Virginia Resolves of 1765

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Virginia Resolves of 1765

VIRGINIA RESOLVES OF 1765. Patrick Henry, who had been a member of the House of Burgesses for nine days, introduced on 29 May 1765, in the last days of the session, perhaps as many as seven resolutions that expressed opposition to the Stamp Act. The resolutions were debated on the 30th, during which Henry made allusions that, since Caesar had his Brutus and Charles II his Cromwell, he hoped that "some good American would stand up, in favour of his country," for which hint of treason he was reprimanded by the speaker, and after which he apologized for his remarks (Morgan, p. 46). The first four resolutions were passed, "the greatest majority being 22 to 17." The fifth resolution, declaring that the Burgesses "have the only and sole exclusive right and power to lay taxes and impositions upon the inhabitants of this colony," passed by 20 to 19 (ibid., pp. 47-48). (Only 39 burgesses remained in Williamsburg, the rest of the 116 members having already gone home.) The next day, conservative burgesses forced the House to rescind the fifth resolution. But then an extraordinary thing happened, as described by the historians Edmund and Helen Morgan: "Henry and his friends, having failed to secure the passage of their most radical items in the House of Burgesses, were able to get them passed unanimously in the newspapers: every newspaper which carried the resolutions printed the fifth, sixth, and seventh as though they had been adopted" (Stamp Act Crisis, p. 102). Beginning with the Newport Mercury of Rhode Island on 24 June, the printing of the final three resolutions made the House of Burgesses appear to be much more radical than it actually was. These inaccurate reports lifted the spirits of Stamp Act opponents throughout the colonies and gave new life to the movement to resist imperial control.

SEE ALSO Henry, Patrick; Stamp Act.


Morgan, Edmund S., ed. Prologue to Revolution: Sources and Documents on the Stamp Act Crisis, 1764–1766. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959.

Morgan, Edmund S., and Helen M. Morgan. The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953.

Van Schreeven, William J., comp. Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence. Edited by Robert L. Scribner. Vol. 1: Forming Thunderclouds and the First Convention, 1763–1774, A Documentary Record. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1973.

                            revised by Harold E. Selesky

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Virginia Resolves of 1765