After more than 60 years of almost continuous war, the British national debt had soared. Because a lot of the debt had come about by defending Americans from the French and Native Americans in America, the British government concluded that it was only fair that the Americans pay for part of it.

On the other side of the sea, more than a few Brits were peeved that their colonial cousins paid relatively little in taxes, especially because the British were among the highest taxed people in the world. So British Prime Minister George Grenville pushed a bill through Parliament that was explicitly designed to raise money from the colonists to pay for their defense.

The law actually lowered the tax on molasses but raised or imposed taxes on other things like sugar, wine, linen, and silk. Colonists objected, asserting that Parliament had no right to impose taxes on them without their assent. They also organized boycotts of the taxed goods and increased their already booming smuggling enterprises.