Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When the first American colonies were established on the continent, "there was not a British empire "[1] . At that time, the predominant idea was not to build an empire, for England, but instead, to simply secure lands on the continent in England's name. England could not afford to be left out of any acquisitions. The French, the Dutch, and the Spanish had already claimed territories there, and England could not allow herself to be left behind any of these countries. "The [English] government certainly had no money to spare to help the colonies. This introduced the general rule that English colonies [in America] had to cover their own costs"[2] . By not funding the colonies and taking only a "spasmatic interest in their growing empire "[3] , Great Britain allowed the colonies to govern themselves for more than one hundred years with little or even no interference. The old saying "out of sight, out of mind" tends to be very true in the relationship between England and her American colonies. The colonies were so " out of sight and out of mind" in England that neither a king, nor a queen, nor current member of parliament ever set foot on American soil. [4] This was mainly because America was 3000 miles away, and a visit there could take up to three weeks just to arrive in the colonies. Besides, what could possibly be of interest so far from their homeland? The English would soon have an answer to that question.
Had the English paid a bit more attention to the colonies in America, they would have realized that the colonists were losing the concept of who actually governed them. There was obviously not a monarch or Parliamentary system in America to rule them, so they naturally began looking to the government nearest to them for their laws and various needs. There was a " 'layered' arrangement extending from the British Crown and Parliament through royal officials resident in the colonies [called governors], to colonial assemblies and down to local units of administration . . ." [5] . This type of system had never been experienced in England. English citizens had always had only the local magistrates, Parliament, and their monarch. It was evident to these citizens just who had absolute authority over them. The colonists, however, were having their own "out of sight, out of mind" experience. They could not see authority over them past the governor, if they could see it extending that far. "The colonies were [clearly] not a normal part of the British structure . . ."[6] . They were not included in any day-to-day discussions in Parliament, and if any laws affecting the colonists did change, it would take them a minimum of three weeks to reach the shore of their continent across the ocean.
On the flip side, when the Americans did know of laws regarding trade and taxes, it was not uncommon for them to smuggle the goods to avoid paying any taxes that may have been attached to the products. England winked at this avoidance, if they even knew about it, for so long that the colonies began to see "the colonial assemblies . . . as bodies parallel to the House of commons . . ."[7]. This attitude was clearly a threat to England's relationship with her colonies. Edmund Burke, a Whig in Parliament, pointed out that any quick and definite taxing of the colonies after having allowed them to govern themselves for so long would cause a great many objections from the colonists. Burke supported the fact that Parliament certainly had the right to tax the colonies, but he "preferred a slow and steady conduct by England toward the colonies" [8]. This would probably have been the best method to convince the colonies that they were subject to the powers of parliament, but easing the colonies back into accepting and obeying all of the acts passed by British Parliament was not what most of the other members had in mind. A lot had changed with regard to Parliament's attitude toward the colonies since the Seven Years War.
The Seven Years War was fought primarily on the continent of America, and when it ended in 1763, the colonists were the ones that benefitted the most from it. Throughout the Seven Years War (1756 - 1763), the English government continually supplied the colonies with British troops so that they might be protected from the French as well as the Indians who had taken sides with the French in this particular war. These troops were maintained in America even after the French had surrendered their holdings in Canada to Great Britain. Their continued presence was to protect the colonists from Indian invasions as well as French retaliation along the borders. In all, the English Crown incurred $2 million in debt while fighting against the French and protecting the colonies. Along with all of the money that was spent to protect these colonies, there were still ten thousand troops maintained in the American colonies every year. The colonies had, and still were, reaping the benefits of being citizens of the British Empire while Great Britain was taking care of all of the costs. George Grenville, the Prime Minister of Parliament in 1763, did not appreciate the fact that England was paying the bill for the protection of the American colonists while they were gaining so much from the placement of troops there. In 1763, the time had come to "pay the piper," and the most logical way to do this was to tax the colonies.