Stamp Act Imposed on American Colonies

Stamp Act Imposed on American Colonies


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In an effort to raise funds to pay off debts and defend the vast new American territories won from the French in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), the British government passes the Stamp Act on March 22, 1765. The legislation levied a direct tax on all materials printed for commercial and legal use in the colonies, from newspapers and pamphlets to playing cards and dice.

Though the Stamp Act employed a strategy that was a common fundraising vehicle in England, it stirred a storm of protest in the colonies. The colonists had recently been hit with three major taxes: the Sugar Act (1764), which levied new duties on imports of textiles, wines, coffee and sugar; the Currency Act (1764), which caused a major decline in the value of the paper money used by colonists; and the Quartering Act (1765), which required colonists to provide food and lodging to British troops under certain circumstances.

With the passing of the Stamp Act, the colonists’ grumbling finally became an articulated response to what they saw as the mother country’s attempt to undermine their economic strength and independence. They raised the issue of taxation without representation, and formed societies throughout the colonies to rally against the British government and nobles who sought to exploit the colonies as a source of revenue and raw materials. By October of that year, nine of the 13 colonies sent representatives to the Stamp Act Congress, at which the colonists drafted the “Declaration of Rights and Grievances,” a document that railed against the autocratic policies of the mercantilist British empire.

Realizing that it actually cost more to enforce the Stamp Act in the protesting colonies than it did to abolish it, the British government repealed the tax the following year. The fracas over the Stamp Act, though, helped plant seeds for a far larger movement against the British government and the eventual battle for independence. Most important of these was the formation of the Sons of Liberty—a group of tradesmen who led anti-British protests in Boston and other seaboard cities—and other groups of wealthy landowners who came together from the across the colonies. Well after the Stamp Act was repealed, these societies continued to meet in opposition to what they saw as the abusive policies of the British empire. Out of their meetings, a growing nationalism emerged that would culminate in the fighting of the American Revolution only a decade later.

READ MORE: 7 Events That Led to the American Revolution


Stamp Act Imposed on American Colonies - HISTORY

What was the Stamp Act?

The Stamp Act was a tax put on the American colonies by the British in 1765. It said they had to pay a tax on all sorts of printed materials such as newspapers, magazines and legal documents. It was called the Stamp Act because the colonies were supposed to buy paper from Britain that had an official stamp on it that showed they had paid the tax.

The French and Indian War was fought between the British American colonies and the French, who had allied with the American Indians. It lasted from 1754 to 1763. The American colonies eventually won the war, but only with the help of the British army. The British government felt that the colonies should share in the expense of the war and help to pay for the British troops in the Americas.

The Stamp Act of 1765 was a tax to help the British pay for the French and Indian War. The British felt they were well justified in charging this tax because the colonies were receiving the benefit of the British troops and needed to help pay for the expense. The colonists didn't feel the same.


People Burning the Stamped Paper
by Unknown

The colonists felt that the British government had no right to tax them because there were not any representatives of the colonies in the British Parliament. The colonies had no say in how much the taxes should be or what they should pay for. They didn't think this was fair. They called this "taxation without representation".

The colonies reacted in protest. They refused to pay the tax. The tax collectors were threatened or made to quit their jobs. They even burned the stamped paper in the streets. The colonies also boycotted British products and merchants.

The Stamp Act Congress

The American colonies felt so strongly against the Stamp Act that they called a meeting of all the colonies. It was called the Stamp Act Congress. Representatives from the colonies gathered together in New York City from October 7 to October 25 in 1765. They prepared a unified protest of the Stamp Act to Britain.


Statue of Samuel Adams in Boston.
He was a leader in the Sons of Liberty.
Photo by Ducksters.

It was during this time that groups of American patriots called the Sons of Liberty began to form. They took the protests of British taxes to the streets. They used intimidation to get tax collectors to resign from their jobs. The Sons of Liberty would play an important role later during the American Revolution.

Eventually, the protests of the colonies to the Stamp Act began to hurt British merchants and businesses. The Stamp Act was repealed on March 18, 1766. However, the British Parliament wanted to send a message to the colonies. The Stamp Act may not have been a good way to tax the colonies, but they still felt they had the right to tax the colonies. The same day they repealed the Stamp Act, they passed the Declaratory Act which stated that the British Parliament had the right to make laws and taxes in the colonies.

The British government didn't stop trying to tax the colonies. They continued to add taxes including a Tea Tax that would lead to the Boston Tea Party and eventually the American Revolution.


Contents

The British victory in the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), known in America as the French and Indian War, had been won only at a great financial cost. During the war, the British national debt nearly doubled, rising from £72,289,673 in 1755 to almost £129,586,789 by 1764. [10] Post-war expenses were expected to remain high because the Bute ministry decided in early 1763 to keep ten thousand British regulars in the American colonies, which would cost about £225,000 per year, equal to £33 million today. [11] The primary reason for retaining such a large force was that demobilizing the army would put 1,500 officers out of work, many of whom were well-connected in Parliament. [12] This made it politically prudent to retain a large peacetime establishment, but Britons were averse to maintaining a standing army at home so it was necessary to garrison most of the troops elsewhere. [13]

The outbreak of Pontiac's War in May of 1763 led to the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the added duty of British soldiers to prevent outbreaks of violence between Native Americans and American colonists. [14] 10,000 British troops were dispatched to the American frontier, with a primary motivation of the move being to provide billets for the officers who were part of the British patronage system. [15] John Adams wrote disparagingly of the deployment, writing that "Revenue is still demanded from America, and appropriated to the maintenance of swarms of officers and pensioners in idleness and luxury". [16]

George Grenville became prime minister in April 1763 after the failure of the short-lived Bute Ministry, and he had to find a way to pay for this large peacetime army. Raising taxes in Britain was out of the question, since there had been virulent protests in England against the Bute ministry's 1763 cider tax, with Bute being hanged in effigy. [17] The Grenville ministry, therefore, decided that Parliament would raise this revenue by taxing the American colonists without their consent. This was something new Parliament had previously passed measures to regulate trade in the colonies, but it had never before directly taxed the colonies to raise revenue. [18]

Politicians in London had always expected American colonists to contribute to the cost of their own defense. So long as a French threat existed, there was little trouble convincing colonial legislatures to provide assistance. Such help was normally provided through the raising of colonial militias, which were funded by taxes raised by colonial legislatures. Also, the legislatures were sometimes willing to help maintain regular British units defending the colonies. So long as this sort of help was forthcoming, there was little reason for the British Parliament to impose its own taxes on the colonists. But after the peace of 1763, colonial militias were quickly stood down. Militia officers were tired of the disdain shown to them by regular British officers, and were frustrated by the near-impossibility of obtaining regular British commissions they were unwilling to remain in service once the war was over. In any case, they had no military role, as the Indian threat was minimal and there was no foreign threat. Colonial legislators saw no need for the British troops.

The Sugar Act of 1764 was the first tax in Grenville's program to raise a revenue in America, which was a modification of the Molasses Act of 1733. The Molasses Act had imposed a tax of 6 pence per gallon (equal to £4.18 today) on foreign molasses imported into British colonies. The purpose of the Molasses Act was not actually to raise revenue, but instead to make foreign molasses so expensive that it effectively gave a monopoly to molasses imported from the British West Indies. [19] It did not work colonial merchants avoided the tax by smuggling or, more often, bribing customs officials. [20] The Sugar Act reduced the tax to 3 pence per gallon (equal to £1.79 today) in the hope that the lower rate would increase compliance and thus increase the amount of tax collected. [21] The Act also taxed additional imports and included measures to make the customs service more effective. [22]

American colonists initially objected to the Sugar Act for economic reasons, but before long they recognized that there were constitutional issues involved. [23] The British Constitution guaranteed that British subjects could not be taxed without their consent, which came in the form of representation in Parliament. The colonists elected no members of Parliament, and so it was seen as a violation of the British Constitution for Parliament to tax them. There was little time to raise this issue in response to the Sugar Act, but it came to be a major objection to the Stamp Act the following year.

