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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > American Age of Discovery, Colonization, Revolution, & Expansion > American Revolution

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American Revolution 1763-1789 The birth of a new nation - to commence at the Proclaimation of 1763 to the end of the Articles of Confederation.

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Old 01 Dec 09, 22:30
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Stamp Actors

Here is a thread dedicated to identifying the significant actors in the Stamp Act Crisis and describing their individual contributions. I have frequently read historians for whom the Stamp Act Crisis is just one in a series of events leading to the revolution. But, in many ways, I believe it to be the single most significant of the series. The Stamp Act united the colonists against Parliament and the Crown in a way never even contemplated before. Not even Otis and Adams could have created such a united movement without help from Parliament. Of all their blunders, insisting on moving forward on the Stamp Act in light of such widespread unrest, was probably Britain's biggest. At the time of revolution there was a large segment of the population (maybe even 1/3) that remained loyal to Britain. But, at the time of the Stamp Act Crisis, almost noone sided with the Parliament and the Crown. The only question in 1765 was how far each person felt they should go in protesting the act. Opposition to the law was almost unanimous.

Let's get started with a little known character whose contribution came very early in the process:

Daniel Dulany

Dulany started his law practice in Maryland around 1747. By 1764 he was a respected attorney and politician longstanding in the colony. Known as a strong supporter of Lord Baltimore, it was a bit surprising when he came out against the Stamp Act.

During 1764 a series of political pamphlets were published concerning the right of Parliament to tax the colonists. Everyone knew that no Englishman could be taxed without his consent (by way of his representative). Even though the English Constitution wasn’t really a formal document, all accepted the existence of that right. So the pamphleteers went about arguing the colonies were ’virtually represented’ even though they didn’t have a vote for any specific representative. The last and most powerful pamphlet (believed written by Grenville himself) recognized the basic right of no tax without representation but tried to slither around it with the virtual representation argument.

Daniel Dulany didn’t like it one bit. The lawyer in him couldn’t help but respond with his famous ’Considerations on the Propriety of imposing Taxes in the British Colonies, for the purpose of raising a Revenue, by Act of Parliament’. Daniel addressed himself not to the natural rights of man (as others of the day liked to do) but stayed with a Constitutional argument. His argument primarily was that no representative owed his seat to the vote of the colonists and therefore none would protect the interests of the colonists. The virtual proponents pointed to certain British cities that had no real vote as an example of virtual representation. Daniel refuted that by pointing out that Birmingham citizens had others in similar situations but there were no representatives whose districts had similar interests to the colonists. In fact, every dime taken from those without representation was simply less they must take from their own districts.

Daniel was so persuasive, his pamphlet sold thousands of copies throughout the colonies. At least one source has referred to it as the first best seller in the colonies. Its impact was so big that even Grenville and the authors of political thought dropped talk of ’virtual representation’ and made future argument solely on the ’all powerful sovereignty of Parliament’. Dulany’s words and arguments laid the groundwork for the repeal of the stamp act before it was even enacted. He was a major contributor to persuading the mass of colonists to support efforts to later repeal the Stamp Act. When it came to taxation, everyone in the colonies came to know his rights and was willing to resist being trampled.

I think the story of Daniel Dulany illustrates a major mistake made by Parliament in the decade prior to revolution. The Stamp Act was designed to hit the legal profession the hardest and require them to become de facto tax collectors for Parliament. I find it foolish for Parliament to target lawyers in that way. Whatever else one may think of lawyers, they are definitely outspoken, opinionated, civic leaders well educated and trained specifically in the arts of advocacy and negotiation. In addition to these traits, the lawyers of the 18th century debated Locke and Sidney on a regular basis. They were men closer in tune with the true definition of liberty than any other time in history. Was it wise to take such a group and drop all the resentment of the Stamp Act directly in their laps? Or did it motivate even the most conservative in the colony to oppose the crown? Men like Daniel Dulany were strongly opposed to the Stamp Act to the point of political activism. Not to say they were ready to rebel but, nevertheless, the colonies stood more united at the time of the Stamp Act than at the start of hostilities a decade later.

Of course the next decade would not be kind to Daniel Dulany. Despite his early contribution to the revolutionary movement in the colonies, Daniel was a Tory whose property was confiscated and who died without recognition. Sad end for a man whose early contribution to the Stamp Act Crisis should probably rank with the later works of Thomas Paine in terms of impact on our ultimate independence.
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Old 01 Dec 09, 22:32
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Richard Henry Lee

In 1763 the Proclamation disappointed many a VA planter and Richard Henry Lee was among them. His plans for both the Ohio Company and the later Mississippi Land Company now on semi-permanent hold, Lee was actively seeking a new income stream to help with the expense of his home and growing family. His income search ended up as an embarrassment as the Stamp Act Crisis developed.

As speculation about the upcoming Stamp Act spread in the colony Lee thought he saw an opportunity. He had recently failed in an attempt to get a seat on the colony council (a salaried position) and believed himself a good candidate to become the new stamp distribution agent for VA. The position was sure to pay well and Lee have enough political influence to swing the appointment.

Unfortunately, he hadn't thought about the consequences of holding such an unpopular office. A strong angry movement developed in the Assembly in support of a memo to King George III warning of dire consequences if the Stamp Act were imposed. In December of '64 Lee found himself on the drafting committee and therefore a signer of just such a communication. He believed (correctly) that he need no longer worry about being appointed as stamp distribution agent. But he didn't yet realize the mere act of applying for the position would carry heavy scrutiny and political problems.

Lee returned home to Chantilly-on-the-Potomac and waited for the May session in Williamsburg. In the meantime news arrived telling of the Stamp Act passage and the dates of planned implementation. The session lasted a couple of months ending with the Virginia Resolves in late June. Not long afterwards word came that George Mercer would be the stamp distributor. Of being passed over, Lee wrote, "it is very well that the appointment has passed me, since by the unanimous suffrage of his countrymen Mercer is regarded as a execrable monster, who with patricidal heart and hands, hath concern in the ruin of his country."

Lee now found it easy to go radical. In September of '65 he led a parade that consisted primarily of his slaves to the courthouse in Montross. They displayed effigies of Mercer and also Grenville (the Lord of the Treasury) for burning and hanging in amusement of the protestors. This display (and others like it) greeted Mercer as he arrived in VA. A riotous crowd met him in Williamsburg and compelled Mercer to resign his position on the spot. I don't know what specific threats were issued to him but a short time later one Archibald Ritchie made the mistake of publicly proclaiming intent to comply with the Stamp Act provisions. A crowd approached him informing that he needed to immediately apologize for his support of the Stamp Act or they would strip him, parade him through town, and then tie him to a pillory for whipping. It seems Archibald couldn't handle the pressure either and issued an immediate unqualified promise not to purchase any stamped paper.

