"No taxation without representation!" was the cry. The colonists were not merely griping about the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act. They intended to place actions behind their words. One thing was clear — no colony acting alone could effectively convey a message to the king and Parliament. The appeals to Parliament by the individual legislatures had been ignored. It was James Otis who suggested an intercolonial conference to agree on a united course of action. With that, the Stamp Act Congress convened in New York in October 1765.
The Congress seemed at first to be an abject failure. In the first place, only nine of the colonies sent delegates. Georgia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and the all-important Virginia were not present. The Congress became quickly divided between radicals and moderates. The moderates would hold sway at this time. Only an extreme few believed in stronger measures against Britain than articulating the principle of no taxation without representation. This became the spirit of the Stamp Act Resolves. The Congress humbly acknowledged Parliament's right to make laws in the colonies. Only the issue of taxation was disputed.
Colonial and personal differences already began to surface. A representative from New Jersey stormed out during the proceedings. The president of the Congress, Timothy Ruggles of Massachusetts, refused to sign the Stamp Act Resolves. In the end, however, the spirit of the Congress prevailed. Every colonial legislature except one approved the Stamp Act Resolves.In the end, the widespread boycotts enacted by individual colonists surely did more to secure the repeal of the Stamp Act than did the Congress itself. But the gesture was significant. For the first time, against all odds, respected delegates from differing colonies sat with each other and engaged in spirited debate. They discovered that in many ways they had more in common than they originally had thought. This is a tentative but essential step toward the unity that would be necessary to declare boldly their independence from mother England.