It was during this time of street demonstrations that locally organized groups started to merge into an inter-colonial organization of a type not previously seen in the colonies. The term "sons of liberty" had been used in a generic fashion well before 1765, but it was only around February 1766 that its influence extended throughout the colonies as an organized group using the formal name "Sons of Liberty", leading to a pattern for future resistance to the British that carried the colonies towards 1776. Historian John C. Miller noted that the name was adopted as a result of Barre's use of the term in his February 1765 speech.
The organization spread month by month after independent starts in several different colonies. By November 6, a committee was set up in New York to correspond with other colonies, and in December an alliance was formed between groups in New York and Connecticut. In January, a correspondence link was established between Boston and Manhattan, and by March, Providence had initiated connections with New York, New Hampshire, and Newport. By March, Sons of Liberty organizations had been established in New Jersey, Maryland, and Norfolk, Virginia, and a local group established in North Carolina was attracting interest in South Carolina and Georgia.
The officers and leaders of the Sons of Liberty "were drawn almost entirely from the middle and upper ranks of colonial society," but they recognized the need to expand their power base to include "the whole of political society, involving all of its social or economic subdivisions." To do this, the Sons of Liberty relied on large public demonstrations to expand their base. They learned early on that controlling such crowds was problematical, although they strived to control "the possible violence of extra-legal gatherings." The organization professed its loyalty to both local and British established government, but possible military action as a defensive measure was always part of their considerations. Throughout the Stamp Act Crisis, the Sons of Liberty professed continued loyalty to the King because they maintained a "fundamental confidence" that Parliament would do the right thing and repeal the tax.
Colonial newspapers were a major source of public unrest after the passage of the Stamp Act. Some of the earliest forms of American propaganda appeared in these printings in response to the law. The articles written in colonial newspapers were particularly critical of the act because of the Stamp Act's disproportionate effect on printers. David Ramsay, a patriot and historian from South Carolina, wrote of this phenomenon shortly after the American Revolution:
It was fortunate for the liberties of America, that newspapers were the subject of a heavy stamp duty. Printers, when influenced by government, have genereally arranged themselves on the side of liberty, nor are they less remarkable for attention to the profits of their profession. A stamp duty, which openly invaded the first, and threatened a great diminution of the last, provoked their united zealous opposition.
Most printers were critical of the Stamp Act, although a few Loyalist voices did exist. Some of the more subtle Loyalist sentiments can be seen in publications such as The Boston Evening Post, which was run by British sympathizers John and Thomas Fleet. The article detailed a violent protest that occurred in New York in December, 1765, then described the riot's participants as "imperfect" and labeled the group's ideas as "contrary to the general sense of the people." These Loyalists beliefs can be seen in some of the early newspaper articles about the Stamp Act, but the anti-British writings were more prevalent and seem to have had a more powerful effect.
Many papers assumed a relatively conservative tone before the act went into effect, implying that they might close if it wasn't repealed. However, as time passed and violent demonstrations ensued, the authors became more vitriolic. Several newspaper editors were involved with the Sons of Liberty, such as William Bradford of The Pennsylvania Journal and Benjamin Edes of The Boston Gazette, and they echoed the group's sentiments in their publications. The Stamp Act went into effect that November, and many newspapers ran editions with imagery of tombstones and skeletons, emphasizing that their papers were "dead" and would no longer be able to print because of the Stamp Act. However, most of them returned in the upcoming months, defiantly appearing without the stamp of approval that was deemed necessary by the Stamp Act. Printers were greatly relieved when the law was nullified in the following spring, and the repeal asserted their positions as a powerful voice (and compass) for public opinion.
Stamp Act Congress
The Stamp Act Congress was held in New York in October 1765. Twenty-seven delegates from nine colonies were the members of the Congress, and their responsibility was to draft a set of formal petitions stating why Parliament had no right to tax them. Among the delegates were many important men in the colonies. Historian John Miller observes, "The composition of this Stamp Act Congress ought to have been convincing proof to the British government that resistance to parliamentary taxation was by no means confined to the riffraff of colonial seaports."