For several months after the resignation, Mercer's relatives sniped at Lee in the newspapers. They accused him of leading the cause against the Stamp Act only due to spite in not being named the distributor. Called him a hypocrite constantly. Lee denied the accusations explaining his change of attitude came when Parliament had issued the Currency Act in late 1764 which, worked in tandem with the Proclamation of '63 to lower tobacco prices and put a greater and greater squeeze on the VA planters. His change of heart may seem a bit political and his explanation disingenuous but Richard Henry Lee remains an early convert to the cause of Independence and active in leading the protests against the Stamp Act.
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Old 01 Dec 09, 22:33
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Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry's story at the time of the Stamp Act is the story of Virginia Resolves. In May 1765 VA remained indignant over the proposed Stamp Act. In fact, colonists up and down the Atlantic Coast opposed the Act with various levels of hostility. The leaders of Patrick Henry's party in VA were determined to issue a new resolution calling for active resistance to the Stamp duties. With regard to the resolves, all parties were opposed to the Act, the debate was not whether to oppose it but only to determine just how obstinate the Assembly dared be.

New to the legislature, Patrick Henry was anxious to establish himself as a political force within the Assembly. Once his committee drafted the proposed resolves, Henry accepted the task of initiating them in the general Assembly and giving the lead speech in favor of acceptance. The proposals stated:
1. The first settlers of VA did not forfeit their British rights and immunities by emigrating to America.
2. Royal Charters from the time of King James I confirm that the colonists have the same liberties as those subjects born in Britain.
3. Taxation only by representatives chosen by the people themselves is the distinguishing characteristic of British Freedom and the basis for the ancient constitution.
4. Virginians have always enjoyed the right of taxation only by their assembly, a practice previously recognized by the crown.

RESOLVED THEREFORE: "That the General Assembly of this Colony [has] the only and sole exclusive right and power" to tax the people of VA; "that his Majesty's liege people, Inhabitants of this colony, are NOT bound to yield obedience" to a tax act not passed by the Assembly; "that any person who shall, by speaking or writing, assert or maintain" otherwise should be "deemed an enemy."

Once the Assembly convened Henry initiated the proposals but action and debate deferred until other business was taken care of. By the time it came back up the session was dragging into summer and many delegates (including Col. Washington) left Williamsburg before the resolves came up for vote. Led by Peyton Randolph, the opposition party in the Assembly included George Wythe, Richard Bland, and John Robinson (the Speaker). They all spoke against the Resolves as unnecessary in light of an earlier unanswered petition sent to Parliament and prudence dictated not to inflame the situation. Henry responded with a grand speech arguing that passage of the Stamp Act was foregone and Parliament obviously had no intention of responding to the earlier requests.

With debate ended, Robinson took the chair and delivered some blows to Henry's party by declaring several writs invalid therefore removing several of his allies from being qualified to vote. Once this was done the parties lined almost equally for and against the VA Resolves. As stated in the opening, the difference in political parties (at least in VA) was not whether to oppose the Stamp Act but simply how passionately and actively the resistance should be delivered. Accordingly, the first three resolves passed with little problem. However, in a stinging blow to Henry, the fourth resolve was amended. Now the opposition stepped in and challenged the fifth resolve again as unnecessary, premature, and inflammatory. Henry showed his radicalism and came back strong with a passionate speech concerning liberty and the need for vigilance in preventing oppression. His speech captivated young Thomas Jefferson who stood in the doorway unable to take attention from the floor. At one point Speaker Robinson jumped to his feet shouting 'Treason!' 'Treason!'. The outburst slowed Henry who immediately realized he pushed too far and Patrick responded with apologetic soft words granting due allegiance to the crown. Even with his apology, Henry carried the day in a 20 to 19 vote for the resolution.

Patrick Henry left Williamsburg and headed home. However, in his absence, Peyton Randolph managed to get the Assembly to reconvene the next day for reconsideration. The house confirmed its vote for the first four resolutions but the fifth now ended with a tie vote 19 to 19. The tie vote was broken by Speaker Robinson thereby negating the fifth resolution.

Even with the repudiation, Henry had his victory and his political career was off to a huge start. Almost all the colonial newspapers picked up the original proposed resolutions and printed them as if they were the final version passed by the Assembly leaving Randolph's political moves without effect. Within a couple of months PA, MD, and RI had all passed resolutions based on or identical to the original proposed VA Resolves.
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Old 04 Dec 09, 19:56
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James Otis

James Otis almost missed the Stamp Act. I realize this seems virtually impossible as he is known as Boston’s leading radical in the early 1760s. However, as some may realize, James Otis had trouble maintaining consistent positions even before his later head injury and mental incapacity. Early in 1764 Grenville introduced a precursor to the Stamp Act that came to be known as the Sugar Act. The Sugar Act was a move calculated to cut down on the amount of smuggling in the colonies. The current tax on imported molasses was 9 cents per gallon which resulted in almost zero revenue to Britain due to the complete lack of compliance in the colonies. Grenville figured the cost of smuggling ran about 1.5 cents per gallon so he lowered the tax rate to 3 cents per gallon in an attempt to get the merchants on track. He was also working on a plan whereby the rate would literally drop to 1 cent per gallon at which time Grenville figured compliance would reach 100% without any cost of enforcement. The Act passed in March with an implementation date of September 29, 1764. Unfortunately, the new law had another provision that spelled trouble for New England. The Sugar Act contained a rule requiring all molasses be imported from the British West Indies. The problem immediately developed that New England normally produced four times as much rum as could be distilled from such a restricted supply.

At that point (late Spring ’64) Otis wrote his pamphlet Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved. The pamphlet praises Britain as the greatest country of all time with the best Constitution providing recognition for the rights of each citizen. He granted that Parliament had the power to make laws up to the point of violating the Natural Law described by Locke and Sydney. He then declared taxation without consent to be a violation of that natural law. That statement seems consistent with the revolutionary spirit but he followed with a statement that even when Parliament makes bad laws, British citizens must obey them until such time as Parliament, in its wisdom, realizes its error and makes the appropriate adjustments. He described them as a reasonable body that would always amend the law when it recognized the errors. Otis then described Parliament as having made a few recent errors that included the unconstitutional Sugar Act and suggested strongly they were driving the colonists toward independence when no significant desire for such previously existed. Reading this section one realizes part of Otis’s main motivations in the work is a desire for reconciliation. The Pamphlet was well received by the Mass legislature gaining approval as the ‘sentiments of Massachusetts’. Otis, Thacher, and Cushing formed a committee to correspond with the other colonies and, hopefully, drum up support for protests against the Sugar Act.

