Stamp Act

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 297

The Stamp Act was the English act of 1765 requiring that revenue stamps be affixed to all official documents in the American colonies. In 1765 the British Parliament, under the leadership of Prime Minister George Grenville, passed the Stamp Act, the first direct tax on the American colonies. The revenue measure was intended to help pay the debt incurred by the British in fighting the French and Indian War (1754?63) and to pay for the continuing defense of the colonies. Unexpectedly and to Parliament's great surprise, the Stamp Act ignited colonial opposition and outrage, leading to the first concerted effort by the colonists to resist Parliament and British authority. Though the act was repealed the following year, the events surrounding the tax protest became the first steps towards revolution and independence from England.

By the mid-eighteenth century, the economies of the American colonies had matured. The colonies chafed under the rules of British mercantilism, which sought to exploit the colonies as a source of raw materials and a market for the mother country. During the French and Indian War, the colonies asserted their economic independence by trading with the enemy, flagrantly defying customs laws, and evading trade regulations. These actions convinced the British government to bring the colonies into proper subordination and to use them as a source of revenue.

Colonists protest the Stamp Act of 1765 by burning Stamp Act papers in Boston.


The colonists had become accustomed to a limited degree of British regulation of trade. The Navigation Acts of 1660, for example, stipulated that no goods or commodities could be imported into or exported out of any British colony except in British ships. Later legislation stipulated that rice, molasses, beaver skins, furs, and naval stores could be shipped only to England. Duties were also imposed on the shipment of certain articles, such as rum and spirits. However, the Stamp Act was the first direct tax, a tax on domestically produced and consumed items, that Parliament ever levied upon the colonists.

The Stamp Act was designed to raise almost one-third of the revenue to support the military establishment permanently stationed in the colonies at the end of the French and Indian War. The act placed a tax on newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets and broadsides, legal documents of all kinds, insurance policies, ship's...

To continue reading