Parliament announced in April 1764 when the Sugar Act was passed that they would also consider a stamp tax in the colonies. [24] Opposition from the colonies was soon forthcoming to this possible tax, but neither members of Parliament nor American agents in Great Britain (such as Benjamin Franklin) anticipated the intensity of the protest that the tax generated. [25]

Stamp acts had been a very successful method of taxation within Great Britain they generated over £100,000 in tax revenue with very little in collection expenses. By requiring an official stamp on most legal documents, the system was almost self-regulating a document would be null and void under British law without the required stamp. Imposition of such a tax on the colonies had been considered twice before the Seven Years' War and once again in 1761. Grenville had actually been presented with drafts of colonial stamp acts in September and October 1763, but the proposals lacked the specific knowledge of colonial affairs to adequately describe the documents subject to the stamp. At the time of the passage of the Sugar Act in April 1764, Grenville made it clear that the right to tax the colonies was not in question, and that additional taxes might follow, including a stamp tax. [26]

The Glorious Revolution had established the principle of parliamentary supremacy. Control of colonial trade and manufactures extended this principle across the ocean. This belief had never been tested on the issue of colonial taxation, but the British assumed that the interests of the thirteen colonies were so disparate that a joint colonial action was unlikely to occur against such a tax–an assumption that had its genesis in the failure of the Albany Conference in 1754. By the end of December 1764, the first warnings of serious colonial opposition were provided by pamphlets and petitions from the colonies protesting both the Sugar Act and the proposed stamp tax. [27]

For Grenville, the first issue was the amount of the tax. Soon after his announcement of the possibility of a tax, he had told American agents that he was not opposed to the Americans suggesting an alternative way of raising the money themselves. However, the only other alternative would be to requisition each colony and allow them to determine how to raise their share. This had never worked before, even during the French and Indian War, and there was no political mechanism in place that would have ensured the success of such cooperation. On 2 February 1765, Grenville met to discuss the tax with Benjamin Franklin, Jared Ingersoll from New Haven, Richard Jackson, agent for Connecticut, and Charles Garth, the agent for South Carolina (Jackson and Garth were also members of Parliament). These colonial representatives had no specific alternative to present they simply suggested that the determination be left to the colonies. Grenville replied that he wanted to raise the money "by means the most easy and least objectionable to the Colonies". Thomas Whately had drafted the Stamp Act, and he said that the delay in implementation had been "out of Tenderness to the colonies", and that the tax was judged as "the easiest, the most equal and the most certain." [28]

The debate in Parliament began soon after this meeting. Petitions submitted by the colonies were officially ignored by Parliament. In the debate, Charles Townshend said, "and now will these Americans, children planted by our care, nourished up by our Indulgence until they are grown to a degree of strength and opulence, and protected by our arms, will they grudge to contribute their mite to relieve us from heavy weight of the burden which we lie under?" [29] This led to Colonel Isaac Barré's response:

They planted by your care? No! Your oppression planted ‘em in America. They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated and unhospitable country where they exposed themselves to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable, and among others to the cruelties of a savage foe, the most subtle, and I take upon me to say, the most formidable of any people upon the face of God’s earth.

They nourished by your indulgence? They grew by your neglect of ‘em. As soon as you began to care about ‘em, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule over 'em, in one department and another, who were perhaps the deputies of deputies to some member of this house, sent to spy out their liberty, to misrepresent their actions and to prey upon 'em men whose behaviour on many occasions has caused the blood of those sons of liberty to recoil within them.

They protected by your arms? They have nobly taken up arms in your defence, have exerted a valour amidst their constant and laborious industry for the defence of a country whose frontier while drenched in blood, its interior parts have yielded all its little savings to your emolument . The people I believe are as truly loyal as any subjects the king has, but a people jealous of their liberties and who will vindicate them if ever they should be violated but the subject is too delicate and I will say no more." [30]

Massachusetts Royal Governor William Shirley assured London in 1755 that American independence could easily be defeated by force. He argued:

At all Events, they could not maintain such an Independency, without a Strong Naval Force, which it must forever be in the Power of Great Britain to hinder them from having: And whilst His Majesty hath 7000 Troops kept up within them, & in the Great Lakes upon the back of six of them, with the Indians at Command, it seems very easy, provided the Governors & principal Civil Officers are Independent of the Assemblies for their Subsistence, & commonly Vigilant, to prevent any Steps of that kind from being taken. [31]

Details of tax

The Stamp Act was passed by Parliament on 22 March 1765 with an effective date of 1 November 1765. It passed 205–49 in the House of Commons and unanimously in the House of Lords. [32] Historians Edmund and Helen Morgan describe the specifics of the tax:

The highest tax, £10, was placed . on attorney licenses. Other papers relating to court proceedings were taxed in amounts varying from 3d. to 10s. Land grants under a hundred acres were taxed 1s. 6d., between 100 and 200 acres 2s., and from 200 to 320 acres 2s. 6d., with an additional 2s 6d. for every additional 320 acres (1.3 km 2 ). Cards were taxed a shilling a pack, dice ten shillings, and newspapers and pamphlets at the rate of a penny for a single sheet and a shilling for every sheet in pamphlets or papers totaling more than one sheet and fewer than six sheets in octavo, fewer than twelve in quarto, or fewer than twenty in folio (in other words, the tax on pamphlets grew in proportion to their size but ceased altogether if they became large enough to qualify as a book). [33]

The high taxes on lawyers and college students were designed to limit the growth of a professional class in the colonies. [34] The stamps had to be purchased with hard currency, which was scarce, rather than the more plentiful colonial paper currency. To avoid draining currency out of the colonies, the revenues were to be expended in America, especially for supplies and salaries of British Army units who were stationed there. [35]

Two features of the Stamp Act involving the courts attracted special attention. The tax on court documents specifically included courts "exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction." These type of courts did not currently exist in the colonies and no bishops were currently assigned to the colonies, who would preside over the courts. Many colonists or their ancestors had fled England specifically to escape the influence and power of such state-sanctioned religious institutions, and they feared that this was the first step to reinstating the old ways in the colonies. Some Anglicans in the northern colonies were already openly advocating the appointment of such bishops, but they were opposed by both southern Anglicans and the non-Anglicans who made up the majority in the northern colonies. [36]

The Stamp Act allowed admiralty courts to have jurisdiction for trying violators, following the example established by the Sugar Act. However, admiralty courts had traditionally been limited to cases involving the high seas. The Sugar Act seemed to fall within this precedent, but the Stamp Act did not, and the colonists saw this as a further attempt to replace their local courts with courts controlled by England. [37]

Political responses

Grenville started appointing Stamp Distributors almost immediately after the Act passed Parliament. Applicants were not hard to come by because of the anticipated income that the positions promised, and he appointed local colonists to the post. Benjamin Franklin even suggested the appointment of John Hughes as the agent for Pennsylvania, indicating that even Franklin was not aware of the turmoil and impact that the tax was going to generate on American-British relations or that these distributors would become the focus of colonial resistance. [38]

Debate in the colonies had actually begun in the spring of 1764 over the Stamp Act when Parliament passed a resolution that contained the assertion, "That, towards further defraying the said Expences, it may be proper to charge certain Stamp Duties in the said Colonies and Plantations." Both the Sugar Act and the proposed Stamp Act were designed principally to raise revenue from the colonists. The Sugar Act, to a large extent, was a continuation of past legislation related primarily to the regulation of trade (termed an external tax), but its stated purpose was entirely new: to collect revenue directly from the colonists for a specific purpose. The novelty of the Stamp Act was that it was the first internal tax (a tax based entirely on activities within the colonies) levied directly on the colonies by Parliament. It was judged by the colonists to be a more dangerous assault on their rights than the Sugar Act was, because of its potential wide application to the colonial economy. [39]

