When the contest came, it came as a straggle over ancient English constitutional principles. The drift had long been toward an opening of the whole question of mutual civil relations, when George III forced the question to an issue by attempted taxation through act of Parliament. England was proud of America as her chief imperial possession; but she had not yet learned the secret of imperial administration, and her old customs and legal theories, lingering from days when she had been but an island kingdom, were inapplicable to the new conditions. By those theories, the colonists, being British subjects, were as completely subordinated to Parliament as were all other British subjects. True, they had long been permitted to regulate their internal affairs, and above all, to vote their own taxes; but Parliament had on sundry occasions asserted its right of taxation, and held such right to be a necessary part of its own position as supreme legislature. As the legal theory of Parliament had grown up under purely national conditions, this parliamentary claim was theoretically correct. But it did not accord with the new imperial facts. On the other hand, the colonists held that the imperial facts ought to be conceded. Though British subjects, they were separated by wide seas from the older land, and were unable to take active part in its political life. A fundamental principle of the liberties of Englishmen associated, as the colonists understood it, the right of representation with the right of taxation. The principle had been enunciated in their colonial legislation almost from the beginning of colonial settlement, and had been steadily acted upon by them. They were without representatives in Parliament, and therefore Parliament could not, in their view, rightfully tax them. They were unwilling to pay the parliamentary tax, though, through their own representatives in the colonial legislatures, they were ready to vote more liberal supplies than those proposed by Parliament. Their plea was conservative, for it desired that the then existing state of affairs should be continued. The war that ensued was fought on the part of the colonists in defence of what they thus held to be their rights as men of the English blood; and American independence resulted from this constitutional struggle.
Sources of the Constitution of the United States, Considered in Relation to Colonial and English History, C. Ellis Stevens (1894)
Happy Fourth of July to all.
God Bless America
1 thought on “Independence Day”
And a happy Independence Day from this side of the Pond.
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