|Protest of the Stamp Act broke out throughout the American Colonies very quickly. The Virginia House of Burgesses adopted resolutions on 30 May 1765 which declared that: "The General Assembly of this colony, together with his Majesty or his substitutes, have, in their representative capacity, the only exclusive right and power to lay taxes and imposts upon the inhabitants of this colony; and that every attempt to vest such power in any other person or persons whatever than the General Assembly aforesaid, is illegal, unconstitutional, and unjust, and have a manifest tendency to destroy British as well as American liberty."
Disgruntled colonists from the Massachusetts-Bay Colony sent a circular letter to the legislatures of the other colonies, on 08 June, requesting their participation in a congress to discuss a unified response. Delegates from nine of the eighteen colonies met in New York City in October in what was called the Stamp Act Congress. The delegates from Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts-Bay, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina met between 07 October and 25 October. Pressure against their participation by their Provincial Governors prevented delegates from Georgia and Virginia from attending. Other reasons prevented attendance by delegates from New Hampshire, North Carolina and Nova Scotia, and the colonies of East and West Florida, Newfoundland and Quebec had not yet organized colonial assemblies. The delegates spent much of the time arguing about what they could or could not accomplish as a politic body. The Congress ultimately produced the Delegation Of Rights And Grievances, consisting of a petition to the House of Commons, a memorial to the House of Lords, and an address to the King. Even after producing satisfactory responses to the Act, and airing their grievances, the delegates squabbled over the signing of the documents. Some now refused to sign, while some insisted that all must sign; and it was even suggested by Massachusetts-Bay's delegate, Timothy Ruggles, that the documents be sent to London bearing no signatures. Finally, by the 25th, the delegates agreed to sign the documents, and they were sent to the King and Parliament. The protests over the Act spread throughout the colonies, resulting in the almost total failure of the collection of any of the intended duties.
The Stamp Act was repealed by the British Parliament on 21 February 1766 by a vote of 276 to 168. The King gave his Royal assent to repeal the Act on 18 March 1766.
The Declaration Of Rights was drafted primarily by John Cruger, a delegate to the congress from the Province of New York. A transcript follows.
| 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 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.
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.
2nd. 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.
3rd. 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, 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 colonists.
9th. That the duties imposed by several late acts of Parliament, from the peculiar circumstances of these colonies, will be extremely burthensome 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.
|from Journal Of The First Congress Of The American Colonies, In Opposition To The Tyrannical Acts Of The British Parliament, Facsimile of 1845 edition published by E. Winchester, Edited by Lewis Cruger, pages 27-29.
~Note: This volume included transcripts from Niles' National Register, 1812, Volume 2, pages 337-342, 353-355.
|According to the Journal entry for Tuesday, 22 October 1765, "The address to his majesty being engrossed, was read and compared"|
| To the King's most excellent majesty. The petition of the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, New-York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the government of the counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex, upon Delaware, and province of Maryland, Most humbly sheweth,
That the inhabitants of these colonies, unanimously devoted with the warmest sentiments of duty and affection to your sacred person and government, and inviolably attached to the present happy establishment of the protestant succession in your illustrious house, and deeply sensible of your royal attention to their prosperity and happiness, humbly beg leave to approach the throne, by representing to your majesty, that these colonies were originally planted by subjects of the British crown, who, animated with the spirit of liberty, encouraged by your majesty's royal predecessors, and confiding in the public faith for the enjoyment of all the rights and liberties essential to freedom, emigrated from their native country to this continent, and, by their successful perseverance, in the midst of innumerable dangers and difficulties, together with a profusion of their blood and treasure, have happily added these vast and extensive dominions to the Empire of Great Britain.
That, for the enjoyment of these rights and liberties, several governments were early formed in the said colonies, with full power of legislation, agreeably to the principles of the English constitution ;—that, under these governments, these liberties, thus vested in their ancestors, and transmitted to their posterity, have been exercised and enjoyed, and by the inestimable blessings thereof, under the favor of Almighty God, the inhospitable deserts of America have been converted into flourishing counties ; science, humanity, and the knowledge of divine truths diffused through remote regions of ignorance, infidelity, and barbarism ; the number of British subjects wonderfully increased, and the wealth and power of Great Britain proportionably augmented.
