Adam Smith's Simplified Wealth of Nations, Book 4, Chapter 7j: Colony assemblies and Representation
Chapter 7j: Colony assemblies and Representation
151 Under the present system of management, Great Britain only derives loss from her colonies.
152 The following proposal never was and never will be adopted by any nation:
Great Britain should voluntarily give up all authority over her colonies.
The colonies should be left to elect their own magistrates and enact their own laws.
The colonies should make peace and war as they might think proper.
No nation ever voluntarily gave up the dominion of any province no matter how:
troublesome it might be to govern it
small the revenue it afforded, compared to the expence it created
Such sacrifices are always mortifying to the pride of every nation.
Although such sacrifices might frequently be agreeable to their interest.
More importantly, they are always contrary to the private interest of the government.
They would be deprived of:
many places of trust and profit
many opportunities of acquiring wealth and distinction
The possession of the most turbulent and unprofitable province always affords wealth and distinction
The most visionary enthusiast cannot propose such a measure with any serious hopes of it ever being adopted.
If it were adopted, Great Britain would be immediately freed from the expence of the peace establishment of the colonies.
She might settle for a treaty of commerce which would secure her a free trade.
The free trade would be more advantageous to the people.
It would be less advantageous to the merchants than the current monopoly.
The natural affection of the colonies to the mother country was almost extinguished by our recent dissensions.
By parting good friends, this affection would perhaps quickly revive.
By this affection, they might for centuries respect the treaty of commerce they concluded at parting with us.
They might be disposed to favour us in war and in trade.
They might become our most faithful, affectionate, and generous allies instead of turbulent and factious subjects.
The parental affection of Great Britain and the filial respect of her colonies might be revived.
Such affection and respect was present between the ancient Greek colonies and their mother city.
153 For any province to be advantageous to its empire, it should afford a peacetime revenue sufficient for:
defraying the expence of its own peace establishment
contributing its proportion to support the empire's government.
"Every province necessarily contributes to increase the expence of that general government."
If any province does not contribute, an unequal burden must placed on some other part of the empire.
The wartime revenue of every province should be proportional to peacetime revenue of the empire.
Neither the ordinary nor extraordinary revenue from British colonies is proportional to the revenue of Great Britain.
The monopoly was supposed to:
increase British private revenue
enable the British to pay more taxes to compensate the deficiency of revenue from the colonies.
I have shown that this monopoly is a very grievous tax on the colonies.
It may increase the revenue of an order of men in Great Britain, but it reduces the people's revenue.
It consequently reduces the people's ability to pay taxes.
The order of men who get increased revenue from the monopoly is absolutely impossible to tax beyond the proportion of other orders.
I shall show in Book 5 that that order is extremely unwise even to attempt to tax beyond that proportion.
No resource can be drawn from that order.
154 The colonies may be taxed by their own assemblies or by the British parliament. 155 It seems improbable that the colony assemblies can ever levy a public revenue sufficient to:
maintain their own civil and military establishment
pay their share of the government expences of the British empire.
It took a long time before even the parliament of England, under the eye of the sovereign, could be:
brought under such a system of management
rendered sufficiently liberal in their grants to support the civil and military establishments even of England.
Such a system of management could only be established in the English parliament by distributing among the parliament members a part of:
the disposal of the offices arising from this civil and military establishment
But it is difficult for the sovereign to manage the colony assemblies in the same way as the parliament due to their:
It would be absolutely impossible to distribute among all the leading members of all the colony assemblies a share of the offices of the general government of the British empire.
Such offices would dispose the leaders to:
give up their popularity at home
tax their constituents to support that general government.
Almost the whole emoluments were divided among people who were strangers to them.
The following renders such a system of management unfeasible:
The unavoidable ignorance of administration concerning the importance of those assembly members
The offences which must frequently be given
The blunders which must constantly be committed in attempting to manage them.
156"The colony assemblies cannot be the proper judges of what is necessary for the defence and support of the whole empire."
The care of that defence and support is not entrusted to them.
It is not their business.
They have no regular information concerning it.
The assembly of a province, like the vestry of a parish, may judge very properly concerning the affairs of its own district.
But it can have no proper means of judging those of the whole empire.
It cannot even judge properly the proportion of its own province to the whole empire.
It cannot judge the relative degree of its wealth and importance compared with other provinces.
Because those other provinces are not under the inspection and superintendency of the assembly of a particular province.
Only an assembly which inspects and superintends the affairs of the whole empire can judge:
what is necessary for the defence and support of the whole empire
in what proportion each part should contribute.
