Daniel Dulany, Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies (1765).

Selected passages


I shall undertake to disprove the supposed similarity of situation, whence the same kind of representation is deduced of the inhabitants of the colonies, and of the British nonelectors; and, if I succeed, the notion of a virtual representation of the colonies must fail, which, in truth, is a mere cobweb spread to catch the unwary and entangle the weak. I would be understood. I am upon a question of propriety, not of power; and though some may be inclined to think it is to little purpose to discuss the one when the other is irresistible, yet are they different considerations; and, at the same time that I invalidate the claim upon which it is founded, I may very consistently recommend a submission to the law, whilst it endures....

Lessees for years, copyholders, proprietors of the public funds, inhabitants of Birmingham, Leeds, Halifax, and Manchester, merchants of the City of London, or members of the corporation of the East India Company, are, as such, under no personal incapacity to be electors; for they may acquire the right of election, and there are actually not only a considerable number of electors in each of the classes of lessees for years, etc., but in many of them, if not all, even members of Parliament. The interests, therefore, of the nonelectors, the electors, and the representatives are individually the same; to say nothing of the connection among neighbors, friends, and relations. The security of the nonelectors against oppression is that their oppression will fall also upon the electors and the representatives. The one cannot be injured and the other indemnified. Further, if the nonelectors should not be taxed by the British Parliament, they would not be taxed at all; and it would be iniquitous, as well as a solecism in the political system, that they should partake of all the benefits resulting from the imposition and application of taxes, and derive an immunity from the circumstance of not being qualified to vote. Under this constitution, then, a double or virtual representation may be reasonably supposed.

The electors, who are inseparably connected in their interests with the nonelectors, may be justly deemed to be the representatives of the nonelectors, at the same time they exercise their personal privilege in their right of election, and the members chosen, therefore, the representatives of both. This is the only rational explanation of the expression ôvirtual representation.ö None has been advanced by the assertors of it, and their meaning can only be inferred from the instances by which they endeavor to elucidate it; and no other meaning can be stated to which the instances apply....

The inhabitants of the colonies are, as such, incapable ot being electors, the privilege of election being exercisable only in person, and, therefore, if every inhabitant of America had the requisite freehold, not one could vote but upon the supposition of his ceasing to be an inhabitant of America and becoming a resident in Great Britain, a supposition which would be impertinent because it shifts the questionùShould the colonies not be taxed by parliamentary impositions; their respective legislatures have a regular, adequate, and constitutional authority to tax them; and therefore there would not necessarily be an iniquitous and absurd exemption from their not being represented by the House of Commons?

There is not that intimate and inseparable relation between the electors of Great Britain and the inhabitants of the colonies, which must inevitably involve both in the same taxation. On the contrary, not a single actual elector in England might be immediately affected by a taxation in America, imposed by a statute which would have a general operation and effect upon the properties of the inhabitants of the colonies.

But though it has been admitted that the Stamp Act is the first statute that has imposed an internal tax upon the colonies for the single purpose of revenue, yet the advocates for that law contend that there are many instances of the Parliament's exercising a supreme legislative authority over the colonies and actually imposing internal taxes upon their properties --that the duties upon any exports or imports are internal taxes; that an impost on a foreign commodity is as much an internal tax as a duty upon any production of the plantations; that no distinction can be supported between one kind of tax and another, an authority to impose the one extending to the other.

If these things are really as represented by the advocates for the Stamp Act, why did the chancellor of the Exchequer make it a question for the consideration of the House of Commons, whether the Parliament could impose an internal tax in the colonies or not for the single purpose of revenue?

It appears to me that there is a clear and necessary distinction between an act imposing a tax for the single purpose of revenue and those acts which have been made for the regulation of trade and have produced some revenue in consequence of their effect and operation as regulations of trade.

The colonies claim the privileges of British subjects. It has been proved to be inconsistent with those privileges to tax them with out their own consent, and it has been demonstrated that a tax imposed by Par1iament is a tax without their consent.

The subordination of the colonies and the authority of Parliament to preserve it have been fully acknowledged. Not Only the welfare but perhaps the existence of the mother country, as an independent kingdom, may depend upon her trade and navigation, and these so far upon her intercourse with the colonies that if this should be neglected, there would soon be an end to that commerce, whence her greatest wealth is derived and upon which her maritime power is principally founded. From these considerations, the right of the British Parliament to regulate the trade of the colonies may be justly deduced; a denial of it would contradict the admission of the subordination and of the authority to preserve it, resulting from the nature of the relation between the mother country and her colonies. It is a common and frequently the most proper method to regulate trade by duties or imports and exports. The authority of the mother country to regulate the trade of the colonies being unquestionable, what regulations are the most proper are to be of course submitted to the determination of the Parliament; and if an incidental revenue should be produced by such regulations, these are not therefore unwarrantable.

A right to impose an internal tax on the colonies without their consent for the single purpose of revenue is denied; a right to regulate their trade without their consent is admitted. The imposition of a duty may, in some instances, be the proper regulation. If the claims of the mother country and the colonies should seem on such an occasion to interfere and the point of right to be doubtful (which I take to be otherwise), it is easy to guess that the determination will be on the side of power and that the inferior will be constrained to submit....

Not only as a friend to the colonies but as an inhabitant having my all at stake upon their welfare, I desire an exemption from taxes imposed without my consent, and I have reflected longer than a moment upon the consequences. I value it as one of the dearest privileges I enjoy. I acknowledge dependence on Great Britain, but I can perceive a degree of it without slavery, and I disown all other. I do not expect that the interests of the colonies will be considered by some men but in subserviency to other regards The effects of luxury, and venality, and oppression, posterity may perhaps experience, and sufficient for the day will be the evil thereof.