The Declaratory Act (1766) was a statement by the British Parliament accompanying the abolition of the Stamp Act. It stated that the tax authority of the British Parliament in America was the same as in Britain.
The Parliament directly taxed the colonies on income under the Sugar Act (1764) and the Stamp Act (1765). Parliament softened the disobedient colonists by abolishing the unpleasant Stamp Act. Still, in fact, it enshrined its principle in the Declaratory Act, declaring its full authority to make laws binding on American colonies “in all cases”.
Representatives of thirteen colonies met in the Stamp Act Congress in response to the Stamp Act of 1765 to question the far-reaching authority to tax them without proper representation. The British Parliament then faced the colonies, which refused to comply with the Act. This, combined with the protests that took place in the colonies, and perhaps more importantly, with the protests that arose in Britain from producers who suffered under the colonies’ non-immigration agreement, all led to the abolition of the Stamp Act.
This crisis has focused attention on the unresolved issue of Parliament’s relationship with a growing empire. This Act, in particular, demonstrated Britain’s insensitivity to the political maturity that developed in American provinces during the eighteenth century, partly in response to unwritten parliamentary policies to save the colonies during the first half of the century. The parliamentary suspension of the New York Assembly under the Townshend Acts of 1767 increased colonial anxiety and each new regulation increased colonists’ fear of a parliamentary threat to well-entrenched colonial self-government institutions.
While many in Parliament believed that this paragraph implied taxes, other members of Parliament and many colonists who were busy celebrating what they thought was their political victory did not. Other colonists, however, were outraged that the Declaratory Act implied that new acts were coming. The Declaratory Act was copied almost verbatim from the Irish Declaratory Act, which made Ireland dependent on the crown, indicating that the Thirteen colonies would suffer the same fate. However, the colonists had never explicitly called for its abolition and, until the last minute, sought reconciliation with the crown.
Despite British recognition of the independence of the United States in 1783, the Declaration Act remained in force for the remaining British Empire colonies in the western hemisphere. The Act was repealed only in 1964, while the handful of remaining British colonies in the West Indies were governed by constitutions expressly granted by Parliament (notably the West Indies Act of 1962).
However, since the Colonial Taxation Act of 1778 during the American Revolution, the British Parliament has never again attempted to impose taxation directly on any of its colonies (now known as the British Overseas Territories). Instead, whenever the British government perceived the need for colonial contributions to protect the empire (as it did during the Anglo-German arms race in the early 20th century), it turned to the colonial governments themselves with varying degrees of success.