During the Fall months Otis worked in the legislature to get a petition passed opposing all taxation without representation. Lt. Governor Hutchinson opposed him and did succeed in preventing the petition from passing. It didn't work out all that well for him as the session ended in such a way that Thomas Hutchinson became the virtual poster boy for loyalist support of the Sugar Act and the follow-up Stamp Act.

Meanwhile Steven Hopkins (Gov of Rhode Island) published a accusing Parliament of arbitrary behavior toward the colonists and openly challenging Britain to grant the colonists equal rights. His work inspired another work from Otis in support which he called A Vindication of the British Colonies. This pamphlet was considered weak by his detractors showing inconsistent logic and shallow reasoning. Happily the people ignored the flaws and jumped to support Otis's position because the Sugar Act (actually the 'Revenue Act of 1764') was soon to be expanded to many more goods and services under the proposed Stamp Act. As these new pamphlets spread around New England, Otis first work, Rights of the Colonies Asserted and Proved, was officially reviewed and debated in Parliament. They reacted harshly to the perceived opposition to their authority and quickly passed the Stamp Act in February 1765.

The newspapers published a letter from Martin Howard critical of Otis and Hopkins works on the rights of colonists. He used words from Otis own pamphlets to accuse him of toadying to Parliament, inconsistent positions, and betraying the radicals of Boston. Otis could not let the letter stand unanswered and came out with his work titled Brief Remarks on the Defense of the Halifax Libel. The pamphlet contained some unfortunate remarks including one in support of the virtual representation theory earlier refuted by Daniel Dulany. To the Boston merchants it appeared that Otis was acquiescing to the Stamp Act and his reelection to the assembly (the vote was imminent) was doubtful. John Adams described the feeling against Otis as 'rage' that 'seemed to be without bounds'. Luckily enough for Otis, the loyalist newspapers continued to print attacks against him and most people continued to believe Otis a strong radical against the new taxes. He survived the election and continued as a representative from Boston.

The seeds of partnership with Sam Adams started about this time. Adams believed the colonies should unite in their opposition to the Stamp Act by way of a congress with representatives from each colony. In June of '65 Otis presented the idea to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and won passage for a committee to draft an invitation to each colony for a meeting to be held in October. In July word came of the Virginia Resolves which made the earlier resolutions from Massachusetts look weak. Otis (and pretty much all the Boston radicals) felt embarrassed and responded with more writings. This time it was Considerations on Behalf of the Colonists. In it Otis now returned to assertions the colonists were not represented in Parliament and therefore no consent to taxation existed. He called for repeal of the Stamp Act and, while professing loyalty to the crown, spoke of the combined economic might of the colonies and their impact on British commerce.

August of 1765 was a time of big events in Boston. As the sun rose the morning of the 15th people noticed two figures hanging from the liberty tree at the corner of Essex and Washington. A boot with a small devil crawling out the top and a straw effigy bearing the initials A. O. dangled in the breeze as people strolled by or stopped to gaze on the figures. Bostonians recognized the boot as representative of Lord Bute who was mistakenly believed responsible for the Stamp Act and the effigy was Andrew Oliver who would be the Stamp Distributor for Massachusetts. The appearance of the two figures clearly indicated upcoming mob activity by the local Sons of Liberty. For the next several days the mobs of Boston ruled destroying Oliver's home and business forcing him to resign publicly as Stamp Distributor. They also destroyed the home of Lt. Governor Thomas Hutchinson who was the leader of the loyalist politicians in Massachusetts. Even though Hutchinson was a personal adversary of James Otis, he deeply regretted the mob action. The day after Hutchinson's home was looted Otis went about town passionately pleading to stop the mob actions and return to order. I am not sure history tells us exactly how and who planned the August riots but many details of the event exist that deserve telling in other posts than James Otis. Judging from Otis reaction after the riot and the lack of record indicating his participation, most Otis biographers do not believe he was active in the planning or execution of the August riots.

In October Otis attended the Stamp Act Congress in New York as one of the three delegates from Massachusetts. Since the August riots, Otis had been very subdued and even reacted to the Virginia Resolves by referring to them as traitorous. Even though he led the way in bringing about the Congress, Otis did not become the Speaker and he did not play a major role in drafting the resolutions of that body. Instead, his fellow representative from Massachusetts, Timothy Ruggles, became the leader of the Stamp Act Congress. He was a loyalist and tried to keep things conservative but had little influence as sentiment against the Stamp Act ran the length of the colonies. The congress concluded its business before the end of the month when the actual Stamp Act went into effect. Otis held out to the very end refusing to sign unless some language recognizing Parliament's authority was inserted. The group refused but Thomas Lynch of South Carolina was able to persuade Otis to sign his name on the end of the document.

The Act came into effect in November. Protestors greeted the day by covering the town in black and entering into mourning. During this time and for the next couple of months, James Otis entered into close association with Sam Adams. The two would collaborate for the next couple of years. For the remainder of the Stamp Act time, Otis wrote and published a series of essays in the Boston Gazette under the name Hampden. The essays reflect Otis bringing his views into sync with those of Sam Adams. He stopped all talk of representation in Parliament for the colonies and adopted a firm stance that no representation would be meaningful and therefore, none could be constitutionally valid. At the end of December Otis met an old friend just in from England who reported that pressure from the merchants and others had already had an effect and repeal of the Stamp Act would be forthcoming. The prediction proved correct as Parliament voted in March to repeal and official notice reached Boston in April 1766. James Otis remaining contribution to the Stamp Act Crisis was to join John Hancock in opening their homes to the public for free wine and celebration for all.

Last edited by Elijah; 04 Dec 09 at 20:00..
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Old 07 Dec 09, 21:26
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Ebenezer Mackintosh

Born in the South End very close to the neck, Ebenezer grew up in the age of mob rule in Boston. He knew the power of the waterfront and working classes as if it were second nature to him. At age 21 Ebenezer served under Abercromby who got the unit ambushed by Indians prior to reaching Fort Ticonderoga. He survived the battle with a reputation for leadership but returned to Boston with a sour attitude toward British authority. After service in the war Mackintosh joined the volunteer firefighters and gained notice for meritorious conduct in the fires of March 1760. Promoted to Captain he was described as 'slight of build, of sandy complexion and a nervous temperment'.

