The History Book Club discussion

Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States of America, Bill of Rights and Constitutional Amendments

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message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 23, 2009 09:09AM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 30, 2009 12:18AM) (new)

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The Declaration of Rights includes three segments:

a) Introduction
b) Grievances
c) Conclusion

In Message 1; there is a free link to a copy of the Declaration of Rights for the purposes of discussion.

The first question we could ask ourselves is why was the Declaration of Rights even composed in the first place?

The answer lies in the following text:

In 1764, the British Parliament passed the Sugar Act, which placed tariffs on sugar, coffee, and other goods imported into the New World. These taxes increased the burden on ordinary citizens at a time of recession in America. It was thought that the Sugar Act would give rise to open rebellion, but it did not.

In 1765, the Stamp Act was passed. This act placed a tariff on virtually every form of printed matter, including newspapers and playing cards. The Stamp Act by itself may not have been a catalyst to revolution, but combined with the previous year's Sugar Act and the subsequent Quartering Act, the effect was to provoke riots and open rebellion, and a boycott of the stamps that were to be affixed to the printed matter. British merchants balked at the Act because of the boycotts, and it was repealed in 1766.

This document is a response to the Stamp Act.

This passage reminds me of what we are going through in this country with economic hard times. However, our government appears to be thinking up new ways to increase its revenues with new taxes whether they be on soda or other items.

Do you think it is in our country's DNA to loathe taxation even though we realize that it is a necessary evil?

message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Here is the Timeline for the Stamp Act, the Stamp Act Congress, the Declaration of Rights document and the subsequent repeal of the dreaded Stamp Act:

message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 30, 2009 01:04AM) (new)

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Why did Britain feel that they needed an increase in taxes and why the Stamp Act?


Stamp Act - Background:

In the wake of Britain's victory in the Seven Years'/French & Indian War, the nation found itself with a burgeoning national debt that had reached £130,000,000 by 1764. In addition, the government of the Earl of Bute made the decision to retain a standing army of 10,000 men in North America for colonial defense as well as to provide employment for politically connected officers. While Bute had made this decision, his successor, George Grenville, was left with finding a way to service the debt and pay for the army.

Taking office in April 1763, Grenville began examining taxation options for raising the necessary funds. Blocked by the politic climate from increasing taxes in Britain, he sought to find ways to produce the needed income by taxing the colonies. His first action was the introduction of the Sugar Act in April 1864. Essentially a revision of the earlier Molasses Act, the new legislation actually reduced the levy with the goal of increasing compliance. In the colonies, the tax was opposed due to its negative economic effects and increased enforcement which hurt smuggling activities.

Do you think that the Earl of Bute was the culprit in all of this mess or was it simply that Grenville tried to get himself out from between a rock and a hard spot and felt that this was the only way to raise the needed capital? What do you think the English point of view would be (their arguments for the necessity of these taxes) and what do you think the viewpoint of the colonists were?

Who was right?

message 6: by Liz (new)

Liz | 119 comments I have been reading The American Colonies From Settlement to Independence written by a British professor. I've really enjoyed reading about American colonial history from a different perspective. The problems were not simply debt from years of war but also issues of managing the vast new territory. British felt that they were expending money to protect the colonies with lack luster troop support from the colonies.

Also important to note is that there were a succession of politicians saddled with solving the debt crisis. Simmons writes "Pitt's ministry had lasted for one year after George's accession, Bute's as First Lord, for eleven months, and Greenville's was to last for twenty-seven months. Indeed, until the consolidation of Lord North's ministry in the 1770s, a succession of short-lived and divided ministries, vexed as much by the problems of maintaining power as by those of policy, had the responsibility of government. The age was one of faction, and American affairs became grist for the political mill."

The Sugar Act actually reduced taxes on molasses to half that of the Molasses Act of 1733. But, it added duties on other things and eliminated some concessions in the Molasses Act. The Sugar Act was to raise money for the defense of North America.

Stamp Act taxation had been proposed as early as the 1750s. Grenville began work on the tax in late 1763. The delay [in passage of the Stamp Act:] announced the start of important political difficulties for the Grenville ministry's American plans, difficulties that did not cease for the next three years. The questions of constitutional position of the colonies and their relation to Parliament now emerged from their former obscurity to become a serious issue . . . . The Stamp Act controversy exposed the great possibilities for discord in the post-war relations of England and her American colonies. English awareness of these was at first very limited." Simmons goes on to say the most British politicians felt the Sugar Act and Stamp Act were very fair. The revenues they were likely to raise would only cover half of England's cost for colonial military defense.

Grenville's ministry ended in July of 1765 and was followed by Marquess of Rockingham. He and his colleagues initially resented American protests. The parliament was divided on the enforcement of the Stamp Act. Then along comes William Pitt in January 1766 and condemns the Stamp Act on the grounds of the constitutionality of England taxation of the colonies. Pitt had been silent on the issue prior to his address to parliament.

