Taxation Without Representation Definition

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What Is Taxation Without Representation?

The phrase taxation without representation describes a people that are needed to pay taxes to a government jurisdiction. The term has its source at a slogan of the American colonials against their British rulers: "Taxation without representation is tyranny.

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Recognizing Taxation Without Representation


Opposition to taxation without representation was among the reasons for the American Revolution.

The British Parliament began taxing its colonists in 1765, ostensibly to recoup losses incurred during the Seven Years' War of 1756 to 1763. One especially despised tax, imposed from the Stamp Act of 1765, required colonial printers to pay a tax on files used or generated from the colonies, and also to prove it by affixing an embossed revenue stamp into the documents.

Violators were attempted in vice-admiralty courts without a jury.1 The refusal of a trial by peers was another injury, in the heads of colonists.

Revolt Against the Stamp Act

Colonists considered the tax since they had no representation in the Parliament that passed it was denied the right to a trial by a jury of their 32, to be prohibited. Delegates from nine of the 13 colonies met to make the Stamp Act Congress


  • Taxation without representation was the first slogan adopted by American colonists chafing under British rule.
  • They objected to the imposition of taxation on colonists with a government that gave them no part in its own policies.
  • At the 21st century, the people of the District of Columbia are citizens that endure taxation without representation.

William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut, John Dickenson of Pennsylvania, John Rutledge of South Carolina, and other prominent colonials met for 18 times.3 They subsequently approved a Declaration of Rights and Grievances, stating the delegates' joint position for some other colonists to read.4 Resolutions four, fourfive worried the delegates' loyalty to the crown while saying their objection to taxation without representation.

Trial Without a Jury

A later resolution contested the use of admiralty courts that conducted trials without juries, citing a breach of their rights of free Englishmen.

The Congress drafted three petitions addressed to King George III, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons.

Following the Stamp Act

The petitions were initially ignored but boycotts of imports and other pressures by the colonists led to the repeal of the Stamp Act in March 1766

It was too late. After years of tensions, the American Revolution began with battles between colonists and British soldiers in Lexington and Concord.

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution declaring the 13 colonies free from British rule. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were one of the representatives chosen to phrase the settlement.

A Statement of Intent

The first part was a statement of intent, including the announcement that all men were created equal and have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A part listed the colonists' grievances and announced their determination to achieve independence.

The final paragraph contradicted the colonists' ties with Britain.

Following debate, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, with the signing happening mostly on Aug.2, 1776

Taxation Without Representation in Modern Times

Taxation without representation was by no means extinguished together with the rest of the colonies in Britain. Not even in the U.S.

Residents of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have no voting representatives in the U.S. Congress.

Residents of Puerto Rico, for example, are U.S. citizens but don't have the right to vote in presidential elections and have no voting representatives in the U.S. Congress (unless they move to among the 50 states.)

Additionally, the phrase taxation without representation appeared on license plates. The accession of the motto was meant to increase awareness of the fact despite having no voting representation in Congress, that residents of the District pay national taxation.

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