The annual Pope's Day celebration in Boston always created a riot. In fact, the tradition itself called for a parade to the common followed by battles between the North End and the South End for the right to burn the other side's effigy of the Pope. The North End had always won the day but November 5, 1764 would be a special day for the South Enders. Ebenezer Mackintosh had recently assumed the reigns as leader of the South End gang and they anticipated giving the North End their very first beating. Things went badly for the 'Captain' Henry Swift and Northend gang from the very start. A boy fell under the lead wagon bearing their Pope and died instantly of a head injury. Then, constables sent by Governor Bernard successfully shredded the North's effigy and intimidated their gathering. Even so, the North Gang moved on to the common and commenced battles with the Southenders. A few minor skirmishes followed by a big blowout riot in the common ended with victory for Mackintosh in the form of the remnants of the North's effigy. They commenced to burn both effigies in a big celebration (and nursing session) for all participants as Mackintosh accepted the title "First Captain General of the Liberty Tree".

The following months brought the Stamp Act debate. At the same time a type of association appeared from the mind of Sam Adams. The 'Loyal Nine' organized themselves and became close consultants to Henry Swift and Ebenezer Mackintosh. None of the radical leaders were members of the Loyal Nine. Instead that group operated as a sort of buffer for Adams and Otis to avoid directly controlling the waterfront mobs. As a result of Adams's creation, the two primary mob forces of Boston started to cooperate as a type of aggressive political action committee.

On the early morning of the August 14th passersby noticed an omen hanging from a tree in front of Deacon Elliot's house on Newbury Street. A straw effigy bearing the letters A. O. clearly stood for the newly named Stamp Distributor Andrew Oliver. A second figure of a devil crawling out the top of a black boot represented Lord Bute who was believed responsible for passing the Stamp Act. Governor Bernard recognized the omen as a sign of imminent trouble and requested the sheriff send peace officers to remove the hanging items. Before the sheriff's men could approach the tree a hostile crowd blocked the way explaining that no interference was to be tolerated. As the sheriff returned to report failure to the council Mackintosh had the effigies removed and led the crowd in a series of triumphant shouts before directing them to the dock on Kilby street where Andrew Oliver had recently constructed a commercial building. They attacked Oliver's new building. All the windows were broken out and the entire place gutted and looted. Moving down to Oliver's house the group assembled in front. Oliver and family had already left the house in the hands of some friends and retreated to safety at Castle William. Mackintosh got the crowd going by burning the effigy in a bonfire started with wood brought from the commercial building back at the dock. They ceremoniously 'stamped' on the burning straw doll and then looted the Oliver home breaking all the windows. Witnesses reported hearing continuous threats to kill Oliver.

The following day several merchants and members of the Loyal Nine visited Andrew Oliver at Castle William where he promptly assured them he would immediately resign his commission as Stamp Distributor. Except that he didn't actually have a commission yet but he promised there would be no attempt to sell Stamps.

Ten days later Mackintosh led the mobs out again. This time he held a bonfire and rally on King Street before dividing into two groups. The first proceeded to William Story's (Deputy Register of the Admiralty Court) house to confiscate and destroy all the documents in his possession. They ransacked the home and destroyed his office and furniture. The other group assaulted the home of Benjamin Hallowell (Comptroller of Customs) taking one of Boston's finest residences down to ripping out the windows, doors, and wainscoting. Of particular note, the wine cellar contents consumed on the spot. With his men drunk and motivated, Mackintosh led them on to Lt. Governor Hutchinson's house. The group ransacked his home and destroyed all the public and private documents they could lay hands on. Several skilled men took several hours to patiently dismantle much of Hutchinson's home. They cut down all his trees and were actually removing the tile roof when daylight finally arrived putting an end to the vandalism. For the past centuries historians have speculated that this second round of riots was actually the work of merchants unhappy with warrantless searches and pending actions for smuggling against them. Circumstances favor such a conclusion but evidence is lacking to back it up.

Immediately regretting their actions of the night before, the citizens of Boston had a town meeting and disavowed participation in the attack against Hutchinson. The militia were called out to maintain public safety and order. Naturally the militia were made up primarily of men who participated in the riot just as several of the town meeting votes of condemnation came from participants. Governor Bernard held a council meeting and determined Mackintosh had led the attack on Hutchinson. Sheriff Greenleaf arrested Ebenezer without resistance but word reached the sheriff behind the scenes that, unless he released the prisoner, no man in Boston would aid in protection of the Customs House. The sheriff knew his limitations and set Mackintosh free without further proceedings. At this moment in time Ebenezer Mackintosh was the undisputed ruler of Boston with the power of the mob at his disposal.

Over the next couple of months each milestone would bring new effigies to burn and fresh riots before the Liberty Tree. First the arrival of the Stamps. Then the official date the act was to come into effect. Then a grand event planned in mid-December for Andrew Oliver to make yet another public resignation of his commission which, had finally arrived. At noon on the 17th Ebenezer Mackintosh himself marched Oliver through the streets (in a hard rainstorm to boot) and read the resignation from an open window above the Liberty Tree.

Within a year or two Mackintosh's reign as Captain General of the Liberty Tree would be over. Ebenezer faded into an obscure role in history pretty much forgotten by the time of his death some 40 years later. The question remains unanswered as to whether he was a true patriot or just a violent tool of some other manipulator. Perhaps if Sam Adams hadn't been so darned vigilant in burning some of his early papers.

Primarily from Russell Bourne's Cradle of Violence: How Boston's Waterfront Mobs Ignited the American Revolution.
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Old 15 Dec 09, 12:36
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Benjamin Franklin

Better late than never. I don’t think old Ben wrote that specific phrase. Too bad, because it describes his contribution to the Stamp Act Crisis very well. In November ’64 Franklin sailed for England to serve as a colonial agent for Pennsylvania and a number of private concerns. He learned about the Stamp Act proposals from Prime Minister Grenville who met with several agents explaining the need for taxes raised from the colonies to pay for the recent French & Indian Wars. Franklin requested the tax be levied according to constitutional means via request to the colonial governments. Grenville seemed amenable and asked if they could commit to an amount and apportionment plan. The agents admitted having no authority for such a thing and the matter dropped. Franklin floated another idea about public notes that would bear interest and be publicly traded similarly to currency but it didn’t find followers from either side.