That, by means of these settlements and the unparalleled success of your majesty's arms, a foundation is now laid for rendering the British empire the most extensive and powerful of any recorded in history ; our connection with this empire we esteem our greatest happiness and security, and humbly conceive it may now be so established by your royal wisdom, as to endure to the latest period of time ; this, with the most humble submission to your majesty, we apprehend will be most effectually accomplished by fixing the pillars thereof on liberty and justice, and securing the inherent rights and liberties of your subjects here, upon the principles of the English constitution. To this constitution, these two principles are essential ; the rights of your faithful subjects freely to grant to your majesty such aids as are required for the support of your government over them, and other public exigencies; and trials by their peers. By the one they are secured from unreasonable impositions, and by the other from the arbitrary decisions of the executive power. The continuation of these liberties to the inhabitants of America, we ardently implore, as absolutely necessary to unite the several parts of your wide extended dominions, in that harmony so essential to the preservation and happiness of the whole. Protected in these liberties, the emoluments Great Britain receives from us, however great at present, are inconsiderable, compared with those she has the fairest prospect of acquiring. By this protection, she will for ever secure to herself the advantages of conveying to all Europe, the merchandize which America furnishes, and for supplying, through the same channel, whatsoever is wanted from thence. Here opens a boundless source of wealth and naval strength. Yet these immense advantages, by the abridgement of those invaluable rights and liberties, by which our growth has been nourished, are in danger of being for ever lost, and our subordinate legislatures in effect rendered useless by the late acts of parliament imposing duties and taxes on these colonies, and extending the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty here, beyond its ancient limits ; statutes by which your majesty's commons in Britain undertake absolutely to dispose of the property of their fellow-subjects in America without their consent, and for the enforcing whereof, they are subjected to the determination of a single judge, in a court unrestrained by the wise rules of the common law, the birthright of Englishmen, and the safeguard of their persons and properties.
The invaluable rights of taxing ourselves and trial by our peers, of which we implore your majesty's protection, are not, we most humbly conceive, unconstitutional, but confirmed by the Great Charter of English liberties. On the first of these rights the honorable house of commons found their practice of originating money, a right enjoyed by the kingdom of Ireland, by the clergy of England, until relinquished by themselves ; a right, in line, which all other your majesty's English subjects, both within and without the realm, have hitherto enjoyed.
With hearts, therefore, impressed with the most indelible characters of gratitude to your majesty, and to the memory of the kings of your illustrious house, whose reigns have been signally distinguished by their auspicious influence on the prosperity of the British dominions ; and convinced by the most affecting proofs of your majesty's paternal love to all your people, however distant, and your unceasing and benevolent desires to promote their happiness; we most humbly beseech your majesty that you will be graciously pleased to take into your royal consideration the distresses of your faithful subjects on this continent, and to lay the same before your majesty's parliament, and to afford them such relief as, in your royal wisdom, their unhappy circumstances shall be judged to require.
And your petitioners will pray, &c.
|from Journal Of The First Congress Of The American Colonies, In Opposition To The Tyrannical Acts Of The British Parliament, Facsimile of 1845 edition published by E. Winchester, Edited by Lewis Cruger, pages 31-34.|
|According to the Journal entry for Tuesday, 22 October 1765, "The memorial to the lords in parliament being engrossed, was read and compared,"|
| To the right honorable the Lords spiritual and temporal of Great Britain in parliament assembled: The memorial of the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, New-York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the government of the counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex, upon Delaware, and province of Maryland, in America, Most humbly sheweth,
That his majesty's liege subjects in his American colonies, though they acknowledge a due subordination to that august body the British parliament, are entitled, in the opinion of your memorialists, to all the inherent rights and liberties of the natives of Great Britain, and have ever since the settlement of the said colonies, exercised those rights and liberties, as far as their local circumstances would permit.
That your memorialists humbly conceive that one of the most essential rights of these colonists, which they have ever till lately uninterruptedly enjoyed, to be trial by jury.
