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.
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.