Taxing the American Colonies

One of the follies listed in Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam is “The British Lose America.” A major reason for this “folly” was the attempt to shift to the American colonies the burden of the high debts resulting from a recent war with France.

While, in hindsight, that attempt was “folly”; at the time, some thought it seemed like a good idea. That is shown in the political tract The Justice and Necessity of Taxing the American Colonies, Demonstrated Together with a Vindication of the Authority of Parliament, printed for J. Almon in London in 1766.

Americans are called insolent, undutiful, and disobedient. Addressing the colonies, the author states:

But let me tell thee that the money raised by the stamp act, being all necessary for paying the troops within thy own territories, must center wholly in thyself, and therefore cannot possibly drain thee of thy bullion.

It is true, this act will hinder thee from sucking out the blood of thy mother, and gorging thyself with the fruit of her labour. But at this thou oughtest not to repine, as experience assures us that the most certain method of rendering a body politick, as well as natural, wholesome and long-lived, is to preserve a due equilibrium between its different members; not to allow any part to rob another of its nourishment, but, when there is any danger, any probability of such a catastrophe, to make an immediate revulsion, for fear of an unnatural superfetation, or of the absolute ruin and destruction of the whole.

All countries, unaccustomed to taxes, are at first violently prepossessed against them, though the price, which they give for their liberty: like an ox untamed to the yoke, they show, at first, a very stubborn neck, but by degrees become docile, and yield a willing obedience. Scotland was very much averse to the tax on malt; but she is so far from being ruined by it, that it has only taught her to double her industry, and to supply, by labour, what she was obliged to give up to the necessities of the state. Can America be said to be poorer, to be more scanty of money than Scotland? No. What then follows? America must be taxed.

As to the claim by the Americans that they are not represented in parliament:

True; you are not; no more is one twentieth of the British nation; but they may, when they become freeholders, or burgesses: so may you; therefore complain not; for it is impossible to render any human institution absolutely perfect. Were the English animated by your spirit, they would overturn the constitution to-morrow.

Think of this as 18th century spin-doctoring. All in all, it was a good read. The book provides an interesting glimpse into that era.

One Response to Taxing the American Colonies

  1. I enjoyed reading yoour post

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