The Info List - Braintree Instructions

The Braintree Instructions was a document sent on September 24, 1765 by the town meeting of Braintree, Massachusetts
Braintree, Massachusetts
to the town's representative at the Massachusetts General Court, or legislature, which instructed the representative to oppose the Stamp Act, a tax regime which had recently been adopted by the British Parliament in London. The document is significant because, following the Virginia Resolves, it was among the earliest in British America
British America
to officially reject the authority of Parliament over the colonies in North America. The instructions were written by John Adams, who would ten years later become a key figure in the American Revolution
American Revolution
and ultimately be elected the second President of the United States
President of the United States
in 1796.


1 Background 2 Summary 3 Full text 4 References

Background[edit] The Stamp Act of 1765 (short title Duties in American Colonies Act 1765; 5 George III, c. 12) required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper made in London
and carrying an embossed revenue stamp.[1][2] These printed materials were legal documents, magazines, newspapers and many other types of paper used throughout the colonies. The tax was to be paid in valid British currency, not in colonial paper money.[3] The purpose of the tax was to help pay for troops stationed in North America
North America
after the British victory in the Seven Years' War. Negative reaction to the tax in British America
British America
was concerned not only with economic hardship imposed by it but also by constitutional issues of taxation without representation and enforcement by courts without juries. In May, 1765 in Virginia, the House of Burgesses
House of Burgesses
passed a series of resolutions promoted by Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry
which objected specifically to the imposition of tax without representation.[4] In Massachusetts, opposition to the tax was strong in Boston. On June 6, 1765 the Massachusetts Lower House proposed a meeting for the 1st Tuesday of October in New York City:

That it is highly expedient there should be a Meeting as soon as may be, of Committees from the Houses of Representatives or Burgesses in the several Colonies on this Continent to consult together on the present Circumstances of the Colonies, and the difficulties to which they are and must be reduced by the operation of the late Acts of Parliament for levying Duties and Taxes on the Colonies, and to consider of a general and humble Address to his Majesty and the Parliament to implore Relief.[5]

