A general tax measure sparked the greatest organized resistance . Known as the “Stamp Act,” it re- quired all newspapers, broadsides, pamphlets, licenses, leases, and oth- er legal documents to bear revenue stamps . The proceeds, collected by American customs agents, would be used for “defending, protecting, and securing” the colonies .

Bearing equally on people who did any kind of business, the Stamp Act aroused the hostility of the most powerful and articulate groups in the American population: journal- ists, lawyers, clergymen, merchants and businessmen, North and South, East and West . Leading merchants organized for resistance and formed nonimportation associations .

Trade with the mother country fell off sharply in the summer of 1765, as prominent men organized themselves into the “Sons of Liber- ty” — secret organizations formed to protest the Stamp Act — often through violent means . From Mas- sachusetts to South Carolina, mobs, forcing luckless customs agents to resign their offices, destroyed the hated stamps . Militant resistance ef- fectively nullified the Act .

Spurred by delegate Patrick Hen- ry, the Virginia House of Burgesses passed a set of resolutions in May denouncing taxation without repre- sentation as a threat to colonial lib-

erties . It asserted that Virginians, enjoying the rights of Englishmen, could be taxed only by their own representatives . The Massachusetts Assembly invited all the colonies to appoint delegates to a “Stamp Act Congress” in New York, held in Oc- tober 1765, to consider appeals for relief to the Crown and Parliament . Twenty-seven representatives from nine colonies seized the opportunity to mobilize colonial opinion . After much debate, the congress adopted a set of resolutions asserting that “no taxes ever have been or can be con- stitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislatures,” and that the Stamp Act had a “manifest tendency to subvert the rights and liberties of the colonists .”

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