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What is a Stamp Act?

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The British 1765 Stamp Act, a law that taxed all printed papers and stamped them "paid," was a major trigger for the American Revolution, according to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Colonists found this tax to be unfair because, for the first time, the British government was taxing them to raise money instead of as a form of commercial regulation.

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The Seven Years' War, which was fought largely by colonial militia in North America, left Britain deeply in debt, explains the U.S. State Department's Department of the Historian. Prime Minister George Grenville addressed this indebtedness by lowering duty taxes on molasses and sugar, both critical colonial trade goods, but enforcing these taxes strictly. Because the colonists engaged heavily in smuggling to avoid duty taxes, this resulted in higher overall tax expenses, and New York and Massachusetts colonial legislatures both protested. In addition, Parliament passed laws against colonial scrip, insisting that all debts be paid in British pounds sterling.

In this already tense atmosphere, Parliament passed the Stamp Act. This was the first British law that directly taxed colonists, and it was passed without their input. The Virginia House of Burgesses passed Patrick Henry's Stamp Act Resolves, which were the source of the common colonial revolutionary phrase "no taxation without representation." Rioters in Boston destroyed the stamp distributor's house. Tensions rose, protests continued, and the British, finding profitable enforcement of the Stamp Act impossible, repealed the law and sought other means to raise revenue.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What did the Stamp Act Congress do?

    A:

    The Stamp Act Congress issued a Declaration of Rights and Grievances. This declaration stated that the British Parliament could not impose a tax on the American colonies because they were not represented within the government.

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  • Q:

    Why did many colonists protest the Stamp Act?

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    American colonists protested the Stamp Act of 1765 because it was a tax imposed on them by the British Parliament instead of their elected colonial legislatures. They believed it was unjust to be taxed without their consent by unelected rulers.

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  • Q:

    What caused the Stamp Act?

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    According to UShistory.org, the Stamp Act of 1765 was an attempt on the part of Great Britain's Parliament to reduce the country's national debt, which had grown from £72,289,673 to £129,586,789 over the previous 10 years, largely as a result of the Seven Years War. The Stamp Act was the first serious attempt Parliament made to tax the colonies and assert authority over them.

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  • Q:

    How did the colonists react to the Stamp Act?

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    Colonists reacted to the Stamp Act of 1765 by vocalizing their dissent in assemblies, newspapers and the Stamp Act Congress, which drafted a document called the Stamp Act Resolves. Additionally, violent protesters threatened stamp distributors, forcing them to resign their commissions, and mobs prevented stamp papers from entering the country.

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