The youngest delegate was 26-year-old "John Rutledge of South Carolina, and the oldest was 65-year-old "Hendrick Fisher of New Jersey. Ten of the delegates were lawyers, ten were merchants, and seven were planters or land-owning farmers; all had served in some type of elective office, and all but three were born in the colonies. Four died before the colonies declared independence, and four signed the "Declaration of Independence; nine attended the "first and "second Continental Congresses, and three were "Loyalists during the Revolution.
New Hampshire declined to send delegates, and North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia were not represented because their governors did not call their legislatures into session, thus preventing the selection of delegates. Despite the composition of the congress, each of the Thirteen Colonies eventually affirmed its decisions. Six of the nine colonies represented at the Congress agreed to sign the petitions to the King and Parliament produced by the Congress. The delegations from New York, Connecticut, and South Carolina were prohibited from signing any documents without first receiving approval from the colonial assemblies that had appointed them.
Massachusetts governor Francis Bernard believed that his colony’s delegates to the Congress would be supportive of Parliament. "Timothy Ruggles in particular was Bernard's man, and was elected chairman of the Congress. Ruggles' instructions from Bernard were to "recommend submission to the Stamp Act until Parliament could be persuaded to repeal it." Many delegates felt that a final resolution of the Stamp Act would actually bring Britain and the colonies closer together. "Robert Livingston of New York stressed the importance of removing the Stamp Act from the public debate, writing to his colony's agent in England, "If I really wished to see America in a state of independence I should desire as one of the most effectual means to that end that the stamp act should be enforced."
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The Congress met for 12 consecutive days, including Sundays. There was no audience at the meetings, and no information was released about the deliberations. The meeting's final product was called "The "Declaration of Rights and Grievances", and was drawn up by delegate "John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. This Declaration raised fourteen points of colonial protest. It asserted that colonists possessed all the "rights of Englishmen in addition to protesting the Stamp Act issue, and that Parliament could not represent the colonists since they had no "voting rights over Parliament. Only the colonial assemblies had a right to tax the colonies. They also asserted that the extension of authority of the admiralty courts to non-naval matters represented an abuse of power.
In addition to simply arguing for their rights as Englishmen, the congress also asserted that they had certain natural rights solely because they were human beings. Resolution 3 stated, "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." Both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania brought forth the issue in separate resolutions even more directly when they respectively referred to "the Natural rights of Mankind" and "the common rights of mankind".
"Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina had proposed that the Congress' petition should go only to the king, since the rights of the colonies did not originate with Parliament. This radical proposal went too far for most delegates and was rejected. The "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" was duly sent to the king, and petitions were also sent to both Houses of Parliament.
Grenville was replaced by "Lord Rockingham as Prime Minister on July 10, 1765. News of the mob violence began to reach England in October. Conflicting sentiments were taking hold in Britain at the same time that resistance was building and accelerating in America. Some wanted to strictly enforce the Stamp Act over colonial resistance, wary of the precedent that would be set by backing down. Others felt the economic effects of reduced trade with America after the Sugar Act and an inability to collect debts while the colonial economy suffered, and they began to lobby for a repeal of the Stamp Act. A significant part of colonial protest had included various non-importation agreements among merchants who recognized that a significant portion of British industry and commerce was dependent on the colonial market. This movement had spread through the colonies with a significant base coming from New York City, where 200 merchants had met and agreed to import nothing from England until the Stamp Act was repealed.
When Parliament met in December 1765, it rejected a resolution offered by Grenville, who remained in Parliament, that would have condemned colonial resistance to the enforcement of the Act. Outside of Parliament, Rockingham and his secretary "Edmund Burke, a member of Parliament himself, organized London merchants who started a committee of correspondence itself to support repeal of the Stamp Act by urging merchants throughout the country to contact their local representatives in Parliament concerning repeal. When Parliament reconvened on January 14, 1766, the Rockingham ministry formally proposed repeal. Amendments that would have lessened the financial impact on the colonies by allowing colonists to pay the tax in their own "scrip were considered to be too little and too late.
