Smithsonian

Document C

George Washington to Francis Dandridge, September 20, 1765, Account Book 1. From The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745 – 1799, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., Washington Resources at the University of Virginia Library.

As to the Stamp Act, taken in a single view, one, and the first bad consequences attending it I take to be this. Our Courts of Judicature must inevitably be shut up; for it is impossible (or next of kin to it) under our present Circumstances that the Act of Parliam’t can be complyd with were we ever so willing to enforce the execution; for not to say, which alone would be sufficient, that we have not Money to pay the Stamps, there are many other Cogent Reasons to prevent it; and if a stop be put to our judicial proceedings I fancy the Merchants of G. Britain trading to the Colonies will not be among the last to wish for a Repeal of it.

Modern Translation:

As for the Stamp Act, I take this to be the first bad consequence: Our courts of justice must surely be shut down;* for it is impossible (or very close to it) under our present circumstances that the act of Parliament can be complied with even if we were willing to enforce it. It is enough to say that we have not money to pay for the stamps, and there are many other convincing reasons to prevent it. And, if our courts are shut down, I fancy the merchants of Great Britain who trade with the colonies will not be among the last to wish for a repeal of the Stamp Act.

*The Stamp Act gave British courts power to enforce the Stamp Act in the colonies. In Virginia, where Washington lived, many colonial courts refused to hear cases dealing with the Stamp Act. One court, in Northampton County, Virginia, declared the Stamp Act unconstitutional ( unfair ) according to the British Constitution. We will learn how the U. S. Constitution gives the courts the power to declare laws unfair, too.