Taxation without Representation

According to English law can the people be taxed without being represented? Magna Carta, Chapter 12 – 1215 – (Runnymeade)

Nullum scutagium vel auxilium ponatur in regno nostro, nisi per commune consilium regni nostri, nisi ad corpus nostrum redimendum, et primogenitum filium nostrum militem faciendum, et ad filiam nostram primogenitam semel maritandam, et ad hec non fiat nisi racionabile auxilium: simili modo fiat de auxiliis de civitate Londonie.

Translation: No scutage nor aid shall be imposed on our kingdom, unless by common counsel of our kingdom, except for ransoming our person, for making our eldest son a knight, and for once marrying our eldest daughter; and for these there shall not be levied more than a reasonable aid. In like manner it shall be done concerning aids from the city of London.


from Rights of British Colonies Asserted – 1764 – James Otis, Jr. (MA) the parliament shall think fit to allow the colonists a representation in the house of commons, the equity of their taxing the colonies, will be as clear as their power is at present of doing it without, if they please...But if it was thought hard that charter privileges should be taken away by act of parliament, is it not much harder to be in part, or in whole, disfranchised of rights, that have been always thought inherent to a British subject, namely, to be free from all taxes, but what he consents to in person, or by his representative? This right, if it could be traced no higher than Magna Charta, is part of the common law, part of a British subjects birthright, and as inherent and perpetual, as the duty of allegiance; both which have been brought to these colonies, and have been hitherto held sacred and inviolable, and I hope and trust ever will. It is humbly conceived, that the British colonists (except only the conquered, if any) are, by Magna Charta, as well entitled to have a voice in their taxes, as the subjects within the realm. Are we not as really deprived of that right, by the parliament assessing us before we are represented in the house of commons, as if the King should do it by his prerogative? Can it be said with any colour of truth or justice, that we are represented in parliament?



Virtual Representation

Are representatives the voice of the nation or the voice of their constituency? On the Right to Tax America – 1766 – MP William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (Whig, speech before Parliament)

It is my opinion, that this kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies...The taxes are a voluntary gift and grant of the Commons alone...When, therefore, in this House we give and grant, we give and grant what is our own. But in an American tax, what do we do? “We, your majesty’s Commons for Great Britain, give and grant to your majesty”—what? Our own property! No! “We give and grant to your majesty” the property of your majesty’s Commons of America! It is an absurdity in terms...

There is an idea in some that the colonies are virtually represented in the House. I would fain know by whom an American is represented here. Is he represented by any knight of the shire, in any county in this kingdom? Would to God that respectable representation was augmented to a greater number! Or will you tell him that he is represented by any representative of a borough? — a borough which, perhaps, its own representatives never saw! This is what is called the rotten part of the Constitution. It cannot continue a century. If it does not drop, it must be amputated. Speech to the Electors of Bristol – 1774 – MP Edmund Burke (Tory, speech to his constituents)

It ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative, to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted attention.... But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgement, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living…

Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You have chose a member but indeed he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament. Commentaries of the Laws of England – 1756 – Sir William Blackstone (Most eminent scholar on the English Constitution whose book was on every Founding Father’s desk)

Every member, though chosen by one particular district, when elected and returned, serves for the whole realm. For the end of his coming thither is not particular, but general; not barely to advantage his constituents, but the common wealth; to advise his majesty (as appears from the writ of summons) “de communi consilio super negotiis quibusdam arduis et urgentibus, regem, statum, et defensionem regni Angliae et ecclesiae Anglicanae concernentibus” [concerning the common council upon certain difficult and urgent affairs relating to the king, the state, and defense of the kingdom of England and of the English church]. And therefore he is not bound, like a deputy in the united provinces, to consult with, or take the advice, of his constituents upon any particular point, unless he himself thinks it proper or prudent so to do.