Preserving American Freedom

The Evolution of American Liberties in Fifty Documents

Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia, October 25, 1765

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Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia
October 25, 1765
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The Merchants & Traders of the City of Philadelphia, taking into their consideration the Melancholy state of the No North American commerce in general, and the distress'd situation of this Province of Pennsylvania in particular, do unanimously agree—
That, the many difficulties they now labour under as a trading people, are owing to the Restrictions, Prohibitions, and ill advis'd Regulations made in several Acts of the Parliament of Great Britain lately pass'd to regulate the colonies; which have limited the Exportation of some part of our Country Produce, encreas'd the cost and expense of many Articles of our Importation,1 and cut off from us all means of supplying ourselves with Specie2 enough even to pay the duties impos'd on us, much less to serve as a Medium of our Trade.
That, this Province is heavily in Debt to Great Britain for the Manufactures & other Importations from thence, which the Produce of our lands3 have been found unequal to pay for, when a free exportation of it [to the]
Source Information: 
Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Treasures Collection (HSP.Treasures)
Am .340
Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia
October 25, 1765
106;1120-0978_am340_02.tif
best Markets was allow'd of, and such trades open as supply'd us with Cash & other Articles of immediate remittance to Great Britain.
That, the late unconstitutional law (the stamp act), if carried into execution in this Province, will further tend to prevent our making those Remittances to Great Britain, for payment of old Debts, or purchase of more Goods, which the Faith subsisting between the Individuals trading with each other requires. And therefore, in justice to ourselves to the Traders of Great Britain who usually give us Credit, & to the Consumers of British Manufactures in this Province, the Subscribers hereto have voluntarily and unanimously come into the following resolutions and agreements, in hopes that their Example will stimulate the good people of this Province, to be frugal in their use and consumption of all Manufactures, excepting those of America and lawful goods coming Directly from Ireland, Manufactured there whilst the necessities of our Country are such as to require it; And, in hopes that their Brethren, the Merchants and Manufacturers of Great Britain will find their own interests so intimately connected with ours, that they will be spurr'd on to
Source Information: 
Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Treasures Collection (HSP.Treasures)
Am .340
Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia
October 25, 1765
106;1120-0978_am340_3.tif
befriend us from that Motive, if no other should take place.
First, It is unanimously resolved and agreed that in all orders any of the Subscribers to this Paper may send to Great Britain for goods, they shall and will direct, their Correspondents not to ship them until the Stamp Act is repeal'd.
Secondly, That, those amongst the subscribers that have already sent orders to Great Britain for goods, shall, and will immediately countermand the same untill the Stamp Act is Repeal'd. Except such Merchants as are owners of Vessels already gone or now cleared out for Great Britain, who are at liberty to bring back in them on their own Accounts Coales, Casks of Earthenware, Grindstones, Pipes, Iron Pots, empty Bottles, & such other bulky Articles as owners usually fill up their Ships with, but no dry Goods of any kind, except such kind of Dye Stuffs & Utensils necessary for carrying on Manufactures, that may be order'd by any Person.
Thirdly, That, none of the Subscribers hereto shall or will vend any Goods or Merchandize whatsoever, that shall be shipp'd them on Commission from Great Britain after the first Day of January next unless the Stamp Act be repeal'd.
Source Information: 
Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Treasures Collection (HSP.Treasures)
Am .340
Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia
October 25, 1765
106;1120-0978_am340_03.tif
Fourthly, That these resolves and agreements shall be binding on all & each of us the Subscribers who do hereby, each and every Person for himself, upon his word of Honour, agree, that he will strictly & firmly adhere to, and abide by, every article from this time untill the first day of May next, when a Meeting of the Subscribers shall be call'd to consider whether the further continuance of this obligation be then Necessary.
Fifthly, It is agreed that if goods of any kind [do] arrive from Great Britain at such time or [under] such circumstances as to render any signer of [this] Agreement suspected of having broke his pro[mise,] the Committee now appointed shall enquire in[to] the premises, and if such suspected person [refuses] or cannot give them Satisfaction, the Sub[scribers] hereto will unanimously take all prudent [mea]sures to discountenance and prevent the Sale of such goods untill they are released from this agreement by mutual and general Consent
Lastly. As it may be necessary that a Committ[ee] of the Subscribers be appointed to wait on the Traders of this City to get this present agreem[ent] universally Subscrib'd the following Gentlemen are Appointed for that purpose. Thomas Willing, Samuel Mifflin Esqr, Thomas Montgomery, Samuel Howell, Samuel Wharton, John Rea, Willm. Fisher, Joshua Fisher, Peter Chevalier, Benjamin Fuller and Abel James.
    Source Information: 
    Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia
    The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
    Treasures Collection (HSP.Treasures)
    Am .340
    Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia
    October 25, 1765
    106;1120-0978_am340_04.tif
    Source Information: 
    Resolution of Non-Importation Made by the Citizens of Philadelphia
    The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
    Treasures Collection (HSP.Treasures)
    Am .340
    About This Document: 