When the Stamp Act passed in March Franklin suggested his good friend John Hughes seek the office of Stamp Distributor for Pennsylvania. He failed to understand the level of opposition in the colonies and recommended a course of ‘firm loyalty to the Crown and faithful adherence to the government’. Unfortunately for Franklin, his letter expressing these sentiments found its way into the public arena and his political opponents made great sport accusing him of drafting the Stamp Act. One September evening a mob got so frenzied they started out to loot and burn Franklin’s home. Deborah Franklin sent the children to safety but remained to protect their home. Some friends calling themselves the White Oak Boys confronted the mob in front of the house and prevented its destruction.

Still in London, Franklin was just receiving news of the VA Resolves. He wrote to John Hughes, “The rashness of the Assembly in Virginia is amazing, I hope, however, that ours will keep within the bounds of prudence and moderation.” His hopes remained in vain as Pennsylvania’s Proprietary Party (led by John Dickinson) followed in VA’s footsteps as did the other colonies. As news continued to arrive of his house riot and the widespread opposition, Franklin became a full-time convert. He started a letter writing campaign to both private and public sources condemning the Stamp Act and issued strong denials of having ever supported it.

Franklin’s campaign to clear his reputation was successful and in February 1766 he was invited to present his case directly to Parliament. Franklin testified there was not enough currency in the colonies to pay the taxes and it would be ruinous to their economy. He openly testified the colonists no longer considered Parliament as the protector of their liberty and that English liberty precluded taxation without representation. His testimony got printed in the newspapers at home in the colonies and Franklin completed his transformation from hesitant passive protestor to the recognized spokesman in Parliament for the liberty of colonists.

To accuse Benjamin Franklin of making a great flip-flop in the Stamp Act Crisis is only partially true. He never supported the act but, in a very practical way, arranged to put himself in a position to benefit from the act. Very similar to what happened with Richard Henry Lee. However, also like Lee, Franklin realized the level of opposition to the Stamp Act and chose to adopt a leadership role in its demise. Most of this information summarized from Walter Isaacson’s very fine book [I]Benjamin Franklin, An American Life[I].
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Old 20 Dec 09, 22:40
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John Dickinson

John Dickinson (aka JD) first noted attack on the constitutional rights of the colonists with the Revenue Act of 1764 (Sugar Act). He correctly worried the Act would only be the first step to further taxation aimed directly at the colonists.

At age 31 JD was an ambitious young attorney serving his third term in the PA Assembly. He was already established as an opposition leader to Joseph Galloway and Ben Franklin. Their group had recently taken steps to request an end to the proprietors’ control of the colony by converting it to a colony of the crown. Prior to that plan Pennsylvania politics was dominated by two related issues; Defense of the western counties and the hated exemption of all proprietor lands from taxation. The issues of taxation were already hot button items due to refusal of the Germans and Quakers of Eastern PA to fund militia units for the western counties. Germans resented the proprietor tax exemption while Quakers simply refused to ever vote for defense. News of the Stamp Act arrived in May 65 when the Assembly was already scheduled to adjourn, which they did effectively postponing any official actions until the Fall session.

Dickinson spent the summer practicing law and also preparing some draft resolutions for the Fall Assembly to consider. The VA resolves got published in late June giving him two months to think about his proposed draft. When the Assembly opened September 1 the speaker opened proceedings with discussion on Massachusetts proposed Congress in New York. In a definite victory for the Proprietary Party JD was named a delegate along with Speaker Fox and two others. In the meantime a committee was formed to draft resolutions for the PA Assembly. JD failed to get named but informally submitted his draft to the committee members. The final product closely resembled Dickinson’s draft.


Resolves of the Pennsylvania Assembly
On the Stamp Act

September 21, 1765

The House taking into Consideration, that an Act of Parliament has lately passed in England, for imposing certain Stamp Duties, and other Duties, on his Majesty’s Subjects in America, whereby they conceive some of their most essential and valuable Rights, as British Subjects, to be deeply affected, think it a Duty they owe to themselves, and their Posterity, to come to the following Resolutions, viz.
Resolved, N. C. D. 1. That the Assemblies of this province have, from Time to Time, whenever Requisitions have been made by his Majesty, for carrying on military Operations, for the Defence of America, most chearfully and liberally contributed their full Proportion of Men and Money for those Services.

Resolved, N. C. D. 2. That whenever his Majesty’s Service shall, for the future, require the Aids of the Inhabitants of this Province, and they shall be called upon for that Purpose in a constitutional Way, it will be their indispensable Duty most chearfully and liberally to grant to his Majesty their Proportion of Men and Money for the Defence, Security, and other public Services of the British American Colonies.

Resolved, N. C. D. 3. That the inhabitants of this Province are entitled to all the Liberties, Rights and Privileges of his Majesty’s Subjects in Great-Britain, or elsewhere, and that the Constitution of Government in this Province is founded on the natural Rights of Mankind, and the noble Principles of English Liberty, and therefore is, or ought to be, perfectly free.

Resolved, N. C. D. 4. That it is the inherent Birth-right, and indubitable Privilege, of every British Subject, to be taxed only by his own Consent, or that of his legal Representatives, in Conjunction with his Majesty, or his Substitutes.

Resolved, N. C. D. 5. That the only legal Representatives of the Inhabitants of this Province are the Persons they annually elect to serve as Members of Assembly.

Resolved, therefore, N. C. D. 6. That the Taxation of the People of this Province by any other Persons whatsoever than such their Representatives in Assembly, is unconstitutional, and subversive of their most valuable Rights.

Resolved, N. C. D. 7. That the laying Taxes upon the Inhabitants of this Province in any other Manner, being manifestly subversive of public Liberty, must, of necessary Consequence, be utterly destructive of public Happiness.

Resolved, N. C. D. 8.1 That the vesting and Authority in the Courts of Admiralty to decide in Suits relating to the Stamp Duty, and other Matters, foreign to their proper Jurisdiction, is highly dangerous to the Liberties of his Majesty’s American Subjects, contrary to Magna Charta, the great Charter and Fountain of English Liberty, and destructive of one of their most darling and acknowledged Rights, that of Trials by Juries.

Resolved, N. C. D. 9. That it is the Opinion of this House, that the Restraints imposed by several late Acts of Parliament on the Trade of this Province, at a Time when the People labour under an enormous Load of Debt, must of Necessity be attended with the most fatal Consequences, not only to this Province, but to the Trade of our Mother Country.

