Pennsylvania Stamp Act and Non-Importation Resolutions Collection

Mss.973.2.M31

Date: 1765-1775 | Size: 2 Volumes

Abstract

From the Sugar Act of 1764 through the Tea Act of 1773, the British Parliament imposed a variety of taxes upon their American colonies in an effort to raise revenue to offset the enormous debts incurred during the Seven Years' (French and Indian) War. Far more efficiently than raising revenue, these duties raised the indignation of the colonits, contributing more than their share to the alienation that fueled the independence movement

The two volumes that comprise the Pennsylvania Stamp Act and Non-Importation Resolutions Collection contain 34 manuscript and printed items relating to the political crisis over taxation on goods imported into the American colonies between 1765 and 1773, with a focus on Philadelphia. The first volume is concerned exclusively with agitation over the Stamp Act of 1765 and its repeal, while the second volume relates more specifically to the Non-Importation agreements of the 1760s, the Townshend Duties, and the Tea Act of 1773. Among these are letters of Governor John Penn, correspondence between the Sons of Liberty at Philadelphia and those of New York, 1766, an address of the committee of Boston merchants to a committee of Philadelphia merchants, 11 August 1768. Among the more dramatic letters are those from John Hughes, the would-be Stamp Officer for Pennsylvania who resigned bis commission in the face of public protest, and a seies of threatening letters addressed to James and Drinker, consignees for the sale of tea in Pennsylvania in 1773.

Background note

From the Sugar Act of 1764 through the Tea Act of 1773, the British Parliament imposed a variety of taxes upon their American colonies in an effort to raise revenue to offset the enormous debts incurred during the Seven Years' (French and Indian) War. Far more efficiently than raising revenue, these duties raised the indignation of the colonits, contributing more than their share to the alienation that fueled the independence movement.

The Stamp Act became the first direct tax on the American colonies in 1765, levying a fee on all official documents, and thus all legal transactions. The response of the Massachusetts House of Representatives was swift and decisive. On June 6, 1765, they agreed to the motion of James Otis to organize an intercolonial meeting to resist the Stamp Act, and two days later, issued a circular letter to the assemblies of the other colonies. The resulting Stamp Act Congress included 9 of the 13 colonies, and their vigorous protest, coupled with effective boycotts of British goods and the all too often violent response in the streets, led Parliament to withdraw the act in 1766.

Yet in a sign of things to come, Parliament issued their withdrawal of the Stamp Act with an no-nonsense Declaratory Act resserting their authority over all colonial affairs, including taxation. Still seeking ways of extracting additonal revenue from the colonies, in 1767 the Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend proposed a duty on all imports into the colonies of five key commodities -- lead, paint, glass, paper and tea -- reasoning that such indirect taxation would be less odious. Clearly a misjudgment of the mood in the colonies, the Townshend Duties produced results very similar to the Stamp Act: wide spread protests, sporadic violence, and increasing coordination between radical elements in all 13 colonies. The Non-Importation Agreements in 1768 and 1769 were the a series of boycotts of British imports organized in nearly port city in the 13 colonies, accompanied by , eventually led to repeal of four of five of the Townshend duties in 1770.

The sole Townshend Duty to remain in place after 1770 was the duty on tea, and American radicals continued their boycott of that commodity. With declining revenues for the East India Company, Prime Minister Frederick North was led to recraft the scheme of taxation on tea, the most important features of which were to impose the tax at the point of origin, and to sell the tea in America through consignees who were granted exclusive rights to its retail. The results followed the pattern set in the previous decade of agitation, culminating in the Tea Party in Boston, the impoundment of tea in Charleston, and the successful rejection of tea in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Local resistance, in short, made the Tea Act as much a dead letter as any of its predecessors.

Scope and content

The two volumes that comprise the Pennsylvania Stamp Act and Non-Importation Resolutions Collection contain 34 manuscript and printed items relating to the political crisis over taxation on goods imported into the American colonies between 1765 and 1773, with a focus on Philadelphia. The first volume is concerned exclusively with agitation over the Stamp Act of 1765 and its repeal, while the second volume relates more specifically to the Non-Importation agreements of the 1760s, the Townshend Duties, and the Tea Act of 1773.

