Declaration of Rights and Grievances

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The Declaration of Rights and Grievances was issued by the Stamp Act Congress in New York City in October 1765. It set forth what was to become the battle cry of the colonists -- no taxation without representation.

The Stamp Act, enacted by the British Parliament in 1765, was essentially a tax on the colonies. It provided that most legal documents, newspapers, other periodicals, and even playing cards be printed on special paper containing an embossed tax stamp. The British argued that revenue from the Stamp Act was needed to help repay large debts incurred during the Seven Years War (known as the French and Indian War in America). The Stamp Act was met by anger, scorn, and violent protests in the colonies. Part of this had to do with Americas resistance to paying a tax now that the French threat was gone. But anger also stemmed from the fact that the tax was imposed by the British Parliament, which contained no colonial representatives.

With delegates from nine colonies, the Stamp Act Congress was the first pan colonial meeting since the abortive attempt to agree on the Albany Plan in 1756. The Declaration of Rights and Grievances was drafted by John Dickenson of Pennsylvania and presented at the Congress. It not only opposed the Stamp Act itself, but raised the broader issue of who had the right to tax the colonists. Arguing that colonists enjoyed all the inherent rights and privileges of people living in Great Britain, including the right to be free of taxation without representation, the Declaration contended that Parliament had no right to tax the colonists since they had no representatives in Parliament. Only the colonial assemblies, Dickenson argued, had the right to levy taxes in North America.

 

 Declaration of Rights and Grievances

 

THE MEMBERS of this congress, sincerely devoted, with the warmest sentiments of affection and duty to his majestys 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 majestys 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 majestys 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, &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

9. That the duties imposed by several late acts of parliament, from the peculiar circumstances of these colonies, will be extremely burdensome 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 manufacturers 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 manufacturers of Great Britain

12. That the increase, prosperity and happiness of these colonies, depend on the full and free enjoyments 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.

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