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"No Taxation Without Representation"

The phraseology “Taxes … are imposed upon the people without their consent” is the best one could hope for in the early rhetoric of the American Revolution.

No Taxation John Hancock Signed Document

The “no taxation without representation” slogan sounds good orally, but would be completely out of character in writing of the period..

This “No Taxation” document pictured below is of supreme importance because John Hancock was the only “signer” to actually sign the Declaration in July of 1776 (The other members signed August the 2nd 1776). He was the President of Continental Congress and a key force in making Independence a reality. While historians can argue whether John Adams, Samuel Adams, or James Otis, was more important at the beginning of the revolution, Hancock is without question valued more highly.

The issue of taxation without representation was first raised by James Otis in 1764, but the only documents of similar content that have been on the market are a few printed pamphlets from 1765 through 1768. None are signed. Furthermore, broadsides are generally much more valuable than pamphlets. The Dunlap broadside of the Declaration is now worth more than $8.1 million unsigned with 25 copies known to exist. This printed one sided Hancock document is signed and only two others are known to exist.

Most importantly, this particular document had a demonstrable effect – it changed the world!

In response to the Boston Town meeting that issued this document, the governor called for British reinforcements (noted in the third paragraph). Also as a direct consequence of this document, the meeting called for here took place in Faneuil Hall on September 23 to September 28, 1768, with 96 towns answering Hancock’s call.

On the final day of the meeting, warships arrived in Boston with the first British reinforcements, and on October 1 two regiments arrived from Halifax, effectively beginning British occupation of its own colony. British troops stayed in Boston until forced to evacuate in March 1776.

This is a document that can be read and studied in Socratic detail. In one page this John Hancock Document represents all the issues leading to independence. Taxation, commercial differences between the parent country and colonies in a mercantilist system, opposition to a standing army in time of peace, the right to petition “expressly recognized at the glorious Revolutions as the Birthright of an Englishman,” dissolution of American assemblies, anger at clumsy British Colonial Office threats, fear of France, popular calls for conventions such as this (culminating in the Continental Congress), local democracy, etc…

Even the inconsistencies of the patriots can be studies through this document. Was it fair to say everyone must arm in fear of imminent war with France, but also complaining about British troops that would protect you? And irony using France as the big-bad-wolf, soon to be America’s most importantly ally. And what happened later to the right to petition, if the purpose of the petition was to oppose slavery?

There is no more important precursor to the Declaration of Independence in private hands today than this John Hancock document. It is extremely rare with copies only in the Massachusetts Historical Society, New York Historical Society, and the Morgan Pierpont Library in New York. Virtualology is proud to present a document that is truly on a par historical and monetary value of the unsigned July 1776 broadsides of the Declaration of Independence.

Taxes equally detrimental to the Commercial interests of the Parent Country and her Colonies, are imposed upon the People, without their Consent…”

Circular Letter Signed “John Hancock,” also signed “Joseph Jackson,” “John Ruddock,” “John Rowe,” and “Samuel Pemberton” as Selectmen of Boston, to the Selectmen of Petersham, one page; Boston, September 14, 1768.

A seminal document from the beginning of America’s struggle for independence.

Partial Transcript: (Boldface added):

“YOU are already too well acquainted with the _hreatenin [sic] and very alarming Circumstances to which this Province, as well as America in general, is now reduced. Taxes equally detrimental to the Commercial interests of the Parent Country and her Colonies, are imposed upon the People, without their Consent; - Taxes designed for the Support of the Civil Government in the Colonies, in a Manner clearly unconstitutional, and contrary to that, in which ‘till of late, Government has been supported, by the free Gift of the People in the American Assemblies or Parliaments; as also for the Maintenance of a large Standing Army; not for the Defence [sic] of the newly acquired Territories, but for the old Colonies, and in a Time of Peace. The decent, humble and truly loyal Applications and Petitions from the Representatives of this Province for the Redress of these heavy and very _hreatening [sic] Grievances, have hitherto been ineffectual…The only Effect…has been a Mandate…to Dissolve the General Assembly, merely because the late House of Representatives refused to Rescind a Resolution of a former House, which imply’d nothing more than a Right in the American Subjects to unite in humble and dutiful Petitions to their gracious Sovereign, when they found themselves aggrieved…

“The Concern and Perplexity into which these Things have thrown the People, have been greatly aggravated, by a late Declaration of his Excellency Governor BERNARD, that one or more Regiments may soon be expected in this Province…

“Deprived of the Councils of a General Assembly in this dark and difficult Season, the loyal People of this Province, will, we are persuaded, immediately perceive the Propriety and Utility of the proposed Committee of Convention…”.

Historical Background: Following their failure to enforce the Stamp Act and the Quartering Act (forcing Americans to house British troops) of 1765, the British Parliament tried again in 1767 by imposing the Townshend Acts that disbanded the New York legislature until they complied with the Quartering Act, and imposed duties on lead, paint, paper, glass, and tea.

In February, Samuel Adams and James Otis drafted – and the Massachusetts Assembly adopted – a circular letter to the other American Assemblies protesting these taxes. They expressed the hope that redress could be obtained through petitions to King George III, and called for a convention to discuss the problem and draft petitions to the Crown. The British government, however, provoked a confrontation by ordering the Massachusetts Assembly to rescind the letter and ordered Governor Bernard to dismiss the assembly if they refused.

As this circular letter clearly indicates, both contingencies came to pass. In the wake of political opposition and mob violence in Boston, Governor Bernard asked for British protection. The Convention called for in this letter was held on September 23 to 28 in Faneuil Hall, with 96 Massachusetts towns represented. On its final day, English warships arrived in Boston Harbor with the first British reinforcements. The convention composed a list of grievances, passed several resolutions, and adjourned. Two days later, royal transports unloaded British troops at the Long Wharf and began a military occupation of Boston that would last until March 17, 1776.

Start your search on No Taxation Without Representation.

The Congressional Evolution of the United States Henry Middleton

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