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Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions

Patrick Henry's Stamp Act resolvesPatrick Henry's Stamp Act resolves

Colonial Williamsburg

Patrick Henry's Stamp Act resolves

Patrick Henry, at a meeting of the Virginia House of Burgesses, proposed seven resolutions against the Stamp Act. The first four resolutions were adopted and passed by the House of Burgesses. The Fifth resolution was repealed on the second day of the debates. Though resolutions six and seven were never passed by the House, all seven were widely reported in the colonial press giving the impression that all passed the Virginia Assembly.

The following four resolves were adopted by the House of Burgesses on May 30, 1765:

Resolved, that the first adventurers and settlers of His Majesty's colony and dominion of Virginia brought with them and transmitted to their posterity, and all other His Majesty's subjects since inhabiting in this His Majesty's said colony, all the liberties, privileges, franchises, and immunities that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed by the people of Great Britain.

Resolved, that by two royal charters, granted by King James I, the colonists aforesaid are declared entitled to all liberties, privileges, and immunities of denizens and natural subjects to all intents and purposes as if they had been abiding and born within the Realm of England.

Resolved, that the taxation of the people by themselves, or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them, who can only know what taxes the people are able to bear, or the easiest method of raising them, and must themselves be affected by every tax laid on the people, is the only security against a burdensome taxation, and the distinguishing characteristic of British freedom, without which the ancient constitution cannot exist.

Resolved, that His Majesty's liege people of this his most ancient and loyal colony have without interruption enjoyed the inestimable right of being governed by such laws, respecting their internal policy and taxation, as are derived from their own consent, with the approbation of their sovereign, or his substitute; and that the same has never been forfeited or yielded up, but has been constantly recognized by the kings and people of Great Britain.

The following version of the much-debated fifth resolution (which was not adopted) was found with Patrick Henry's will:

Resolved, therefor that the General Assembly of this Colony have the only and exclusive Right and Power to lay Taxes and Impositions upon the inhabitants of this Colony and that every Attempt to vest such Power in any person or persons whatsoever other than the General Assembly aforesaid has a manifest Tendency to destroy British as well as American Freedom.

Source: John Pendleton Kennedy, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1761-1765 (Richmond, Va., 1907).