"William Pitt stated in the Parliamentary debate that everything done by the Grenville ministry with respect to the colonies "has been entirely wrong." He further stated, "It is my opinion that this Kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies." Pitt still maintained "the authority of this kingdom over the colonies, to be sovereign and supreme, in every circumstance of government and legislature whatsoever," but he made the distinction that taxes were not part of governing, but were "a voluntary gift and grant of the Commons alone." He rejected the notion of virtual representation, as "the most contemptible idea that ever entered into the head of man."
Grenville responded to Pitt:
Protection and obedience are reciprocal. Great Britain protects America; America is bound to yield obedience. If, not, tell me when the Americans were emancipated? When they want the protection of this kingdom, they are always ready to ask for it. That protection has always been afforded them in the most full and ample manner. The nation has run itself into an immense debt to give them their protection; and now they are called upon to contribute a small share towards the public expence, and expence arising from themselves, they renounce your authority, insult your officers, and break out, I might also say, into open rebellion.
Pitt’s response to Grenville included, "I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people, so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest."
Between January 17 and 27, Rockingham shifted the attention from constitutional arguments to economic by presenting petitions from all over the country complaining of the economic repercussions felt throughout the country. On February 7, the House of Commons rejected a resolution, saying that it would back the King in enforcing the Act by 274–134. "Henry Seymour Conway, the government's "leader in the House of Commons, introduced the "Declaratory Act in an attempt to address both the constitutional and the economic issues, which affirmed the right of Parliament to legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever", while admitting the inexpediency of attempting to enforce the Stamp Act. Only Pitt and three or four others voted against it. Other resolutions did pass which condemned the riots and demanded compensation from the colonies for those who suffered losses because of the actions of the mobs.
On February 21, a resolution to repeal the Stamp Act was introduced and passed by a vote of 276–168. The King gave royal assent on March 18, 1766.
Some aspects of the resistance to the act provided a sort of rehearsal for similar acts of resistance to the 1767 "Townshend Acts, particularly the activities of the Sons of Liberty and merchants in organizing opposition. The Stamp Act Congress was a predecessor to the later "Continental Congresses, notably the "Second Continental Congress which oversaw the establishment of American independence. The Committees of Correspondence used to coordinate activities were revived between 1772 and 1774 in response to a variety of controversial and unpopular affairs, and the colonies that met at the 1774 "First Continental Congress established a non-importation agreement known as the "Continental Association in response to Parliamentary passage of the "Intolerable Acts.["citation needed]
- "Board of Inland Revenue Stamping Department Archive
- "British Library Philatelic Collections
- "Revenue stamps of the United States
- Morgan and Morgan pg. 96–97
- "The Stamp Act of 1765 – A Serendipitous Find" by Hermann Ivester in The Revenue Journal, The "Revenue Society, Vol.XX, No.3, December 2009, pp.87–89.
- Wood, S,G. "The American Revolution: A History." Modern Library. 2002, page 24.
- Draper pp. 216–223. Nash pp. 44–56. Maier pp. 76–106
- Middlekauff pg. 111–120. Miller pg. 149–153
- Daniella Garran (2010-07-19). "Steps to the American Revolution". Lesson Planet. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- Morgan and Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 21.
- Anderson, Crucible of War, 563; Thomas, British Politics, 38; Middlekauff, Glorious Cause, 55.
- Anderson, Crucible of War, 561; Middlekauff, Glorious Cause, 55.
- Anderson, Crucible of War, 563.
- Morgan and Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 22.
- Anderson, Crucible of War, 560. See also Charles S. Grant, "Pontiac's Rebellion and the British Troop Moves of 1763", The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 40, no. 1 (June 1953), 75–88.
- George Bancroft (1888). History of the United States of America, From the Discovery of the Continent. p. 292.
- Anderson, Crucible of War, 510–11; Thomas, British Politics, 6; Middlekauff, Glorious Cause, 62.
- Thomas, British Politics, 37.
- Thomas, British Politics, 32.
- Thomas, British Politics, 44.
- Thomas, British Politics, 47–49.
- Anderson, Crucible of War, 547.
- Reid, Authority to Tax, 206.
- Miller pg. 109–113. Morgan and Morgan pg. 75–76. Weslager pg. 50
- Draper 231–233. Middlekauff pg. 77
- Miller pg. 109–113. Morgan and Morgan pg. 75–76. Weslager pg. 50.
