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How did the British and colonial view of representation in Parliament differ?


At the time period when Britain was colonizing North America, only property owners were allowed to vote.  The colonies typically used this same restriction.

In practice, however, this was very different.  In England, almost all property was owned by the King and a relatively small number of aristocrats.  Most people lived on land rented from the local lord and did not own the land outright.  Therefore, they had no right to vote for Parliament.  The English nobility believed they were the natural leaders of society and had the right and duty to make laws for everyone else.

In the US, almost anyone could be a land owner if they had a little money.  Therefore, most heads of households had the right to vote.  This meant that a much broader portion of the people could vote for the colonial legislature.  Colonists came to believe that governmental authority was justified based on the consent of governed by winning elections.

When the British Parliament began to more strictly regulate the colonies and to impose direct taxes on them, the colonists objected, saying they were not represented in Parliament.  They did not have the right to vote for any members of Parliament.  The English leadership disagreed, believing that the members of Parliament represented all British subjects, regardless of who elected them.

I hope this helps!
- Mike

U.S. History

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Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

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