The theoretical issue that soon held center stage was the matter of taxation without representation. Benjamin Franklin had raised this as far back as 1754 at the Albany Congress when he wrote, "That it is suppos'd an undoubted Right of Englishmen not to be taxed but by their own Consent given thro' their Representatives. That the Colonies have no Representatives in Parliament." [40] The counter to this argument was the theory of virtual representation. Thomas Whately enunciated this theory in a pamphlet that readily acknowledged that there could be no taxation without consent, but the facts were that at least 75% of British adult males were not represented in Parliament because of property qualifications or other factors. Members of Parliament were bound to represent the interests of all British citizens and subjects, so colonists were the recipients of virtual representation in Parliament, like those disenfranchised subjects in the British Isles. [41] This theory, however, ignored a crucial difference between the unrepresented in Britain and the colonists. The colonists enjoyed actual representation in their own legislative assemblies, and the issue was whether these legislatures, rather than Parliament, were in fact the sole recipients of the colonists' consent with regard to taxation. [42]

In May 1764, Samuel Adams of Boston drafted the following that stated the common American position:

For if our Trade may be taxed why not our Lands? Why not the Produce of our Lands & every thing we possess or make use of? This we apprehend annihilates our Charter Right to govern & tax ourselves – It strikes our British Privileges, which as we have never forfeited them, we hold in common with our Fellow Subjects who are Natives of Britain: If Taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal Representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from the Character of free Subjects to the miserable State of tributary Slaves. [43]

Massachusetts appointed a five-member Committee of Correspondence in June 1764 to coordinate action and exchange information regarding the Sugar Act, and Rhode Island formed a similar committee in October 1764. This attempt at unified action represented a significant step forward in colonial unity and cooperation. The Virginia House of Burgesses sent a protest of the taxes to London in December 1764, arguing that they did not have the specie required to pay the tax. [44] Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut also sent protest to England in 1764. The content of the messages varied, but they all emphasized that taxation of the colonies without colonial assent was a violation of their rights. By the end of 1765, all of the Thirteen Colonies except Georgia and North Carolina had sent some sort of protest passed by colonial legislative assemblies. [45]

The Virginia House of Burgesses reconvened in early May 1765 after news was received of the passage of the Act. By the end of May, it appeared that they would not consider the tax, and many legislators went home, including George Washington. Only 30 out of 116 Burgesses remained, but one of those remaining was Patrick Henry who was attending his first session. Henry led the opposition to the Stamp Act he proposed his resolutions on 30 May 1765, and they were passed in the form of the Virginia Resolves. [46] The Resolves stated:

Resolved, That the first Adventurers and Settlers of this his majesty's colony and Dominion of Virginia brought with them, and transmitted to their Posterity, and all other his Majesty's subjects since inhabiting in this his Majesty's said Colony, all the Liberties, privileges, Franchises, and Immunities that have at any Time been held, enjoyed, and possessed, by the People of Great Britain.

Resolved, That by the two royal Charters, granted by King James the First, the Colonists aforesaid are declared entitled to all Liberties, Privileges, and Immunities of Denizens and natural Subjects, to all Intents and Purposes, as if they had been abiding and born within the Realm of England.

Resolved, That the Taxation of the People by themselves, or by Persons chosen by themselves to represent them, who could only know what Taxes the People are able to bear, or the easiest method of raising them, and must themselves be affected by every Tax laid on the People, is the only Security against a burdensome Taxation, and the distinguishing characteristick of British Freedom, without which the ancient Constitution cannot exist.

Resolved, That his majesty's liege people of this his most ancient and loyal Colony have without interruption enjoyed the inestimable Right of being governed by such Laws, respecting their internal Polity and Taxation, as are derived from their own Consent, with the Approbation of their Sovereign, or his Substitute and that the same hath never been forfeited or yielded up, but hath been constantly recognized by the King and People of Great Britain. [47]

On 6 June 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. [48]

There was no attempt to keep this meeting a secret Massachusetts promptly notified Richard Jackson of the proposed meeting, their agent in England and a member of Parliament. [49]

Protests in the streets

While the colonial legislatures were acting, the ordinary citizens of the colonies were also voicing their concerns outside of this formal political process. Historian Gary B. Nash wrote:

Whether stimulated externally or ignited internally, ferment during the years from 1761 to 1766 changed the dynamics of social and political relations in the colonies and set in motion currents of reformist sentiment with the force of a mountain wind. Critical to this half-decade was the colonial response to England’s Stamp Act, more the reaction of common colonists than that of their presumed leaders. [52] Both loyal supporters of English authority and well-established colonial protest leaders underestimated the self-activating capacity of ordinary colonists. By the end of 1765 . people in the streets had astounded, dismayed, and frightened their social superiors. [53]

Massachusetts

Early street protests were most notable in Boston. Andrew Oliver was a distributor of stamps for Massachusetts who was hanged in effigy on 14 August 1765 "from a giant elm tree at the crossing of Essex and Orange Streets in the city's South End." Also hung was a jackboot painted green on the bottom ("a Green-ville sole"), a pun on both Grenville and the Earl of Bute, the two people most blamed by the colonists. [54] Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson ordered sheriff Stephen Greenleaf to take down the effigy, but he was opposed by a large crowd. All day the crowd detoured merchants on Orange Street to have their goods symbolically stamped under the elm tree, which later became known as the "Liberty Tree".

Ebenezer MacIntosh was a veteran of the Seven Years' War and a shoemaker. One night, he led a crowd which cut down the effigy of Andrew Oliver and took it in a funeral procession to the Town House where the legislature met. From there, they went to Oliver's office—which they tore down and symbolically stamped the timbers. Next, they took the effigy to Oliver's home at the foot of Fort Hill, where they beheaded it and then burned it—along with Oliver's stable house and coach and chaise. Greenleaf and Hutchinson were stoned when they tried to stop the mob, which then looted and destroyed the contents of Oliver's house. Oliver asked to be relieved of his duties the next day. [55] This resignation, however, was not enough. Oliver was ultimately forced by MacIntosh to be paraded through the streets and to publicly resign under the Liberty Tree. [56]

As news spread of the reasons for Andrew Oliver's resignation, violence and threats of aggressive acts increased throughout the colonies, as did organized groups of resistance. Throughout the colonies, members of the middle and upper classes of society formed the foundation for these groups of resistance and soon called themselves the Sons of Liberty. These colonial groups of resistance burned effigies of royal officials, forced Stamp Act collectors to resign, and were able to get businessmen and judges to go about without using the proper stamps demanded by Parliament. [57]

On 16 August, a mob damaged the home and official papers of William Story, the deputy register of the Vice-Admiralty, who then moved to Marblehead, Massachusetts. Benjamin Hallowell, the comptroller of customs, suffered the almost total loss of his home. [58]

On 26 August, MacIntosh led an attack on Hutchinson's mansion. The mob evicted the family, destroyed the furniture, tore down the interior walls, emptied the wine cellar, scattered Hutchinson's collection of Massachusetts historical papers, and pulled down the building's cupola. Hutchinson had been in public office for three decades he estimated his loss at £2,218 [59] (in today's money, at nearly $250,000). Nash concludes that this attack was more than just a reaction to the Stamp Act:

But it is clear that the crowd was giving vent to years of resentment at the accumulation of wealth and power by the haughty prerogative faction led by Hutchinson. Behind every swing of the ax and every hurled stone, behind every shattered crystal goblet and splintered mahogany chair, lay the fury of a plain Bostonian who had read or heard the repeated references to impoverished people as "rable" and to Boston’s popular caucus, led by Samuel Adams, as a "herd of fools, tools, and synchophants." [54]

Governor Francis Bernard offered a £300 reward for information on the leaders of the mob, but no information was forthcoming. MacIntosh and several others were arrested, but were either freed by pressure from the merchants or released by mob action. [60]