- Draper pg. 216, 230–233
- Draper 231–233. Middlekauff pg. 77. Ingersoll accepted a position of stamp distributor for Connecticut despite his opposition. Middlekauff pg. 108
- Middlekauff pg. 78–80
- Middlekauff pg. 79
- Weslager pg. 34
- Morgan and Morgan pg. 96–97.
- "David Hackett Fischer, "Albion's Seed (1989) p 825
- Morgan and Morgan pg. 96–97. Weslager (pg. 42) also notes that the paper used had to be pre-stamped in England. Most paper came from there anyway, so there were "approximately fifty colonial papermakers who operated their own mills" who would suffer from decreased demand for their products.
- Morgan and Morgan pg. 97–98
- Morgan and Morgan pg. 98
- Draper pg. 223. Weslager pg. 51–52. Separate appointments were made for the three Canadian colonies (Quebec, "Nova Scotia, and "Newfoundland), one each for "East and "West Florida, and five for the islands of the West Indies.
- Morgan pg. 311–313.
- Draper pg. 216
- Morgan (1956) pg. 19
- Draper pg. 216–217
- Draper pg. 219
- Weslager pg.58–59. Ferling pg 33.
- Morgan pg. 314–315. Draper pg. 223
- Ferling pg. 32–34. Middlekauff pg. 83
- Middlekauff pg. 84. The Resolves were widely reprinted and many versions of them are still seen. Middlekauff used the wording from the journal of the House of Burgesses.
- Weslager pg. 60
- Weslager pg. 65
- "The Stamp Act: Troubling Their Neighbors". "WGBH and "Lowell Institute. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
- "The Lowest Of The Mob". "WGBH and "Lowell Institute. Retrieved October 19, 2015.
- Nash p. 44
- Nash p. 59
- Nash pp. 45–47
- Nash p. 53
- Wood, S,G. "The American Revolution: A History." Modern Library. 2002, pp. 29-30
- Hosmer pg. 91–94
- Nash p.48
- Nash pp. 49–50
- Nash p. 49
- Maier p. 85
- Nash pp. 50–51
- Wilkins Updike, History of the Episcopal church in Narragansett, Rhode Island (1847) p. 221
- Nash pp. 53–55
- Nash pp. 55–56
- Middlekauff p. 98
- Wood, S,G. "The American Revolution: A History." Modern Library. 2002, p. 30
- W.B. Kerr, "The Stamp Act in Quebec," English Historical Review, (1932), 47: 648–651 in JSTOR
- Wilfred B. Kerr, "The Stamp Act in Nova Scotia," New England Quarterly (Sep., 1933), 6#3 pp. 552–566 in JSTOR
- Anspach, Lewis Amadeus (1819). A History of the Island of Newfoundland. London: self-published. p. 192. "OCLC 1654202.
- Andrew J. O'Shaughnessy, "The Stamp Act crisis in the British Caribbean," William and Mary Quarterly, (Apr 1994) 51#2 pp 203–26 in JSTOR
- Maier pg. 76–82. Maier noted that the term "sons of liberty", used in the generic sense, was used as early as the 1750s in some Connecticut documents.
- Miller pg. 130
- Maiers pg. 78–81
- Maier pg. 86–88
- Maier pg. 101–106. Miller pg. 139. Miller wrote, "Had Great Britain attempted to enforce the Stamp Act, there can be little doubt that British troops and embattled Americans would have shed each other’s blood ten years before Lexington. As Benjamin Franklin remarked, a British army would not have found a rebellion in the American colonies in 1765 but it would have made one."
- "The Colonial Newspapers and the Stamp Act" by Arthur M. Schlesinger in The New England Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March 1935), pp. 65
- Tillman 2013, p. 4.
- Schlesinger, Arthur (March 1935). The Colonial Newspapers and The Stamp Act. The New England Quarterly, Inc. pp. 63–65.
- "The Colonial Newspapers and the Stamp Act" by Arthur M. Schlesinger in The New England Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March 1935), pp. 69
- Schlesinger pg. 74
- "The Colonial Newspapers and the Stamp Act" by Arthur M. Schlesinger in The New England Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March 1935), pp. 63-83.
