The Justice and Policy of Taxing the American Colonies in Great Britain Considered

Written By North Carolina History Project

Nine years before James Iredell penned To The Inhabitants of Great Britain and challenged Sir William Blackstone’s parliamentary sovereignty argument, Judge Maurice Moore, an associate justice of the superior court of Salisbury and father of future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Alfred Moore, undermined Great Britain’s legal defense for increased economic regulation.  

In Summer 1765, Moore wrote The Justice and Policy of Taxing the American Colonies in Great Britain Considered to protest the Stamp Act.  In the pamphlet, Moore argued that Parliament had no right to impose the tax.  He also rejected the idea of American virtual representation in Parliament, and as historian Hugh Lefler summarizes, the North Carolina judge considered direct representation as unfeasible.   (There would always be “taxation without representation” in Parliament).  In The Justice and Policy, the judge rested his arguments on one hundred years of constitutional history and legal and de facto precedent.  In particular, he argued that representation in Parliament depended more on tenure than on residence in a shire and that the Charter of 1663 had granted this practice in North Carolina.

Moore’s cogent argument alarmed Governor William Tryon. Judge Moore’s argument labeled all British taxation in his colony as unjust, and he therefore demanded that it cease.  His argument suggests that only the North Carolina government possessed sovereign authority to tax North Carolinians.  In 1766 Tryon removed Moore from his judicial position, for the judge stoked the rebellion fire in the Cape Fear region—a region that had offered the stiffest resistance to the Stamp Act.