No Taxation Without Representation
England’s Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) and its counterpart waged in America, the French and Indian War (1754–1763), doubled Britain’s national debt. In order to recoup some of the losses Britain incurred defending its American colonies, Parliament decided for the first time to tax the colonists directly. One such tax, the 1765 Stamp Act required all printed documents used or created in the colonies to bear an embossed revenue stamp. Stamp Act violations were to be tried in vice-admiralty courts because such courts operated without a jury.
Colonial assemblies denounced the law, claiming the tax was illegal on the grounds that they had no representation in Parliament. Colonists were likewise furious at being denied the right to a trial by jury. Many viewed the tax as an infringement of the rights of Englishmen, which contemporary opinion held to be enshrined in Magna Carta. Protests throughout the colonies threatened tax collectors with violence. Parliament finally bowed to pressure and repealed the Stamp Act in March 1766, but the colonial reaction set the stage for the American independence movement.