In answer to your quetion Bentley, it seems there were plenty of culprits around to blame . . . the American colonists for not responding to calls for troops for purposes of defense, England for financially over-extending itself to pay for war, the Earl of Butte for proposing an ineffectual and expensive scheme for defending new American territories won in the war, Grenville for focusing on financial issues without consideration of the likely American colonial response, Rockingham for dragging his feet repealing the Stamp Act and William Pitt for waiting so long to weigh in on the issue.

The colonies had grown very independent. They had freedoms that went beyond those of the British citizens and they didn't want to run the risk of loosing that power. Any perceived challenge to their rights would have been offensive. And, we probably do have an inborn hatred of taxation :).

I don't know that there is a right or wrong here. I think the two sides were very much on different pages. The American colonies had been growing increasingly independent over more than a hundred years. They wanted to maintain their autonomy. The British government had largely ignored the colonies for most of the previous century. The financial burdens of managing and protecting a much greater territory woke them up to the financial potential of the American colonies.

I also wonder if the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act were just rallying points for the colonists. Was the real issue increased political and governmental controls by the British? Those changes were within the rights of the British government and would have been difficult to argue against in parliament. Taxation was the colonists strongest political lever - it raised a constitutional issue.

message 7: by Alexis (new)

Alexis (achacchiayahoocom) It is not in American "DNA" to abhor taxes, but that most people do not want to "cramp their style" for anyone else's agenda, even if they reap a benefit thereafter.

My current study shows that even since the time of Moses "the people" grumble about everything pretty much all the time.

Liz's interesting point on the tenure of the ministers is important and can be compared to any leader who, knowing that his his term will be short-lived, will put into place what he sees fit and not necessarily consider the consequences or the public sentiment.

message 8: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Liz and Alexis...both great comments. I am thinking about all of the great points in both responses and will comment later today.

message 9: by Liz (new)

Liz | 119 comments Alexis wrote: "tenure of the ministers is important"

Alexis, I don't have the background in English history to know if the tenure of ministers at that time was typical or symptomatic of the political turmoil and divisiveness of the time. Did the ministers anticipate a short term? I don't know. It would make an interesting study. Were problems in maintaining power due to problems with the colonies or internal British conflicts? or George III?

Grenville may have been short-sighted by nature. George III stated that Grenville "had the mind of a clerk in a counting house." Quote taken from The American Colonies From Settlement to Independence.

As for grumbling, the colonists had learned that grumbling was key to their survival and maintenance of power. Lack of Crown and British parliamentary attention didn't free them from occasional abuses of power by governor's appointed by the Crown. They had learned from experience that grumbling often allowed them to maintain or increase their own power. It was a well-established pattern by the 1760's. The colonies even had lobbyists watching what Parliament was doing! In your studies, is there a similar pattern of that 'grumbling' paying off?

I agree that short tenures can sometimes lead to short-term thinking. It is a difficult balancing act. I hate to think what Grenville and Bute would have done had they been in power longer!

message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
It seems Liz that the grumbling in America started a long time ago. I also think that no matter how folks try to slant what was or was not going on during this period of time; the colonies and their deep natural resources at that time (furs, etc.) were cash cows for the British Empire. The colonists had no way to see themselves free and clear of debt. And likewise the British Empire also realized there was a huge cost associated with maintaining these colonies abroad in order to protect their interests.

message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 01, 2009 01:13AM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
As far as Grenville; I think he had his own financial worries and was known to be quite miserly; I doubt that he ever had the best interests of the colonies at heart or even cared for that matter.

In fact, Britannica lays the claim that Grenville probably did more to start the American Revolution than anybody else:

message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 01, 2009 01:26AM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Another player in the taxation debacle in the colonies was John Stuard - 3rd Earl of Bute -

William Pitt seemed to be in the thick of things as well; but most of these folks were so unpopular at home; it is obvious that they did not have the clout to change much of anything for the colonists. I personally think that Pitt was wishy washy and was a little late in promoting the colonies' cause. The British people themselves were calling for "Bread, peace and no Pitt".

message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Alexis wrote: "It is not in American "DNA" to abhor taxes, but that most people do not want to "cramp their style" for anyone else's agenda, even if they reap a benefit thereafter.

My current study shows that e..."

Your assessment probably goes for Presidents too.

message 14: by Alexis (new)

Alexis (achacchiayahoocom) Ok - in an effort to get familiar with the subject a little more, I pulled out a book from my college years. Franklin of Philadelphia by Esmond Wright, which I do recall liking very much. Wouldn't you know it, but I had highlighted passages in the book about this very subject! (Ha!) Of course I was doing this at close to midnight and will review further this evening.

But... in my notes scrawled in the margins I had written "last straw" - and after skimming the section it gives the impression that the Stamp Act may have been the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back." It was indeed the rallying cry for colonists who were treated as second class citizens who had been too often forced to accept decrees from afar. But if it had been reversed and had come before the Molasses or subsequent Sugar Act, then it would have been one of those that would have been the straw.