Volume 1 contains copies of important letters from Gov. John Penn and James Hawker regarding the distribution of stamped paper, and the public . The most dramatic letters are from John Hughes, Stamp Commissioner for Pennsylvania, describing the large public protests and implicit threats that forced him to resign his commission in the fall. A taste of the protest to which Hughes was subjected is provided in two letters from the New York Sons of Liberty, exhorting their Philadelphia brethren to support the cause.

Volume 2 includes similarly valuable material for documenting the intense local pressure exerted on Philadelphia merchants during the period of the Townshend Duties and Tea Act, 1767-1773. Two of the three tea consignees in Philadelphia, Thomas and Isaac Wharton and Jonathan Browne, were quick to disavow their intention to sell East India tea in Philadelphia, and they therefore avoided the wrath of the patriot mob. James and Drinker, however, were more equivocal in their statements, and endured subtle, and not so subtle, threats. In December 1773, however, they followed the better example of John Hughes and stated unequivocally that they would not sell taxed tea, suggesting instead that the tea should be impounded and kept safe while merchants lobbied the East India Company and the crown to repeal the Act.

The collection also provides a perspective on the developing connections between American colonists opposed to British rule. Letters between Merchants Committees and the Sons of Liberty in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, and possibly Virginia, hint at the development of a unified colonial line.

The last item in the collection is a record of imports into Philadelphia, 1774-1775, with a later series of personal accounts (1780), possibly kept by Thomas Bradford.

Collection Information

Provenance

Unknown provenance; accessioned in 1927.

Preferred citation

Cite as: Pennsylvania Stamp Act and Non-Importation Resolutions Collection, American Philosophical Society.

Processing information

Recatalogued by rsc, April 2003.

Alternate formats available

The Pennsylvania Stamp Act and Non-Importation Resolutions volumes are available on microfilm (Film 1251).

Related material

See also John Hughes, Letter to the Commisioners of the stamp office from the Pennsylvania Collector (Mss.973.31.H87).

Early American History Note

This collection contains a range of documents on the imperial crisis in Philadelphia. Specifically, the documents focus on the Stamp Act and the Non-importation agreements of 1773. For the Stamp Act, there are many letters from John Hughes, the Stamp Tax collector. The letters detail his tribulations. There is also a large, oversize letter from John Hughes to the Commissioners of the Stamp Office in London defending his actions and outlining his experiences during the Stamp Act controversy (first page missing). The documents surrounding the 1773 boycott of tea in Philadelphia include detailed reports from commissioners appointed by residents to negotiate with the East India company officials and the testimony of the firm of James and Drinker who were designated distributors of the tea.

Indexing Terms


Genre(s)

  • Accounts.
  • Broadsides.
  • Legal Records
  • Official Government Documents and Records
  • Political Correspondence
  • Printed Material

Geographic Name(s)

  • Great Britain -- Commerce -- Pennsylvania
  • Pennsylvania -- Commerce -- Great Britain
  • Philadelphia (Pa.) -- Commerce -- Colonial period, ca.1600-1775
  • Philadelphia (Pa.) -- Politics and government -- Colonial period, ca.1600-1775
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Causes

Subject(s)

  • American Revolution
  • Colonial Politics
  • Government Affairs
  • Non-importation agreements, 1768-1769
  • Pennsylvania History
  • Philadelphia History
  • Sons of Liberty
  • Stamp Act, 1765
  • Tea tax (American colonies)


Detailed Inventory

Manuscripts Relating to the Stamp Act Agitation
1765-17691 vol. (16 items)volume 1
1. Unidentified.
Good effects of the Patriotism of Women
ca.1765AMs Cy, 1p.