The street demonstrations originated from the efforts of respectable public leaders such as James Otis, who commanded the Boston Gazette, and Samuel Adams of the "Loyal Nine" of the Boston Caucus, an organization of Boston merchants. They made efforts to control the people below them on the economic and social scale, but they were often unsuccessful in maintaining a delicate balance between mass demonstrations and riots. These men needed the support of the working class, but also had to establish the legitimacy of their actions to have their protests to England taken seriously. [61] At the time of these protests, the Loyal Nine was more of a social club with political interests but, by December 1765, it began issuing statements as the Sons of Liberty. [62]

Rhode Island

Rhode Island also experienced street violence. A crowd built a gallows near the Town House in Newport on 27 August, where they carried effigies of three officials appointed as stamp distributors: Augustus Johnson, Dr. Thomas Moffat, and lawyer Martin Howard. The crowd at first was led by merchants William Ellery, Samuel Vernon, and Robert Crook, but they soon lost control. That night, the crowd was led by a poor man named John Weber, and they attacked the houses of Moffat and Howard, where they destroyed walls, fences, art, furniture, and wine. The local Sons of Liberty were publicly opposed to violence, and they refused at first to support Weber when he was arrested. They were persuaded to come to his assistance, however, when retaliation was threatened against their own homes. Weber was released and faded into obscurity. [63]

Howard became the only prominent American to publicly support the Stamp Act in his pamphlet "A Colonist's Defence of Taxation" (1765). After the riots, Howard had to leave the colony, but he was rewarded by the Crown with an appointment as Chief Justice of North Carolina at a salary of £1,000. [64]

New York

In New York, James McEvers resigned his distributorship four days after the attack on Hutchinson's house. The stamps arrived in New York Harbor on 24 October for several of the northern colonies. Placards appeared throughout the city warning that "the first man that either distributes or makes use of stamped paper let him take care of his house, person, and effects." New York merchants met on 31 October and agreed not to sell any English goods until the Act was repealed. Crowds took to the streets for four days of demonstrations, uncontrolled by the local leaders, culminating in an attack by two thousand people on Governor Cadwallader Colden's home and the burning of two sleighs and a coach. Unrest in New York City continued through the end of the year, and the local Sons of Liberty had difficulty in controlling crowd actions. [65]

Other Colonies

In Frederick, Maryland, a court of 12 magistrates ruled the Stamp Act invalid on 23 November 1765, and directed that businesses and colonial officials proceed in all matters without use of the stamps. A week later, a crowd conducted a mock funeral procession for the act in the streets of Frederick. The magistrates have been dubbed the "12 Immortal Justices," and 23 November has been designated "Repudiation Day" by the Maryland state legislature. On 1 October 2015, Senator Cardin (D-MD) read into the Congressional Record a statement noting 2015 as the 250th anniversary of the event. Among the 12 magistrates was William Luckett, who later served as lieutenant colonel in the Maryland Militia at the Battle of Germantown.

Other popular demonstrations occurred in Portsmouth, New Hampshire Annapolis, Maryland Wilmington and New Bern, North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania demonstrations were subdued but even targeted Benjamin Franklin's home, although it was not vandalized. [66] By 16 November, twelve of the stamp distributors had resigned. The Georgia distributor did not arrive in America until January 1766, but his first and only official action was to resign. [67]

The overall effect of these protests was to both anger and unite the American people like never before. Opposition to the Act inspired both political and constitutional forms of literature throughout the colonies, strengthened the colonial political perception and involvement, and created new forms of organized resistance. These organized groups quickly learned that they could force royal officials to resign by employing violent measures and threats. [68]

Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Caribbean

The main issue was the constitutional rights of Englishmen, so the French in Quebec did not react. Some English-speaking merchants were opposed but were in a fairly small minority. The Quebec Gazette ceased publication until the act was repealed, apparently over the unwillingness to use stamped paper. [69] In neighboring Nova Scotia a number of former New England residents objected, but recent British immigrants and London-oriented business interests based in Halifax, the provincial capital were more influential. The only major public protest was the hanging in effigy of the stamp distributor and Lord Bute. The act was implemented in both provinces, but Nova Scotia's stamp distributor resigned in January 1766, beset by ungrounded fears for his safety. Authorities there were ordered to allow ships bearing unstamped papers to enter its ports, and business continued unabated after the distributors ran out of stamps. [70] The Act occasioned some protests in Newfoundland, and the drafting of petitions opposing not only the Stamp Act, but the existence of the customhouse at St. John's, based on legislation dating back to the reign of Edward VI forbidding any sort of duties on the importation of goods related to its fisheries. [71]

Violent protests were few in the Caribbean colonies. Political opposition was expressed in a number of colonies, including Barbados and Antigua, and by absentee landowners living in Britain. The worst political violence took place on St. Kitts and Nevis. Riots took place on 31 October 1765, and again on 5 November, targeting the homes and offices of stamp distributors the number of participants suggests that the percentage of St. Kitts' white population involved matched that of Bostonian involvement in its riots. The delivery of stamps to St. Kitts was successfully blocked, and they were never used there. Montserrat and Antigua also succeeded in avoiding the use of stamps some correspondents thought that rioting was prevented in Antigua only by the large troop presence. Despite vocal political opposition, Barbados used the stamps, to the pleasure of King George. In Jamaica there was also vocal opposition, which included threats of violence. There was much evasion of the stamps, and ships arriving without stamped papers were allowed to enter port. Despite this, Jamaica produced more stamp revenue (£2,000) than any other colony. [72]

Sons of Liberty

It was during this time of street demonstrations that locally organized groups started to merge into an inter-colonial organization of a type not previously seen in the colonies. The term "sons of liberty" had been used in a generic fashion well before 1765, but it was only around February 1766 that its influence extended throughout the colonies as an organized group using the formal name "Sons of Liberty", leading to a pattern for future resistance to the British that carried the colonies towards 1776. [73] Historian John C. Miller noted that the name was adopted as a result of Barre's use of the term in his February 1765 speech. [74]

The organization spread month by month after independent starts in several different colonies. By 6 November, a committee was set up in New York to correspond with other colonies, and in December an alliance was formed between groups in New York and Connecticut. In January, a correspondence link was established between Boston and Manhattan, and by March, Providence had initiated connections with New York, New Hampshire, and Newport. By March, Sons of Liberty organizations had been established in New Jersey, Maryland, and Norfolk, Virginia, and a local group established in North Carolina was attracting interest in South Carolina and Georgia. [75]

The officers and leaders of the Sons of Liberty "were drawn almost entirely from the middle and upper ranks of colonial society," but they recognized the need to expand their power base to include "the whole of political society, involving all of its social or economic subdivisions." To do this, the Sons of Liberty relied on large public demonstrations to expand their base. [76] They learned early on that controlling such crowds was problematical, although they strived to control "the possible violence of extra-legal gatherings". The organization professed its loyalty to both local and British established government, but possible military action as a defensive measure was always part of their considerations. Throughout the Stamp Act Crisis, the Sons of Liberty professed continued loyalty to the King because they maintained a "fundamental confidence" that Parliament would do the right thing and repeal the tax. [77]

Colonial newspapers

John Adams complained that the London ministry was intentionally trying "to strip us in a great measure of the means of knowledge, by loading the Press, the colleges, and even an Almanack and a News-Paper, with restraints and duties." [78] The press fought back. By 1760 the fledgling American newspaper industry comprised 24 weekly papers in major cities. Benjamin Franklin had created an informal network so that each one routinely reprinted news, editorials, letters and essays from the others, thus helping form a common American voice. All the editors were annoyed at the new stamp tax they would have to pay on each copy. By informing colonists what the other colonies were saying the press became a powerful opposition force to the Stamp Act. Many circumvented it and most equated taxation without representation with despotism and tyranny, thus providing a common vocabulary of protest for the Thirteen Colonies. [79]