Taxing by requisition
157 It has been proposed that the colonies should be taxed by requisition.
The British parliament would determine the sum each colony should pay.
The provincial assembly would assess and levy it in the best way suited to the province.
In this way, what concerned the whole empire would be determined by the assembly which inspects and superintends the affairs of the whole empire.
The provincial affairs of each colony might still be regulated by its own assembly.
In this case, the colonies should have no representatives in the British parliament.
From experience, the parliamentary requisition would be reasonable.
The English parliament has not shown the smallest disposition to overburden the unrepresented parts of the empire.
Guernsey and Jersey islands are more lightly taxed than any part of Great Britain, without any means of resisting the authority of parliament.
In taxing the colonies, the Parliament never demanded anything from the colonies which even approached the tax paid by their fellow-subjects at home.
If the contribution of the colonies were pegged to the land tax, parliament could not tax the colonies without taxing its own constituents.
In this case, the colonies might be considered virtually represented in parliament.
158 There are many examples of empires where all the provinces are taxed not in one mass.
The sovereign regulates how much each province should pay.
In some provinces, he assesses and levies it by himself.
In others, he leaves it to be assessed and levied by the states of each province.
In some French provinces, the king imposes the taxes and the way it is to be levied and assessed.
In other provinces, he demands a certain sum but leaves it to the states of each province to assess and levy that sum.
According to the scheme of taxing by requisition, the British parliament would be in the same situation towards the colony assemblies as the king of France is towards the French provinces.
The French provinces are supposed to be the best governed.
159 According to this scheme, the colonies have no reason to fear that their share of taxation should exceed those of their fellow-citizens at home.
Great Britain might have just reason to fear that it never would amount to that proper proportion.
The British parliament has not established the same authority in the colonies as the French king has in the French state provinces.
The colony assemblies might:
Find many pretences for evading or rejecting the requisitions of parliament
Not be favourably disposed to the parliament
Not have been skilfully managed
If a French war breaks out, 10 millions must immediately be raised to defend Great Britain.
This must be borrowed on the credit of some parliamentary fund mortgaged for paying the interest.
Parliament proposes to raise this fund:
By a tax in Great Britain for a part of this fund.
By a requisition to all the colony assemblies of America and the West Indies for the other part of the fund.
Would people readily advance their money on the credit of a fund which partly depended on the good humour of all those assemblies?
Those assemblies are far from the seat of the war
They sometimes perhaps are not much concerned about it
Upon such a fund, only the money from the tax levied in Great Britain might be advanced.
The whole burden of the debt from the war would fall on Great Britain as it always has done.
The burden would fall on a part of the empire, not on the whole empire.
Since the world began, Great Britain is perhaps the only state which increased its expences without once increasing its resources while extending its empire.
Other states have disburdened themselves of the expence of defending their subordinate provinces.
Great Britain's subordinate provinces have disburdened themselves of the expence of defending the empire.
The law has supposed the colonies as subordinate to Great Britain.
To put Great Britain equal with her own colonies on the scheme of taxing them by requisition, it is necessary that parliament have the means to immediately make its requisitions effectual.
Those means will be tapped if the colony assemblies attempt to evade or reject the requisition.
If the British parliament establishes the right of taxing the colonies, the independence and importance of their own assemblies, and all the leading men of British America would end.
Men desire to have some share in the management of public affairs because of the importance it gives them.
The stability and duration of free governments depends on the power of the leading men and the natural aristocracy to preserve or defend their respective importance.
The whole play of domestic faction and ambition consists in:
the attacks they continually make on the importance of one another
defending their own importance.
The leading men of America, like those of all other countries, desire to preserve their own importance.
They are fond of calling their assemblies as parliaments of equal authority to the British parliament.
They feel, or imagine, that if their assemblies were degraded to become the British parliament's humble ministers and executive officers, their own importance would end.
They rejected the proposal of being taxed by parliamentary requisition.
Like other ambitious and high-spirited men, they have chosen to draw the sword to defend their own importance.
161 Towards the decline of the Roman republic, the allies of Rome bore the principal burden of defending and extending the empire.
Those allies demanded all the privileges of Roman citizens.
Upon being refused, the social war broke out.
During that war, Rome granted those privileges to most of them one by one, in proportion to how they detached themselves from their confederacy.
The British parliament insists on taxing the colonies.
The colonies refuse to be taxed by a Parliament where they are not represented.