I will read my source a little more closely over the coming days and see what other sources I can dig up out of my college texts...

message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Great Alexis...I would be very interested in hearing about your impression is that this act was just the straw that broke the camel's back (in total agreeement); it was interesting that Thomas Paine almost got arrested in England during this period and just managed to escape this fate there; things obviously were not too pleasant in England at this time and they were having their own internal financial problems which they found hard to remedy.

I think they looked on the colonies as a quick fix and the colonists had other ideas.

By that time, my impression was that the Stamp Act was just last in a series of abominable decrees coming out of England at that time. And with communications being what they were in those days and travel being cumbersome to boot; times were rife for big misunderstandings.

It must have been very expensive to keep up fronts thousands of miles from home for the English and they figured that the colonists had to foot some of these bills. The Declaration of Rights certainly lays forth and cites all of the grievances.

There are always two sides to every conflict...or should I say three sides....with the truth lying somewhere in the middle. I think Liz presented some of the English viewpoints and I think you have presented some of the colonists' perspectives.

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The members of this congress, sincerely devoted, with the warmest sentiments of affection and duty to his majesty's person and government, inviolably attached to the present happy establishment of the protestant succession, and with minds deeply impressed by a sense of the present and impending misfortunes of the British colonies on this continent; having considered, as maturely as time will permit, the circumstances of the said colonies, esteem it our indispensable duty to make the following declarations of our humble opinion, respecting the most essential rights and liberties of the colonists, and of the grievances under which they labour, by reason of several late acts of parliament.

message 17: by Alexis (last edited Oct 01, 2009 02:08PM) (new)

Alexis (achacchiayahoocom) "sincerely devoted" and "with warmest sentiments"... isn't that sweet...?

I was surprised by this beginning when reading it, but recalled the demeanor in which everyone wrote back then. Also, if I remember correctly, the vote to propose The Declaration of Rights was very close. Wasn't it just one vote?

When taking that into consideration, we have to remember that the American colonies were not filled with revolutionaries. And as Liz wrote:

"They had learned from experience that grumbling often allowed them to maintain or increase their own power. It was a well-established pattern by the 1760's."

If presented properly, they might just get their way, at least temporarily as the past had shown. The colonies (all colonies for Great Britain) were first and foremost, profit centers. And, with the exception of religious freedom (which really occurred much earlier than this time period) that was also why the colonists came to settle, for a better economic life.

Yet, it was the continued "coming together" of the separate colonies to tackle these tough issues that was forming and shaping our nation to have one common resolve.

message 18: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Alexis, I felt that same way when reading it....but wanted to wait to see what others thought about the intro. I think the part that I felt was obsequious was "warmest sentiments of affection". I am not sure about the vote.

Actually you raise a great point Alexis...there were quite a few loyalists...probably a higher percentage than ever reported because it became dangerous to be a sympathizer with Britain. A lot of folks just deeply loved the country where they were born and had a fair amount of family still in England.

Yes, they were cash cows and as I stated earlier...I really think that Britain had its eye on personally keeping all of the spoils. Yes, I agree with the religious freedom aspect of your post...I came across a publication by Thomas Jefferson which explained a bit about the actual drafting of the Declaration of Independence. I will post it here and in the Declaration of Independence thread.

It does seem that in our DNA (those of our ancestors)...there was the ability to persevere, be courageous, take risks and be independent....I wonder how many personal characteristics and personality traits are handed down and/or if environment changes things over time. I do believe that Americans have a bit of boisterousness and outgoingness attached to their perceived demeanor. It is almost like we are a people who thankfully cannot be corraled.

It does seem to me that some other cultures have been more beaten down over time and do not seem to have that will that they once must have had (the Native Americans come to mind in this country).

message 19: by Alexis (new)

Alexis (achacchiayahoocom) Yes, but which came first? The "boisterousness and outgoingness" or the call to fight for freedom. They had to have a certain element of character to decide to fight, but I believe the fight for freedom itself brought a great amount of pride and "boisterousness and outgoingness".

message 20: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Regarding the Stamp Act Congress:

Alexis, this is what I have found about the agreement among the colonists about sending the Declaration of Rights:

"Eventually every colony affirmed the decisions of the Congress.[63:] Six of the nine colonies represented at the Congress agreed to sign the petitions to the king and parliament produced by the Congress. The delegations from New York, Connecticut, and South Carolina were prohibited from signing any documents without first receiving approval from the colonial assemblies that had appointed them.[64:]"

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I guess John Dickinson of Pennsylvania was the author of the document:

"The congress met for 12 days including Sundays. There was no audience at the meetings, and no information about the deliberations was released during or after the congress.[67:]

Their final product was called "The Declaration of Rights and Grievances", and was drawn up by delegate John Dickinson of Pennsylvania.

This Declaration raised fourteen points of colonial protest. In addition to the specifics of the Stamp Act taxes, it asserted that colonists rightfully possessed all the rights of Englishmen and but that without voting rights, Parliament could not represent the colonists; only the colonial assemblies had a right to tax the colonies; that trial by jury was a right which the recent use of Admiralty Courts abused.[68:]

It is significant that in addition to simply arguing for their rights as Englishmen, they also asserted that they had certain natural rights solely because they were human beings.

