of these sorts of egregious actions that was clearly identified as acts of Tyranny by our Founders.  There are many who are getting awake to this as an abuse, but more need to be aware of what is happening.  Understanding how our founders felt and what helped bring them to this conclusion helps us to see where our Government has strayed from original intent so we can argue for a return to those values that once defined us as Americans.


Part one of this series is Natural Law: Those Pesky Unalienable Rights which can be found at





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