Stamp Act Congress
The Stamp Act Congress met in the Federal Hall building in New York City between October 7 and 25, 1765. It was the first colonial action against a British measure and was formed to protest the Stamp Act issued by British Parliament on March 1765. The Stamp Act Congress was attended by 27 representatives of nine of the thirteen colonies. Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia were prevented from attending because their loyal governors refused to convene the assemblies to elect delegates. New Hampshire did not attend but approved the resolutions once Congress was over.
Federal Hall in New York City where the Stamp Act Congress took place. Click on image to enlarge.
Congress approved thirteen resolutions in the Declaration of Rights and Grievances. It is important to note that colonists, at that point in time, were not intending on a separation from the crown. In the first resolution they stated their allegiance to the king and its Parliament. They declared and affirmed that they were entitled to the rights and liberties of all British subjects. Most importantly they asserted their right to “No taxation without representation” and that because of their circumstances, America was three thousand miles away, they could not be represented in the House of Commons in Britain. The only bodies legally able to impose an internal tax were their respective legislatures whose members were elected by the public.
The Stamp Act Congress declared the Stamp Act duties as extremely bothersome as the scarcity of specie made its payment impractical. Local profits would suffer from the payment of the duty ultimately affecting transatlantic trade. Congress also supported the boycott of British goods.
The colonists also wanted to reassert their right to trial by jury as an inherent right to all British subjects in the colonies and limit the jurisdiction of Admiralty Courts. These courts could try a case anywhere within the British Empire; cases were decided by judges instead than by juries. In addition judges and naval officers were paid based on the fines they levied leading to abuses.
The colonial petition was rejected on the basis of having been submitted by an unconstitutional assembly. The Stamp Act was eventually repealed primarily based on economic concerns expressed by British merchants. However parliament in order to reassert its power and constitutional issues over its right to tax its colonies passed the Declaratory Act.
Colonies sent the following delegates to the Stamp Act Congress:
From Massachusetts: James Otis, Samuel Adams, Oliver Partridge and Timothy Ruggles.
From Rhode Island: Henry Ward and Metcalf Bowler
From Connecticut: William Johnson, Eliphalet Dyer and David Rowland.
From New York: Phillip Livingston, William Bayard, John Cruger, Robert Livingston and Leonard Lispinard.
From Pennsylvania: John Morton, George Bryan and John Dickinson.
From New Jersey: Hendrick Fisher, Robert Ogden and Joseph Gordon.
From Delaware: Caesar Rodney and Thomas McKean.
From Maryland: Edward Tilghman, Thomas Ringgold and William Murdock.
From South Carolina: John Rutledge, Thomas Lynch and Christopher Gadsden.
Secretary: John Cotton
President: Timothy Ruggles from Massachusetts.
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