Resolved, N. C. D. 10. That this House think it their Duty thus firmly to assert, with Modesty and Decency, their inherent Rights, that their Posterity may learn and know, that it was not with their Consent and Acquiescence, that any Taxes should be levied on them by any Persons but their own Representatives; and are desirous that these their Resolves should remain on their Minutes, as a Testimony of the Zeal and ardent Desire of the present House of Assembly to preserve their inestimable Rights, which, as Englishmen, they have possessed ever since this Province was settled, and to transmit them to their latest Posterity.



A month later at the Stamp Act Congress Dickinson put his drafting skills on display and played the single largest part in crafting those resolutions also. While the congress rearranged his draft and added a point or two, Dickinson provided a draft before the congress that ended very close to that document which passed. JD’s time in New York had elevated his status to that of a politician of national prominence.


Resoutions of the Stamp Act Congress

October 19, 1765

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.

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.
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.
3. 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.
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.
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.
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.
7. That trial by jury is the inherent and invaluable right of every British subject in these colonies.
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, etc., 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.
9. That the duties imposed by several late Acts of Parliament, from the peculiar circumstances of these colonies, will be extremely burthensome and grievous; and from the scarcity of specie, the payment of them absolutely impracticable.
10. That as the profits of the trade of these colonies ultimately center in Great-Britain, to pay for the manufactures which they are obliged to take from thence, they eventually contribute very largely to all supplies granted there to the Crown.
11. That the restrictions imposed by several late Acts of Parliament, on the trade of these colonies, will render them unable to purchase the manufactures of Great-Britain.
12. That the increase, prosperity, and happiness of these colonies, depend on the full and free enjoyment of their rights and liberties, and an intercourse with Great-Britain mutually affectionate and advantageous.
13. That it is the right of the British subjects in these colonies, to petition the King, Or either House of Parliament.
Lastly, That it is the indispensable duty of these colonies, to the best of sovereigns, to the mother country, and to themselves, to endeavour by a loyal and dutiful address to his Majesty, and humble applications to both Houses of Parliament, to procure the repeal of the Act for granting and applying certain stamp duties, of all clauses of any other Acts of Parliament, whereby the jurisdiction of the Admiralty is extended as aforesaid, and of the other late Acts for the restriction of American commerce.


With the Stamp Act Congress over with Dickinson had no place to go but home. He previously announced that he didn’t want to keep his seat in the Assembly but had allowed others to place his name on the ballot. Unfortunately for him, Joseph Galloway had run for the very same position and won by 420 votes. The election actually took place on October 1 before the Stamp Act Congress had even met. Dickinson indicated surprise in later correspondence at the voters strong feelings against the Stamp Act yet they voted for Galloway, leader of those who argued to accept the Stamp Act.

JD busied himself with some essays in the Philadelphia newspapers. In November he wrote, “The critical time is now come * * to decide whether Pennsylvanians from henceforth shall be Freemen or slaves.” A month later he published a pamphlet titled The Late Regulations Respecting the British Colonies. The pamphlet gained widespread acclaim in England during the very time Parliament debated repeal of the Stamp Act. One critic stated “Though the town has been, in a manner, glutted with pamphlets on American affairs, yet its sale has been very rapid. It is highly esteemed; has gained for the author much reputation, and most surely does him great honor.”

Once the Stamp Act Crisis passed and repeal was announced most colonists ignored the Declaratory Act (maintaining Parliament’s right to tax the colonists) and lost interest in thoughts of rebellion. Not John Dickinson as he continued to sound the alarm that England would trample the rights of the colonists once things got settled down again. Of course he was correct as Parliament went to work on the Townsend Acts very quickly after repeal of the Stamp Act. On the other hand, JD had his best work ahead also. Within a couple of years he would publish the famed ‘Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer’. These essays became so popular that most people would forever know John Dickinson as simply ‘The Farmer’. As that character he was virtually indispensable within the colonies in helping Sam Adams and the Massachusetts men keep alive the revolutionary spirit needed to protect their liberty.

Most information from John Dickinson, Conservative Revolutionary by Milton Flower

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Old 20 Dec 09, 23:11
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Thanks for the information on John Dickinson. As an alumnus of Dickinson College, I have long had an interest in his life and affairs. Milton FLOWER--not Fowler, as you said above--was a professor of history at the College, and wrote a fine bio of Dickinson.
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Thanks for commenting Eric. I also like Dickinson. A man of principle, He came to the party early and stayed consistent to the end. I also appreciate his writing style being more straightforward than most 18th century writers.
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Stamp Distributors

Once the Stamp Act passed the question of who would administer the provisions and collect the fees came up. As with Richard Henry Lee and Ben Franklin many saw the situation in practical terms. The distributor gained a percentage for himself in the sale of the stamps. A determination was made that local figures should be appointed where possible. Here is a brief description of each Distributor's experience as government agent;

Andrew Oliver for Massachusetts - resigned his position around August 15, 1765 following destruction of his property by the Boston mob controlled by Ebenezer McIntosh. Not content to let that stand, McIntosh brought Oliver out again in December following the arrival of his official commission from England. McIntosh enjoyed great sport as Oliver was made to publicly resign the commission again and again.

Augustus Johnston - Rhode Island: Less than two weeks after Oliver's first resignation a large determined group in Newport paraded three effigies through the streets. The effigy of Augustus hung below a scaffold with those of Martin Howard, Jr. and Dr. Thomas Moffat who were guilty of publicly supporting the Stamp Act. By the time they worked through Dr. Moffat's home and got to Johnston's house he was long gone and many of his most valuable personal items were stored with friends. His friends gave out loud assurances of his intention to resign as Stamp Distributor but the mob treated his house to a good old-fashioned ransacking anyway. The three men spent the night aboard ship in the harbor. Moffat and Howard sailed away the next morning without so much as going ashore. Even though he was the Stamp Distributor, Johnston returned to Newport where he immediately and publicly resigned his position. When the hated stamps arrived in late October rumor had it that Johnston intended to distribute them in spite of his resignation. A notice appeared on the drawbridge to Long Wharf advising Augustus his life would not be worth much if he made a move to distribute Stamps. A rather gung-ho customs officer (John Robinson) tried to press Johnston to distribute by making a formal request which was answered by a formal acknowledgment that it would be personally hazardous to make such an attempt to transfer stamps.