- Wood, S,G. "The American Revolution: A History." Modern Library. 2002, page 29
- Miller pg. 137
- Weslager pg. 108–111
- Miller pg. 137–139. Morgan and Morgan pg. 139
- Weslager pg. 148
- Morgan and Morgan pg. 140–141
- Weslager pg. 109
- Weslager pg. 115. Morgan and Morgan pg. 142
- Morgan and Morgan pg. 145–152.
- Morgan and Morgan pg. 151–152. "Thus by the fall of 1765 the colonists had clearly laid down the line where they believed that Parliament should stop, and they had drawn that line not merely as Englishmen but as men."
- Morgan and Morgan pg. 147–148
- Middlekauff pg. 111–113
- Middlekauff pg. 111–113. Miller pg. 149–151
- Morgan and Morgan pg.49–50, pg. 331
- Middlekauff pg. 113–114. Miller pg. 153. Miller wrote of the Rockingham ministry, "Of all the Whig factions, the Rockinghams were most benevolent toward the colonies. While they were as determined …as [other factions] to maintain the sovereignty of great Britain , they insisted the Americans must be treated as customers rather than as rebellious rogues who merited a sound whipping."
- Middlekauff pg. 115
- Middlekauff pg. 116
- Middlekauff pg. 116–117
- Middlekauff pg. 117–119
- Middlekauff pg. 121
- "Glorious News, Boston, Friday 11 o'Clock, 16th May 1766". London Gazette. Boston. May 16, 1776.
- Adair, Douglass. "The Stamp Act in Contemporary English Cartoons." William and Mary Quarterly (1953): 538-542. in JSTOR
- Alexander, John K. Samuel Adams: America’s Revolutionary Politician. (2002) "ISBN 0-7425-2114-1
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- "Draper, Theodore. A Struggle For Power:The American Revolution. (1996) "ISBN 0-8129-2575-0
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- Findling, John E. and Frank W. Thackeray. Events That Changed America in the Eighteenth Century. (1998) Greenwood Press.
- Hutchins, Zachary McLeod, ed., Community without Consent: New Perspectives on the Stamp Act (University Press of New England, 2016). 264 pp., online review
- Hoffer, Peter Charles. Benjamin Franklin Explains the Stamp Act Protests to Parliament, 1766 (2015), with documents
- Hosmer, John Kendall (1896). The Life of Thomas Hutchinson. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin. "OCLC 1527164.
- "Maier, Pauline. From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial radicals and the development of American opposition to Britain, 1765–1776. (1991 – original 1972) "ISBN 0-393-30825-1
- "Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789. (2005) "ISBN 978 0-19-516247-9
- Miller, John C. Origins of the American Revolution. (1943)
- "Morgan, Edmund S. Colonial Ideas of Parliamentary Power 1764–1766. William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Jul., 1948), pg. 311–341. JSTOR
- Morgan, Edmund S. and Morgan, Helen M. The Stamp Act Crisis:Prologue to Revolution. (1963)
- Nash, Gary B. The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America. (2006) "ISBN 9780143037200
- Reid, John Phillip. Constitutional History of the American Revolution: The Authority to Tax. Madison: "University of Wisconsin Press, 1987. "ISBN 0-299-11290-X.
- "Arthur M. Schlesinger. The Colonial Newspapers and the Stamp Act. The New England Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Mar., 1935), pp. 63–83.
- Thomas, Peter D. G. British Politics and the Stamp Act Crisis: The First Phase of the American Revolution, 1763–1767. Oxford: "Clarendon Press, 1975. "ISBN 0-19-822431-1.
- Weslager, C. A. The Stamp Act Congress. (1976) "ISBN 0-87413-111-1
- "" Works related to Stamp Act (1765) at Wikisource
- Text of the 1765 Stamp Act
- Resolves of the Pennsylvania Assembly on the Stamp Act, September 21, 1765
- 1766 Text of the Repeal of the Stamp Act
- Images of the type of stamps referred to in the Act.
- Profiles of the "12 Immortal Justices" of Maryland who ruled the Stamp Act invalid and void on November 23, 1765.