American Heritage: Words too often forgottenPublished 11:25pm Wednesday, May 9, 2012
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776)
Up to this point in our look at our great American Heritage, we have been looking at the lives of individuals and groups who had come to this great land. e have seen good reasons and bad. We have seen success and we have seen failures. But the quest continued. And, a new nation began to germinate. The first leaves of the planted seeds began to protrude through the soil.
With that growth also came a concern within the “mother country,” England. More and more the colonists expected more recognition and representation within the English government. But more and more, the rights of the colonists were beginning to disappear. More taxes, more restrictions and less representation were sparks that were igniting a flame that would soon erupt and burn the rope of bondage that the colonists were beginning to resent. A large percentage of these people had come to this land for freedom. It was evident that this was not the intent of the English government.
On March 22, 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act. This act called for tax stamps to be placed on all paper goods that were being sold in the colonies. This was the first attempt by the English government to levy a direct tax on the colonists.
The result of this attempt was met with great opposition within the colonies. James Otis and Patrick Henry were orators who were greatly respected in those days, and they began to speak out about this.
Shortly before the American Revolution a slogan emerged. Colonists complained that they had no one to speak for them in the British Parliament. James Otis, about 1761, reflected the resentment of American colonists at being taxed by a British Parliament to which they elected no representatives. He made the statement, in one of his speeches that “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” This became an anti-British slogan that was repeated by others.
We will look at more about this topic in our next article.