The newspapers reported effigy hangings and stamp master resignation speeches. Some newspapers were on the royal payroll and supported the Act, but most of the press was free and vocal. Thus William Bradford, the foremost printer in Philadelphia, became a leader of the Sons of Liberty. He added a skull and crossbones with the words, "the fatal Stamp," to the masthead of his Pennsylvania Journal and weekly Advertiser. [80]

Some of the earliest forms of American propaganda appeared in these printings in response to the law. The articles written in colonial newspapers were particularly critical of the act because of the Stamp Act's disproportionate effect on printers. David Ramsay, a patriot and historian from South Carolina, wrote of this phenomenon shortly after the American Revolution:

It was fortunate for the liberties of America, that newspapers were the subject of a heavy stamp duty. Printers, when influenced by government, have generally arranged themselves on the side of liberty, nor are they less remarkable for attention to the profits of their profession. A stamp duty, which openly invaded the first, and threatened a great diminution of the last, provoked their united zealous opposition. [81]

Most printers were critical of the Stamp Act, although a few Loyalist voices did exist. Some of the more subtle Loyalist sentiments can be seen in publications such as The Boston Evening Post, which was run by British sympathizers John and Thomas Fleet. The article detailed a violent protest that occurred in New York in December, 1765, then described the riot's participants as "imperfect" and labeled the group's ideas as "contrary to the general sense of the people." [82] These Loyalists beliefs can be seen in some of the early newspaper articles about the Stamp Act, but the anti-British writings were more prevalent and seem to have had a more powerful effect. [83]

Many papers assumed a relatively conservative tone before the act went into effect, implying that they might close if it wasn't repealed. However, as time passed and violent demonstrations ensued, the authors became more vitriolic. Several newspaper editors were involved with the Sons of Liberty, such as William Bradford of The Pennsylvania Journal and Benjamin Edes of The Boston Gazette, and they echoed the group's sentiments in their publications. The Stamp Act went into effect that November and many newspapers ran editions with imagery of tombstones and skeletons, emphasizing that their papers were "dead" and would no longer be able to print because of the Stamp Act. [84] However, most of them returned in the upcoming months, defiantly appearing without the stamp of approval that was deemed necessary by the Stamp Act. Printers were greatly relieved when the law was nullified in the following spring, and the repeal asserted their positions as a powerful voice (and compass) for public opinion. [85]

Stamp Act Congress

The Stamp Act Congress was held in New York in October 1765. Twenty-seven delegates from nine colonies were the members of the Congress, and their responsibility was to draft a set of formal petitions stating why Parliament had no right to tax them. [86] Among the delegates were many important men in the colonies. Historian John Miller observes, "The composition of this Stamp Act Congress ought to have been convincing proof to the British government that resistance to parliamentary taxation was by no means confined to the riffraff of colonial seaports." [87]

The youngest delegate was 26-year-old John Rutledge of South Carolina, and the oldest was 65-year-old Hendrick Fisher of New Jersey. Ten of the delegates were lawyers, ten were merchants, and seven were planters or land-owning farmers all had served in some type of elective office, and all but three were born in the colonies. Four died before the colonies declared independence, and four signed the Declaration of Independence nine attended the first and second Continental Congresses, and three were Loyalists during the Revolution. [88]

New Hampshire declined to send delegates, and North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia were not represented because their governors did not call their legislatures into session, thus preventing the selection of delegates. Despite the composition of the congress, each of the Thirteen Colonies eventually affirmed its decisions. [89] Six of the nine colonies represented at the Congress agreed to sign the petitions to the King and Parliament produced by the Congress. The delegations from New York, Connecticut, and South Carolina were prohibited from signing any documents without first receiving approval from the colonial assemblies that had appointed them. [90]

Massachusetts governor Francis Bernard believed that his colony's delegates to the Congress would be supportive of Parliament. Timothy Ruggles in particular was Bernard's man, and was elected chairman of the Congress. Ruggles' instructions from Bernard were to "recommend submission to the Stamp Act until Parliament could be persuaded to repeal it." [91] Many delegates felt that a final resolution of the Stamp Act would actually bring Britain and the colonies closer together. Robert Livingston of New York stressed the importance of removing the Stamp Act from the public debate, writing to his colony's agent in England, "If I really wished to see America in a state of independence I should desire as one of the most effectual means to that end that the stamp act should be enforced." [92]

The Congress met for 12 consecutive days, including Sundays. There was no audience at the meetings, and no information was released about the deliberations. [93] The meeting's final product was called "The Declaration of Rights and Grievances", and was drawn up by delegate John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. This Declaration raised fourteen points of colonial protest. It asserted that colonists possessed all the rights of Englishmen in addition to protesting the Stamp Act issue, and that Parliament could not represent the colonists since they had no voting rights over Parliament. Only the colonial assemblies had a right to tax the colonies. They also asserted that the extension of authority of the admiralty courts to non-naval matters represented an abuse of power. [94]

In addition to simply arguing for their rights as Englishmen, the congress also asserted that they had certain natural rights solely because they were human beings. Resolution 3 stated, "That it is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted right of Englishmen, that no taxes be imposed on them, but with their own consent, given personally, or by their representatives." Both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania brought forth the issue in separate resolutions even more directly when they respectively referred to "the Natural rights of Mankind" and "the common rights of mankind". [95]

Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina had proposed that the Congress' petition should go only to the king, since the rights of the colonies did not originate with Parliament. This radical proposal went too far for most delegates and was rejected. The "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" was duly sent to the king, and petitions were also sent to both Houses of Parliament. [96]

Grenville was replaced by Lord Rockingham as Prime Minister on 10 July 1765. News of the mob violence began to reach England in October. Conflicting sentiments were taking hold in Britain at the same time that resistance was building and accelerating in America. Some wanted to strictly enforce the Stamp Act over colonial resistance, wary of the precedent that would be set by backing down. [97] Others felt the economic effects of reduced trade with America after the Sugar Act and an inability to collect debts while the colonial economy suffered, and they began to lobby for a repeal of the Stamp Act. [98] The colonial protest had included various non-importation agreements among merchants who recognized that a significant portion of British industry and commerce was dependent on the colonial market. This movement had also spread through the colonies 200 merchants had met in New York City and agreed to import nothing from England until the Stamp Act was repealed. [99]

When Parliament met in December 1765, it rejected a resolution offered by Grenville that would have condemned colonial resistance to the enforcement of the Act. Outside of Parliament, Rockingham and his secretary Edmund Burke, a member of Parliament himself, organized London merchants who started a committee of correspondence to support repeal of the Stamp Act by urging merchants throughout the country to contact their local representatives in Parliament. When Parliament reconvened on 14 January 1766, the Rockingham ministry formally proposed repeal. Amendments were considered that would have lessened the financial impact on the colonies by allowing colonists to pay the tax in their own scrip, but this was viewed to be too little and too late. [100]

William Pitt stated in the Parliamentary debate that everything done by the Grenville ministry "has been entirely wrong" with respect to the colonies. He further stated, "It is my opinion that this Kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies." Pitt still maintained "the authority of this kingdom over the colonies, to be sovereign and supreme, in every circumstance of government and legislature whatsoever," but he made the distinction that taxes were not part of governing, but were "a voluntary gift and grant of the Commons alone." He rejected the notion of virtual representation, as "the most contemptible idea that ever entered into the head of man." [101]

Grenville responded to Pitt:

Protection and obedience are reciprocal. Great Britain protects America America is bound to yield obedience. If, not, tell me when the Americans were emancipated? When they want the protection of this kingdom, they are always ready to ask for it. That protection has always been afforded them in the most full and ample manner. The nation has run itself into an immense debt to give them their protection and now they are called upon to contribute a small share towards the public expence, and expence arising from themselves, they renounce your authority, insult your officers, and break out, I might also say, into open rebellion. [102]

Pitt's response to Grenville included, "I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of people, so dead to all the feelings of liberty as voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest." [103]

