Daniel Dulany on British taxation (1765)


Daniel Dulany, a Maryland lawyer who later remained loyal to Britain, wrote on the issues of taxation and representation in his 1765 essay Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes:


“It is an essential principle of the English constitution, that the subject shall not be taxed without his consent… But it is alleged that there is a virtual or implied representation of the colonies springing out of the constitution of the British government. And it must be confessed on all hands that as the representation is not actual, it is virtual, or it doth not exist at all, for no third kind of representation can be imagined. The colonies claim the privilege, common to all British subjects, of being taxed only with their own consent, given by their representatives, and all the advocates for the Stamp Act admit this claim.

Whether… the imposition of the Stamp Duties is a proper exercise of constitutional authority or not, depends upon the single question: Whether the commons of Great Britain are virtually the representatives of the commons of America or not.

The advocates for the Stamp Act admit, in express terms, that the colonies do not choose members of parliament, but they assert that the colonies are virtually represented in the same manner with non-electors resident in Great Britain. The colonies are dependent upon Great Britain, and the supreme authority vested in the king, lords, and commons, may justly be exercised to secure, or preserve their dependence, whenever necessary for that purpose. This authority results from, and is implied in the idea of the relation subsisting between England and her colonies…

But, though the right of the superior to use the proper means for preserving the subordination of his inferior is admitted, it does not necessarily follow that he has a right to seize the property of his inferior when he pleases, or to command him in everything; since in the degrees of it, there may very well exist a dependence and inferiority, without absolute vassalage and slavery.

By their constitutions of government, the colonies are empowered to impose internal taxes. This power is compatible with their dependence and hath been expressly recognised by British ministers and the British parliament upon many occasions; and it may be exercised effectually without striking at, or impeaching, in any respect, the superintendence of the British parliament. 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.”