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Goddard, William

The rights of colonies examined

Though Britain triumphed in the Seven Years War with France (1756-1763), it emerged from the conflict with a severe fiscal deficit. To close the deficit, Parliament announced its intention to impose new taxes on American colonies, including a duty on imported sugar and molasses. The proposal provoked a wave of protests against "taxation without representation," which culminated in the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. Rhode Islanders, whose economy depended on the traffic in sugar, molasses, and rum, played a leading role in colonial opposition. In 1764, local merchants drafted the "Rhode Island Remonstrance," which was carried personally to London by Stephen Hopkins, the colony's governor and chancellor of the newly created College of Rhode Island, what is today Brown University. After his return from England, Hopkins published this pamphlet, The Rights of Colonies Examined, which established the basic terms of colonial opposition to Parliamentary taxation. Those who paid taxes levied without their consent, Hopkins asserted, were "in the miserable condition of slaves" - "the heaviest curse human nature is capable of." Hopkins was himself a slaveowner at the time. The Brown brothers forwarded a copy of the pamphlet to Hopkins's younger brother Esek, who was then on the coast of Africa aboard the slave ship Sally.