Resolution 3 stated, "That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a 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."

Both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania in separate resolutions would bring forth the issue even more directly when they referred, respectively, to "the Natural rights of Mankind" and "the common rights of mankind".[69:]

Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina had proposed that since the rights of the colonies did not originate with Parliament that the Congress’ petition should go only to the King.

This radical proposal went too far for most delegates and was rejected. The "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" was duly sent to the king, and petitions were also sent to both Houses of Parliament.[70:]"

Source: Wikipedia:

message 22: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 02, 2009 01:09AM) (new)

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Who was John Dickinson?

He became known as the Penman for the Revolution, was a very wealthy man from Pennsylvania and a lawyer. He also had drafted the first draft of the Articles of Confederation and Dickinson College is named after him. He bequeathed the land for the college; he was both President of Delaware and of Pennsylvania..I guess in those days they called governors Presidents (lol).

What is interesting about Dickinson is that he tremendously helped the colonists efforts yet did not want to sign the Declaration of Independence because he wanted so much to hold out for reconciliation if at all possible with Britain. He had studied at the Temple of London and was a very erudite man but if it at not been for his opposition to a break with England, he most likely would be as well remembered as Washington, Franklin and Jefferson.

This article states that he was a signer of the constitution..I wonder if because he was a Quaker; he was against war and therefore was placed in an unfortunate position with the Declaration of Independence.

One of the articles on line stated this: "Furthermore, he absorbed the principles of the Magna Carta and the approaches of Francis Bacon so thoroughly that he never quite got over his pride in his English heritage. Throughout his leadership of the colonial rebellion he acted as a better Englishman than the English themselves." I think that Dickinson really viewed himself as an Englishman and truly wanted reconciliation to take place.


I think my take on Dickinson was that he was an admirable and principled and extremely intelligent man who was not a hothead.

message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 01, 2009 06:48PM) (new)

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In reading the Milestone Documents in American History download from Amazon regarding the Declaration of Rights documents; according to that publication Benjamin Franklin had led the charge to try to get the Stamp Act repealed by the British Parliament. There is a segment on him in the Founding Fathers folder.

This document which can be downloaded for a small price from Amazon is quite good.

It states as the introduction the following:

"The Stamp Act Congress was convened on October 7, 1765, to address the passage of the Stamp Act by Parliament on March 8, 1765. The congress’s delegates responded to the act on October 19, 1765, by approving a Declaration of Rights (including fourteen resolutions) and several petitions denying Parliament’s authority to tax the thirteen colonies. The Stamp Act Congress and its resolutions helped lead to the act’s repeal in March 1766. They also led the colonists to focus on the idea of constitutional limitations on parliamentary authority, a concept that contributed to the American

The Stamp Act required that anything formally written or printed must appear on stamped paper dispensed by English agents. This was a visible and pervasive tax, which was imposed by Parliament to help pay the great debts the
English incurred while protecting their colonies during the French and Indian war (1754–1763). The stamp duties triggered outrage among the American colonists. They maintained that taxes were gifts to the king that could be
offered only through a body that represented them. Since the colonists were not represented in Parliament, either actually or virtually, they believed that Parliament had no authority to impose the stamp tax on the colonies. In their
minds, the stamp duties represented a confiscation of their property, since they had not given their consent to a parliamentary power to lay taxes."

I think the problem with the Stamp Act, the Sugar Act or even the Quartering Act actually highlighted one of the key causes of the American Revolution as stated above: All of a sudden the colonists really focused on the idea of constitutional limitations on parliamentary authority.

On the side of the English, one can see that the English incurred great debts defending the colonists during the French and Indian War. You would assume that the colonists would have been grateful for this defense and would have felt that they should pay something for this protection.

However, it appears that they thought that any taxes they paid should be perceived as gifts because they were not represented in Parliament; so therefore, Parliament should not have any authority to levy taxes against them or their property.

This can be downloaded from Amazon:$6.99

message 24: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 01, 2009 07:08PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This might be the essential quote of the pre Revolution days: (Part of number III resolution of the grievance section.)

"It is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted right of Englishmen, that no taxes be imposed on them, but with their own consent.”

Was this the start of the revolutionary spirit?

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Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Alexis wrote: "Yes, but which came first? The "boisterousness and outgoingness" or the call to fight for freedom. They had to have a certain element of character to decide to fight, but I believe the fight for ..."

Sort of the chicken and the egg argument...all of these traits are probably part and parcel of the same package. You really had to be brave and courageous to fight against a standing army! (like the British) The colonists were a motley crew.

message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This was interesting from the Milestone Document:

"Faced with massive debts incurred in the French and Indian War, Great Britain sought means of raising revenue in the American colonies, which, in their view, were the beneficiary of England’s generous military action. In 1763 George Grenville, the first lord of the treasury and the chancellor of the exchequer, began hatching a series of legislative measures that would impose taxes on the colonists to satisfy England’s financial needs. In April 1764 Parliament passed the Sugar Act, also known as the American Revenue Act, which levied a tax on molasses, an imported commodity in New England.

