HIstory, Interpretation

Document Interpretation 3: Taxation without Representation 

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One of the most important skills a historian develops is the ability to evaluate historical documents. This evaluation concerns asking questions of the documents that allows a historian to have insight in a particular topic or period being investigated. This week’s documents relate to the weekly module topic. This week’s documents relate to the weekly module topic of culture and cultural interaction. If you still need help prioritizing your questions of the document go to the Document Interpretation Tutorial Page. Use the questions below to learn how to analyze various types of sources and to become an historian yourself. 


In this weekly discussion assignment you will need to:

  1. Choose one of the documents below to read.
  2. Write a 250-500 word initial post and and present your interpretation of the document and the material you have been introduced to in this module.This is due by: Thursday, 11:59 pm.
  3. Respond to at least 2 other classmates’ interpretations. Your response is due by: Sunday 11:59 pm.

 Peter Oliver; Origin and Progress of the American Rebellion: A Tory View (Links to an external site.)

  • What was Oliver’s opinion of the duties England imposed on the colonies?
  • How did Oliver describe the colonist who protested these measures? What kinds of adjectives did he use?
  • What is the point of the story at the end, about the horse and the sheep

Benjamin Franklin, Testimony Against the Stamp Act (Links to an external site.)

  • Where does Franklin lay the blame should violence emerge from the Stamp Act controversy? Why?
  • According to Franklin, what kinds of action are the colonist ready to take to pretest the levying of internal taxes by Parliament ?

James Otis,  The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved (Links to an external site.)

  • Some contemporaries of Otis interpreted this document as a radical challenge to the authority of the king and parliament.  Others saw it simply as a clear expression of the rights of British citizens in both Britain and the colonies.  With which side do you agree? Why?
  • What does Otis believe is the role of government?
  • Whom does Otis blame for the violations of American’s rights?

Slave Petition to the House of Representatives in Massachusetts Bay (Links to an external site.)

  • What were the multiple reasons the petitioners listed for ending slavery?
  • What are the specific references to the Declaration of Independence?
  • What, in your opinion, is the most convincing argument in the petition?

Virginia Nonimportation Resolutions (Links to an external site.)

  • What do the sponsors of the proposed boycott hope to achieve with these resolutions?What evidence do the sponsors present that such tactics might prove successful?
  • What analogy do the subscribers use to describe themselves should they submit to Parliament’s taxation?
  • Why is this analogy significant coming from Virginia?
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