The Stamp Act of 1765

“Savages may indeed be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia; but upon the king’s regular and disciplined troops, Sir, it is impossible they should make an impression.”

Those were British General Edward Braddock‘s last words to Benjamin Franklin when he had been warned about the native Americans. Britian and France were fighting over land around the Ohio River and Mississippi River. This went on from 1754 to 1763.

The costs of the French Indian War, also known as the Seven Years War (for its eruption into a worldwide conflict in 1756), led to the the passing of the “Stamp Act,” by Parliament in 1765.

General Braddock killed July 9, 1755 at the Battle of Monongahela

Britain Finances the War

Britain was indebted millions of dollars due after funding the war that obtained the land that is now Canada, the Mississippi River valley, and the Ohio River valley.

Britain was in desperate straits trying to pay off the banks they owed for this funding. Parliament gathered, trying to think of ways to pay this off.

Finally, on February 6, 1765, George Grenville presented a bill to Parliament. This bill suggested that they tax the colonies in young America for the “protection” Britain had provided and was providing. The bill called for the stationing of 10,000 troops along the Applachian frontier to safeguard British possessions, but their greatest concern was their huge national debt.

The bill was passed on February 17th of that year. They called it the Stamp Act. This act taxed virtually every piece of paper that passed through the colonies, from newspapers to legal documents and even including playing cards and dice. Americans objected to paying a tax to play cards, write messages, and even play games with dice.

Colonial and British Response to the Stamp Act

The act applied not only to colonists but to England as well. In Britain, these acts would sometimes get so out of hand that riots would be the product of the taxation.

In America, the Stamp Act first produced the cry, “No taxation without representation.”

British citizens were only to be taxed by their representatives. Thus, the Virginia House of Burgesses, at the instigation of Patrick Henry, passed the Stamp Act Resolves, declaring all taxes illegal unless imposed by the House of Burgesses.

In response, Virginian British governor simply dissolved the House of Burgesses, but to no avail. Angry Virginians met George Mercer, the tax collector, and intimidated him into resigning.

New York then held a Stamp Act Congress and issued a Declaration of Rights and Grievances.

The Stamp Act is Repealed

The Stamp Act had a short lifespan.

Parliament repealed the Act in February, 1766, although it also issued the “Declatory Act,” officially stating England’s right to tax American colonies “in all cases whatsoever.”

The Stamp Act was replaced in 1767 by the Townshend Acts, a different set of taxes also meant to service England’s debt from the French and Indian War.

Opposing Opinions on the Floor of Parliament

Col. Isaac foore, obviously before his injury

We had to include this very interesting exchange between Charles Townshend, who would later be author of the Townshend Acts, and Col. Isaac foore, as reported by Virginia representative Jared Ingersoll.

Colonel foore was a member of Parliament who had fought in America during the Seven Years War, receiving injuries that left him blind in one eye and severely scarred on his face.

Discussion on the Floor of Parliament

Charles Townshend:

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?

Colonel Isaac foore:

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. And yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, they met all these hardships with pleasure, compared with those they suffered in their own country, from the hands of those who should have been their friends.

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: men promoted to the highest seats of justice; some who to my knowledge were glad by going to a foreign country to escape being brought to the foo of a court of justice in their own.

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. And believe me, remember I this day told you so, that same spirit of freedom which actuated that people at first, will accompany them still. But prudence forbids me to explain myself further. God knows I do not at this time speak from motives of party heat; what I deliver are the genuine sentiments of my heart; however superior to me in general knowledge and experience the reputable body of this House may be, yet I claim to know more of America than most of you, having seen and been conversant in that country. 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. [1]

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