Mar 192013
 
Declaratory Act

It was a great day for the Colonies….almost! On March 18th, 1766, the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act. I will discuss the Stamp Act further on its anniversary date of March 22. For the moment, know the unrest had erupted in the Colonies. Not unlike the fees we are expected to pay when filing documents, the Stamp Act required the purchase of a stamp for all any official document. Many Colonists, who were British subjects, considered the Stamp Act to be a tax which had been imposed upon them despite the fact they had no voice in Britain’s Parliament. Hence the term, “Taxation Without Representation.” Protests began immediately after notice of the tax reached the Colonies. Many Colonists participated in boycotts against British goods because of the tax. Benjamin Franklin appeared before the House of Commons to advocate the repeal of the Stamp Act. He argued that import taxes, rather than taxes on a colonist’s day-to-day life, should be used to draw funds from the Colonies. You can read the text of Franklin’s appearance here:http://www.bingoforpatriots.com/american-history/founding-fathers/signers-of-the-declaration-of-independence/benjamin-franklin/benjamin-franklins-documents/benjamin-franklins-appearance-before-the-british-house-of-commons-advocating-repeal-of-the-stamp-act/# . Franklin appeared at the invitation of Charles Watson-Wentword who was the Second Marquess of Rockingham. The Marquess may have been sympathetic to the arguments made by the Colonists because of thoughts held by his assistant Edmund Burke. Protests of the Stamp Act were not limited to the American Colonies. British merchants objected to the measure because they already suffered as a result of the economic consequences of the Seven Year War. Boycotts by the Colonists further dampened their incomes. The Parliament took action on March 18th, 1766 and repealed the Stamp Act. 

The British Parliament took another action on that day. It passed the Declaratory Act. The Act, sometimes referred to as the American Colonies Act of 1766, begins with the statement: “An Act for the better securing the dependency of his Majesty’s dominions in America upon the crown and parliament of Great Britain.” It refuted the idea that local legislatures, or other bodies in the Colonies, had the exclusive right to impose duties and taxes upon local citizens. Instead, the Act proclaimed that the King, with the advice and consent of the Parliament, had “full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever,” The Act voided all resolutions, orders, laws, statues (and of course the taxes, duties, and fees imposed herein). You can read the act in its entirety at:http://www.bingoforpatriots.com/american-history/13-colonies/taxation-without-representation/declaratory-act-1766/. As you can imagine, this act fanned the flames of discontent in the Colonies. Notable leaders such as Patrick Henry and Sam Adams cried out in protest against the Act. Britain did not directly levy taxes against the American Colonies following the passage of its Taxation of Colonies Act in 1778. However, the Declaratory Act remained in effect with regards to Britain’s other colonies until its repeal in 1964.

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