Guest Essayist: Professor Joerg Knipprath, Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School

Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved-James Otis

The Declaration of Rights of the Stamp Act Congress of 1765 set forth the fundamental principle that no taxes could be imposed on them, “but with their own consent, given personally, or by their representatives.” This principle was reduced to the aphorism “taxation without representation is tyranny” and, eventually, “no taxation without representation.” One cannot assign this idea to any individual or movement, as it reflects a long historical struggle between King and Parliament that culminated in the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Read more

Otis rose to prominence in 1761, after he gave a courtroom speech opposing the Writs of Assistance–blanket warrants issued by the British for searching suspect property. He edited that speech into this essay three years later, after the passage of the Sugar Act. Its arguments contain the seed of the American Revolution–an appeal to natural rights applied against particular abuses of political power. Struck by lightning in 1783, Otis did not live beyond the Revolution. But John Adams remarked that he had never known a man “whose service for any ten years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770.”


Let no Man think I am about to commence advocate for despotism, Read more