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guaranteed-of one part of the Empire should not be sacrificed to the desire and power of another part, and that one legislature, like that of Great Britain, should not be allowed to infringe upon the rights and liberties of another legislature, like that of Virginia or of New York. Therefore, it was held, when Parliament attempted to suspend the legislature of New York for refusing compliance with the Mutiny Act of 1765, quartering troops in America, that “one free and independent legislature had taken upon itself to suspend the power of another, free and independent as itself. It was the right of every State to govern itself within its own local rights and limits. The colonists declared the taxing and coercive acts of Parliament void, because by the principles of the English Constitution and by colonial charters Parliament had no right to exercise such authority within these Colonies. For these reasons the suspension of their legislatures was held to be an act of usurpation and tyranny, and in case of continued suspension the powers of these bodies reverted to the people; and the colonists believed that to make their judges and governors independent of their assemblies, and dependent merely on the royal will and favor for their tenures and their salaries, was an interference with the right of self-government. States' rights, as against Imperial or central authority, in all matters of domestic concern, was an original and primitive principle in the history of the United States.
3. The right of trial by a jury of the vicinage.—The courts of admiralty had been empowered to try violations of the Stamp Act and other acts enforcing the The Right of trade laws. In these courts a jury trial was Trial by denied. And, also, as a means of meeting
Jury. colonial resistance, an old law of the time of Henry VIII. was revived which empowered a colonial governor to bring to England for trial persons accused of treason outside of
Jefferson's Summary View of the Rights of America.
England, “transporting them beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses.” 1
"By this act,” says Burke, “almost all that is substantial and beneficial in a trial by jury is taken away from a subject in the Colonies. To try a man under that act is, in effect, to condemn him unheard. A person is brought hither in the dungeon of a ship's hold; thence he is vomited into a dungeon on land, loaded with irons, unfurnished with money, unsupported by friends, three thousand miles from all means of calling upon or confronting evidence, where no one local circumstance that tends to detect perjury can possibly be judged of,-such a person may be executed according to form, but he can never be tried according to justice.”
and of Petition.
To this violation of one of the dearest rights of Englishmen, the colonists set themselves in determined resistance.
4. The right of free assembly and the right of petition. –The right of petition was repeatedly exercised without The Rights restraint, though the colonial petitions were as
repeatedly slighted and disregarded. The right Assembly
of assembly and free discussion, “a right formid
able to tyrants only," was threatened by the Massachusetts Act of 1774, by which the charter of that Colony was radically changed, and the right of free discussion in the old Town meeting was seriously abridged. Hereafter none but election meetings were to be held and no subject was to be discussed except by permission of the royal governor. Such an act brought consternation to every Colony in America. It was such coercive laws that brought the colonists into union to resist what they considered a series of unconstitutional measures that were annihilating their chartered liberties, abolishing their most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of their government.
1 Declaration of Independence. 9 Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol.
5. The right of self-taxation : “No taxation without representation.”—The Stamp Act of 1765 was an attempt to impose by parliamentary power a direct The Right of
Selfdomestic tax upon the Colonies. The Imperial
Taxation: Government had previously exacted some pay
tion without ments at the customs houses upon the trade of
Reprethe Colonies. But this was not done for purposes of revenue. It was done to regulate the trade of the Empire, to enable the British trade to surpass that of the Dutch or the Spanish or the French; and, as "an instrument of empire,” since it was taxation for commerce and not for revenue, the colonists had been willing to bear this burden for the sake of the common Imperial interests. The colonists called this an external tax. Such measures were looked upon as trade regulations rather than as measures of taxation. When it was desired that the Colonies should contribute to the extraordinary expenses of the Empire in money or troops for a foreign war, requisitions were applied for. That is, the king, through the person of his royal governor in the Colony, asked for the supplies, and the Colony through its representative assembly gave and granted the substance of the colonists. This was the old system of securing supplies to the Crown to which Burke pleaded that the Parliament System of
Requisitions. should return, and from which, as he thought, it ought never to have departed. This was the old practice on which Pitt based his constitutional theory that taxation was no part of the legislative power; that taxes were a free gift of the people to be voted, or refused, by the representatives of the people who were expected to pay the tax.
This was the old custom—which with Englishmen was the law—that was sustained by so many precedents in English history. On four memorable occasions, by four great and notable statutes, the English people had recognized the American contention
that there should be no taxation without representation:
In 1215, by Magna Charta, it was agreed as a principle of the Constitution that no aid (tax) should be imposed Eaglish
except by the common council of the nation, Precedents and all estates, or classes, that were to pay Sustain the American
were to be summoned, in the persons of their Contention. representatives, to the national council. In 1297, by a statute concerning taxation without consent,'
, the principle of no taxation without representation was again recognized and confirmed.
In 1628, in the celebrated Petition of Right, this statute was quoted and the Charter was again confirmed, and it was again declared that no “aid should be levied, except by the good will and assent of the national representatives.”
Again, by the glorious Revolution of 1688, this principle was reaffirmed on one of the most solemn occasions of the nation's history.
It was clearly the law and the usage that taxation without consent was illegal; that taxes were to be imposed only by the representatives of those who were required to pay them. By struggle after struggle this right to be consulted as to when and how much they should pay into the king's treasury had been wrought out by the English people. It was their experience that this was the safe, constitutional mode of taxation. This right was again and again encroached upon and denied by the royal power, but it was as often recovered and vindicated. And each time the practice was reasserted it became more firmly embedded as a principle in the national conduct and Constitution. In speaking of the Stamp Act, with this experience of the nation in view, Mr. Lecky says:
“The measure did unquestionably infringe upon a principle
1 De Tallagio non Concedendo, 1297,
tion Go Together.
which the English race both at home and abroad have always regarded with a peculiar jealousy. The doctrine that taxation and representation are in free nations inseparably connected, that constitutional government is Representaclosely connected with the rights of property, and that no people can be legitimately taxed except by themselves or their representatives lay at the very root of the English conception of political liberty.” In opposition to the new taxing policy of Parliament involved in the Stamp Act, the colonists expressed this old English principle substantially as follows:
That it was essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted right of Englishmen, that no taxes be imposed on them but with their own consent, given personally or by their representatives.
the Stamp “That the Colonies could not be represented in Act Congress,
1765. Parliament and that their only representatives were persons chosen therein by themselves, and that no taxes ever have been or can be imposed on them but by their representative legislatures.
"That all supplies to the Crown being free gifts of the people, it is unreasonable and inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the English Constitution for the people of Great Britain to grant the property of the colonists."':
This is not to be thought of as a theory which, once thought out a priori by some great thinker or statesman, had then been promulgated for the nation and for the future. Our fathers did not deal with theories in that sense. But the maxim, “No taxation without representation,” is to be looked upon as an attempt to deduce from their history and to formulate what had been a longstanding practice. It was a description of what had been, so far as they and their estates were concerned. It did
American Revolution, p. 75. * Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress, 1765.