Declaration of Rights and Grievances
The Stamp Act Congress was the first gathering of representatives of all thirteen American colonies. Twenty-seven delegates met in October of 1765 to draft formal petitions to Parliament in response to the Stamp Act. the New Hampshire assembly declined to send a representative. Delegates from six colonies had to present the Declaration to their assemblies while the representatives from another six signed. This October 14, 1765 declaration was written by delegates to the Stamp Act Congress. It raised fourteen points of colonial protest. In addition to the specific protests regarding the Stamp Act, this Declaration made several other assertions.
- Colonists owed to the crown, “the same allegiance” owed by subjects born within the realm.
- Colonists owed to Parliament “all due subordination.”
- Colonists held all the right of Englishmen.
- Trial by jury is a right.
- The use of Admiralty Courts is an abuse of the right of trial a jury of your peers.
- Without voting rights, Parliament can not represent the colonists.
- There can be no taxation without proper representation.
- Only colonial assemblies had the right to tax colonists.
In addition to asserting their rights as Englishmen, the Congress contended that they had certain ‘natural rights’ solely because they were human beings.
Despite the resignation of Prime Minister Grenville, the issue of enforcing or repealing the Stamp Act continued to be debated in Parliament. During the debates, the right of Parliament to govern the american colonies was affirmed by the passage of the Declaratory Act. This affirmed the right of Parliament to legislate for the colonies, “in all cases whatsoever.”
Quickly following the passage of the Declaratory Act Parliament held hearings. Witnesses gave their views on the impact and the consequences of the Stamp Act. One such witness was Benjamin Franklin. When he was asked how the colonists would react if the repeal of the Stamp Act was not passed, he said,
“A total loss of the respect and affection the people of America bear to this country, and of all the commerce that depends upon that respect and affections”
On February 21st a resolution was introduced to repeal the Stamp Act. It passed and the King gave his approval on March 18, 1766.
A consequence of the Stamp Act was that it provided a preview of resistance to future such acts of Parliament: the Townshend Acts of 1766 were such.
The Sons of Liberty, the boycott organizations of colonial merchants, non-importation agreements, enumerated lists of goods and Committees of Correspondence all had their roots in the Stamp Act resistance. Even the Stamp Act Congress of 1765 set a precedent for the First and Second Continental Congresses which set the stage for the adoption of the Declaration Of Independence and war.
In the next newsletter we will discuss how the colonists reacted to the continued attempts of Parliament to impose its control over ‘The Freest People on Earth.”