Francesco Saitto

Taxation Without Representation Is Tyranny: The Debate Over the Power to Tax at the Origin of the United States Constitutional Experience

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The article analyses the ideological and constitutional origins of the famous battle cry 'Taxation without representation is tyranny' at the time of the American Revolution. The work aims to highlight the influences of liberal and republican thought in the process of awareness of the colonists' demands with regard to the power of taxation. The debate over that power catalysed the American colonists' protest: the colonists engaged a strong battle with the mother country over the definition of highly significant constitutional concepts, such as representation and sovereignty, with the aim of redefining them. For example, colonists expressed criticism with regard to the concept of 'virtual representation' and contested the idea of the 'unlimited sovereignty' of the British Parliament. However, they initially did not want to challenge the role of the mother country and accepted the distinction between 'internal' and 'external' taxation. Nevertheless, any 'reconciliation' between 'sovereignty' and 'liberty' proved to be impossible. This process started with the Stamp Act of 1765 and culminated with the American Revolution and the Constitution of the United States. In the last paragraph, the legacy of the claim "no taxation without representation" in the United States' constitutional experience is analysed.


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