Blacks Petition Against Taxation Without Representation
March 14, 1780

In 1780, seven African-American residents of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, presented the following very thoughtful petition to the legislature. Their protest was simple: They were being taxed and were not allowed to vote. The relationship between taxation and representation, they pointed out, was “too well known to need a recital in this place.”

To the Honorable Council and House of Representatives in General Court assembled for the State of Massachusetts Bay in New England, March 14, An 1780. The petition of several poor Negroes and Mulattos who are inhabitants of the town of Dartmouth humbly sheweth: That we being chiefly of the African extract and by reason of long bondage and hard slavery we have been deprived of enjoying the profits of our labor or the advantage of inheriting estates from our parents as our neighbors the white people do (having some of us not long enjoyed our own freedom), and yet of late, contrary to the invariable custom and practice of the country, we have been and now are taxed both in our polls and that small pittance of estate which through much hard labor and industry we have got together to sustain our selves and families withal.
We apprehend it therefore to be hard usage... and doubtless will reduce us to beggary, whereby we shall become a burden to others if not timely prevented by the interposition of your justice and power.
And your petitioners further show that we apprehend ourselves to be aggrieved, in that while we are not allowed the privilege of freemen of the state, having no vote or influence in the election of those that tax us, yet many of our color (as is well known) have cheerfully entered the field of battle in the defense of the common cause, and that (as we conceive) against a similar exertion of power (in regard to taxation) too well known to need a recital in this place.

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