Suggests women lead opposition to British policy. "The Female sex have ever been remarkable for sagacity, and quick discernments. It is not therefore to be wondered at that so general abnd patriotic a disposuition appears among them to give up Tea and Finery for Home Spun and Libety, when both reason and experience prove that good Husbands, generous Lovers, and faithful Friends are not to be found in a land of Slavery."

2. Virginia. Council and House of Burgesses.
Address to King George
ca.1765AMs Cy, 1p.

Petition to repeal Stamp Act.

2b. Virginia. Council and House of Burgesses.
Address to King George
ca.1765AMs Cy, 4p.
3. Hughes, John.
to John Penn
Sept. 17, 1765ALS, 1p.

Has not received his commission from the Stamp Office.

4. Penn, John, 1729-1795.
to Capt. James Hawker
October 2, 1765ADfS, 1p.
5. Penn, John, 1729-1795.
to Capt. Holland
October 2, 1765ADfS, 1p.

As Hughes refuses to take charge of the stamped papers, Penn orders James Hawker take them.

6. Hawker, James.
to John Penn
October 3, 1765ALS, 1p.

Will accept the stamped paper, but advises Penn to find a place to store them for the winter.

7. Hughes, John.
to John Penn
October 3, 1765ALS, 1p.

Relays word that the stamped paper may be met with violence.

8. Hawker, James.
to John Penn
October 6, 1765ALS, 1p.
9. Hughes, John.
to John Penn
October 8, 1765ALS, 1p.

Resigns his commission as Stamp Cfficer due threats and public protest.

10. Hughes, John.
to John Swift, Alexander Barclay and Thomas Graeme
November 5, 1765ALS, 3p.

Further account of protests: "The State House and Christ Church Bells were run, muffled and two Negroe Drummers (one of whom belonged to Alderman Saml. Mifflin) beat thro' all parts of the City, with muffled Drums -- thereby alarming the Inhabitants. In consequence whereof, a large Number of Peoplke was raised and assembled at the State House, where it was publickly declared, as I am informed, That if I did not immediatelye resign my Office, my House should be pulled down and my Substance destroyed..."

11. Hawker, James.
to John Penn
March 3, 1766ALS, 1p.

Promises to protect the stamped paper.

12. Hawker, James.
to John Penn
March 19, 1766ALS, 1p.

Asks whether Penn can take the stamped paper out of the ship.

13. Hawker, James.
to John Penn
March 21, 1766ALS, 2p.

Reiterates his request to remove the paper from his ship.

14. Sons of Liberty of New York. Committee.
to William Bradford
February 13, 1766ALS, 1p.

Proposes forming an Association "in order to form an Union of the Colonioes, in immitation of our brethren in Connecticut, Boston, etc... and you may be assured it is the deliberate and determined resolution of our Brethren to the eastward, as well as here, not to be enslaved by any power on Earth, without opposing force, to force."

15. Sons of Liberty of New York. Committee.
to Sons of Liberty of Philadelphia
February 21, 1766ALS, 1p.

"As you have expressed yourselves so warmly in the Glorious Cause of Liberty, we cannot help mentioning our Surprize at your siffering even the least Appearance of such an odious thing of a Stamp Distributor, to exist in your Province, and therefore, presume we may claim to know, from you, the reasons thereof."

Manuscripts Relating to the Non-Importation Agreements
1765-17741 vol. (18 items)volume 2
4. Philadelphia (Pa.). Merchants and Traders.
to Merchants in Great Britain
November 7, 1765Broadside, 1p.

Resolution not to import British goods until repeal of the Stamp Act.

5. Unidentified.
to Sons of Liberty of New York
February 15, 1766ALS, 2p.

Statement of support for non-importation and offer to organize a Sons of Liberty of Philadelphia.

6. Philadelphia (Pa.). Merchants and Traders.
to Merchants and Manufacturers of Great Britain
1767?Pr. LS, 3p.

Protest against imposition of the Townshend Duties (on paper, glass, tea, etc.).