A new method of acquiring importance would be presented to the leading men of each colony if each colony, which detached itself from their confederacy, were:
allowed to have a few representatives in Great Britain proportional to their contribution to British public revenue
allowed the number of its representatives to be increased in proportion to its increasing contribution
admitted to the same freedom of trade with its fellow-subjects at home.
It would be a new and more dazzling object of ambition for the leading men of each colony.
They might hope from the presumption, which men naturally have in their own ability and good fortune.
Instead of piddling for the little prizes in the paltry raffle of colony faction, they might hope to win great prizes in the great state lottery of British polities.
This seems the only method of preserving the importance and of gratifying the ambition of the leading men of America.
They will probably never voluntarily submit to us.
We should consider that the blood shed in forcing them to submit to us is the blood:
of our fellow-citizens
we wish to have for our fellow-citizens.
Those who flatter themselves that our colonies will be easily conquered, by force alone, are very weak.
Their continental congress feels an importance which the greatest European subjects scarce feel.
From shopkeepers, tradesmen, and attornies, they have become statesmen and legislators.
They are creating a new form of government for an extensive empire which, they flatter themselves, will become, and which seems very likely to become, one of the greatest and most formidable in the world.
500 people perhaps act under the continental congress.
Perhaps the 500,000 people who act under those 500, all feel a proportional rise in their own importance.
Almost every individual of the governing party in America fills a station superior to what he has ever filled before and what he has ever expected to fill.
Unless some new object of ambition is presented to him or to his leaders, he will die defending that station if he has the ordinary spirit of a man.
162 President Henaut remarked that the many little events of the Catholic League  were not very important.
He says that every man then fancied himself of some importance.
Most of the memoirs from those times [French Wars of Religion] were written by people who magnified events in which they flattered themselves that they had been considerable actors.
How obstinately Paris defended itself.
It would rather go through a dreadful famine than to submit to the most beloved of all the French kings.
Most of the citizens or their leaders fought to defend their own importance.
They foresaw that their importance would end if the ancient government were re-established.
Our colonies are very likely to defend themselves against the best of all mother countries as obstinately as Paris did against one of the best of kings, unless they can be induced to consent to a union.
The idea of representation was unknown in ancient times.
When the people of one state were given citizenship in another, they could only exercise that right by voting and deliberating with the people of that other state.
The admission of most Italian inhabitants into the privileges of Roman citizenship completely ruined the Roman republic.
It was no longer possible to distinguish between who was and who was not a Roman citizen.
No tribe could know its own members.
A rabble of any kind could be introduced into the assemblies.
drive out the real citizens
decide on the affairs of the republic as if they themselves were real citizens.
If America were to send 50 or 60 new representatives to parliament, the doorkeeper of the house of commons can easily distinguish between who was and who was not a member.
The Roman constitution was ruined by the union of Rome with the Italian states.
But it is improbable that the British constitution would be hurt by the union of Great Britain with her colonies.
That constitution, on the contrary, would be completed by the colonies.
It seems imperfect without the colonies.
The assembly which deliberates and decides the affairs of the whole empire should be properly informed.
It should certainly have representatives from every part of it.
I do not know how easy or difficult this union could be established.
I have heard of no difficulty which appears insurmountable.
The principal difficulties perhaps arise from the prejudices and opinions of the British and Americans, and not from the nature of things.
164 We British are afraid that the multitude of American representatives should overturn the balance of the constitution.
We are afraid that their influence on the crown or the force of democracy might increase too much.
But if the number of American representatives were proportional to the American taxation, the number of people to be managed would increase exactly in proportion to the means of managing them.
The means of managing would be proportional to the number of people to be managed.
After such a union, the monarchical and democratical parts of the constitution would be exactly in the same degree of relative force with regard to one another as before.
165 The Americans are afraid that their distance from the seat of government might expose them to many oppressions.
But their parliamentary representatives would initially be many.
They would easily be able to protect them from all oppression.
The distance could not much weaken the dependency of the representatives to their constituents.
Their consituents would still feel that their representative owed his parliamentary seat and all he derived from it, to their goodwill.
It would be the interest of the constituents to cultivate that goodwill by complaining about every civil or military outrage in those remote parts.
The Americans might flatter themselves that in the future, the seat of British government will not be far from America.
The progress of America in wealth, population, and improvement was so rapid that, perhaps after a century, American tax revenues might exceed British tax revenues.
The seat of the empire would then naturally move to that part which contributed most to the defence and support of the whole.