Lord Grenville made it clear that the measure was a tax, designed to raise money for England. The American colonists were still seething over the Sugar Act, which they considered an illegal tax, when they were hit with the Stamp Act duties in 1765. Some colonies responded by passing nonimportation acts, economic boycotts that they hoped would pressure England to abandon the Sugar Act. At the same time, the British expanded the jurisdiction of the vice admiralty courts to try those who interfered with revenue laws. These courts did not employ juries. As a consequence, the colonists were shocked by what they considered a violation of their ancient rights as Englishmen to trial by jury."
- page 37

It seems like the Sugar Act was bad enough, the Stamp Act pushed them to the edge and then these vice admiralty courts made the colonists less equal than they always had been as Englishmen (when they were living on the English isle).

The colonists had to feel like they were going backwards and that things were only going to get far worse at the hands of the British. Also, not to even be afforded a jury!!!! Sounds not much better than Quantanamo and military tribunals and these were their loyal English colonists. I guess we could call Grenville, the father of the Stamp Act.

message 27: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 04, 2009 11:28AM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Some Sources of Additional Information:

The Birth of the Republic, 1763-89 (Third Edition) by Edmund S. Morgan

Stamp ACT Crisis Prologue to Revolution by Edmund S. Morgan

There is one that was recommended that does not seem to be in goodreads:
The Chronicles of the American Revolution by Alden T. Vaughn

The Stamp Act Congress With an Exact Copy of the Complete Journal by C.A. Weslager

Website: (turn off music at bottom)

Article: Catalog entry:

Library Thing:
British Politics and the Stamp Act Crisis:
Interesting from the standpoint that the British had to pay for 10,000 troops to protect the colonists on another continent. That had to be expensive. Their debt had increased from 72 million to 126 million pounds sterling in just a few years after the expensive Seven Years War with France.

It also answered the question about what was levied:

"Essentially, the Stamp Act levied a specific tax on 54 items that included legal documents (deeds, leases, etc.) , newspapers, almanacs, playing cards and even dice. As a proof that the tax was paid, a stamp had to be affixed to the document or item."

To make it even worse, even when the awful Stamp Act was repealed and Grenville was ousted because of it; the English Parliament (I guess in defiance) passed the Declaratory Act that stated that Parliament had the right to make laws governing its subjects in the colonies! Gee, how to add salt to the wound.

My view is that the colonists should have been made to put up or shut up if they wanted to be defended by their mother country and should have been made to help pay for their defense. Only right. However, after the fact, to enforce dreaded taxes on an already burdened population during a recession probably did not help. It appears also that Grenville wanted the colonists to pay for the full tilt; alleviating any political pressure that he might have faced at home trying to tax his own populace. How to dig a bigger hole for yourself.

To top it off, the colonists were treated as if they were on a lower strata than the citizenry of England (and they were Englishmen just living in the colonies!). It was as England was saying just pay everything and by the way you have no rights any longer because you really are not living on true British soil. I think the colonists were beginning to think that they were no better than serfs. Of course, the British probably thought that the colonists were ungrateful.

Big Apple History:

John Bull and Uncle Sam:

This is a good paper by a Mary Nesney on the internet (hard to believe how barbaric the colonists were acting - burning the homes of governors and hanging people!)

There are always two sides to every story. Great paper.

This is the Sugar Act itself:

This is the Stamp Act itself: (The Stamp Act, March 22, 1765)

Stamp Act Crisis:

Another Version - might be easier to read:

message 28: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I thought this paragraph was interesting taken from the Milestone Document:

"In response to the Stamp Act, the Massachusetts Assembly, at the suggestion of James Otis, sent an invitation to the other colonial assemblies to participate in a meeting in New York City to discuss the colonies’ options. The resulting Stamp Act Congress determined to issue a Declaration of Rights and to petition the king, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords for relief.

They sought repeal of the act. In the American colonies’ first display of national unity, the Stamp Act Congress approved fourteen resolutions that sought to define constitutional principles and limitations on parliamentary authority and complained of the economic pain inflicted on the colonies by the stamp duties."

Does anybody else feel that Massachusetts was where an awful lot of the trouble was brewing with the group which called themselves the Sons of Liberty?

So often with these types of conflicts, initially there is always a point where an opportunity for reconciliation was missed. Do you think there was such a point and what should either side have done differently?

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Bentley | 44207 comments Mod

All I can say is that this was one interesting man. I think I would have preferred the dignity of Dickinson myself; but this man had to be a firebrand.

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message 32: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Grievance One:

1. That his majesty's subjects in these colonies, owe the same allegiance to the crown of Great Britain, that is owing from his subjects born within the realm, and all due subordination to that august body the parliament of Great Britain.

message 33: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 03, 2009 06:09PM) (new)

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In the Milestone document; one paragraph caught my interest: (Source - page 38)

"In this pursuit, they were aided by the merchants in London who acknowledged their dependence on robust trade with the colonists and pushed for the act’s repeal in the House of Commons.