7. Boston (Mass.). Committee of Merchants.
to Merchants of Philadelphia
August 11, 1768ALS, 2p.

Bostonians agree not to import British goods. Signed by Thomas Chushing, John Hancock, John Rowe, John Erving, Edward Payne, William Phillips, and John Barrett. Addressed to Thomas Willing, Joseph wift, Thomas Smith, William West, John Cox, George Bryan, and William Fisher.

9. New York (N.Y.). Merchants.
Resolutions on Non-Importation
August 27, 1768AMs Cy, 2p.

Agreement not to import British goods, directly or indirectly.

10. Philadelphia (Pa.). Committee of Merchants.
Resolution regarding Samuel Purviance
[after April 1770]AMs, 2p.

Public notice that Samuel Purviance, Sr., has violated his agreement not to import British goods.

14. Scaevola (pseud.).
To The Commissioners Appointed by the East-India Company, for the Sale of Tea, in America
1773Broadside, 1p.

Protest against the Commissioners' accepting "a paltry bribe of a petty Commisssion, to rivet the Shackles of Slavery on your American Brethren."

18. Philadelphia (Pa.). Committee of Merchants.
Report of the Committee appointed to wait upon the gentlemen... named Commissioners for the Sale of Tea... and to request them to resign their Commission
October 17, 1773AMs, 2p.

Report stating that Thomas and Isaac Wharton had agreed to resign and James and Drinker "not being so candid and explicit." Jonathan Browne out of town.

19. Philadelphia (Pa.). Committee of Merchants.
Report of the Committee appointed to wait upon the gentlemen... named Commissioners for the Sale of Tea... and to request them to resign their Commission
October 17-22, 1773AMs, 4p.

Copy of item 18, plus additional report on James and Drinker's ambiguity.

20. Philadelphia (Pa.). Committee of Merchants.
Report of the Committee appointed to wait upon the gentlemen... named Commissioners for the Sale of Tea... and to request them to resign their Commission
October 17-22, 1773AMs, 2p.

Copy of item 19.

21. Philadelphia (Pa.). Committee of Merchants.
Report of the Committee appointed to wait upon the gentlemen... named Commissioners for the Sale of Tea... and to request them to resign their Commission
October 19, 1773AMs, 1p.

Jonathan Browne has agreed to resign his commission.

22. James and Drinker.
to Citizens of Philadelphia(?)
October 22, 1773AMs, 1p.

Reiteration "that we neither meant or intended to do any thing that would be disagreeable to our fellow Citizens" and "that our Ideas of the American Revenue Act, were the same with those of our fellow Citizens generally."

23. James and Drinker.
to Citizens of Philadelphia(?)
October 22, 1773AMs, 1p.

Copy of item 22

24. Philadelphia (Pa.). Committee of Merchants.
Report of the Committee appointed to wait upon the gentlemen... named Commissioners for the Sale of Tea... and to request them to resign their Commission
October 23, 1773AMs, 1p.

Further criticism of the ambiguous response of James and Drinker.

25. Philadelphia (Pa.). Tea Commissioners (Thomas and Isaac Wharton, James and Drinker, Jonathan Browne).
ALS to George Clymer, John Allen, John Wilcocks, Peter Knight, Jeremiah Warder, Lambert Cadwalader, William Moulder, Abraham Bickley, Benjamin Loxley, Thomas Barclay, and Thomas Penrose
December 2, 1773AMs, 1p.

Notice of impending arrival of a tea ship, the Polly, subject to the tea tax.

26. Unidentified.
A Card
December 2, 1773Broadside, 1p.

Public notice to James and Drinker to leave a public notice of whether they intend to resign their commissions.

27. James and Drinker.
to Citizens of Philadelphia(?)
December 2, 1773ALS, 2p.

Proposal that the tea shipment be impounded without harm and without intent to distribute, and that the East India Company be pressured to lobby for repeal of the Tea Act. Reassertion that they do not intend to act and "decline acting" on their commissions.

33. Bradford, William, 1719-1791.
Records of imports into Philadelphia
December 5, 1774-October 25, 1780AMs, 1p.

Records of imports into Philadelphia from December 5, 1775-April, 1775. Personal accounts 1780..