Stamp Act Congress: Definition & Resolutions

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  • 0:01 The Stamp Act Congress
  • 1:03 What Caused the Stamp…
  • 2:35 What Did the Congress…
  • 3:26 Stamp Act Congress Resolutions
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erica Cummings

Erica teaches college Humanities, Literature, and Writing classes and has a Master's degree in Humanities.

In 1765, the American colonists convened the Stamp Act Congress to address what they saw as increased tyranny and unfair taxation by the British. Read this lesson to learn more about what the Stamp Act Congress debated and accomplished.

The Stamp Act Congress

In the decades leading up to the American Revolutionary War, the British tightened their grip on the American colonies by passing laws and taxes the colonists hated. One of the most hated taxes was the Stamp Act. Passed on March 22, 1765, the Stamp Act taxed all paper used for legal or commercial purposes. In response to the Stamp Act, many of the American colonies decided to meet and discuss what should be done about the growing tyranny of the British. In October, 1765, 27 delegates from nine of the American colonies met in New York City as part of the Stamp Act Congress. The Stamp Act Congress, which was in fact the first significant gathering of the American colonies, passed resolutions to beckon the King of England to treat the colonies fairly.

What Caused the Stamp Act Congress?

Let's back up to examine the events that led to the Stamp Act Congress in more detail. As already mentioned, the Stamp Act of 1765 taxed paper used for everything from calendars to court documents and even playing cards. The tax itself was not that expensive, but the American colonists still became angry for several reasons. First of all, the tax needed to be paid with British currency instead of colonial dollars, which made it difficult for the colonists to pay. Second of all, those who violated the Stamp Act could be tried without a jury.

Perhaps most importantly, the colonists were very upset that the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act without the colonists' consent. The colonists were not in fact represented in the British Parliament, which meant they had no say over how much they were going to be taxed. This idea of 'no taxation without representation' became a popular rallying cry in the colonies. Overall, the colonists were concerned that the British would continue to tax and subjugate the colonists if they did not speak up about the injustice of the Stamp Act. Thus, the colonists circulated a letter calling for delegates from the colonies to meet at the Stamp Act Congress in New York City in October 1765, in order to decide how the American colonies would respond.

What Did the Congress Want to Do?

At that point in history, most colonists did not want to declare independence, nor did they want to fight the British. Instead, the colonists wanted to convene the Stamp Act Congress in order to discuss their growing frustration with British taxation and oppression. Most delegates at the Stamp Act Congress were not overtly aggressive or radical. They merely wanted to write down their collective concerns and then send their concerns to the British king. But the Congress wasn't exactly legal either. Some colonies, including Georgia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Virginia, did not even send delegates to the Stamp Act Congress. Even still, the nine colonies that did get together represented the largest gathering of the colonies up to that point.

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