Taxes on the colonists that resulted in fewer purchases of English goods spelled trouble for English merchants. Violence, too, marred the process. In response to the Stamp Act, a group of angry colonists organized themselves into the Sons of Liberty for the purpose of opposing and protesting the stamp duties.

They pillaged the homes of those who would serve as tax collectors and generally intimidated and dissuaded Loyalists from enforcing the act.

The Stamp Act Congress, caught in the clutches of a great national crisis, was forced to choose between acquiescence or confrontation. It chose confrontation. In this, it gave vent to ideas and concepts that had lain dormant, awaiting an occasion for articulation.

When the chance came, the congress rejected Parliament’s authority to tax the American colonists. This assertion of the colonists’ rights placed the colonies on a path that changed history."

It is amazing to me that the London merchants realized how bad these acts were not only for the colonists but also for them. After having read the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, you have to wonder what Grenville was thinking.

And of course, I am dismayed by the actions of the Sons of Liberty. Personally, today these kinds of folks would have been arrested and jailed for their actions. It is amazing to me how their actions are esteemed after all of these years. Houses were torched and folks threatened and worse .

I am not sure what the rest of you think.

Here is an interesting article:

Sons of Liberty: Patriots or Terrorists?

message 34: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 03, 2009 06:42PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
What is strange to me is that the colonists and some of the founding fathers still wanted to believe that someone would take their petitions seriously. In fact, they finally did; but considering the circumstances it still seemed odd to me. I can't believe that they kept writing letters and petitions.

The immediate result of the Stamp Act Congress lay in the petitions and resolves sent to the king, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords.

The congress was seeking relief from the Stamp Act duties through
nonenforcement of its provisions and, ideally, through its appeal.

The resolutions reflect the colonists’ deeply held views of their rights and the limits of parliamentary authority. The act itself provoked, for many, the first serious and sustained consideration of constitutional principles, an intellectual and political undertaking that would continue through the American Revolution and beyond.

Source: Milestone Document - page 38

You have to admire how assiduous these folks actually were. How many of us keep writing to our congressmen, senators or the White House to try to be heard or to change things? I doubt many of us are that assiduous. And how many of us actually believe that our voice will be heard? The founding fathers kept at it over and over again. I am just amazed at their belief system and how much they really must have loved England. I think it must have been very difficult for a lot of them to sever ties.

message 35: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 03, 2009 06:53PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Milestone Document - page 39

The first eight grievances or resolutions "reflect the emphatic, unqualified view of the congress that Parliament has no constitutional authority to tax the colonies."

Resolutions I and II speak of the duties of the colonists as subjects of the Crown.

The first resolution provides that the colonists owe “due subordination” to Parliament.

That obligation implies a recognition of Parliament’s authority to make laws governing the entire empire, but that sweeping authority is limited, according to the colonists, who contend that the power to legislate does not include the power to tax, a point emphasized in the sixth resolution.

Do you really believe or side with the colonists that Parliament does have authority to make laws but somehow does not have the power to tax? To me, the colonists' arguments here were specious. How can you have one without the other? Our Congress can both legislate and tax. Don't get me wrong, the taxes were onerous and burdensome and unfair; but I do not buy the colonists argument. What do the rest of you think?

message 36: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 04, 2009 02:05AM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Grievance Two:

2. That his majesty's liege subjects in these colonies, are entitled to all the inherent rights and liberties of his natural born subjects, within the kingdom of Great Britain.

Any comments on grievance/resolution two? What are inherent rights and liberties?

message 37: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 04, 2009 07:25AM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I will continue moving through this discussion.

From what the Milestone Document has stated; it appears that the colonists were comparing themselves to natural born English citizens. That even though some were born in the colonies that they should have the same rights that citizens living in Great Britain should have. Why should their rights or their liberties be any different?

The colonists though British subjects are not represented in Parliament as Great Britain's citizens are.

Therefore, this follows their basic contention that because of that factor alone, they should not be able to be taxed. I agree with the fact that the colonists had a point about being entitled to the same rights and liberties. However, if they admit that the Parliament has jurisdiction over them without that representation being in place as they already had; then how can they split hairs and state that Parliament cannot also tax them (because the colonists are not adequately represented by their own elected officials who represent their specific interests).

Additionally, all of the other rights that are enjoyed by the native citizenry like trial by jury are also not afforded to the colonists which certainly seems to be another inequity. "Liege" in this instance means subordinate.

It is obvious that the basic philosophy of government which was afforded the colonists was not going to afford them the same rights and liberties that were afforded those citizens who resided in Great Britain and I doubt that this was ever the intention of Great Britain in the first place. Does anyone feel that this inequity was not planned from the onset? I doubt that Great Britain treated any of its colonies anywhere in the world with equality on all counts. I have to wonder why this was such a surprise to the American colonists.

message 38: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Grievance Three:

That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a 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.

message 39: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 04, 2009 11:38AM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
It is interesting to note that finally the Stamp Act was repealed but that did not stop the British Parliament from voting for the passing of the Declaratory Act which basically stated to the colonists that the Parliament was in fact in charge of the colonists' fate. How to rub salt in the wound.

