National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1765-1786: We win a hard-fought Revolution and seize its promise of liberty

May 16, 1766
What rules: principles, or Parliament?

Parliament building

Our argument with Britain about taxes is really about the English constitution.

For us, the constitution is a set of principles, like the idea that we cannot be taxed without our consent. In our eyes, Parliament has been violating key constitutional principles.

For the British, the constitution means Parliament. It represents the whole empire, they say, and is “sovereign.” Whatever Parliament does is constitutional.

Which has the ultimate authority: Parliament, or principles?

In today's news we learn that the hated Stamp Act has been repealed. But a new act says Parliament can make law for America “in all cases whatsoever.”

This battle is not over.

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