As her students enter the classroom they arrange their desks into three groups—on the left of the room a group of “rebels,” on the right, a group of “loyalists,” and in the front, a group of “judges.” Off to the side with a spiral notebook on her lap sits Jensen, a short woman in her late 30s with a booming voice. But today that voice is silent as her students take up the question of the legitimacy of British taxation in the American colonies.
The rebels’ first speaker, a 16-year-old girl with a Grateful Dead T-shirt and one dangling earring, takes a paper from her notebook and begins:
England says she keeps troops here for our own protection. On face value, this seems reasonable enough, but there is really no substance to their claims. First of all, who do they think they are protecting us from? The French? Quoting from our friend Mr. Bailey on page 54, ‘By the settlement in Paris in 1763, French power was thrown completely off the continent of North America.’ Clearly not the French then. Maybe they need to protect us from the Spanish? Yet the same war also subdued the Spanish, so they are no real worry either. In fact, the only threat to our order is the Indians…but…we have a decent militia of our own…. So why are they putting troops here? The only possible reason is to keep us in line. With more and more troops coming over, soon every freedom we hold dear will be stripped away. The great irony is that Britain expects us to pay for these vicious troops, these British squelchers of colonial justice.
A loyalist responds:
We moved here, we are paying less taxes than we did for two generations in England, and you complain? Let’s look at why we are being taxed— the main reason is probably because England has a debt of £140,000,000. …This sounds a little greedy, I mean what right do they have to take our money simply because they have the power over us. But did you know that over one-half of their war debt was caused by defending us in the French and Indian War…. Taxation without representation isn’t fair. Indeed, it’s tyranny. Yet virtual representation makes this whining of yours an untruth. Every British citizen, whether he had a right to vote or not, is represented in Parliament. Why does this representation not extend to America?
A rebel questions the loyalist about this:
Rebel: What benefits do we get out of paying taxes to the crown?
Loyalist: We benefit from the protection.
Rebel: (cutting in) Is that the only benefit you claim, protection?
Loyalist: Yes—and all the rights of an Englishman.
Rebel: Okay, then what about the Intolerable Acts…denying us rights of British subjects. What about the rights we are denied?
Loyalist: The Sons of Liberty tarred and feather people, pillaged homes— they were definitely deserving of some sort of punishment.
Rebel: So should all the colonies be punished for the acts of a few colonies?