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Coming of the American Revolution: Document Viewer
Massachusetts Historical Society
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[Stamp Act (1765)]

[Stamp Act (1765)]

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The Stamps Are on Their Way
Whately's American informants urge caution. Many influential colonists, they insist, are firm in their intention to resist Grenville's proposed stamp duty. Agents lobbying for the colonial position meet with Grenville. The king's loyal subjects in America, the agents assert, understand their responsibility to help support the empire. They are willing, through their own representative legislatures, to levy taxes to raise the requisite revenue. Grenville, however, stands on principle: Parliament, he declares, has the authority to tax the colonists directly. In the House of Commons, Grenville carries his point. Parliament refuses to hear any petitions against the stamp bill, for to do so might call its prerogative into question. Facing scant opposition, Grenville ushers his bill through Parliament. The dreaded stamps are on their way across the Atlantic, to be landed in colonial ports.

Questions to Consider

1. The act lists over fifty items to be taxed. Make a list of twenty-five of them. Include at least five items with which you are unfamiliar. Look up their meaning in a dictionary.

2. The range of the tax extends from £6 to 3d. Find three items taxed at the high end (over £2) and two at the low end (under a shilling). Speculate why the treasury may have taxed those particular items high and low. Research British monetary equivalents, that is, how many pennies (d.) make a shilling (s.); how many shillings make a pound (£)?

3. Provisions 17-27 outline penalties for violating the Stamp Act. What is the harshest penalty? Why do you think the punishment is so harsh?

Further Exploration

4. Provision 13 is a crucial measure that will have wide-ranging implications for how Americans resist the tax in the future. Summarize that provision. Look forward in the Stamp Act unit and explain that resistance.