The Stamp Act

March 22nd, 1765
Parliament of Great Britain

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 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 labour, by reason of several late Acts of Parliament.

Official Text of The Stamp Act

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 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.

5. 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.

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

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. That it is the right of the British subjects in these colonies, to petition the King, Or either House of Parliament.

13. 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 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.

Stamp Act Congress Signers:

Joseph Borden, Metcalf Bowler, George Bryan, John Cruger, John Dickinson, Eliphalet Dyer, Hendrick Fisher, Christopher Gadsden, William Samuel Johnson, Leonard Lispenard, Philip Livingston, Robert Livingston, Thomas Lynch Sr., Thomas Mckean, John Morton, William Murdock, Robert Ogden, James Otis, Oliver Partridge, Thomas Ringgold, Caesar Rodney, David Rowland, Timothy Ruggles, John Rutledge, Edward Tilghman, Henry Ward

Why was this important?

The Stamp Act of 1765 (short title Duties in American Colonies Act 1765; 5 George III, c. 12) was the fourth Stamp Act to be passed by the Parliament of Great Britain but the first attempt to impose such a direct tax on the colonies. The act required all legal documents, permits, commercial contracts, newspapers, wills, pamphlets, and playing cards in the American colonies to carry a tax stamp. It was part of an economic program directly effecting colonial policy that was necessitated by Britain’s greatly increased national debt incurred during the British victory in the Seven Years War (the North American theater of the war was referred to as the French and Indian War).

Britain found it necessary to maintain a significant military presence in North America due to the added defense requirements resulting from the vast new territories acquired during the war and the threat from native Americans in the western frontier exemplified by the outbreak of Pontiac's Rebellion in 1763. The British felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of these military preparations and should pay for at least a portion of the current and future expenses directly incurred in North America. The less controversial (from a colonial standpoint) Sugar Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act were the initial attempts to raise these funds from the colonists. Parliament announced in April of 1764 when the Sugar Act was passed that they would also consider a stamp tax in the colonies. A stamp tax had been an effective and easy to administer source of revenue within Great Britain for years. Although opposition to this possible tax from the colonies was soon forthcoming, there was little expectation in Britain, either by members of Parliament or American agents in Great Britain such as Benjamin Franklin, of the intensity of the protest that the tax would generate. The Stamp Act was passed by a large majority on March 22, 1765, and went into effect later that year on November 1.

Once in effect, the tax met with great resistance in the colonies. For over a century the colonists had insisted on their rights as Englishmen to be taxed only with their consent – consent that was granted only to their colonial legislatures. All colonial assemblies sent petitions of protests and the Stamp Act Congress, reflecting the first significant joint colonial response to any British measure, also petitioned Parliament and the King. Local protest groups, led by colonial merchants and landowners, established connections through correspondence that created a loose coalition that extended from New England to Georgia. Protests and demonstrations initiated by these groups often turned violent and destructive as the masses became 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 tax the colonies “in all cases whatsoever” by also passing the Declaratory Act. This incident increased the colonists' concerns about the intent of the British Parliament and added fuel to the growing movement that became the American Revolution.