That your memorialists also humbly conceive another of these essential rights, to be the exemption from all taxes, but such as are imposed on the people by the several legislatures in these colonies, which rights they have also till of late enjoyed. But your memorialists humbly beg leave to represent to your lordships, that the act for granting certain stamp duties in the British colonies in America, &c, fills his majesty's American subjects with the deepest concern, as it tends to deprive them of the two fundamental and invaluable rights and liberties above mentioned ; and that several other late acts of parliament, which extend the jurisdiction and power of courts of admiralty in the plantations beyond their limits in Great Britain, thereby make an unnecessary, unhappy distinction, as to the modes of trial between us and our fellowsubjects there, by whom we never have been excelled in duty and loyalty to our sovereign.
That from the natural connection between Great Britain and America, the perpetual continuance of which your memorialists most ardently desire, they conceive that nothing can conduce more to the interest of both, than the colonists, free enjoyment of their rights and liberties, and an affectinate intercourse between Great Britain and them. But your memorialists (not waiving their claim to these rights, of which, with the most becoming veneration and deference to the wisdom and justice of your lordships, they apprehend, they cannot reasonably be deprived,) humbly represent, that, from the peculiar circumstances of these colonies, the duties imposed by the aforesaid act, and several other late acts of parliament, are extremely grievous and burthensome ; and the payment of the several duties will very soon, for want of specie, become absolutely impracticable ; and that the restrictions on trade by the said acts, will not only distress the colonies, but must be extremely detrimental to the trade and true interest of Great Britain.
Your memorialists, therefore, impressed with a just sense of the unfortunate circumstances of the colonies, the impending destructive consequences which must necessarily ensue from the execution of these acts, and animated with the warmest sentiments of filial affection for their mother country, most earnestly and humbly entreat your lordships will be pleased to hear their council in support of this memorial, and take the premises into your most serious consideration, and that your lordships will also be thereupon pleased to pursue such measures for restoring the just rights and liberties of the colonies, and preserving them for ever inviolate ; for redressing their present, and preventing future grievances, thereby promoting the united interests of Great Britain and America, as your lordships, in your great wisdom, shall seem most conducive and effectual to that important end.
And your memorialists will pray,
|from Journal Of The First Congress Of The American Colonies, In Opposition To The Tyrannical Acts Of The British Parliament, Facsimile of 1845 edition published by E. Winchester, Edited by Lewis Cruger, pages 34-36.|
|According to the Journal entry for Wednesday, 23 October 1765, "The petition to the house of commons being engrossed, was read and compared,"|
| To the honorable the Knights, Citizens and Burgesses, of Great Britain, in parliament assembled, The petition of his majesty's dutiful, loyal subjects, the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, New-York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the government of the counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex, upon Delaware, and province of Maryland, in America. Most humbly sheweth,
That the several late acts of parliament, imposing divers duties and taxes on the colonies, and laying the trade and commerce under very burthensome restrictions ; but above all, the act for granting and applying certain stamp duties in America, have filled them with the deepest concern and surprise, and they humbly conceive the execution of them will be attended with consequences very injurious to the commercial interests of Great Britain and her colonies, and must terminate in the eventual ruin of the latter. Your petitioners, therefore, most ardently implore the attention of the honorable house to the united and dutiful representation of their circumstances, and to their earnest supplications for relief from their regulations, that have already involved this continent in anxiety, confusion and distress. We most sincerely recognise our allegiance to the crown, and acknowledge all due subordination to the parliament of Great Britain, and shall always retain the most gratefulsense of their assistance and approbation ; it is from and under the English constitution we derive all our civil and religious rights and liberties ; we glory in being subjects of the best of kings, having been born under the most perfect form of government. But it is with the most ineffable and humiliating sorrow that we find ourselves of late deprived of the right of granting our own property for his majesty's service, to which our lives and fortunes are entirely devoted, and to which, on his royal requisitions, we have been ready to contribute to the utmost of our abilities.
We have also the misfortune to find that all the penalties and forfeitures mentioned in the stamp act, and divers late acts of trade extending to the plantations, are, at the election of the informers, recoverable in any court of admiralty in America. This, as the newly erected court of admiralty has a general jurisdiction over all British America, renders his majesty's subjects in these colonies liable to be carried, at an immense expense, from one end of the continent to the other. It always gives us great pain to see a manifest distinction made therein between the subjects of our mother country and the colonies, in that the like penalties and forfeitures recoverable there only in his majesty's courts of record, are made cognizable here by a court of admiralty. By this means we seem to be, in effect, unhappily deprived of two privileges essential to freedom, and which all Englishmen have ever considered as their best birthrights—that of being free from all taxes but such asthey have consented to in person, or by their representatives, and of trial by their peers.
