Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
The colonists wanted to be heard and have a say in how the mother country was suddenly directed them. Taxes were not the issue. It was how the taxes were handled. To the colonists, the Stamp Act was a tax for the entire purpose of raising money. It was directed at them for monetary reasons that had good arguments against it if they could be listened to.
As the acts were directed at all colonies, it was a common argument for the colonies to stand behind. Prior to this, the colonies were separate mini-countries that operated in their own manner and had their own goals and desires. The many parliamentary acts brought the thirteen separate colonies together and united under a political umbrella that had never been seen before nor would have been anticipated. The colonies began to discuss politics publically like they had never done before. Local leaders wrote “sweeping statements of colonial rights in resolutions and in instructions to legislators.” The result was an expanding of the public’s education of politics and of their own differences from their own mother country.
These writings inflamed those on both sides of the Atlantic with words that were emotional and raw. Yet, despite their anger and the desire to change the direction government was taking, colonial leaders let the mother country know that they were still loyal to the king and to the Parliament. They just wanted the rights as British subjects that they felt were theirs.
Benjamin Franklin was a colonist that knew how to verbally express the stance of the colonists. It seems that the Parliament saw the right to tax the colonists and even govern them more tightly in these eight reasons:
1. That the colonies were settled at the expense of parliament.
2. That they received their constitutions from parliament, which could not be supposed to give away its own powers of taxing them.
3. That they have been constantly protected from the Indians, at the expense of money granted by parliament.
4. That the two last wars were entered into for their protection.
5. That they refused to contribute towards the expense of those wars.
6. That they are great gainers by the event of the last war.
7. That they pay no taxes.
8. That they contend the parliament of Great Britain has no authority over them.
Franklin responded to each of these with solid answers and with documentary evidence that even Parliament could not ignore. In regard to the third accusation, Franklin replied, “No grants for that purpose appear on our records, and the fact is, that they protected themselves, at their own expence, for near 150 years after, the first settlement, and never thought of applying to parliament for any aid against the Indians.” He even argued that the wars were not fought at the entire expense of the Parliament: “The fact is, that in the first war, upon requisitions from the crown, the colonies sent between 3 and 4000 men to join our army in the siege of Carthagena; and in the last war they raised and paid 25,000 men, a number equal to those sent from Britain; which was far beyond their proportion.” The colonies only wanted to be heard and for Parliament to listen to reason.
For a hundred years, Britain focused on European affairs and allowed a large degree of freedom in the colonies located in America. The money was coming in from the new lands and the unwanted were being sent there. Britain could not be more satisfied with the arrangement until they were forced into the role of European and New World superpower. Things began to change with a depleted treasury and the need to management more land and people than they ever had to before. The only option Parliament saw was to take more money from the prosperous colonies. What they did not take into account was that the colonies were not the same groups of people that they had back on the island of England. This was a new culture, a new world, and a new way of dealing with them was needed. Ignoring this fact only brought trouble to Britain.
Britain went too long allowing its children free reign of affairs. When it saw the benefit of tightening economic and political controls, it was too late. The colonies had grown into young adulthood and could not be treated as the infant that Britain tried to. It was authority too late in the game. Though the colonists saw themselves as British and loyal to the Crown, they also saw that there would be no other choice but to revolt. Britain would not bend and the colonies could not in their very nature allow themselves to be dominated as those in Europe had been. It was a new world which called for new rules of engagement.
Benjamin Franklin. ‘”Benevolus’” On the Propriety of Taxing America’. Franklin Papers, http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp. (accessed April, 20, 2011).
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Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York: Penguin, 2001.
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