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

October 31, 1765
Colonists are protesting “taxation without representation”

Colonists protest Stamp Act

“No part of His Majesty’s dominions can be taxed without their consent… this would seem to [contradict] the theory of the constitution.”
—James Otis, Massachusetts legislator

Tension is high. Yesterday, an angry mob rushed a tax stamp distributor in Williamsburg, surrounding him.

Today, the frightened agent resigned.

Angry groups of shopkeepers, printers, lawyers and merchants—calling themselves Sons of Liberty—have joined together. They burn effigies of royal officials and strong-arm stamp agents across the colonies.

They’re protesting the Stamp Act.

Parliament shocked us all by passing the act. It taxes almost every piece of paper we use: newspapers, legal documents…even playing cards!

They’ve never taxed us directly before. We’re outraged.

Meeting in a special congress, we’ve declared that the act violates the “spirit” of the English constitution. We should be taxed only by our colonial legislatures.

We’ve resolved that Parliament has no power to tax us…because we aren’t represented in Parliament.

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