Between 17 and 27 January, Rockingham shifted the attention from constitutional arguments to economic by presenting petitions complaining of the economic repercussions felt throughout the country. On 7 February, the House of Commons rejected a resolution by 274–134, saying that it would back the King in enforcing the Act. Henry Seymour Conway, the government's leader in the House of Commons, introduced the Declaratory Act in an attempt to address both the constitutional and the economic issues, which affirmed the right of Parliament to legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever", while admitting the inexpediency of attempting to enforce the Stamp Act. Only Pitt and three or four others voted against it. Other resolutions passed which condemned the riots and demanded compensation from the colonies for those who suffered losses because of the actions of the mobs. [104]

The House of Commons heard testimony between 11 and 13 February, the most important witness being Benjamin Franklin on the last day of the hearings. He responded to the question about how the colonists would react if the Act was not repealed: "A total loss of the respect and affection the people of America bear to this country, and of all the commerce that depends on that respect and affection." A Scottish journalist observed Franklin's answers to Parliament and his effect on the repeal he later wrote to Franklin, "To this very Examination, more than to any thing else, you are indebted to the speedy and total Repeal of this odious Law." [105]

A resolution was introduced on 21 February to repeal the Stamp Act, and it passed by a vote of 276–168. The King gave royal assent on 18 March 1766. [106] [107] To celebrate the repeal, the Sons of Liberty in Dedham, Massachusetts erected the Pillar of Liberty with a bust of Pitt on top. [108]

Some aspects of the resistance to the act provided a sort of rehearsal for similar acts of resistance to the 1767 Townshend Acts, particularly the activities of the Sons of Liberty and merchants in organizing opposition. The Stamp Act Congress was a predecessor to the later Continental Congresses, notably the Second Continental Congress which oversaw the establishment of American independence. The Committees of Correspondence used to coordinate activities were revived between 1772 and 1774 in response to a variety of controversial and unpopular affairs, and the colonies that met at the 1774 First Continental Congress established a non-importation agreement known as the Continental Association in response to Parliamentary passage of the Intolerable Acts. [ citation needed ]


Stamp Act imposed on American colonies

Though the Stamp Act employed a strategy that was a common fundraising vehicle in England, it stirred a storm of protest in the colonies. The colonists had recently been hit with three major taxes: the Sugar Act (1764), which levied new duties on imports of textiles, wines, coffee and sugar the Currency Act (1764), which caused a major decline in the value of the paper money used by colonists and the Quartering Act (1765), which required colonists to provide food and lodging to British troops.

With the passing of the Stamp Act, the colonists’ grumbling finally became an articulated response to what they saw as the mother country’s attempt to undermine their economic strength and independence. They raised the issue of taxation without representation, and formed societies throughout the colonies to rally against the British government and nobles who sought to exploit the colonies as a source of revenue and raw materials. By October of that year, nine of the 13 colonies sent representatives to the Stamp Act Congress, at which the colonists drafted the “Declaration of Rights and Grievances,” a document that railed against the autocratic policies of the mercantilist British empire.

Realizing that it actually cost more to enforce the Stamp Act in the protesting colonies than it did to abolish it, the British government repealed the tax the following year. The fracas over the Stamp Act, though, helped plant seeds for a far larger movement against the British government and the eventual battle for independence. Most important of these was the formation of the Sons of Liberty–a group of tradesmen who led anti-British protests in Boston and other seaboard cities–and other groups of wealthy landowners who came together from the across the colonies. Well after the Stamp Act was repealed, these societies continued to meet in opposition to what they saw as the abusive policies of the British empire. Out of their meetings, a growing nationalism emerged that would culminate in the fighting of the American Revolution only a decade later.


This Day in History: Mar 22, 1765: Stamp Act imposed on American colonies

In an effort to raise funds to pay off debts and defend the vast new American territories won from the French in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), the British government passes the Stamp Act on this day in 1765. The legislation levied a direct tax on all materials printed for commercial and legal use in the colonies, from newspapers and pamphlets to playing cards and dice.

Though the Stamp Act employed a strategy that was a common fundraising vehicle in England, it stirred a storm of protest in the colonies. The colonists had recently been hit with three major taxes: the Sugar Act (1764), which levied new duties on imports of textiles, wines, coffee and sugar the Currency Act (1764), which caused a major decline in the value of the paper money used by colonists and the Quartering Act (1765), which required colonists to provide food and lodging to British troops.

With the passing of the Stamp Act, the colonists' grumbling finally became an articulated response to what they saw as the mother country's attempt to undermine their economic strength and independence. They raised the issue of taxation without representation, and formed societies throughout the colonies to rally against the British government and nobles who sought to exploit the colonies as a source of revenue and raw materials. By October of that year, nine of the 13 colonies sent representatives to the Stamp Act Congress, at which the colonists drafted the "Declaration of Rights and Grievances," a document that railed against the autocratic policies of the mercantilist British empire.

Realizing that it actually cost more to enforce the Stamp Act in the protesting colonies than it did to abolish it, the British government repealed the tax the following year. The fracas over the Stamp Act, though, helped plant seeds for a far larger movement against the British government and the eventual battle for independence. Most important of these was the formation of the Sons of Liberty--a group of tradesmen who led anti-British protests in Boston and other seaboard cities--and other groups of wealthy landowners who came together from the across the colonies. Well after the Stamp Act was repealed, these societies continued to meet in opposition to what they saw as the abusive policies of the British empire. Out of their meetings, a growing nationalism emerged that would culminate in the fighting of the American Revolution only a decade later.

In South Africa: President Vorster challenges Dr Rhoodie

President B.J. Vorster, in a lengthy statement, challenged Dr. Rhoodie to release any document which may implicate him in the Information affair. He emphasised that the question was not whether state money has been available for secret projects, but whether that money has been misused. He denied that he was informed of the secret funding of The Citizen and rejected as contemptible Dr. Rhoodie's attempt to drag Minister Horwood into the affair. The Prime Minister, P.W. Botha, in a cautiously worded statement issued by his office, said the Cabinet knew of secret projects, but not about the state funding of The Citizen, nor of irregularities that had taken place. He said he had undertaken to resign only if it could be proved that members of his Cabinet had been aware of one specific project, namely the funding of The Citizen, before he came into power in September 1978.


Parliamentary taxation of colonies, international trade, and the American Revolution, 1763–1775

The American Revolution was precipitated, in part, by a series of laws passed between 1763 and 1775 that regulating trade and taxes. This legislation caused tensions between colonists and imperial officials, who made it clear that the British Parliament would not address American complaints that the new laws were onerous. British unwillingness to respond to American demands for change allowed colonists to argue that they were part of an increasingly corrupt and autocratic empire in which their traditional liberties were threatened. This position eventually served as the basis for the colonial Declaration of Independence.

In 1763, the British government emerged from the Seven Years’ War burdened by heavy debts. This led British Prime Minister George Grenville to reduce duties on sugar and molasses but also to enforce the law more strictly. Since enforcement of these duties had previously been lax, this ultimately increased revenue for the British Government and served to increase the taxes paid by the colonists. The colonial governments of New York and Massachusetts sent formal letters of protest to Parliament.

The end of the war had also brought about a postwar recession, and British merchants began to request payment for debts that colonists had incurred buying British imports. Moreover, they wanted payment in British pounds sterling rather than colonial currency of more questionable value. The result was that the British Parliament passed the 1764 Currency Act which forbade the colonies from issuing paper currency. This made it even more difficult for colonists to pay their debts and taxes.

Soon after Parliament passed the Currency Act, Prime Minister Grenville proposed a Stamp Tax. This law would require colonists to purchase a government-issued stamp for legal documents and other paper goods. Grenville submitted the bill to Parliament for questioning, and only one member raised objections to Parliament’s right to tax the colonies.

