Mar 222013

On March 22, 1765, the British Parliament passed the Duties in American Colonies Act 1765. You might be more familiar with its common name: the Stamp Act. If Lord North’s resignation signaled a tipping point to the end of the American Revolution, then passage of the Stamp Act was the flame which caused the revolutionary pot to boil over.  

The Colonists had already been burdened by the Sugar and Currency Acts. Those acts, however, regulated trade but did not actually impose a tax. The Stamp Act was different. It was the first direct tax imposed upon Colonists. The key word in that last sentence is “imposed.”  There had already been grumblings about actions taken by the King and Parliament without input or consent from those living across The Pond. In the 1764 pamphlet, The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, James Otis contended: “no parts of His Majesty’s dominions can be taxed without their consent; that every part has a right to be represented in the supreme or some subordinate legislature; that the refusal of this would seem to be a contradiction in practice to the theory of the constitution.”

 However, the pervasiveness of this tax surely caused the Colonists’ blood  to boil. Imagine what it must have been like to learn that a stamp much be purchased for so many things that were a part of day-to-day life?  That would include almanacs, deeds, playing cards, commercial papers, official documents, books, newspapers, pamphlets and basically any other paper good that the British could think of to tax.  Additionally, the tax could not be paid with Colonial paper money. Instead, the stamps were to be purchased with British currency. The attached images is a sheet of stamps necessitated by the Stamp Act.

From the perspective of the British Parliament, the Stamp Act paid for troops that were stationed in the Colonies both to protect the Colonists, as well as the British interest in what was produced on Colonial soil. It simply paid for costs incurred because the Colonies were a part of the British Empire. The thinking is similar to the “we need to pay for programs that are already in existence” mentality we hear so often in discussions about the debt ceiling. However, merchants in England felt the pinch of the resulting Colonial boycotts. They soon also objected to the measure and placed pressure on their representatives to repeal the tax.

Although the Stamp Act was repealed and replaced with the Declaratory Act, the seeds of discontent  were quickly germinating in the Colonies. Sons of Liberty organizations sprung up throughout the Colonies, and the march toward American independence quickened.  

Read the Stamp Act in its entirety at:

Read James Otis Jr.’’s  The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved at:


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