James McEvers - New York: After hearing of the mob violence in Newport and Boston, McEvers preemptively resigned his position as Stamp Distributor for New York. He sent a request to England for a substitute explaining that he owned too much property subject to mob action and didn't wish to lose it.

William Coxe - New Jersey: Followed in McEvers footsteps by issuing a resignation on September 2, 1765. Governor William Franklin (Ben's son) taunted Coxe publicly that no threats or insults occurred to cause his resignation.

Zacharia Hood - Maryland: A particularly determined man, Zacharia Hood refused to resign even after watching his house torn down by an angry mob who then chased him out of town with nothing but the clothes on his back. Hood moved on to New York and prepared to distribute his stamps from the protection of a British Man-of-War that could anchor off the coast of MD. By late December a New York mob caught up with him and, faced with a 2nd angry mob making threats, Zacharia resigned his position as distributor for Maryland.

George Meserve - New Hampshire: Not brave or determined, George Meserve resigned before stepping off his transport. Accepting his position while in England, George discovered his mistake on the Atlantic crossing when a letter got delivered from Portsmouth stating he would not be safe in the colony without first resigning his position as Stamp Distributor. Without fanfare, George announced his resignation on September 8 prior to stepping off the ship.

Jared Ingersoll - Connecticut: With a display that could only be described as 'nerves of steel', Jared Ingersoll held on to his position in the face of widespread demonstrations against him. Effigies burned all around the colony over a period of several weeks before he finally relented and gave resignation September 15 to a mob that was preparing to hang him on the spot.

John Hughes - Pennsylvania & Delaware: John gamely argued with the Philadelphia crowd and managed to avoid direct violence until October 7 when they literally became so menacing that he broke and promised not to execute the act. He was later forced to repeat the promise again on behalf of Delaware.

George Mercer - Virginia: A friend of George Washington, Mercer was in England during the Summer of 1765. He stepped off the boat on October 30 and arrived in Williamsburg just two days before the Act was scheduled to take effect. After considering the situation in a late meeting with Gov Fauquier, Mercer resigned his office. Of course the situation included a large crowd outside the Governor's mansion that grew steadily throughout the evening.

Caleb Lloyd - South Carolina: Once the stamps arrived in Charleston for distribution, a threatening crowd gathered. Together with his friend, George Saxby (Inspector of Stamps for North Carolina, South Carolina, and Bermuda), Caleb ran from Charleston to the safety of Fort Johnson. Two days later he agreed to suspend his duties.

Dr. William Houston - North Carolina: He received an official letter notifying him of appointment on November 16. He was literally met at the post office by the citizens of Wilmington demanding instant resignation. Which he promptly gave.

George Angus - Georgia: The only man to successfully distribute stamps for sale to the public, George Angus was an unknown to the colonists. He lived in England and only arrived in GA on January 4, 1766. He immediately distributed stamp papers to the customs officers and seemed off to a good start. Within 2 weeks events had convinced George to step aside and get on an immediate ship for parts unknown.

The information here was largely found in Edmond Morgan's The Stamp Act Crisis which also happens to be my avatar for this website. A very well written account of events from early 1764's Sugar Act to the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766.
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Old 12 Feb 10, 19:51
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John Ashe

John Ashe - As Speaker of the Assembly John Ashe was a very influential figure in North Carolina political life of 1765. He took a leading role in protesting the hated Stamp Act. Early in the crisis Ashe was asked how North Carolina would react. He predicted the Stamp Act "would be resisted to blood and death." Large public protests appeared in Wilmington a couple of weeks prior to the November 1 projected starting date. Effigies of Lord Bute and others burned while alcohol enhanced celebrations lasted deep into the evening. On the first, Governor Tryon suspended all commerce until the stamps could be placed into use. This only increased the frustration and on November 16 a large crowd seized newly named Stamp Distributor William Houston who didn't realize he had been appointed. He immediately resigned the office.

On the 18th Governor Tryon tried to sooth the people with a large barbeque and beer bash on him. They responded by throwing his ox into the river and poured the beer on the ground followed by several days of rioting. Given his "warm" feelings on the matter and some of his other exploits, its easy to imagine John Ashe at the very heart of these actions but the newspaper accounts from the period don't give any names. However:

On the 28th of November the hated stamps arrived on board the Diligence. John Ashe spearheaded the local militia who refused to allow the stamps on land. With his militia standing guard from shore, Ashe assured the captain they would fire on anyone caught unloading the stamps. A stalemate resulted with all commerce in or out of Wilmington at a complete standstill.

In late December Gov Tryon held another party. This time celebrating his inauguration as the new royal governor. Lots of free food and drink brought a large crowd. It went well until Tryon made a speech and mentioned the Stamp Act. This infuriated the crowd who turned angry and again rejected Tryon's fare. This time the punch went to the river and the ox was turned over to local slaves for consumption.

Two weeks later the British seized two local merchant ships that arrived without stamped cargo. Ashe and the local leaders responded by refusing to sell food or supplies to the British ships. When British soldiers came ashore to buy food they were jailed. Ashe boarded the British ship Diligence and demanded the return of the merchant ships. His men managed to get control of one merchant vessel but the other remained in British hands. The stalemate then continued another two months until news of repeal arrived in the colonies.

Ashe was a vocal and consistent patriot in the decade prior and on through the revolution. While John was very popular and a strong politician, his military skills left something to be desired. During the British invasion of Georgia in 1779, he led the North Carolina militia to disaster at Brier Creek where many of them drowned running from an attack of loyalists and the 71st Highlanders. A board of inquiry determined Ashe negligent although personally courageous. He returned to North Carolina significantly disgraced but still a patriot. When Wilmington was invaded in 1781 Ashe tried to hide but was betrayed by a local slave. The British jailed him where he caught smallpox. They paroled him to the town but John died anyway. It was October 1781 and John Ash, loyal from the beginning and even after receiving sanction, was denied opportunity to live as a citizen in the new nation.

most information pulled from Robert M. Dunkerly's Redcoats on the River. I recommend it for anyone researching North Carolina's role in the Revolution.

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Old 07 Mar 10, 16:10
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Thought I would keep focus on the southern colonies for now. In South Carolina one Christopher Gadsden took on the lead role of agitator and revolutionary.

Background - In 1764 Henry Laurens described Christopher Gadsden as "a rash, head-long gentleman who has been too long a ringleader of peoples engaged in popular quarrels." The quote came on the heels of a political fight in the Assembly. Then Governor Boone attempted to change the election results by decision in the Council. He met with loud opposition and was made to literally leave the colony and return to England. No doubt Gadsden's words, "a free assembly!, freely representing a free people!", haunted Boone on the voyage.