Here are a few things worth looking at:

The Repeal of the Stamp Act: (March 18, 1776)


The Declaratory Act (March 18, 1776)



message 40: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 04, 2009 05:15PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Prime Minister Grenville:

Prime Minister Rockingham:

Under Rockingham, the Stamp Act was repealed though the Declaratory Act was passed the same day.

William Pitt:

message 41: by Vincent (new)

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1246 comments Hi Folks
Well for a topic that was to start on the 1st of
I think also that the point was made that the Brits felt the Americans had not supplied soldiers as readily as the Brits - well Americans witht he open frontier and lots of land had lots to do but Britain had lots of men availabel I am pretty sure for their military mostly - obviously less so later on during the revolutionalry war when they hired Prussians - The British also did spend lots of money to figt for and continuously protect the colonies and Americans were able to grumble more and be more difficult than Englishmen becasue when Americans got fed up, in that time and maybe still today to some extend - they couls just walk west and find new land - Americans then who chose to come to America , or their parents, were people who were less intimidated with facing change. A private view of mine is that much of the reason for the success of America is that we have people who are ambitious or we were raised by them for most of us.
Anywaay also no. 9 of the Declaration of Rights brings up the lack of specie which we will see in a while again with Hamilton with the bank of the US and it waits to be a problem for Van Buren after There is a lot to keep up with with you folks.
Forgive the typos

message 42: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thanks for explaining that Vince..I thought you must have gotten caught in the catnip ...only joking (smile).

That is an interesting point you made about the Stamp Act being a tax that seemed to tax internal activities of the colonies versus products imported to the colonies although the London merchants were worried about the colonists not buying their goods too. I cannot believe how expensive the Stamp Act would have been for attorneys and newspapers and the like. And when you think about it; the tax was quite sizeable for those days.

The French and Indian War was a major drain to Britain..I could not agree more.

You also make a great point about the folks who did come to America being more readily the type to accept change. I agree with you about grievance/resolution nine.

You are doing great Vince..your wife must speak fluent German...have to say though that your keyboard seems to work better for you. Is your wife's computer wireless...maybe you can just pick up a wireless English language keyboard to keep at home. That might work so that you do not have to drag your computer home all of the time.

Great insight, Vince..


message 43: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 06, 2009 07:12PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I was surprised that there was not more discussion about grievance/resolution three which was a critical introduction to the colonists interest in "natural rights". Natural rights was always the motivating weapon of propagandists like Thomas Paine and others and really was the final motivator for the colonists and their bid for independence.

This is what the Milestone Document had to say about it:

"In the third resolution, the Stamp Act Congress provides that “it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people” and the “undoubted right of Englishmen” that taxes may not be levied without their consent.

This resolution emphasizes two key points. First, taxes are a gift, founded on the willingness and approval of the people. The term consent is critical.

If the people are not represented in Parliament, which the colonists contend they are not, then they cannot give their consent to be taxed. Rather, the tax imposed by Parliament represents a confiscation of their property.

Second, the right to grant one’s consent is not merely the “undoubted right of Englishmen” but also essential to a free people. Here the congress is drawing upon the rights of men, often characterized as natural rights.

The third resolution, then, broadens the argument about Parliament’s taxing power and denies it in terms that are universal.

The appeal to natural rights became a powerful weapon and motivating argument for the colonists, a commonplace in their battles with Great Britain over the next decade."

Source: Milestone Document - page 39

message 44: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Here is grievance/resolution four:

4. That the people of these colonies are not, and, from their local circumstances, cannot be, represented in the House of Commons in Great Britain.

Even though the colonists were at a distance..why couldn't they be represented in the House of Commons; our colonists traveled abroad all of the time. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams and even John Adams all spent considerable time overseas.

message 45: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 06, 2009 07:50PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This is the write-up on Prime Minister Rockingham:(Prime Minister when the Stamp Act was repealed)

We have not mentioned the Townshend Acts yet:

They were spearheaded by Charles Townshend; but he died before their detrimental effects became apparent. He was known as "Champagne Charlie".

These are the Townshend Acts: (November 20. 1767)


The Townshend Revenue Act

Taxes on glass, paint, oil, lead, paper, and tea were applied with the design of raising £40,000 a year for the administration of the colonies. The result was the resurrection of colonial hostilities created by the Stamp Act.

Reaction assumed revolutionary proportions in Boston, in the summer of 1768, when customs officials impounded a sloop owned by John Hancock, for violations of the trade regulations. Crowds mobbed the customs office, forcing the officials to retire to a British Warship in the Harbor. Troops from England and Nova Scotia marched in to occupy Boston on October 1, 1768.

Bostonians offered no resistance. Rather they changed their tactics. They established non-importation agreements that quickly spread throughout the colonies. British trade soon dried up and the powerful merchants of Britain once again interceded on behalf of the colonies.