    Radical politics in Philadelphia were born on November 7, 1765. News had reached the American colonies of the Stamp Act earlier that year. The colonial assemblies in Boston and New York had already signed agreements to boycott British imports until the tax was lifted, and the Pennsylvania Assembly was under pressure to do the same. The most prominent political leaders of Philadelphia were not enthusiastic about resisting acts of Parliament, however; the political factions, generally split between Quakers and Anglicans, were preoccupied with squabbling with each other.

    In the absence of organized political support, the merchants of Philadelphia joined together to repeal the Stamp Act and obtained signatures from hundreds of citizens who pledged to boycott imported goods. The people who signed this non-importation agreement on November 7 were incredibly diverse: men and women, Quakers, Anglicans, Jews, Presbyterians, Lutherans, lawyers, clergy, artisans, doctors, shopkeepers, and members of all economic classes. The signers of this petition put aside their differences and united to oppose a tax that affected them all.

    Signers of the non-importation resolution were agreeing to a contract that would prohibit them from accessing nearly all regularly imported products, from luxuries like tea to goods used in daily life. In order to avoid a complete collapse of certain industries, the agreement allowed some importation of items necessary for manufacturing and fishing. In the few instances that British ships managed to dock with prohibited items, the cargo was quickly seized and locked up, or the ship was sent back to Britain with threats of violence. That there were very few violations of the boycott illustrates the dedication American merchants had to their cause.

    A month later, the effects of the ban were being felt from Philadelphia to Ireland. Thousands of colonial sailors could not work, because American ships were not allowed to leave port without stamped papers. Foodstuffs ordered by Spain, the West Indies, and Ireland were rotting on the docks. British officials predicted that rioting would soon begin in Philadelphia because so many people were idle. But what worried Parliament the most was the sudden drop in revenue the boycott had created. Income from American buyers had fallen by £600,000 in 1765, the lowest it had been in 30 years. Realizing that the tax was losing more money than it was earning, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in 1766.

    Americans rejoiced when they learned the tax was repealed, and most colonists did not notice the passage of the Declaratory Act, which essentially stated that despite having lifted the Stamp Act, Parliament had the power to regulate and place any internal tax on the colonies in the future. In 1767 Parliament did exactly that when it passed the Townshend Duties.

    As Philadelphians joined the wider effort to repeal the Stamp Act, the first network of radical, locally organized resistance was forming in America. Using language drawn from the Non-Importation Resolution, John Dickinson would work furiously to persuade Philadelphians to oppose the Townshend Duties in 1768 using similar measures. The networks of merchants and traders who supported non-importation turned into networks of orators, politicians, and writers who were vital to the success of future radical movements and American independence.

    Sources:

    Merrill Jensen, The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution, 1763-1776 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968).

    Jane T. Merritt, "Tea Trade, Consumption, and the Republican Paradox in Prerevolutionary Philadelphia," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 128 (2004): 117-148.

    Robert F. Oaks, "Philadelphia Merchants and the Origins of American Independence," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 121 (1977): 407-436.

    Richard Alan Ryerson, The Revolution is Now Begun: The Radical Committees of Philadelphia, 1765-1776 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978).

    Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Colonial Merchants and the American Revolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1918).