The Stamp Act Congress 1765

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Time for a history lesson.  Enjoy

“Rights and Grievances”

The strife, struggle, and bloody wars that have been brought on and fought over the subject of “the tyranny of some form of taxation” have plagued mankind every since the beginning of organized governmental operations and their attempted control of men and money.  It all began to raise its ugly head in the 13 North American English Colonies in the early 1750s and 1760s.  

The French and Indian War was the North American conflict that was part of a larger imperial conflict between Great Britain and France known as the Seven Year’s War.  The French and Indian War in North America began in 1754 and ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1763.  The war provided Great Britain enormous territorial gains inside the boundaries of North America, but additional disputes over subsequent frontier policy and paying the war’s expenses led to colonial discontent, and ultimately to the American revolution.

The French and Indian War resulted from ongoing frontier tensions in North America as both French and British imperial officials and colonists sought to extend each country’s sphere of influence in the frontier regions.  In North America, the war pitted France, French colonists, and their native American allies against Great Britain, the Anglo-American colonists and the Iroquois  Confederacy, which controlled most of upstate New York and parts of Northern Pennsylvania.  In 1753, prior to the outbreak of hostilities, Great Britain controlled the 13 colonies up to the Appalachian Mountains, but beyond lay New France, a very large, sparsely settled colony that stretched from Louisiana through the Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes to Canada.

World war continued to escalate between the British and the French together with France’s ally, Spain, over the ensuing ten years. France and Spain definitely received the worst of it.  Finally in 1763 it all concluded with the capitulation of the French and Spanish to the power and might of Great Britain via the Treaty of Paris.  Great Britain secured significant territorial gains, including all French territory east of the Mississippi River, as well as Spanish Florida, although the treaty returned Cuba to Spain.

Unfortunately for the British, the fruits of victory brought seeds of future trouble with Great Britain’s North American colonies.  This war had been enormously expensive, and the British government’s attempts to impose taxes on the colonists to help cover these expenses resulted in increasing colonial resentment of British attempts to expand imperial authority in the colonies.  British attempts to limit western expansion by colonists and inadvertent provocation of a major Indian war further angered the British subjects living in the American colonies.  These ongoing disputes would ultimately spur colonial rebellion that eventually developed into a full-scale war for independence.

Once the French and Indian War concluded and the Treaty of Paris had been signed, The English Parliament, eager to defray the escalating cost of quartering British troops defending the North American colonies against Indian attacks and raids, imposed a stamp tax on purchases in the colonies of legal and commercial documents, licenses, newspapers, pamphlets, almanacs, playing cards, dice, and liquor permits.  It was England’s first direct tax on the colonies. The Stamp Act Congress–conservative delegates from nine colonies meeting in New York–mildly asserted the right of the colonies to freedom from taxation without representation.  British Parliament rejected the petition, but Americans immediately boycotted British goods and refused to buy the revenue stamp.  Anger raged, tempers flared, arguments were thrown about and the tax was repealed after one year. 

Here is how it all happened:

The Congress met according to procedures of adjournment, and resumed, etc. upon mature deliberation agreed to the following declarations of rights and grievances of the colonists, in America, which were ordered to be inserted….the present and impending misfortunes of the British colonies on this continent, having as considered as maturely as time will permit the circumstances of the said colonies, esteem it our indispensable duty to make the following declarations of our humble opinion, 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.

1.   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. 

2.  That His Majesty’s liege subjects in these colonies are entitled to all the inherent rights and liberties of his natural-born subjects within the Kingdom of Great Britain.

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

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

5.  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 legislature.

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

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

8.  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, etc.” 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 colonies.

9. That the duties imposed by several late acts of Parliament, from the particular circumstances of these colonies, will be extremely burdensome and grievous; and from the scarcity of specie, the payment of them absolutely impracticable.

10. That as the profits of the trade of these colonies ultimately center 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. That it is the right of the British subjects in these colonies to petition the King or either house of Parliament.  


14. 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 applications 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 American commerce. 

So what do we learn from this lesson of our American history?  The Stamp Act 1765 imposed a direct tax by the British Parliament specifically on the British colonies in North America.  This act required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper which was produced in London, carrying an embossed revenue stamp.  These printed materials were legal documents, magazines, newspapers, and many other types of paper used throughout the colonies.  Like previous taxes, the stamp tax had to be paid in valid British currency, not colonial paper money.  The purpose of the tax was to help pay for troops stationed in North America after the British victory in The Seven Years‘ War.  The Americans said there was no military need for the soldiers because there were no foreign enemies and the Americans had always protected themselves against Native Americans, and suggested it was rather a matter of British patronage to surplus British officers and career soldiers who should be paid by London. 

The Stamp Act was very unpopular among colonists. Many colonists considered it a violation of their rights as Englishmen to be taxed without their consent–consent that only the colonial legislatures could grant.  Colonial assemblies sent petitions and protests.  The Stamp Act Congress held in New York City, reflecting the first significant joint colonial response to any British measure, also petitioned Parliament and the King.  Local protest groups, lead by colonial merchants and landowners, established connections through correspondence that created a loose coalition that extended from New England to Maryland.  Protests and demonstrations initiated by the Sons of Liberty often turned violent and destructive as the masses become involved.  Very soon all stamp tax distributors were intimidated into resigning their commissions, and the tax was never effectively collected.

Opposition to the Stamp Act was not limited to the colonies.  British merchants and manufacturers, whose exports to the colonies were threatened by colonial economic problems exacerbated by the tax, also pressured Parliament.  The Act was repealed on March 18, 1766 as a matter of expedience, but Parliament affirmed its power to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever” by also passing the Declaratory Act.  There followed a series of new taxes and regulations, likewise opposed by the colonists.

The episode played a major role in defining the grievances and enabling the organized colonial resistance that led to the American Revolution in 1775 and 1776.

Now You Know More of What Really Happened…………… 


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