Repeal Of The Stamp Act
The Stamp Act Congress.—The Stamp Act Congress met at New York on October 7, 1765. Nine colonies were represented, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and New Hampshire failing to send delegates. Prominent among those in attendance were John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, John Rutledge and Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina, and James Otis of Massachusetts. On October 19 a declaration of rights and grievances, originally drafted by Dickinson, was adopted. In the declaration the argument was presented that the colonies were entitled to the inherent rights and liberties of native-born Englishmen, one of which was that no taxes were to be imposed upon them except by their own consent or by their representatives. The colonists were not and from their local circumstances could not be represented in the House of Commons, their only representatives being those in the colonies who alone had the constitutional right to impose taxes upon them. All supplies to the crown being free gifts of the people, it was unreasonable and inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the British constitution for the people of Great Britain to grant to the king the property of the colonists. Trial by jury was an inherent right of every British subject in the colonies, but the Stamp Act and other laws, by extending the jurisdiction of the admiralty courts, had a tendency to subvert the rights and liberties of the colonists. The duties imposed by recent acts of parliament would be burdensome and grievous, and from the scarcity of specie the payment of them would be impracticable. The recent restrictions would make it impossible to purchase the manufactures of Great Britain. The right to petition the king or either house of parliament was also asserted. By an address to the king and by applications to both houses of parliament, they endeavored to procure the repeal of the Stamp Act, of clauses in recent acts which increased admiralty jurisdiction, and of recent acts placing restrictions on American commerce.
Repeal of the Stamp Act.—In July, 1765, Grenville fell from power, but not because of opposition to the Stamp Act. The Marquis of Rockingham, a man of moderate ability, was selected to form the new cabinet. The question of the repeal of the Stamp Act came up in parliament early in 1766. During the debate in the commons on February 13, Franklin, then agent for Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, was questioned regarding the colonial attitude, and he made it clear that the Stamp Act could not be enforced. The American cause was strengthened by the powerful support of Pitt and by the protests of English merchants and manufacturers who were losing trade through colonial boycotts. After a momentous debate, the act was repealed.
The Declaratory Act.—Although parliament had given ground it did not surrender, for in the Declaratory Act of March 18, 1766, it asserted its right to tax the colonies. The act declared that the colonies were subordinate unto and dependent upon the crown and parliament, and that the king by and with the consent of parliament had full power and authority to make laws to bind the colonies in all cases. All resolutions, votes, orders, and proceedings in the colonies denying the power and authority of parliament to make laws imposing taxes and regulations were declared null and void.
Other legislation.—The Quartering Act was then renewed, but with certain changes to make it more effective. The imposts on textiles which had previously been collected in America were henceforth to be collected at the point of exportation. The duty on molasses was changed from three pence a gallon on the foreign product to one penny a gallon on all molasses brought to the continental colonies.
Colonial rejoicing.—The Declaratory and other acts attracted little attention in America, where there was great rejoicing over the repeal of the Stamp Act. The constitutional principles for which the colonists had contended had in no wise been conceded, but to the colonist his point seemed won. He was soon to be rudely awakened.
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