HIS102Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Virtual Representation, Intolerable Acts

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4 Dec 2011
Lecture 6: 9/30/10
Why 13 colonies revolted
-On one side, east/west Florida, Quebec; the rest (including Nova Scotia) had the
same kind of government made up of 3 legislative institutions:
1. The Assembly (elected) – in charge of raising taxes
2. (*****)
3. (*****)
-“The British Empire was acquired in a fit of absence of mind”
-The colonies were governed from London; the King and his ministers run
-In British parliament, the cabinet has a chief minister (who would eventually be
Prime Minister)
The Prime Minister is in charge of the House of Commons; problem: the
House of Commons is elected on the base of ridings that date from the 16th
century (some of the ridings don’t have inhabitants and others were owned
private property)
-When it’s said that the House of Commons is elected, it is not democratically
elected. It’s representative but not fully.
-The House of Commons represents two kingdoms: England and Scotland there
are large parts of Great Britain that are not represented
-The great debate of the time: should there be a reform of British parliament
because of the abovementioned inadequacies?
This question is important when we look at the structure of the British Empire
-By the mid-18th century, the population is getting rather large (larger than Ireland
and Scotland, and getting close to the size of England)
-The British colonies begin to realize that they are not being represented (only
virtual representation)
-Periodically (in the history of British politics) the unrepresented peoples would boil
over into riots
These riots were bloody, but a part of the constitution (it was how the masses
let the government know that they had gone too far) *extra-parliamentary
way of influence
-This kind of people-government relation did not exist in the British colonies (mostly
because there were very few taxes) – there were taxes on goods only
Correspondingly, if taxes on goods were too high, the people would cope
through smuggling
-A wise government will sometimes let the tax go uncollected in order to maintain
-At this time, the colonies were becoming more important economically (a major
export market)
-By the 18th century, taxation in the colonies becomes a reality
-The British government is in debt after the 7 Years War in which much of their
money was spent in America shouldn’t the Americans help to pay the costs
through taxation?
-The colonies were resistant: “No taxation without representation” was the doctrine
they campaigned (a provision that dates back to the Magda Carta)
-The colonies would not vote on their taxation – they would not consent to tax
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