Tuesday, July 24, 2018

1766 Revolution Rising - The Declaratory Act

Poor old England endeavoring to reclaim his wicked American children. British political cartoon shows England as a elderly man leaning on a crutch, trying to pull the American colonists by the nose. Below the image is a Shakespeare quote from Henry VI, Part 2, attributed to Shakespeare, "And therefore is England maimed & forc'd to go with a staff."  Pub. by Matthew Darly (British, ca. 1720–80) Strand, 1777 April. London.

No single event caused the American Revolution. A series of events that led to the war. Essentially, it all began as a disagreement over the way Great Britain treated the men & women in the British American colonies on the Atlantic Coast of North America and the way the colonists felt they should be treated. Americans felt they deserved all the rights of British citizens. The British, on the other hand, felt that the colonies were created to be used in the way that best suited the Crown and Parliament. This conflict is embodied in one of the rallying cries of the ​American Revolution: No Taxation Without Representation.  If the homeland British could not agree with their North Atlantic colonists, only about one-third of those colonists supported a rebellion. One-third of the population supported Great Britain, and the other third were neutral.


The Declaratory Act stated that Parliament had the authority to pass laws on all matters relating to the governance of the colonies. Passed after the repeal of the Stamp Act, the measure was designed to show that members of Parliament still believed they had ultimate authority over the colonies, even with regard to taxation.

A View of the House of Peers 1755 This image depicts a meeting of the British Parliament at Westminster Palace. The hereditary House of Lords (or Peers) occupies the center of the great hall. Members of the elected House of Commons stand & sit along the room's edges. King George II is on his throne. The King, Lords, & Commons together governed Britain & its American colonies.

The Declaratory Act of 1766 was passed in mid March by the Parliament of Great Britain, that was passed at the same time that the Stamp Act was repealed. The colonists celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act & their political victory but the the passing of the Declaratory Act was the beginning of more trouble.

The Declaratory Act was passed by the British parliament to affirm its power to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever”. The declaration stated that Parliament's authority was the same in America as in Britain & asserted Parliament's authority to pass laws that were binding on the American colonies. The colonies did not dispute the notion of Parliamentary supremacy over the law. But the ability to tax without representation was another matter. The Declaratory Act made no such distinction.  The Declaratory Act of 1766 that asserted Parliament's authority to pass binding laws on the colonies contained the phrase “in all cases whatsoever” which could surely be taken to mean the power to tax. The Declaratory Act of 1766 was almost an exact copy of the 1719 Irish Declaratory Act which forced Ireland into total submission under the Crown.
The Declaratory Act 1766

AN ACT for the better securing the dependency of his Majesty's dominions in America upon the crown & parliament of Great Britain.

WHEREAS several of the houses of representatives in his Majesty's colonies & plantations in America, have of late, against law, claimed to themselves, or to the general assemblies of the same, the sole & exclusive right of imposing duties & taxes upon his Majesty's subjects in the said colonies & plantations; & have, in pursuance of such claim, passed certain votes, resolutions, & orders, derogatory to the legislative authority of parliament, & inconsistent with the dependency of the said colonies & plantations upon the crown of Great Britain: ... be it declared ...,

That the said colonies & plantations in America have been, are, & of right ought to be. subordinate unto, & dependent upon the imperial crown & parliament of Great Britain; & that the King's majesty, by & with the advice & consent of the lords spiritual & temporal, & commons of Great Britain, in parliament assembled, had, hash, & of right ought to have, full power & authority to make laws & statutes of sufficient force & validity to bind the colonies & people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.

II. & be it further declared ..., That all resolutions, votes, orders, & proceedings, in any of the said colonies or plantations, whereby the power & authority of the parliament of Great Britain, to make laws & statutes as aforesaid, is denied, or drawn into question, are, & are hereby declared to be, utterly null & void to all intents & purposes whatsoever.