1765 - Word of the Stamp Act arrived in Charles Town. Once again Gadsden took a lead role in raising opposition. Gadsden wrote the Act was inconsistent "with that inherent right of every British subject, not to be taxed but by his own consent, or that of his representative. " In August Gadsden, Lynch, and Rutledge were selected to represent South Carolina in the Stamp Act Congress. The joined the other delegates in sending resolutions to the King and Parliament protesting the Stamp Act and condemning it as abhorrent to their rights as English citizens.

October 1765 - While Gadsden remained in New York the ship Planters Adventure arrived in Charles Town with a load of Stamps. The next morning (19th) a gallows appeared at the corner of Broad and Church. The words "Liberty and no Stamp Act" were inscribed directly on the machine. There were two effigies dangling. One was a devil and the other a Stamp Act Distributor. That evening a mob placed the gallows on a wagon and paraded it through the town. The procession ended at the edge of town with a symbolic burning of the effigies followed by a funeral service and ritual burying of a coffin marked "American Liberty". Members of the mob then went about town searching the homes of anyone suspected of being the Stamp Act Distributor. They retired later to drink "Damnation to the Stamp Act". One of the men suspected was Henry Laurens. He spoke against the mob action and openly accused Christopher Gadsden of being the ringleader.

November 1765 - The Stamp Act took effect on the 1st but there were no stamps and all of the Crown's Stamp officials had publicly resigned from office. All commerce in the colony came to an abrupt halt as lawyers and merchants felt unable to rely upon transactions and no ships could load or unload in the port. Gadsden had returned to Charles Town and led nightly patrols around the area designed to prevent anyone from smuggling goods. Christopher and his 'Liberty Boys' believed the closing of commerce would pressure Parliament into repeal of the hated Stamp Act. In late November the Assembly joined the resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress.

December 1765 - Profits fell and pressure mounted. In this case the pressure was on Gadsden and the Liberty Boys. The merchants, planters, and officials joined to push Gadsden and his group of craftsmen into a corner.

January 1766 - South Carolina reopened for business. Lawyers simply started practice without the Stamps. The Governor reopened the port for business even though there were no stamps. Courts reconvened. In a rather odd situation, South Carolina had capitulated yet wasn't in compliance either. During this time Gadsden continued to speak against the Stamp Act but was given very little audience. Henry Laurens sneered that Gadsden and the Liberty Boys were, "pretty quiet." Many of the Liberty Boys repented during this period and admitted they had no business interfering with commerce.

May 1766 - Word of repeal reached Charles Town and launched a huge celebration. Christopher Gadsden was so overwhelmed he almost fainted. Most of the colonists ignored the Declaratory Act that accompanied repeal. At the moment they were unconcerned with anything beyond their victory over Parliament. Governor Bull took the opportunity to proclaim thankfulness to the Crown and hold a big celebration on the upcoming King's birthday. Gadsden would be among the noted few colonists for whom the fight was only beginning. He took on the role of Sam Adams in Massachusetts and John Dickinson in Pennsylvania. They worked for the next 10 years to keep the focus on the principles of liberty and not on the size of the tax involved.

Almost all information from Patriots, Pistols, and Petticoats by Walter J. Fraser, Jr. The book follows Charles Town through the revolution. It has lots of very interesting info regarding the politics of Rice Kings, Merchants, and Tradesmen in the area during the war.

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Old 13 Mar 10, 14:35
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Perhaps the most famous non Stamp Actor of all is George Washington. He left us with very little record of his feelings or actions at the time. It looks like he wasn't really very active about it. After all, GW was among the Assemblymen who left the Spring 1765 session early so as to avoid inclusion in the vote on Patrick Henry's resolves. He was known as a friend to George Mercer and is speculated present in Williamsburg when the mob demanded Mercer's resignation as Stamp Distribution agent. Yet, to my knowledge, he declined participation in the incident. There is a letter to some Merchants doing business with GW. He wrote to Robert Carey & Company on August 10, 1764. The letter is mostly business but provides some insight to GW's thoughts about the upcoming Stamp Act.


First, GW argues the act is unwise:
"The Stamp Act, imposed on the Colonies by the Parliament of Great Britain engrosses the conversation of the speculative part of the colonists, who look upon this unconstitutional method of Taxation as a direful attack upon their Liberties, & loudly exclaim against the violation-What may be the result of this (I think I may add) ill judged measure, and the late restrictions of our Trade and other Acts to Burthen us, I will not undertake to determine; but this I think may be said - that the advantages accruing to the Mother Country will fall far short of the expectation's of the Ministry; for certain it is, that the whole produce of our labour hitherto has centered in Great Britain - What more can the desire? and that all Taxes which contribute to lessen our Importation of British Goods must be hurtful to the Manufacturers of them, and to the Common Weal - The Eyes of our People (already beginning to open) will perceive, that many of the Luxuries which we have heretofore lavished our Substance to Great Britain for can well be dispensed with whilst the Necessaries of Life are to be procured (for the most part) within ourselves. this consequently will introduce frugality; and be a necessary stimulation to industry. Great Britain may then load her exports with as heavy taxes as she pleases but where will the consumption be? I am apt to think no law or usage can compel us to barter our money or staple commodities for their manufacturies, if we can be supplied within ourselves upon the better terms - nor will her traders dispose of them without a valuable consideration and surety of pay. Where then lyes the utility of these measures?"

He then goes on to admit that resistance will also have a price. Yet his attitude seems to be that resistance is both right and completely unavoidable:
"As to the Stamp Act taken in a single and distinct view; one, & the first bad consequence attending of it I take to be this - Our courts of judicature will be shut up, it being morally impossible under our present circumstances that the Act of Parliament can be complied with, were we ever so willing to enforce the execution; for not to say, which alone would be sufficient, that there is not money to pay the Stamps there are many other cogent reasons to prevent it and if a stop be put to our Judicial proceedings it may be left to yourselves, who have such large demands upon the colonies, to determine, who is to suffer most in this event, the Merchant or the Planter."

These views were written well before the mob violence and active protests of the Stamp Act Crisis. So, does GW deserve the reputation of neutrality at the time of the Stamp Act? I personally think not. I believe the remarks reflect a man who favored the protest but his later inaction stems from a dislike of mob actions. Other opinions welcome;
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