After news of the successful passage of the Stamp Act reached the colonies, the Virginia House of Burgesses passed resolutions denying the British Parliament’s authority to tax the colonies. In Boston, colonists rioted and destroyed the house of the stamp distributor. News of these protests inspired similar activities and protests in other colonies, and thus the Stamp Act served as a common cause to unite the 13 colonies in opposition to the British Parliament. In October of 1765, delegates from 9 colonies met to issue petitions to the British Government denying Parliament’s authority to tax the colonies. An American boycott of British goods, coupled with recession, also led British merchants to lobby for the act’s repeal on pragmatic economic grounds. Under pressure from American colonists and British merchants, the British Government decided it was easier to repeal the Stamp Act than to enforce it.

The repeal of the Stamp Act temporarily quieted colonial protest, but there was renewed resistance to new taxes instituted in 1767 under the Townshend Acts. However, in 1773, the colonists staged more vocal widespread protests against the British Parliament’s decision to grant the East India Company a monopoly on the tax-free transport of tea. Although Parliament did lower taxes levied on other tea importers, the tax-free status of the British East India Company meant that colonial tea traders could not compete. Enraged colonists responded by encouraging a general boycott of British goods. On December 16, 1773, American colonists disguised as Indians boarded East India Company ships in Boston Harbor and threw crates of tea overboard. This famous protest came to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

When news of the Tea Party reached England, British officials moved to enforce discipline and order in the colonies. The British Government ordered the closure of the port of Boston until the East India Company was compensated for the destroyed tea. Parliament also passed several pieces of legislation in 1774 which attempted to place Massachusetts under direct British control. In the American colonies, these laws were referred to as the Intolerable Acts. British control was further solidified by the appointment of General Thomas Gage as military governor of Massachusetts.

By 1774, opinion among the colonists was mixed. Some Bostonians felt that the time had come to ease tensions and sent to London a written offer to pay for the destroyed tea. Others put out a colony-wide call for a boycott. However, many colonial merchants were reluctant to participate in a difficult-to-enforce boycott. Despite this disagreement, most colonists agreed that a meeting to discuss an appropriate collective response to British actions was a good idea. Colonial legislatures sent representatives to Philadelphia, and the First Continental Congress convened in September of 1774. The Continental Congress agreed to the Articles of Association on October 20. These Articles listed colonial grievances and called for a locally-enforced boycott in all the colonies to take effect on December 1. The delegates also drafted a petition to King George III laying out their grievances, although by then they doubted that the crisis would be resolved peacefully.

Realizing that further coercive steps would only enrage the colonists and might lead to war, British military governor Gage wrote to London recommending suspension of the Intolerable Acts. Gage hoped to appease many of the colonists and thereby split colonial moderates from radicals. If London was not amenable to his recommendations, Gage stated that he would need significant reinforcements to crush the growing rebellion.

British ministers responded to Gage’s suggestions by removing him from his post. They felt that further punitive measures were necessary and pushed Parliament to pass additional trade restrictions on New England. London declared the colonies to be in rebellion, but also offered to stop taxing those colonies that supported the British Government.

By this time, the most astute leaders from both sides viewed armed conflict as inevitable. Gage’s attempts to secure his position in Boston only brought him into conflict with local militias and a hostile populace, and it was only a matter of time until open war began in 1775. The opportunity for peaceful negotiation came to an end, and the war for American Independence began on April 19, 1775 when British troops and American colonists clashed at Lexington and Concord.


The Colonists React To The Stamp Act 1765 Like This

  • Collectively, all the 13 colonies started boycotting British goods and trade with them.
  • Started protest with slogans like ‘No taxation without representation’. Because Colonists had no representative in the Parliament of London.
  • Attacks and riots on duty collectors started increasing.
  • Journalists started writing against this act in newspapers, magazines, and make colonists aware of the harmful decision of the British parliament.
  • Colonists even softly warned the British authorities that they could choose the path of rebellion for that.
  • Most importantly, for the first time, all the colonists united against an unfair decision of the British parliament.

What Was The Main Cause of The Stamp Act, 1765?

From 1756 to 1763, the Seven Years’ War fought between the Empire of Great Britain and the Empire of France.

Though Britain somehow was able to manage the victory at the end of the war but it badly affected their economic condition.

To get rid out of the economic situation they imposed a direct tax system via a new law, called ‘Stamp Act, 1765’ to the colonists of the 13 American colonies.

The British government’s argument was, they had to fight the war so that they could protect the people living in the colonies from the French invasion.

But colonists were completely disagreed with their argument.

Colonists believed that there was no threat of French invasion on them. On the other hand, they had already paid all the expenses for the war.

So, to pay taxes again for the same cause was irrational.

Most of the people in the colonies believed that if the British government really presumed them as English citizens, then they have no right to impose the unconstitutional Stamp Act.

Why The Slogan ‘No Taxation Without Representation’ Became Popular At This Time?

The first and foremost reason was, there was no system available in the Parliament of Great Britain to take representatives from the 13 American colonies.

The most interesting thing was, the British parliament could make any laws for the people of the 13 colonies, but they always denied providing colonists’ own representatives.

Colonists had been demanding for a long time to change this system, but it still made no effect.

The British always used to take advantage of not having any of their representative in Parliament.

The Stamp Act of 1765 was a significant result of it.

Therefore, when people came to know about the disadvantages of the new law, they began protesting with the slogan ‘No Taxation Without Representation’.

Over time, it spared all over the 13 colonies and became one of the popular slogans of the American Revolution.


Footnotes

[1] Boyle’s Journal of Occurrences in Boston, 1759-1788, New England Historical and Genealogical Register 84 (April 1930): 148-149 (on British victories in Quebec, 1759, and Montreal, 1760), 162 (on peace) Fred Anderson, A People’s Army: Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years’ War (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 22-23, on New England pride and quote from John Boyle’s September 16, 1762, account of British victory in Havana.

[2] Jayne E. Triber, A True Republican: The Life of Paul Revere (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998), 37-40. Marc Egnal, A Mighty Empire: The Origins of the American Revolution (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1988), 126-135 Ed., Jack P. Greene, Colonies to Nation, 1763-1789: A Documentary History of the American Revolution (New York: W. W. Norton, 1975), 12-39.

[3] Massachusetts, New York, and Jamaica also passed stamp taxes in the mid-18th century. Edmund S and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 3rd ed., 1995), 54 Lynne Oats and Pauline Sadler, “Accounting for the Stamp Act Crisis,” Accounting Historians Journal, Vol. 35, Number 2 (December 2008), 108-111 text of Stamp Act https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/stamp_act_1765.asp.

[4] Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 54-56 Lawrence Henry Gipson, The Coming of the American Revolution, 1763-1775 (New York: Harper and Row, 1954), 69-71 I. R. Christie, Crisis of Empire: Great Britain and the American Colonies, 1754-1783 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1966), 49-51.

[5] Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 54-57 Christie, Crisis of Empire, 51-52.

[6] Christie, Crisis of Empire, 51-52, is more charitable towards Grenville, writing that he “was willing to try the possibility” that the colonies might tax themselves and obtaining prior consent from the colonies “might obviate constitutional objections.” Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 59-68, stresses that Grenville had Parliamentary approval to impose a Stamp Act so he did not need colonial consent. Quote on p. 68.

[7] Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 65-68 Benjamin Franklin to Joseph Galloway, October 11, 1766, recalling the February 2, 1765, meeting with Grenville, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-13-02-0164#BNFN-01-13-02-0164-fn-0007.

[8] Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 68-70 Gipson, Coming of the American Revolution, 79-80.

[9] Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 70-72 Gipson, Coming of the American Revolution, 80-81.

[10] Boyle’s Journal of Occurrences in Boston, 84: 168.

tkuroda/gh322/Thomas%20Whately.htm Christie, Crisis of Empire, 53-54 Gipson, Coming of the American Revolution, 79 Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 72-73. See articles in Harbottle Dorr Collection of Annotated Massachusetts Newspapers, 1765-1776, I: April-November, when the Stamp Act went into effect. Articles, many of which contained responses from other colonies, continued until news of the Stamp Act’s repeal in March 1766 reached the colonies, https://www.masshist.org/dorr/.