Your petitioners further shew, that the remote situation and other circumstances of the colonies, render it impracticable that they should be represented but in their respective subordinate legislatures ; and they humbly conceive that the parliament adhering strictly to the principles of the constitution, have never hitherto taxed any but those who were therein actually represented ; for this reason, we humbly apprehend, they never have taxed Ireland, nor any other of the subjects without the realm. But were it ever so clear, that the colonies might in law be reasonably represented in the honorable house of commons, yet we conceive that very good reasons, from inconvenience, from the principles of true policy, and from the spirit of the British constitution, may be adduced to shew, that it would be for the real interest of Great Britain, as well as her colonies, that the late regulations should be rescinded, and the several acts of parliament imposing duties and taxes on the colonies, and extending the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty here, beyond their ancient limits, should be repealed.
We shall not attempt a minute detail of all the reasons which the wisdom of the honorable house may suggest on this occasion, but would humbly submit the following particulars to their consideration :
That money is already very scarce in these colonies, and is still decreasing by the necessary exportation of specie from the continent for the discharging of our debts to British merchants ; that an immensely heavy debt is yet due from the colonists for British manufactures, and that they are still heavily burdened with taxes to discharge the arrearages due for aids granted by them in the late war ; that the balance of trade will ever be much against the colonies, and in favor of Great Britain, whilst we consume her manufactures ; the demand of which must ever increase in proportion to the number of inhabitants settled here, with the means of purchasing them. We, therefore, humbly conceive it to be the interest of Great Britain to increase rather than diminish those means, as the profit of all the trade of the colonies ultimately centre there to pay for her manufactures, as we are not allowed to purchase elsewhere, and by the consumption of which at the advanced prices the British taxes oblige the makers and venders to set on them, we eventually contribute very largely to the revenues of the crown.
That, from the nature of American business, the multiplicity of suits and papers used in matters of small value, in a country where freeholds are so minutely divided, and property so frequently transferred, a stamp duty must be ever very burthensome and unequal.
That it is extremely improbable that the honorable house of commons should at all times be thoroughly acquainted with our condition, and all facts requisite to a just and equal taxation of the colonies.
It is also humbly submitted whether there be not a material distinction, in reason and sound policy, at least, between the necessary exercise of parliamentary jurisdiction in general acts, and the common law, and the regulations of trade and commerce, through the whole empire, and the exercise of that jurisdiction by imposing taxes on the colonies.
That the several subordinate provincial legislatures have been moulded into forms as nearly resembling that of the mother country, as by his majesty's royal predecessors was thought convenient ; and these legislatures seem to have been wisely and graciously established, that the subjects in the colonies might, under the due administration thereof, enjoy the happy fruits of the British government, which in their present circumstances they cannot be so fully and clearly availed of any other way.
Under these forms of government we and our ancestors have been born or settled, and have had our lives, liberties, and properties protected ; the people here as every where else, retain a great fondness of their old customs and usages, and we trust that his majesty's service, and the interest of the nation, so far from being obstructed, have been vastly promoted by the provincial legislatures.
That we esteem our connection with and dependence on Great Britain, as one of our greatest blessings and apprehend the latter will be sufficiently secure, when it is considered that the inhabitants in the colonies have the most unbounded affection for his majesty's person, family, and government, as well as for the mother country, and that their subordination to the parliament is universally acknowledged.
We, therefore, most humbly entreat that the honorable house would be pleased to hear our council in support of this petition, and to take our distressed and deplorable case into their serious consideration, and that the acts and clauses of acts so grievously restraining our trade and commerce, imposing duties and taxes on our property, and extending the jurisdiction of the court of admiralty beyond its ancient limits, may be repealed ; or that the honorable house would otherwise relieve your petitioners, as in your great wisdom and goodness shall seem meet.
And your petitioners shall ever pray, &c.
|From Journal Of The First Congress Of The American Colonies, In Opposition To The Tyrannical Acts Of The British Parliament, Facsimile of 1845 edition published by E. Winchester, Edited by Lewis Cruger, pages 37-41.|