Massachusetts’ assembly protests the Stamp Act (1765)


In October 1765 the Massachusetts assembly wrote to the colonial governor, Francis Bernard, about the Stamp Act and declarations opposing it that were circulating in the colony:


“May it please your Excellency,

The house of representatives have entered into a due consideration of your speech to both houses at the opening of the session, and should have earlier communicated to your excellency our sentiments thereupon…

Your excellency is pleased to tell us that declarations have been made… that the act of parliament for granting the stamp duties in the colonies shall not be executed within the province. We know of no such declarations. If any individuals of the people have declared an unwillingness to subject themselves to the payment of the stamp duties, and choose rather to lay aside all business than to make use of the stamped papers, as we are not accountable for such declarations, so neither can we see any thing criminal in them.

This house has no authority to control their choice in this matter. The act does not oblige them to make use of the papers; it only exacts the payment of certain duties for such papers as they may incline to use. Such declarations may possibly have been made and may still subsist, very consistently with the utmost respect to the king and parliament.

You are pleased to say that the Stamp Act is an act of parliament and as such ought to be observed. This house, sir, has too great a reverence for the supreme legislature of the nation to question its just authority. It by no means appertains to us to presume to adjust the boundaries of the power of parliament. But boundaries there undoubtedly are…

Furthermore, your excellency tells us that the right of the parliament to make laws for the American colonies remains indisputable in Westminster. Without contesting this point, we beg leave just to observe that the charter of this province invests the general assembly with the power of making laws for its internal government and taxation; and that this charter has never yet been forfeited. The parliament has a right to make all laws within the limits of their own constitution; they claim no more.

Your excellency will acknowledge that there are certain original inherent rights belonging to the people, which the parliament itself cannot divest them of, consistent with their own constitution. Among these is the right of representation in the same body which exercises the power of taxation.

There is a necessity that the subjects of America should exercise this power within themselves, otherwise they can have no share in that most essential right, for they are not represented in parliament, and indeed we think it impracticable.

Your excellency’s assertion leads us to think that you are of a different mind with regard to this very material point, and that you suppose we are represented. But the sense of the nation itself seems always to have been otherwise. The right of the colonies to make their own laws and tax themselves, has been never, that we know of, questioned; but has been constantly recognised by the king and parliament.

Our duty to the king, who holds the rights of all his subjects sacred as his own prerogative, and our love to our constituents, and concern for their dearest interests, constrain us to be explicit upon this very important occasion. We beg that your excellency would consider the people of this province as having the strongest affection for his majesty, under whose happy government they have felt all the blessings of liberty: they have a warm sense of the honour, freedom, and independence, of the subjects of a patriot king…”