Stamp Act Congress

Parliament in the 1700's

The Stamp Act was passed in the British Parliament in 1765

This article on the Stamp Act Congress in Colonial America provides fast facts and information about the aftermath of the Stamp Act of 1765.

  • What was the Stamp Act Congress?
  • The objectives of the Stamp Act Congress
  • The actions of the Stamp Act Congress
  • The significance of the Stamp Act 1765
  • Details of the delegates to the Stamp Act Congress
Stamp ActStamp Tax
Declaration of Rights and Grievances
Colonial Congress & Government
American Colonies Index

History of the first 13 Colonies, Colonial Government and Congress

The Stamp Act Congress, or the First Congress of the American Colonies

Stamp Act Congress
What was the Stamp Act Congress and why was it important? The Stamp Act Congress, or First Congress of the American Colonies, was a meeting held between October 7 and 25, 1765 in New York City. The men who attended the meeting  consisted of representatives from 9 of the
British Colonies in North America. The objective of the representatives was to devise a unified protest against new British taxation - specifically the Stamp Act of 1765.

Stamp Act - Background Information
The Stamp Act was designed to raise revenue from the American Colonies by a duty (tax) in the form of a stamp required on all newspapers and legal or commercial documents. Documents subject to the Stamp Tax included newspapers, liquor licences, legal documents, calendars. almanacs, certificates, diplomas, contracts, wills, Bills of Sale and Licences - the Stamp Act effected everyone in the colonies.

 

Stamp Act Congresss Stamps - One Penny Stamp

Stamps showing that the Stamp Act had been paid

 

Implementation of the Stamp Act
The Stamp Act was passed in the British parliament on February 17 and was approved by the House of Lords on March 8th. Arrangements were required to implement the Act, such as appointing Agents to administer the Act. The date the Stamp Act was to take effect was on November 1, 1765. The American colonists had plenty of time to think about the Act before it took effect...

The History of Congress
The Colonial congresses did not start with the Stamp Act Congress. There had been many meetings of governors and delegates from different colonial assemblies. The earlier congress meetings had been summoned by the king's officers to arrange expeditions against the French or to make treaties with the Indians. The Albany Congress of 1754 was an important congress meeting during which Benjamin Franklin proposed a plan of union.  The plan for union was rejected by both the British and Americans. The Stamp Act Congress was different from the earlier congresses. The Stamp Act Congress was summoned by the colonists to discuss their grievances and protest against the measures proposed in the Act by the British king and Parliament.

Stamp Act Congress - The Causes of Concern and Grievances
The background information to the Stamp Act Congress revolves around the implications and the significance of the Stamp Act of 1765. The men who attended the meeting, which would be called the Stamp Act Congress had to consider the political implications of the Stamp Act. The areas that caused great concern to these men included the following elements of the Stamp Act - these were the basis of their grievances. The Stamp Act Congress was so-called to discuss these grievances and the actions that could be taken by Congress to protest against them. 

  • The objective of the Stamp Act was not to regulate trade and commerce, as previous Acts had, but to directly squeeze money out of colonists
  • The Stamp Act was the first direct tax. The Stamp tax was on domestically produced and consumed items
  • The colonists and the members of Congress viewed the British regulation of trade as legal but the imposition of internal taxes was perceived to be illegal
  • The Stamp Act and the proposed taxes were introduced by a direct order from the British, without approval of the colonial legislature
  • The Stamp Act was to be enforced by stamp agents, with penalties for violating the act to be imposed by vice-admiralty courts, which sat without juries - the colonists and the members of Congress believed in their rights to trial by jury
  • The members of Congress believed that the high taxes on lawyers and college students were designed to limit the growth of a professional class in the American colonies reducing the opportunities of colonists and their levels of independence

Stamp Act Congress - Implications
The men who would meet at the Stamp Act Congress had time to consider the implications of the Stamp Act on the American colonists. The members of the Stamp Act Congress believed that the Stamp Act was a deliberate attempt to undermine the commercial strength and the independence of America. They also felt that America offered a a fluid class structure providing opportunities for everyone. This was completely different to Britain who had  well-defined social classes of England without the possibility of climbing up the social ladder. The views of many of the colonists and the Stamp Act Congress broadened the notion of liberty and self-government far beyond what Great Britain had ever envisioned.

Colonial America - The Land of the Brave

 

Stamp Act Congress - Declaration of the Rights and Grievances of the Colonists

Federal Hall, New York - Seat of Congress

Federal Hall, New York
Seat of Congress

The Stamp Act Congress led to the first concerted effort by the American colonists to resist the British Parliament and the authority of Great Britain. The Stamp Act Congress was organized in response to a circular letter distributed by the colonial legislature of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

The Stamp Act Congress consisted of delegates from nine of the colonies. The delegates met in New York's City Hall, now known as the Federal Hall, between October 7 and 25, 1765. The meeting of the First Congress was important because the representatives from the nine colonies put aside their local differences and had joined together in a mutual cause.