[12] Daniel Dulany, “Considerations on the Proprietary of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies,” https://www.google.com/books/edition/_/xGsBAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PP1, 24.

[13] Land purchases included documents for a land grant, a warrant to survey the property, and to register the title. Justin DuRivage and Claire Priest, “The Stamp Act and the Political Origins of American Legal and Economic Institutions,” Southern California Law Review 88 (2015), 875-912, especially 875-888, 898-912, https://southerncalifornialawreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/88_875.pdf.

[14] Benjamin Franklin to David Hall, February 14, 1765, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-12-02-0029 Oats and Sadler, “Accounting for the Stamp Act Crisis,” 124.

[15] DuRivage and Priest, Appendix, 906-912, lists the stamped documents and tax rate, demonstrating the wide impact of the Stamp Act, https://southerncalifornialawreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/88_875.pdf. On artisans, see Triber, A True Republican, 40-41. In the 1760s, women held 48.3% of tavern licenses in Charleston, South Carolina 41.6% in Boston, 24.4% in Philadelphia, and 15% in New York, in Benjamin L.Carp, Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 68.

[16] Gary B. Nash, The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins of the American Revolution (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1979), 246-256, 320-321.

[17] On population, see Lorenzo Greene, The Negro in Colonial New England (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942), 84-85. On experience of the Black population, see Eric M. Hanson Plass, “So Succeeded by a Kind Providence”: Communities of Color in Eighteenth Century Boston,” M.A. Thesis, University of Massachusetts Boston, 2014, Figures 1 and 2, 58-59, 84 Robert E. Desrochers, Jr., “Slave-For-Sale Advertisements and Slavery in Massachusetts, 1704-1781,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Series, v. LIX, no. 3 (July 2002), 654-664.

[18] On colonial response, see Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, Chapter 7, and Greene, Colonies to Nation, 45-61. On representation see, Whately, “The Lately Made Concerning the Colonies and the Taxes Imposed Upon Them…” https://web.archive.org/web/20050223013854/http://www.skidmore.edu/

tkuroda/gh322/Thomas%20Whately.htm. and Dulany, “Considerations on the Proprietary of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies,” https://www.google.com/books/edition/_/xGsBAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PP1. On June 8, 1765, the Massachusetts House of Representatives issued a circular letter calling for colonial delegates to convene a Stamp Act Congress in New York the following October. The quote on the “extremely burthensome and grievous” taxes is from “The Declaration of Rights and Grievances,” written by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, and issued by the Stamp Act Congress, discussed in Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 108-119.

[19] Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser, August 26, 1765, in Richard L. Bushman, King and People in Provincial Massachusetts (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1985), 194.

[20] Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 126-130 Nash, Urban Crucible, 292-293.

[21] Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 130, notes that there were “more genteel members of the mob, disguised in trousers and jackets which marked a workingman.”

[22] Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 126-130 Nash, Urban Crucible, 260-262, 292-293 Peter Shaw, American Patriots and the Rituals of Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), 15-18. Contemporary accounts in Boston Gazette, August 19 and September 16, 1765, Harbottle Dorr Collection, I: 166, 193, https://www.masshist.org/dorr/. Boyle’s Journal of Occurrences, August 14, 1765, 84: 169. Background in Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 130-131.

[23] Contemporary accounts in Boston Gazette, August 19 and September 16, 1765, Harbottle Dorr Collection, I: 166, 193, https://www.masshist.org/dorr/. Boyle’s Journal of Occurrences, August 14, 1765, 84: 169. Background in Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 130-131. For more on the relationship between Revolutionary leaders and the “lower sort,” see Dirk Hoerder, “Boston Leaders and Boston Crowds, 1765-1775," in Ed., Alfred F. Young, The American Revolution: Explorations in the History of Radicalism (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 1976), 233-271.

[24] Nash, Urban Crucible, 226-227, 271-281 Bernard Bailyn, The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1974), 64-69.

[25] The best description is in Hutchinson’s letter to Richard Jackson, August 30, 1765, https://www.colonialsociety.org/node/2532#chsect1705. See also, Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 131-134, Nash, Urban Crucible, 294.

[26] Boston Gazette, September 2, 1765, Harbottle Dorr Collection, I: 177, https://www.masshist.org/dorr/.

[27] Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, Chapter 9 (“Contagion and Resignations”).

[28] Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, 107-119. On non-importation, which continued throughout the Revolutionary era, see Nash, Urban Crucible, 354-371, passim.

[29] Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, Chapter 15 Greene, Colonies to Nation, 65-66, 68-72.

[30] Greene, Colonies to Nation, 65-85 Christie, Crisis of Empire, 55-64.

[31] On celebration of repeal, Boston Gazette, May 19, 26 1766, Harbottle Dorr Collection I: 411, 412, 415.


1764 to 1765

Sugar Act. Parliament, desiring revenue from its North American colonies, passed the first law specifically aimed at raising colonial money for the Crown. The act increased duties on non-British goods shipped to the colonies.

Currency Act. This act prohibited American colonies from issuing their own currency, angering many American colonists.

Beginnings of Colonial Opposition. American colonists responded to the Sugar Act and the Currency Act with protest. In Massachusetts, participants in a town meeting cried out against taxation without proper representation in Parliament, and suggested some form of united protest throughout the colonies. By the end of the year, many colonies were practicing nonimportation, a refusal to use imported English goods.

Quartering Act. The British further angered American colonists with the Quartering Act, which required the colonies to provide barracks and supplies to British troops.

Stamp Act. Parliament's first direct tax on the American colonies, this act, like those passed in 1764, was enacted to raise money for Britain. It taxed newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets, broadsides, legal documents, dice, and playing cards. Issued by Britain, the stamps were affixed to documents or packages to show that the tax had been paid.

Organized Colonial Protest. American colonists responded to Parliament's acts with organized protest. Throughout the colonies, a network of secret organizations known as the Sons of Liberty was created, aimed at intimidating the stamp agents who collected Parliament's taxes. Before the Stamp Act could even take effect, all the appointed stamp agents in the colonies had resigned. The Massachusetts Assembly suggested a meeting of all the colonies to work for the repeal of the Stamp Act. All but four colonies were represented. The Stamp Act Congress passed a "Declaration of Rights and Grievances," which claimed that American colonists were equal to all other British citizens, protested taxation without representation, and stated that, without colonial representation in Parliament, Parliament could not tax colonists. In addition, the colonists increased their nonimportation efforts.


Things to remember while reading an excerpt from the Stamp Act:

  • Few people in England expected the anger that greeted the passage of the Stamp Act. Certainly members of Parliament did not. Even Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) did not, although he was employed by several of the colonies to represent them in London on business matters, and he might be expected to know how people would feel about such a tax. Franklin was in London on colonial business in the summer of 1765, unaware of all the uproar that was going on back home.
  • After the Stamp Act passed, Franklin's attitude was, what's done is done, and one might as well make the best of it. He suggested to two of his friends, John Hughes and Jared Ingersoll, that they apply for jobs as stamp distributors. In the summer of 1765, Ingersoll's Boston home was attacked by an angry mob, while another mob in Philadelphia came close to destroying the homes of Franklin and Hughes. Friends and supporters of Franklin, including his wife Deborah, stood outside the Franklin home to prevent the mob from carrying out their threats. The mob's anger dissolved at the sight of these defenders, and the homes of the two men were not touched.

Aftermath

While unrest in the colonies subsided after the Stamp Act was repealed, the infrastructure that it created remained in place. The Committees of Correspondence, Sons of Liberty, and system of boycotts were to be refined and used later in protests against future British taxes. The larger constitutional issue of taxation without representation remained unresolved and continued to be a key part of colonial protests. The Stamp Act, along with future taxes such as the Townshend Acts, helped push the colonies along the path towards the American Revolution.


Watch the video: The Stamp Act APUSH Review with Tom Richey. Fiveable