Objections by the original colonies regarding the rule of the British king began when he imposed a series of unjust laws that violated the colonists’ rights as British citizens. The colonists objected most vehemently to taxation without representation.
The December 16, 1773, Tea Party: The Colonists were refusing to pay taxes required by the British Parliament because their representatives had not been allowed to participate in tax enforcement decisions. If Americans paid the duty tax on the imported tea they would be acknowledging Parliament’s right to tax them. On December 16, 1773, when three shipments of tea were in the Boston harbor the crisis came to a head. The Colonists liked their tea, but in the early evening about 200 descended upon the three ships and dumped the expensive shipments of tea into the harbor waters. This act was monumental and there could no longer be any misunderstanding about the political will of Americans.
In 1774, on September 5, the First Continental Congress came together in Philadelphia with hopes of reaching an agreement with the British king. Alexander Hamilton expressed the colonists’ concern in a published pamphlet: “The only distinction between freedom and slavery consists of this: in the former state, man is governed by laws to which he has given his consent, either in person or, by his representative. In the latter he is governed by the will of another.*
In 1775, the Second Continental Congress convened May 10. The goal of the colonies was justice, not independence. On July 5, 1775, the Continental Congress approved the Olive Branch Petition and appealed “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, Most Gracious Sovereign” for reconciliation. The English Parliament responded to this appeal on December 22, 1775, with the American Prohibitory Act—a declaration of unrestricted war against the colonists, claiming the right to confiscate their property. Freedom for Americans at that point becomes a matter of self-defense and necessitated a new republican (republic) government.
*Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 1985), 160.
~ D. Norris