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"The Stamp Act"

Started by Newsletter, October 30, 2023, 06:29:11 PM

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The Stamp Act
By: Ah1Tom

The Stamp Act came into effect on November 1st, 1765. The British Parliament had passed this act to replenish their finances following the costly Seven Years' War with France. A portion of the revenue generated from the Stamp Act was designated to maintain several regiments of British soldiers in North America, aiming to keep the peace between Native Americans and the colonists. Moreover, due to the reluctance of colonial juries to convict smugglers of their crimes, those who violated the Stamp Act could be tried and convicted without jury trials in the vice-admiralty courts.

The Seven Years' War, which spanned from 1756 to 1763, concluded the longstanding rivalry between France and Britain for control of North America. While it was a victory for Britain, it left the British Empire burdened with a significant debt. Given that the war had benefited the American colonies as much as any other part of the British Empire, the British government decided that the colonists should bear some of the war's financial burden.

Rather than imposing duties on trade goods, the Stamp Act introduced a direct tax on the colonists. Specifically, the act required that legal documents and printed materials bear a tax stamp. This law applied to wills, deeds, newspapers, pamphlets, and even everyday items like playing cards and dice.

Coming at a time of economic hardship in the colonies, the Stamp Act triggered intense opposition. Although most colonists still acknowledged Parliament's authority to regulate their trade, they asserted that only their representative assemblies had the power to impose direct, internal taxes, such as those levied by the Stamp Act. They rejected the British government's argument that all British subjects enjoyed virtual representation in Parliament, even if they could not vote for its members.

The colonists also strongly objected to the provision that denied offenders the right to a trial by jury. Initial colonial resistance to the act was gradual, but it gained momentum as the scheduled implementation date approached. In Virginia, Patrick Henry submitted a series of resolutions to the House of Burgesses, his colony's assembly. These resolutions denied Parliament's right to tax the colonies and called on colonists to resist the Stamp Act. Newspapers across the colonies republished these resolutions, spreading their radical message widely. The resolutions set the tone for the proclamations of the Stamp Act Congress, an unofficial gathering of delegates from nine colonies that convened in October 1765. The Stamp Act Congress drafted petitions to the king, affirming their loyalty while asserting that only the colonial assemblies possessed the constitutional authority to tax the colonists.

While the Stamp Act Congress and colonial assemblies passed resolutions and issued petitions against the Stamp Act, the colonists took direct action. The most famous act of popular resistance occurred in Boston, where opponents of the Stamp Act, known as the Sons of Liberty, mobilized the Boston populace against the new law. This group paraded through the streets, displaying an effigy of Andrew Oliver, Boston's stamp distributor, which they hung from the Liberty Tree and beheaded before ransacking Oliver's home. Under this pressure, Oliver agreed to resign his position as stamp distributor.

Early on in 1766, most of the stamp distributors had resigned their positions, often due to duress. Mobs in seaport towns prevented ships carrying stamp papers from England from unloading their cargoes. The determined colonial resistance made it impossible for the British government to enforce the Stamp Act, leading to its repeal by Parliament in 1766.

Source: Stamp Act; By: Editors; Website Name: HISTORY; URL:; A&E Television Networks; Last Updated: June 20, 2023, Original Published Date: November 9, 2009