Opposition to the previously imposed Sugar Act
Sugar Act
in Boston
was led in 1764 by Samuel Adams.[6] In Braintree, a village south of Boston, Adams' cousin John Adams
John Adams
was a young lawyer who had become active in politics. In preparation for the planned meeting which would eventually be realized as the Stamp Act Congress, John Adams
John Adams
drafted instructions issued to the town's representative, Ebeneezer Thayer, outlining opposition to the tax on several constitutional grounds.[7] The Braintree Instructions were published in the Massachusetts Gazette on October 10, 1765 and four days later in the Boston
Gazette. Eventually Adams' language was adopted by over forty other towns in Massachusetts, including portions which were used by Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
in the document drafted for Boston.[8] Summary[edit] Adams traveled from his home in the North Precinct of Braintree to the town hall located on the site of the present day First Congregational Church near the intersection of Washington and Elm Streets to discuss his draft of instructions with a committee of town residents.[9] In his writing, Adams began by addressing the economic burden of the tax but proceeded to indict Parliament for violating major principles of English law that had existed for centuries under Magna Carta, which he referred to in English as the Great Charter.[10] In the third and longest paragraph of the instructions, Adams wrote: "But the most grievous innovation of all, is the alarming extension of the power of courts of admiralty." Adams argued that the imposition of the tax to be enforced by judges without benefit of a jury trial was a severe violation of fundamental rights.[11] The instructions were unanimously adopted by the committee.[9] Full text[edit] The following is the full text of the Braintree Instructions, adopted by town meeting in Braintree, Province of Massachusetts Bay, on September 24, 1765.[7][11] To Ebenezer Thayer, Esq. Sir,— In all the calamities which have ever befallen this country, we have never felt so great a concern, or such alarming apprehensions, as on this occasion. Such is our loyalty to the King, our veneration for both houses of Parliament, and our affection for all our fellow-subjects in Britain, that measures which discover any unkindness in that country towards us are the more sensibly and intimately felt. And we can no longer forbear complaining, that many of the measures of the late ministry, and some of the late acts of Parliament, have a tendency, in our apprehension, to divest us of our most essential rights and liberties. We shall confine ourselves, however, chiefly to the act of Parliament, commonly called the Stamp Act, by which a very burthensome, and, in our opinion, unconstitutional tax, is to be laid upon us all; and we subjected to numerous and enormous penalties, to be prosecuted, sued for, and recovered, at the option of an informer, in a court of admiralty, without a jury. We have called this a burthensome tax, because the duties are so numerous and so high, and the embarrassments to business in this infant, sparsely settled country so great, that it would be totally impossible for the people to subsist under it, if we had no controversy at all about the right and authority of imposing it. Considering the present scarcity of money, we have reason to think, the execution of that act for a short space of time would drain the country of its cash, strip multitudes of all their property, and reduce them to absolute beggary. And what the consequence would be to the peace of the province, from so sudden a shock and such a convulsive change in the whole course of our business and subsistence, we tremble to consider. We further apprehend this tax to be unconstitutional. We have always understood it to be a grand and fundamental principle of the constitution, that no freeman should be subject to any tax to which he has not given his own consent, in person or by proxy. And the maxims of the law, as we have constantly received them, are to the same effect, that no freeman can be separated from his property but by his own act or fault. We take it clearly, therefore, to be inconsistent with the spirit of the common law, and of the essential fundamental principles of the British constitution, that we should be subject to any tax imposed by the British Parliament; because we are not represented in that assembly in any sense, unless it be by a fiction of law, as insensible in theory as it would be injurious in practice, if such a taxation should be grounded on it. But the most grievous innovation of all, is the alarming extension of the power of courts of admiralty. In these courts, one judge presides alone! No juries have any concern there! The law and the fact are both to be decided by the same single judge, whose commission is only during pleasure, and with whom, as we are told, the most mischievous of all customs has become established, that of taking commissions on all condemnations; so that he is under a pecuniary temptation always against the subject. Now, if the wisdom of the mother country has thought the independency of the judges so essential to an impartial administration of justice, as to render them independent of every power on earth,—independent of the King, the Lords, the Commons, the people, nay, independent in hope and expectation of the heir-apparent, by continuing their commissions after a demise of the crown, what justice and impartiality are we, at three thousand miles distance from the fountain, to expect from such a judge of admiralty? We have all along thought the acts of trade in this respect a grievance; but the Stamp Act has opened a vast number of sources of new crimes, which may be committed by any man, and cannot but be committed by multitudes, and prodigious penalties are annexed, and all these are to be tried by such a judge of such a court! What can be wanting, after this, but a weak or wicked man for a judge, to render us the most sordid and forlorn of slaves?—we mean the slaves of a slave of the servants of a minister of state. We cannot help asserting, therefore, that this part of the act will make an essential change in the constitution of juries, and it is directly repugnant to the Great Charter itself; for, by that charter, “no amerciament shall be assessed, but by the oath of honest and lawful men of the vicinage;” and, “no freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, or liberties of free customs, nor passed upon, nor condemned, but by lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.” So that this act will “make such a distinction, and create such a difference between” the subjects in Great Britain and those in America, as we could not have expected from the guardians of liberty in “both.” As these, sir, are our sentiments of this act, we, the freeholders and other inhabitants, legally assembled for this purpose, must enjoin it upon you, to comply with no measures or proposals for countenancing the same, or assisting in the execution of it, but by all lawful means, consistent with our allegiance to the King, and relation to Great Britain, to oppose the execution of it, till we can hear the success of the cries and petitions of America for relief. We further recommend the most clear and explicit assertion and vindication of our rights and liberties to be entered on the public records, that the world may know, in the present and all future generations, that we have a clear knowledge and a just sense of them, and, with submission to Divine Providence, that we never can be slaves. Nor can we think it advisable to agree to any steps for the protection of stamped papers or stamp-officers. Good and wholesome laws we have already for the preservation of the peace; and we apprehend there is no further danger of tumult and disorder, to which we have a well-grounded aversion; and that any extraordinary and expensive exertions would tend to exasperate the people and endanger the public tranquillity, rather than the contrary. Indeed, we cannot too often inculcate upon you our desires, that all extraordinary grants and expensive measures may, upon all occasions, as much as possible, be avoided. The public money of this country is the toil and labor of the people, who are under many uncommon difficulties and distresses at this time, so that all reasonable frugality ought to be observed. And we would recommend particularly, the strictest care and the utmost firmness to prevent all unconstitutional draughts upon the public treasury. Samuel Niles, John Adams, Norton Quincy, James Penniman, John Hayward. References[edit]

^ Morgan, Edmund S. & Morgan, Helen M. (1963). The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution. pp. 96–97. ISBN 0-8078-4513-2.  ^ "The Stamp Act of 1765 - A Serendipitous Find" by Hermann Ivester in The Revenue Journal, The Revenue Society, Vol.XX, No.3, December 2009, pp.87-89. ^ Wood, Gordon S. "The American Revolution: A History" Modern Library. 2002, page 24. ^ "Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions". Colonial Williamsburg. Retrieved 21 August 2010.  ^ Weslager, C. A. (1976). The Stamp Act Congress. Newark: University of Delaware Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-87413-111-1. OCLC 1976656.  ^ "Samuel Adams". Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved 21 August 2010.  ^ a b Pattee, William S. (1859). A History of Old Braintree and Quincy: With a Sketch of Randolph and Holbrook. Green & Prescott. pp. 381–4 (note).  ^ Adams, John (1977). Papers of John Adams, Vol. I. Harvard University Press. p. 130. ISBN 0-674-65441-2.  ^ a b "The Braintree Instructions". First Congregational Church of Braintree. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2010.  ^ Adams, Charles Francis (1891). History of Braintree, Massachusetts (1639-1708) : the north precinct of Braintree (1708-1792) and the town of Quincy (1792-1889). Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press. p. 218.  ^ a b Thompson, C. Bradley. "3: Instructions of the Town of Braintree to Their Representative, 1765". Online Library of Liberty. Liberty Fund, Inc. Retrieved 21 August 2010. 

