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Above: Engraving of Faneuil Hall in Boston. Courtesy Library of Congress. Right: Political cartoon, "A New Way to Pay the National-Debt" of King George III, Queen Charlotte, William Pitt and others, 1786, James Gillroy. Courtesy Library of Congress.

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  • 1765 Detail

    October 7, 1765 - After the establishment of the Stamp Act by the British Government on March 22, which required revenue stamps, taxes, to pay for British troops, nine American colonies hold a Stamp Act Congress in New York and adopted a Declaration of Rights against taxation without representation.

    Stamp Act

    No taxation without representation are words the history student, educator, or buff has heard repeated many times. And the Stamp Act Congress, held in response to that taxation as thrust upon the people of the American colonies by British Parliament on March 22, was the first coordinated attempt to thwart them. They needed to act fast. The Stamp Act, which required use of special paper with a stamp issued by a government agent for a price for printing virtually all business in the colonies, was to go into effect November 1. It was a long, onerous, and confiscatory document that was intended to raise revenue for the British to pay for the up to 10,000 soldiers stationed in the colonies, as well as to help them get out of debt from past wars.

    By June, a letter began circulating around the colonies sent by the Massachusetts Assembly, urging the eighteen British colonies in the Americas to send a representative. Only nine did. Royal governors had prevented the other colonial legislatures from participating, even though many desired to.

    The nine legislatures who came had been prompted by a growing citizen revolt. Street protests in Boston led to the burning of the act, the rise of the Sons of Liberty, and attacks on royal official's homes. The violence was not limited to Boston. Tensions rose in Rhode Island, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

    Who Attended the Stamp Act Congress

    Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina sent delegations to the Stamp Act Congress, to be held in New York City at New York City Hall, now called Federal Hall, between October 7 and October 25, 1765. Representing New York were William Bayard, John Cruger, Leonard Lispenard, Philip Livingston, and Robert Livingston. Representing New Jersey were Joseph Borden, Hendrick Fisher, and Robert Ogden. Representing Rhode Island were Metcalf Bowler and Henry Ward. Representing Pennsylvania were George Bryan, John Dickinson, and John Morton. Representing Connecticut were Eliphalet Dyer, William Johnson, and David Rowland. Representing South Carolina were Christopher Gadsden, Thomas Lynch, and John Rutledge. Representing Delaware were Thomas McKean and Caesar Rodney. Representing Maryland were William Murdock, Edward Tilghman, and Thomas Ringgold. Representing Massachusetts were James Otis, Oliver Partridge, and Timothy Ruggles, who was the chairman of the Congress.

    The Declaration of Rights and Grievances was drafted and agreed upon, then issued on October 19. It stated several significant principles, of which perhaps the main stated that since the Parliament of England did not have representatives chosen by the colonists within their ranks, that they had no right to levy taxes. These could only be levied by the colonial legislatures. The document arrived in England, but the House of Lords and House of Commons refused to consider it. Other English ministries took the economic arguments against the Stamp Act into consideration and led to its repeal on March 18, 1766.

    Full Text, Declaration of Rights and Grievances, October 19, 1765

    Declaration of Rights and Grievances by the First Congress of the American Colonies (October, 1765)


    The members of this congress, sincerely devoted, with the warmest sentiments of affection and duty to his majesty's person and government, inviolably attached to the present happy establishment of the protestant succession, and with minds deeply impressed by a sense of the present and impending misfortunes of the British colonies on this continent; having considered as maturely as time would permit, the circumstances of said colonies, esteem it our indispensable duty to make the following declarations, of our humble opinions, respecting the most essential rights and liberties of the colonists, and of the grievances under which they labor, by reason of several late acts of parliament.

    1st. That his majesty's subjects in these colonies, owe the same allegiance to the crown of Great Britain that is owing from his subjects born within the realm, and all due subordination to that august body, the parliament of Great Britain.

    2d. That his majesty's liege subjects in these colonies are entitled to all the inherent rights and privileges of his natural born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain.

    3d. That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted rights of Englishmen, that no taxes should be imposed on them, but with their own consent, given personally, or by their representatives.

    4th. That the people of these colonies are not, and from their local circumstances, cannot be represented in the house of commons in Great Britain.

    5th. That the only representatives of the people of these colonies are persons chosen therein, by themselves; and that no taxes ever have been, or can be constitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislatures.

    6th. That all supplies to the crown, being free gifts of the people, it is unreasonable and inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the British constitution, for the people of Great Britain to grant to his majesty the property of the colonists.

    7th. That trial by jury is the inherent and invaluable right of every British subject in these colonies.

    8th. That the late act of parliament entitled, an act for granting and applying certain stamp duties, and other duties in the British colonies and plantations in America, &c., by imposing taxes on the inhabitants of these colonies, and the said act, and several other acts, by extending the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty beyond its ancient limits, have a manifest tendency to subvert the rights and liberties of the colonists.

    9th. That the duties imposed by several late acts of parliament, from the peculiar circumstances of these colonies, will be extremely buthensome and grievous, and, from the scarcity of specie, the payment of them absolutely impracticable.

    10th. That as the profits of the trade of these colonies ultimately centre in Great Britain, to pay for the manufactures which they are obliged to take from thence, they eventually contribute very largely to all supplies granted there to the crown.

    11th. That the restrictions imposed by several late acts of parliament, on the trade of these colonies, will render them unable to purchase the manufactures of Great Britain.

    12th. That the increase, prosperity, and happiness of these colonies, depend on the full and free enjoyment of their rights and liberties, and an intercourse, with Great Britain, mutually affectionate and advantageous.

    13th. That it is the right of the British subjects in these colonies, to petition the king or either house of parliament.

    Lastly, That it is the indispensable duty of these colonies to the best of sovereigns, to the mother country, and to themselves, to endeavor, by a loyal and dutiful address to his majesty, and humble application to both houses of parliament, to procure the repeal of the act for granting and applying certain stamp duties, of all clauses of any other acts of parliament, whereby the jurisdiction of the admiralty is extended as aforesaid, and of the other late acts for the restriction of the American commerce.

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    The resolutions of the Stamp Act were not the only protests levied against the Stamp Act during the fall of 1765 through the spring of 1766, but they were an important step in showing the British government just how fervent the American colonies were against those levies. They would lead to the repeal of the Stamp Act on March 22, 1766.

    Image above: Lithograph of the burning of the Stamp Act in Boston in August 1765, 1903. Courtesy Library of Congress. Image Below: Federal Hall (New York City Hall), site of the Stamp Act Congress, and Trinity Church, 1798, Archibald Robertson. Courtesy New York Historical Society via Wikipedia Commons. Info Source: Avalon Project, Yale Law School, Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy, Great Britain The statutes at large [from 1225 to 1867] by Danby Pickering Cambridge: Printed by Benthem, for C. Bathhurst; London, 1762-1869; Landofthebrave.info; Wikipedia Commons.

    Federal Hall, New York City

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