What exactly made the Americans believe they were different than the Cornish people besides the distance which divided them from England? Wasn't it the settlers' own free decision to move from parliament? All Americans were there of their own free will and were still under the the authority of the crown. "Taxation without representation", while seemingly an undeniable belief in the modern age, was only the statement of a poor minister in colonial America and thus had no legitimate grounds "outside our hearts" I would say. If it was legitimate, what is the distinction between the Cornish people and the Americans? Americans willingly moved hundreds of miles from parliament.

I am asking after reading a short entry on the politics of Samuel Johnson, a brief synopsis reads:

"The last of these pamphlets, Taxation No Tyranny (1775), was a defense of the Coercive Acts and a response to the Declaration of Rights of the First Continental Congress of America, which protested against taxation without representation.Johnson argued that in emigrating to America, colonists had "voluntarily resigned the power of voting", but they still had "virtual representation" in Parliament. In a parody of the Declaration of Rights, Johnson suggested that the Americans had no more right to govern themselves than the Cornish people. If the Americans wanted to participate in Parliament, said Johnson, they could move to England and purchase an estate. Johnson denounced English supporters of America as "traitors to this country", and hoped that the matter would be settled without bloodshed, but that it would end with "English superiority and American obedience".

  • 3
    The short answer is that this is what the Revolutionary War was over. Since the colonists won, the answer is "no". :-)
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 6, 2016 at 14:08
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    That was Parliment's position essentially. However, they lost the war, so no it turned out it was Parliament that was demanding stuff they had neither the moral nor the physical capability of enforcing (classic "bratty" behavior). You may consider reading this question from 2 weeks ago where one of the answers specifically mentioned this specious "virtual representation" argument.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 6, 2016 at 15:24
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    "move to England and purchase an estate" isn't a realistic suggestion.
    – MCW
    Jun 6, 2016 at 18:38
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    "So we are just a bunch of unjustified, treasonous brats essentially? :) (I'm American btw)" Pro tip: beginning a statement with "so" and ending with "essentially" are warning flags that a load of bovine excrement is wedged between those two words. Jun 6, 2016 at 20:19
  • Americans were not represented in Parliament. The position was that they were subjects of the king, like the English, and that, just as the English have a legislature, the American colonies have legislatures, and the legislature of neither has jurisdiction over the other. Jan 31, 2020 at 20:37

1 Answer 1


What Samuel Johnson, the king, and parliament all ignored was the fact that the 13 colonies, unlike later 19th century colonies or some 18th century colonies, were not part of, nor totally possessions of, the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Instead they were conceived when created to be miniature Englands where the English settlers would govern themselves with colonial governors as miniature kings and colonial assemblies as miniature parliaments, and owing allegiance to the distant kingdom of England in return for (and to the degree of) English protection from outsiders.

Pennsylvania was still a proprietary colony, and the governor of Pennsylvania in this case was like a viceroy for the proprietor, living in England, who was even more like a miniature and vassal king of Pennsylvania.

They were considered to be fiefs of the kingdom of England, not parts of the kingdom of England and later of Great Britain.

If Queen Elizabeth II and the cabinet and Parliament of the UK tried to give orders to and make laws for independent nations like Canada or Australia that would be considered an illegal usurpation of power. The case of the colonists was not that strong however.

The colonies were clearly not independent nations before 1776-1783. Instead they were dependencies of Great Britain like the Island of Mann or the Channel Islands are dependencies of the United Kingdom today. It should be noted that the Queen of the UK has every legal right to use the title of Queen of France today, since the Channel Islands are parts of the medieval Kingdom of France that were never conquered by the Valois claimants of the Kingdom of France in the 100 years war or by the French Republic.

Or the relationship could be compared to the present relationship between the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the United States.

In any case the colonists visualized the relationship between the colonies and the kingdom of Great Britain as vaguely similar to the later relationship between the states and the Federal government of the United States. They believed that most political powers, such as the power to tax, were reserved for the colonial governments and the Crown had limited and restricted powers over the colonies. The colonists believed that the gradual increase of royal and parliamentary control over the colonies, followed by the rapid increase after the French and Indian War, was a violation of the original terms of the relationship between the colonies and the home country.

  • AFAIK, the IoM and Channel Islands are crown dependencies. They are (more or less) equal partners with the UK, not dependencies of the UK. Jun 16, 2016 at 14:01
  • " to use the title of Queen of France" -- how does that logic work, what's the principle here? I thought George III and the Act of Union renounced the claim. And for that matter wouldn't the monarchs of England have claimed the French monarchy even if they hadn't hung on to the channel islands? If there were some other monarch in possession of some part of the medieval Kingdom of France (Monaco maybe, or some sliver over the Spanish border), would they have the same legal right too? Lodging the monarchy of France in the channel islands seems like the tail wagging the dog, so why there? Jul 19, 2016 at 9:39
  • For that matter what about the successors to the Jacobite pretenders, don't they nominally claim to be monarchs of France by right too via the same old English claim? I guess since there is no Kingdom of France, the French can afford to be relatively tolerant of a few Kings of France running about the place ;-) Jul 19, 2016 at 9:44
  • Steve Jessop - The channel Islands were part of the Kingdom of France for centuries ere Edward III claimed France in 1340 if I remember. The Valois and Bourbon kings and the French republic never managed to reconquer the channel islands. Thus the Channel Islands were part of the medieval Kingdom of France and their present over lord has the same right to use the title Queen of France as the king of Navarre did after Spain conquered most but not all of Navarre.in 1512. Except in title Elizabeth II is as much queen of (English) France as Joan III was queen of (French) Navarre.
    – MAGolding
    Jan 10, 2017 at 15:26

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