Stamp Act Congress

From Academic Kids

The Stamp Act Congress was a meeting in October of 1765 of delegates from the British American Colonies that discussed and acted upon the recently passed Stamp Act. The meetings adopted a Declaration of Rights and wrote letters or petitions to the King and both houses of Parliament. This Congress is viewed by some as the first American action in or as a precursor of the American Revolution.


The Congress

The Stamp Act's provisions caused a reaction throughout the colonies. The influence of the growing Sons of Liberty was increased by protests and resistance. In May, Virginia's House of Burgesses adopted resolutions, authored by Patrick Henry, that condemned the act. These, even including some more and stronger resolutions not adopted, were widely distributed throughout the colonies. On June 8, 1765 James Otis, supported by the Massachusetts Assembly sent a letter to each colony calling for a general meeting of delegates. The meeting was to be held in New York City in October.

Representatives from nine colonies met in New York. Though New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia did not send delegates, the Assemblies of those missing colonies nonetheless agreed to support the works of the Congress. The meetings were held in Federal Hall in New York, and the delegates assembled on October 7. They spent less than two weeks in discussion and at their final meeting on October 19, 1765 adopted the Declaration of rights and approved its use in petitions to the King and two letters to Parliament.

The declaration

The Declaration of Rights raised fourteen points of colonial protest. In addition to the specifics of the Stamp Act taxes, it asserted that:

  • Only the colonial assemblies had a right to tax the colonies.
  • Trial by jury was a right, and the use of Admiralty Courts was abusive.
  • Colonists possessed all the rights of Englishmen.
  • Without voting rights, Parliament could NOT represent the colonists.


The Congress was an important step toward the American unity that ended in the American Revolution a decade later. The Albany Congress of 1754 had pointed out the advantages of common efforts, but had been convened at the request of the British government. This congress was called by the colonies themselves.

The delegates generally resolved to restrict English imports and to actively resist the imposition of the tax act. The protests were largely effective, and frequently resulted in violence directed at the appointed Stamp Tax Agents along with the destruction of stamps. The parliament repealed the Stamp Act the following spring, but the decline in trade may have had more impact than the petitions or violence. The embargo or consumer strike response wasn't nearly as effective as later Non-Importation Agreements but did show the Americans a method of having an important impact of British politics.

The cooperation of the colonies continued after the Congress. The effect of the circular letter that had created the Congress was maintained as the colonial legislatures began to more commonly appoint committees of correspondence for dealing with common issues.

While Parliament gave in to pressure by repealing the Stamp Act, they rejected the assertion that only the colonies could tax themselves. They retained the tax on Tea, and added taxes with the Sugar Act. The use of admiralty courts also continued, and the colonies subjected to the Townshend Acts.


Washington DC Initiative

A modern lobbying and political action group has adopted the name of the Stamp Act Congress. Using "No taxation withour representation" as a rallying cry, they strive to gain a state-like representation in Congress for the District of Columbia. This has been submitted to the states as a constitutional amendment, but failed of ratification.

Given the current political balance, the amendment effort is unlikely to gain the 38 states needed to amend the Constitution. The District would be almost certain to elect two Democratic Party Senators.

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