v t e

John Adams

2nd President of the United States, 1797–1801 1st Vice President of the United States, 1789–1797 U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, 1785–1788 U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, 1782–1788 Delegate, Second Continental Congress, 1775–1778 Delegate, First Continental Congress, 1774

Founding of the United States

Braintree Instructions (1765) Boston
Massacre defense Continental Association Novanglus; A History of the Dispute with America, From Its Origin in 1754 to the Present Time (1775) Thoughts on Government
Thoughts on Government
(1776) Declaration of Independence

May 15 preamble Committee of Five

Model Treaty

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Continental Navy

Staten Island Peace Conference

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Constitution of Massachusetts (1780) Treaty of Paris, 1783


Inauguration Quasi War with France

XYZ Affair Commerce Protection Act United States Marine Corps Convention of 1800

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Naturalization Act of 1798

Navy Department Library Treaty of Tellico Treaty of Tripoli Midnight Judges Act

Marbury v. Madison

State of the Union Address (1797 1798 1799 1800) Cabinet Federal judiciary appointments

Other writings

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Life and homes

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John Adams
John Adams
Birthplace Family home and John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
birthplace Peacefield Presidential Library

Massachusetts Hall, Harvard University Presidents House, Philadelphia Co-founder and second president, American Academy of Arts and Sciences United First Parish Church and gravesite


United States presidential election 1788–1789 1792 1796 1800


Adams House at Harvard University John Adams
John Adams
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Popular culture

Profiles in Courage (1964 series) American Primitive (1969 play) 1776 (1969 musical 1972 film) The Adams Chronicles (1976 miniseries) Liberty! (1997 documentary series) Liberty's Kids
Liberty's Kids
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John Adams
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Abigail Adams

wife Quincy family

Abigail Adams
Abigail Adams
Smith (daughter) John Quincy Adams

son presidency

Charles Adams (son) Thomas Boylston Adams (son) George W. Adams (grandson) Charles Adams Sr. (grandson) John Adams
John Adams
II (grandson) John Q. Adams (great-grandson) Henry Adams
Henry Adams
(great-grandson) Brooks Adams
Brooks Adams
(great-grandson) John Adams
John Adams
Sr. (father) Susanna Boylston (mother) Elihu Adams (brother) Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
(second cousin) Louisa Adams

daughter-in-law First Lady

← George Washington Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson


v t e

Origins of the American Revolution: writings

American resolves, declarations, petitions, essays and pamphlets prior to the Declaration of Independence (July 1776)

Following the Stamp Act (1765)

Virginia Resolves
Virginia Resolves
(May 1765) Braintree Instructions (September 1765) Declaration of Rights and Grievances (October 1765) An Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies (1766)

Following the Townshend Acts
Townshend Acts

Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania
Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania
(1767, 1768) Massachusetts Circular Letter
Massachusetts Circular Letter
(February 1768) Journal of Occurrences
Journal of Occurrences
(1768, 1769) Virginia Association
Virginia Association
(May 1769) Boston
Pamphlet (1772) Sheffield Declaration
Sheffield Declaration
(January 1773)

Following the Coercive Acts (1774)


Chestertown Resolves (May 1774) Bush River Resolution (March 1775)


Suffolk Resolves
Suffolk Resolves
(September 1774)

New York

Orangetown Resolutions (July 1774) A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress (December 1774) The Farmer Refuted (February 1775)

North Carolina

Mecklenburg Resolves
Mecklenburg Resolves
or Declaration (May 1775) Liberty Point Resolves (June 1775) Tryon Resolves (August 1775) Halifax Resolves
Halifax Resolves
(April 1776)


Fairfax Resolves
Fairfax Resolves
(July 1774) Fincastle Resolutions
Fincastle Resolutions
(January 1775) Virginia Declaration of Rights
Virginia Declaration of Rights
(June 1776)

1st Continental Congress

Declaration and Resolves (October 1774) Continental Association
Continental Association
(October 1774) Petition to the King
Petition to the King
(October 1774)

2nd Continental Congress

Olive Branch Petition
Olive Branch Petition
(July 1775) Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (July 1775) May 15 preamble (May 1776) Lee Resolution
Lee Resolution
(July 1776)

Essays and pamphlets

"Letters to the inhabitants of Canada" (1774, 1775, 1776) A Summary View of the Rights of British America
British America
(1774) Novanglus
(1775) Common Sense (January 1776) Thoughts on Government
Thoughts on Government