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Stamp Act Congress

In many areas of the American colonies, opposition to the looming Stamp Act was taking the form of violence and intimidation. A more reasoned approach was taken by some elements. At the urging of James Otis, usually in the radical forefront, the Massachusetts assembly sent a circular letter to the other colonies, which called for an intercolonial meeting to plan tempered resistance to new tax. The Stamp Act Congress convened in New York City on October 7, 1765, with nine colonies, represented by 27 delegates, in attendance; others would likely have participated if earlier notice had been provided. The delegates approved a 14-point Declaration of Rights and Grievances, formulated largely by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. The statement echoed the recent resolves of the Virginia House of Burgesses, which argued that colonial taxation could only be carried on by their own assemblies. The delegates singled out the Stamp Act and the use of the vice admiralty courts for special criticism, yet ended their statement with a pledge of loyalty to the king. The third of the thirteen points that the congress adopted read, "That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of the 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." The delegates to the Stamp Act Congress were more conservative than many of the more radical elements in the colonial assemblies. So much so that some of them declined to sign even the rather mild documents that were produced by the congress. Mild or not, the British parliament rejected them. The Stamp Act Congress was another step in the process of attempted common problem-solving, which had most recently been tried in the Albany Congress in 1754. That earlier meeting had been held at the urging of royal officials, but the later one was strictly a colonial affair. The congress was a forum for voicing constitutional concerns, not a rallying point for revolution and independence. In fact, the meeting afforded the more conservative critics of British policy some hope of regaining control of events from the unruly mobs in the streets of many cities.

See timeline of the American Revolution.