From the American Revolution Home Page:

The Patriot Resource:

The following is an excellent explanation of Charles Townshend's rationale as well as the dreaded Quartering Act. It doesn't seem that the British wanted to give the colonists a break and they certainly did not want them to think they had the upper hand.

The British finally repealed the dreaded Townshend Acts but somehow kept the tax on tea. This time there was no violence. The colonists simply relied on non importation agreements to squeeze the British:

John Dickinson also wrote during this period "Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the inhabitants of the British Colonies".

Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies by John Dickinson

Some of the Acts during this period of time:(Coercive Acts or Intolerable Acts)

It is pretty clear that the Coercive Acts/Intolerable Acts were the last acts for the colonists.

message 46: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
There are some interesting concepts being discussed in grievance/resolution four above including:

Source: Milestone Document

"The congress (colonists) emphasizes in the fourth resolution that the colonists “are not” and “cannot be” represented in Parliament. It should be clear to all, Americans and English alike, that the colonists do not enjoy any actual representation; they did not vote for candidates who stood for election.

The dispute between the two sides centered on the issue of whether the colonies enjoyed virtual representation. Great Britain maintained that even though the colonists did not elect their own representatives, they were nonetheless virtually represented, since Parliament represents everyone within the empire.

Accordingly, the colonists were represented and could be taxed."

What does everyone think of the colonists' viewpoint versus the viewpoint of the English Parliament. Try to walk in the shoes of both sides.

message 47: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I found this a very interesting manueuver by the colonists. They wanted to complain about no representation and did not want to send representatives to England (even if they could and/or were allowed) because they would not have much clout anyway and would be outnumbered and outflanked in England.

Here is what the Milestone Document stated:

"The colonists rejected the concept of virtual representation.

Those living in England did not share the colonists’ interests. The colonists emphasized actual representation, which could occur only if they had the opportunity to elect their representatives.

For a time, some leading thinkers, including James Otis, considered the idea of pushing for actual representation in Parliament, but this pursuit was wisely discouraged by others.

It was observed that even if the colonists sent delegates to London, they would be outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and unable to assert any real influence.

They also would be at the mercy of Parliament’s taxing power because they would be unable to argue that they were being taxed without representation or their consent.

It was more effective, the members of the congress believed, to be in a position to argue that the Stamp Act was unconstitutional because the colonists were not represented."

Do you think that the colonists were warrented in using such a complaint and weren't they just simply being defiant and unwilling to find a middle road?

Or do you think that the colonists felt that the British were like a bunch of foxes watching the chicken coop with the colonists being the chickens (with really no way to prosper and succeed under British rule)?

message 48: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 09, 2009 06:47PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Here is grievance/resolution five:

5. That the only representatives of the people of these colonies, are persons chosen therein by themselves; and that no taxes ever have been, or can be constitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislatures.

Here is grievance/resolution six:

6. That all supplies to the crown being free gifts of the people, it is unreasonable and inconsistent with the principles and spirit of the British constitution, for the people of Great Britain to grant to his majesty the property of the colonists.

Representation and consent continue to cloud the fifth grievance/resolution. I wonder what would have happened if the British had called the colonists' bluff and had told them to send representatives to Parliament.

What does everyone else think about our taxes being gifts? I did get a smile from that one.

message 49: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 13, 2009 09:09PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Source: The Milestone Document - see pages 39 and 40

Regarding Grievance/Resolution(s) 5 and 6 introduced in Message 48:

"Having established in the fourth resolution that the colonists are not represented in Parliament, the congress asserts in the fifth resolution that “no taxes” may be “constitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislatures.”

The concept of consent, the sheet anchor of the Declaration of Independence and republicanism itself, is repeatedly brandished by the congress. Without
the consent of the governed, taxation is illegitimate and unconstitutional.

The Stamp Act Congress draws a distinction between legislation and taxation.

In the sixth resolution, the congress complains that Parliament may not tax the colonists, since taxes are a gift that may be granted by the representatives of the people who offer the gift.

Since Parliament does not represent the colonists, it would be “unreasonable” and in violation of the British Constitution for Parliament to assume it may give the property of the colonists to the king."

message 50: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 13, 2009 09:09PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Since we have to move on, here are the seventh and the eighth grievances/resolutons of the congress:

Grievance/Resolution Seven:

7. That trial by jury, is the inherent and invaluable right of every British subject in these colonies.

I think if I had been a colonist, the fact that England tried to take away my right to a trial by jury would have bothered me the most. It would have concerned me even more than the taxes. Does anyone feel similarly?

Grievance/Resolution Eight:

8. That the late act of parliament, entitled, an act for granting and applying certain stamp duties, and other duties, in the British colonies and plantations in America, &c., by imposing taxes on the inhabitants of these colonies, and the said act, and several other acts, by extending the jurisdiction of the courts of admiralty beyond its ancient limits, have a manifest tendency to subvert the rights and liberties of the colonists.

The colonists obviously felt that as Englishmen that they had certain rights and that as English colonists these were now being taken away by their country. This made them feel that they were less than they had ever been! I would have wondered what could possibly be next and did I want to wait for the other shoe to drop.

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