The delegates of the Stamp Act Congress drew up a "Declaration of the Rights and Grievances of the Colonists." In this document they declared that:

  • As subjects of the British king, had the same rights as British subjects living in Britain
  • Only the colonial assemblies had a right to tax the colonies. (no taxation without representation)
  • They were free from taxes except those to which they had given their consent
  • They had the right of trial by jury
 

Stamp Act Congress - The Nine colonies represented in the Congress
The Stamp Act Congress consisted of delegates from nine of the colonies The colonies were Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

Stamp Act Congress - The Congress Delegates
All of the Stamp Act Congress delegates were members of their colonial legislative bodies. The following table provides some details about the Stamp Act Congress delegates.

Stamp Act Congress - Colonies and Delegates

Name of ColonyNames of Congress DelegatesFacts about the Congress Delegates
DelawareThomas McKean - aged 31

Caesar Rodney - 37

Lawyer and judge - later served in the Continental Congresses

Landowner, politician, and militia commander - later signed the Declaration of Independence
 

MarylandWilliam Murdock - 55

Thomas Ringgold - 50

Edward Tilghman - 54

Landowner and sheriff of Prince George's County

Wealthy landowner and merchant

Wealthy landowner and merchant
 

MassachusettsSamuel Adams - aged 43

James Otis - 40


Oliver Partridge - 53

Timothy Ruggles - 54
 

Leader of an anti-Parliament faction in Boston

Lawyer - associated with popularizing the phrase "no taxation without representation"

Landowner, politician and militia officer

Lawyer

Rhode IslandMetcalf Bowler - 39


Henry Ward - 33

Farmer and merchant - became a spy for the British during the Revolutionary War

Governor of Rhode Island at the time of the congress
 

ConnecticutEliphalet Dyer - 44


William Johnson - 38


David Rowland - 51
 

Wealthy Landowner and Lawyer - later appointed a judge and a delegate to the Continental Congresses

Lawyer - later helped to draft the United States Constitution

Legislator and judge

New YorkJohn Cruger

William Bayard - 38

Leonard Lispenard - 49


Philip Livingston - 49

Robert Livingston - 47

Mayor of New York City

Merchant

Wealthy Merchant - became a leader in the New York Sons of Liberty

Wealthy businessman and politician

Cousin of Philip Livingston, judge and wealthy landowner
 

New JerseyJoseph Borden - 46

Hendrick Fisher - 60's

Robert Ogden - 49

Wealthy Landowner and Merchant

Wealthy farmer and lay preacher

Wealthy Landowner and speaker of the New Jersey assembly
 

PennsylvaniaGeorge Bryan - 34


John Dickinson - 33


John Morton - 41

Businessman who later served on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Wealthy Lawyer - one of the men who eventually signed the John Dickinson

Wealthy farmer - later served in both Continental Congresses, and signed the United States Declaration of Independence
 

South CarolinaChristopher Gadsden - 41



Thomas Lynch - 38

John Rutledge - 26

Wealthy plantation owner and merchant - became an important member of South Carolina's Sons of Liberty and served in the Continental Army

Plantation owner

Provincial Attorney General at the time of the congress
 

Name of ColonyNames of Congress DelegatesFacts about the Congress Delegates

Stamp Act Congress - Colonies and Delegates

Stamp Act Congress - British Reactions to the Declaration of Rights and Grievances
The Stamp Act Congress sent the Declaration of Rights and Grievances to Britain. The opening paragraph of the document, written by the Stamp Act Congress, was termed in an extremely cautious, almost fawning fashion. Words and phrases like "sincerely devoted", "warmest sentiments of affection and duty", "our humble opinions". The end paragraph of the Declaration of Rights and Grievances included phrases "to the best of sovereigns", "to the mother country" and "humble application". The British reactions to the grievances were flippant. The colonial secretary, Lord Dartmouth, rejected the declaration as an inappropriate document. Parliament was affronted by the document stating that it had been issued by an unconstitutional assembly. The British Parliament was concerned that the Stamp Act Congress had denied the right of the British Parliament to levy taxes. The Declaration of Rights and Grievances issued by the Stamp Act Congress was rejected.

Stamp Act Congress - The Stamp Act
The Stamp Act was repealed due to the economic arguments against the Act - not because of pressure from the Stamp Act Congress. What is more, the constitutional issue in relation to the the right of the British Parliament to levy taxes was addressed in the Declaratory Act.  The Declaratory Act claimed the authority to legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever".

Stamp Act Congress - The Road to Revolution had begun...
Despite the negative reaction to their petition, the meeting of the First Congress was important because representatives from the colonies were united in a mutual cause. The Stamp Act Congress would shortly be followed by the First Continental Congress which was established September 5, 1774.

In the Stamp Act Congress Christopher Gadsden said,

"There ought to be no New England men, no New Yorkers known on the Continent, but all of us Americans..."

 The Road to Revolution and Independence had begun...

Declaration of Independence

Stamp Act Congress leading to the Declaration of Independence

 

Stamp Act Congress

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Colonial America - The Land of the Brave

 

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