Committees of Correspondence
Committees of Correspondence were organized by New England patriot leader
Samuel Adams and made up a system of communication between patriot leaders
in the towns of New England and eventually throughout the colonies. Committees
of Correspondence provided the political organization necessary to unite the
colonies in opposition to Parliament.
The Declaratory Act stated that Parliament
could legislate for the colonies in all cases. Passed just after the repeal of
the Stamp Act, most colonists interpreted the act as a face-saving mechanism
and nothing more. However, Parliament continually interpreted the act to its
broadest extent and continued to try to legislate in the colonies.
Letters From a Pennsylvania Farmer -
This series of twelve letters published by John Dickinson denounced the
Townshend duties, demonstrating that many of the arguments employed against
the Stamp Act were valid in regard to the Townshend duties as well. The
letters inspired anti-parliament sentiment throughout the colonies.
The Loyal Nine was a group of Boston merchants and artisans that formed during
the Stamp Act crisis to lead the public in attempts to drive the stamp
distributors from the city. This was one of the first steps toward political
organization in the colonies.
The Quartering Act was enacted in 1765, requiring colonial assemblies to pay for
certain supplies for troops stationed within their respective colonies. In
1767, New York, the colony in which the greatest number of troops were
stationed, refused to comply with the law, provoking
parliament to threaten the nullification of all
laws passed by the New York colonial legislature.
Salutary neglect refers to the state of Anglo-American relations before the end
of the French and Indian War. British
Parliament did not interfere in the government
of the colonies, and America existed in relative political isolation.
Sons of Liberty
The Sons of Liberty were the successors of the Loyal Nine as the leaders of the
opposition to the Stamp Act. They brought a new level of sophistication to
the mass demonstrations, prohibiting their followers to carry weapons and using
strict discipline and military formations to direct the protestors.
The Stamp Act required Americans to buy special watermarked paper for newspapers
and all legal documents. Violators faced juryless trials in vice-admiralty
courts, just as under the Sugar Act. The Stamp Act provoked the
organized response to British impositions.
The Sugar Act lowered the duty on foreign-produced molasses from six pence per
gallon to 3 pence per gallon, in attempts to discourage smuggling. The act
further stipulated that Americans could export many commodities, including
lumber, iron, skins, and whalebone, to foreign countries, only if they passed
through British ports first. The act also placed a heavy tax on formerly duty-
free Madeira wine from Portugal. The terms of the act and its methods of
enforcement outraged many colonists.
Parliament passed the Revenue Act of 1767 on
July 2, 1767. Popularly referred
to as the Townshend duties, the Revenue Act taxed glass, lead, paint, paper, and
tea entering the colonies. The colonists objected to the fact that it was
clearly designed more to raise revenue than to regulate trade in a manner
favorable to the British Empire.
In response to the Stamp Act, Patrick Henry persuaded the Virginia House of
Burgesses to adopt several strongly worded resolutions that denied
right to tax the colonies. These resolutions were known as the Virginia
Resolves, and persuaded many other colonial legislatures to adopt similar
The concept of virtual representation was employed by Prime Minister George
Grenville to explain why Parliament could
legally tax the colonists even though
the colonists could not elect any members of Parliament. The theory of virtual
representation held that the members of Parliament did not only represent their
specific geographical constituencies, but rather that they took into
consideration the well being of all British subjects when deliberating on
Writs of Assistance
Writs of assistance were general search warrants, which allowed customs officers
to search any building or ship they thought might contain smuggled goods, even
without probable cause for suspicion. The colonists considered the writs to be
a grave infringement upon personal liberties.
Samuel Adams played a key role in the defense of Colonial rights. He had been a
leader of the Sons of Liberty, and suggested the formation of the
committees of correspondence. Adams played a crucial role in spreading the
principle of colonial rights throughout New England.
An influential political leader from Pennsylvania, Dickinson published
Letters From a Pennsylvania Farmer in response to the Townshend
duties, and provoked much colonial response thereby.
Hutchinson was a British official who played many roles in the years leading up
to the American Revolution. He served as chief
justice of the Massachusetts supreme court that heard James Otis' case
against the writs of assistance; as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts
during the Stamp Act crisis; and finally, as the royal governor. In 1773,
Samuel Adams published a number of Hutchinson's letters, in which Hutchinson
advocated "an abridgement of what are called British liberties," and "a great
restraint of natural liberty" in the colonies.
King George III
The king of England during this period, King George III exercised a greater hand
in the government of the nation than many of his predecessors had. Colonists
were torn between loyalty to the king and resistance to acts carried out in his
MacIntosh, a shoemaker from the South End of Boston, was chosen by the Loyal
Nine to lead the coalition of the North End and South End factions in Boston
against the stamp distributor, Andrew Oliver. He oversaw the mob that drove
Oliver out of town before he could collect stamp taxes.
James Otis was an influential Bostonian heavily involved in the fight for
colonial rights. Most notably, he argued the case against the writs of
assistance in front of the Massachusetts supreme court. Though
unsuccessful in his case, Otis succeeded in illuminating the core of the
colonists' opposition to Parliamentary actions in the colonies.
Pontiac was an Ottawa Indian leader, who led a series of attacks against the
British forts near the Great Lakes, eight of which he successfully sacked. He
was a great proponent of driving the British out of Indian territory, fearing
the British presence there would encourage the colonists to move west and
overrun the tribal lands.
Townshend was the chancellor of the exchequer under Prime Minister William Pitt.
However, when Pitt fell ill, Townshend took effective control of the government.
His most notable action was the passage of the Revenue Act of 1767, popularly
called the Townshend duties. The act enraged the colonists and provoked
Wilkes was a political dissident who had fled Britain to evade arrest. During
the outcry against the Townshend duties, he returned to London to run for
Parliament in 1768. He was elected, but denied
his seat and jailed. A mass
movement grew up in Britain and the colonies in support of Wilkes, and when he
was finally released in 1770, he was hailed by one Boston celebration as "the
illustrious martyr of liberty."
On March 5, 1770, a crowd led by sailor Crispus Attucks formed to demonstrate
against the customs agents. When a British officer tried to disperse the crowd,
he and his men were bombarded with rocks and dared to shoot by the unruly mob.
After being knocked to the ground, one soldier finally did shoot, and others
followed. Five people were killed, including Attucks, who is often considered
the first casualty of the Revolutionary War.
Massacre of St. George's Fields
After John Wilkes was denied his seat in
Parliament, some 30,000 of his
followers, known as Wilkesites, gathered on St. George's Fields, outside the
prison where he was being held, to protest his arrest. When the protestors
began throwing objects, soldiers fired into the crowd, killing eleven. The so-
called Massacre of St. George's Fields emphasized the disagreement in Britain
over colonial rights and spurred the movement that grew up in support of
Stamp Act Congress
In response to the Stamp Act, and representing a new level of pan-colonial
political organization, on October 7, 1765, representatives of nine colonial
assemblies met in New York City at the Stamp Act Congress. The colonies
agreed widely on the principles that Parliament
could not tax anyone outside of Great Britain, and could not deny anyone a fair
trial, both of which had been done in the American colonies.