John Cruger, Jr., Portrait

John Cruger, Jr., was the Mayor of New York City and hosted the Stamp Act Congress in October 1765.

Stamp Act Congress Summary

October 7, 1765–October 25, 1765

The Stamp Act Congress was the first unified meeting of the colonies to respond to British policies. Delegates from nine colonies came together to discuss a response to the Stamp Act.

Advertisements

Summary of the Stamp Act Congress

The Stamp Act Congress was a meeting of 27 delegates from nine of the 13 Original Colonies that took place in New York City from October 7 to October 25, 1765. They met to discuss a unified colonial response to the provisions of the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act was passed on March 22, 1765, and was set to go into effect on November 1, 1765. The meeting produced a document called the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, and sent letters to the King and both houses of Parliament. Although the letters were rejected, the Stamp Act Congress marked the first time a “continental congress” was held by the colonies in order to respond to British policies.

Massachusetts Calls for a Colonial Congress

On March 22, 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, requiring that stamps be purchased and placed on all legal documents and printed materials in the American colonies. To Parliament’s great surprise, outraged Americans responded angrily with legislative protests and street violence.

In May, news of the new law reached the colonies. There was immediate opposition, including riots in Boston, Massachusetts, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Savannah, Georgia, which were likely organized by the Sons of Liberty.

On June 8, 1765, the Massachusetts Assembly sent a circular letter to the legislatures of the other colonies inviting them to send delegates to a congress in New York to “consult together on the present circumstances of the colonies.”

James Otis, Portrait

James Otis, Jr., from Massachusetts, was a vocal opponent of the Stamp Act and a key participant in the Stamp Act Congress.

From October 7 through October 25, 1765, delegates from 9 of the 13 colonies met in New York to discuss a unified colonial response to the Stamp Act. The precedent for such a meeting had been set by the Albany Congress in 1754. However, what made the Stamp Act Congress unique was it had been called by the colonies, not by British authorities. The Board of Trade had called for and authorized the Albany Congress.

Nine of the 13 colonies, including Massachusetts, chose to send delegates to the meeting, which was held in New York City. The Stamp Act Congress convened on October 7, 1765.

Delegates to the Stamp Act Congress

27 men from nine of the 13 colonies attended the Stamp Act Congress. Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia did not send delegates.

Connecticut

Delaware

Maryland

Massachusetts

Contrary to popular belief, Samuel Adams did not attend the Stamp Act Congress. He stayed in Massachusetts and tended to matters there.

New Jersey

New York

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

Officers of the Stamp Act Congress

President – Timothy Ruggles

Secretary – John Cotton

Debate Over the Stamp Act

The background issues that led to the debate that was held over the provisions of the Stamp Act focused on the following items and their implications on colonial America.

  • The Stamp Act had been passed for the purpose of raising revenue from the colonies.
  • Previous taxes levied by Parliament were typically charged as customs duties on shipments of goods. Not everyone was affected by them. The Stamp Act tax was a direct tax on nearly all colonists.
  • Many colonists believed the Stamp Act violated the rights of the colonists as British subjects because it has been passed without the approval of the colonial legislatures.
  • The provisions of the Stamp Act were to be carried out by Stamp Agents who were appointed by the Crown.
  • Any violations of the Stamp Act were to be tried in the Vice-Admiralty Courts. Those courts did not use juries and were seen as a violation of the right a trial by peers.

During the debate, the idea that unity between the colonies crept into the minds of some delegates. South Carolina delegate Christopher Gadsden wrote, “There ought to be no New England man, no New Yorker, etc. known on the Continent, but all of us Americans.”

Declaration of Rights and Grievances

The Stamp Act Congress drafted a Declaration of Rights and Grievances on October 19, which stated among other things that

  1. Only the colonial assemblies had a right to tax the colonies.
  2. Trial by jury was a right, and the use of Admiralty Courts was abusive.
  3. Colonists possessed all the Rights of Englishmen, which were laid out in the English Bill of Rights.
  4. Parliament could not represent the colonists, because the colonists had no representation in either house.

Petitions to the King and Parliament

After the delegates agreed to the resolves, they decided to send letters to the King and both houses of Parliament and ask for the Stamp Act to be repealed. Committees were set up to write the letters, which were called the Adress to the King, the Memorial to the House of Lords, and the Petition to the House of Lords.

Committee to Write the Address to the King

The members of the committee that wrote the address to the King were William Murdock, Robert R. Livingston, and William Samuel Johnson.

Committee to Write Memorial to the House of Lords

The members of the committee that wrote the memorial to the House of Lords were Edward Tilghman, Sr., John Rutledge, and Philip Livingston.

Committee to Write the Petition to the House of Commons

The members of the committee that wrote the petition to the House of Commons were James Otis, Jr., Thomas Lynch Sr., and Thomas McKean.

Dispute Over the Proceedings

When it came time for the delegates to sign the proceedings — the official documents — of the Stamp Act Congress, not all of them could The delegates from Connecticut, New York, and South Carolina had not been given permission from their colonial legislatures. Those delegates had been instructed to send the documents to the legislatures for review.

The delegates from Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island did have the authority, and most of them did. The two exceptions were Robert Ogden from New Jersey and the President of the Stamp Act Congress, Timothy Ruggles. Both of them argue the documents should be sent to the colonial legislatures for review.

Thomas McKean, Portrait

Portrait of Delaware delegate Thomas McKean.

Ruggles’ refusal led to an argument and may have resulted in him challenging Thomas McKean to a duel. However, Ruggles left New York early the next morning, without speaking to McKean and the other delegates. When Ruggles returned to Massachusetts, he was censured by the legislature for refusing to sign the petitions.

When Ogden returned to New Jersey, he found the people were not pleased with him. They burned him in effigy and he responded by resigning from his seat in the New Jersey Legislature.

Stamp Act Takes Effect

On November 1, 1765, the Stamp Act took effect, but there were no stamp agents available to distribute the stamps. They had resigned or refused to perform their job due to violence and intimidation against them.

Sons of Liberty, Broadside

The Sons of Liberty formed during the Stamp Act Crisis. This broadside called a public resignation of Andrew Oliver, the Stamp Agent for Massachusetts.

British Reaction to the Stamp Act Congress

By the time the Stamp Act Congress sent the letters to Britain, Parliament was already discussing the repeal of the Stamp Act. However, there were also concerns among British officials over the idea the letters had been prepared and approved by an unauthorized congress and they were rejected.

Repeal of the Stamp Act

On March 18, 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, primarily due to protest from British merchants who believed it would damage their prospects of doing business in the colonies. However, on that same day, Parliament passed the Declaratory Act, which declared its ability to pass legislation to govern the colonies.

Significance of the Stamp Act Congress

The Stamp Act Congress was a significant historical event in the American Revolution because it was the first unified meeting of the American colonies to respond to British taxation.

Advertisements

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Stamp Act Congress Summary
  • Coverage October 7, 1765–October 25, 1765
  • Author
  • Keywords stamp act congress
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 3, 2022
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update May 6, 2022
Advertisements