Does he [our representative] know us? Or we, him? No. . . . Is he acquainted with our circumstances, situation, or wants? No. What then are we to expect from him? Nothing but taxes without end.This was an argument that “virtual representation” wasn’t enough for the North American colonies. At the time some royal officials argued that even though the American colonists didn’t elect any members of Parliament, some M.P.’s represented their interests because of commercial or familial ties. The “virtual representation” argument doesn’t affect most U.S. citizens today, only those in the District of Columbia and non-state possessions.
Some websites do credit those words to Otis, but in fact they come from an essay published in William Rind’s Virginia Gazette in 1768 by “Monitor,” a pseudonym for Arthur Lee. Brother of Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot Lee, Arthur Lee was a Virginian educated in Britain. He worked as a lawyer in London for a while and later served unhappily as an American diplomat.
How did Lee’s words get put into Otis’s mouth? I suspect the confusion arose from how those words were quoted in Bernard Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (first published in 1967). In a long paragraph on pages 168-9, Bailyn quoted Otis on the problems of virtual representation; then another, unnamed author on the same topic; and finally a long passage from Arthur Lee that included the words above.
In the scholarly style of his time, Bailyn then offered one footnote for the entire paragraph.
Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr., and the long passage from Lee.