The Instigator
highever
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
SecularSociety
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

The American War of Indepedence was unjustified.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/23/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 285 times Debate No: 82948
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
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highever

Pro

First round for acceptance only.
SecularSociety

Con

I'm accepting this debate merely to discover what type of arguments you will present for the topic, and to see whether or not I can muster up a rational defense. I am assuming that you are arguing from the standpoint of (Pro) which in this case would be that The War of Independence was NOT justified in any way, and that the British Empire had every right to hold it's colonies and do whatever they wish to/for/with them, considering they were the same nation.

Am I assuming your stance correctly? If so, I am glad to take the challenge and look forward to seeing what evidence you provide for your assertion!
Debate Round No. 1
highever

Pro

Hello, thank you for accepting. Unfortunately, you do not seem to be accepting messages currently. So, I am unable to privately answer some of your questions regarding the debate. Admittedly, I should have made my entry post more informative. I am not claiming that Great Britain had the right to do whatever it wished with the colonists, rather that the claims for the conflict put forth by the Patriots for rebellion lacked sufficient merit. It is not that Great Britain was completely free of wrongdoing, just that their wrongdoings were not to the degree of severity where I believe independence through violence was a proper solution.

The Patriot perspective utilized quite a few claims in its justification of the American War of Independence. And, importantly, I will assert they believe in the legitimacy of each claim. Accordingly, each claim they put forward that is without justification should necessitate the overall lowering of justification they have for the conflict. To what extent this is the case, is for a judge to decide; but, I will contend that important claims being shown as dubious should have an important effect on overall justification.

To begin, I would like to analyze what was probably the biggest cause for the war, taxation.

There are two significant questions to be asked here; Did Great Britain have the right to tax the colonists? As well as, were the taxes on the colonists excessively burdensome? If Great Britain did not have the right, and/or the taxation on the colonists was particularly burdensome, it would contribute to the validity of the patriot perspective, but hinder the perspective if the opposite were true.

Unsurprisingly, I would contend that Great Britain had the legal right to tax the colonists, and that the amount of the taxes was not unbearable, but actually rather small.

The objection to the legality of the parliament in Great Britain taxing the colonists is usually phrased in a very iconic, particular sort of manner. No taxation without representation. The patriot position was that it violated the English constitution for a subject of the British Empire to be taxed without being represented in parliament. Parliament acknowledged that all subjects of the British Empire were both protected (and bound) by common law. From the Commentaries on the Laws of England 1765, an 'Englishman can only be taxed but by his own consent, or that of representative. (1)' It is also noteworthy that the House of Commons in parliament is the only body in all the land capable of taxation according to the English constitution. (1)

Note that there is no reference here to direct representation. And, of course the passage is not implying direct representation, how could it be? In Revolutionary Era England, more than 19 out of 20 English subjects couldn't vote(5). This is where the (in)famous doctrine of virtual representation comes in to play. So, in order for the colonists to claim exemption from parliamentary taxation, in the eyes of the law, their cases would have to be significantly different than the innumerable multitude of vote less folk in England. The colonists can claim all the rights of Englishmen, but they can claim no more; and it is not a right of an Englishman to be directly represented in parliament.

This particular axiom (an Englishman can only consent...) that at first seems to be granting the colonists immunity from taxation probably arose from the English not wanting to be taxed by their king, only by their representative in the House of Commons. Of course, at one point in English history, the king could tax, and it ended in conflicts between the monarch and the house of commons. (1)

A comment on taxation without representation, the Stamp Act Congress, the Continental Congress, never once formally requested representation in Parliament(4). I suspect they preferred profits over inclusiveness (representation would remove an objection to taxes), but perhaps I should believe their claim that it would have been impractical for them to be represented.

It is apparent that the Colonists had no legally valid exemption from the taxes. But, if Parliament was waving complete power around with reckless abandon, taxing them inordinate amounts to the point that they are nothing but empty shells of their former selves, I would grant this is quite bad. It is then necessary to investigate the extent to which the Colonists were subjected to taxation.

Let us consider the notorious Stamp Act. The act that was never enforced because of intimidation of the tax collectors as well as general rioting. To better protect the Colonial interests as well as the British Empire's interests at large, 7000 British troops performed a sort of border duty on the western frontier. The tax itself was to pay a third of the soldier's expense, and all of the revenue generated was to stay in the colonies. Perhaps 100,000 pounds was the amount to be generated, not a large amount indeed; "by this accounting, Britain was a generous master and the Americans were mean-spirited ingrates in resisting their contribution." Of course, the British Empire never received any funds from the colonies that would eventually rebel. Needless to say, they weren't oppressed by unbearable taxation. Though colonies both to the north and south of the future 13 rebellious colonies paid the taxes with a "yawn." (2)

The Townshend acts were intended to generate a measly 40,000 pounds a year. And the Tea Act, the act which inspired an event that has reached near mythical proportions as an anti tax rallying point, wasn't even introduced to generate tax revenue. (2)

The Stamp Act, The Townshend Act, the Sugar Act, and the Tea act... none of these acts intended to make large amounts of money off the Colonists. They were also the only explicit tax revenue acts parliament passed. They were also all repealed after Colonial protesting. (2)

I think it's necessary to comment on the philosophical justification of the war. The Patriots emphasized the teachings of John Locke when justifying their rebellion. In particular, they emphasized consent of the governed, and right to revolt. This is simple to explain, if one does not try to understand what is meant by consent, a government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the people in the state. And when the government does not have the consent of the people, the people have the right to revolt.

The question is, does consent of the governed justify rebellion? Well, that depends on what is meant by consent. If it is popular consent, then it would not justify rebellion in this circumstance. The Patriot perspective was not the majority(3). If it is hypothetical consent, whether one should consent, it depends on the judge. There are many theories on what is meant by 'consent' in consent of the governed. But, because the idea of consent of the governed cannot be shown beyond a shadow of a doubt to support the American Revolution, it lacks significance in justifying that struggle. The philosophical defense of the War of Independence does not pass the test of internal consistency.

One may say Americans benefitted from the Independence War in the long run. I'd say it's difficult to predict what would happen if the movement was unsuccessful or did not happen. I'd also say Americans most definitely did not benefit from it in the short run. Loss of life, decrease in quality of life, and all the horrors of war.

1) http://avalon.law.yale.edu...
2)) http://uknowledge.uky.edu...
3) http://www.ushistory.org...) https://en.wikipedia.org...
5) http://www.let.rug.nl...
SecularSociety

Con

SecularSociety forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
highever

Pro

highever forfeited this round.
SecularSociety

Con

SecularSociety forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
highever

Pro

highever forfeited this round.
SecularSociety

Con

SecularSociety forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by highever 1 year ago
highever
Thank you for your input, I do agree there are other factors in the origins of the American Revolution, but I did what I could address the important issues. It is also worthy of noting that the other issues were largely related to taxation, and a lot of them probably stemmed from that issue.

It is my belief that taxation deserves considerable importance in the discussion because the overwhelming belief on the subject matter is that taxation was the principle cause of the American Revolution. If the patriot perspective on taxes was incorrect, this should significantly affect the justification for the war.

I also did not solely latch on to the issue of taxation. I addressed to some extent the philosophical justification of the war, and established the independence war as a minority movement.
Posted by Robkwoods 1 year ago
Robkwoods
Very interesting, I think latching solely on to taxation will cause your loss. Taxation was the start, but there are a confluence of factors that started the actual war.

I am certainly in for the show.
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