The Stamp Act (1765)

Unsatisfied with the revenue from the Revenue Acts in 1764, British Parliament imposed a new levy on 50 items, including dice, playing cards, newspapers, marriage licenses, college degrees, and just about every other kind of legal document. Some of the taxes doubled the cost of the item. Not only that, the items had to be stamped or have a stamped receipt on them, showing the tax had been paid.

British citizens had been paying similar taxes for years, at even higher rates. But American colonists saw the Stamp Act taxes as only the beginning. Paying anything, they argued, was an invitation to be milked dry later.

In reaction to the tax, nine colonies sent 27 delegates to a meeting in New York City. The group drew up a petition and sent it to England, where it was ignored. But the colonies also began a boycott of British goods, which was not ignored.

Groups calling themselves the Sons of Liberty encouraged and bullied their fellow colleagues to wear “homespun” clothing instead of British wool. They also tarred and feathered more than a few would-be tax collectors.

The boycott had its desired effect. In 1766, under pressure from British manufacturers, Parliament repealed the taxes. But it also tried to save face by declaring that henceforth it had the right to pass any laws it wanted to govern the colonies.

Americans rejoiced at the tax repeal. They praised “Good King George.” In New York, they even erected a statue of him in his honor. And they blithely ignored the warning from Parliament.

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