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Stamp Act

Stamp Act

In 1765 the British Parliament passed the stamp act, which imposed the first direct tax on the American colonies. The revenue measure was intended to help pay off the debt the British had incurred during the French and Indian War and to pay for the continuing defense of the colonies. 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.

The Stamp Act was designed to raise almost one-third of the revenue needed 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 papers, licenses, and even playing cards and dice. All these documents and objects had to carry a tax stamp.

In October 1765 nine of the thirteen colonies sent delegates to New York to attend the Stamp Act Congress. The Congress issued a "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" declaring that British subjects in the colonies had the same "rights and liberties" as the king's subjects in Britain. The Congress, noting that the colonies were not represented in Parliament, concluded that no taxes could be constitutionally imposed on them except by their own legislatures. Colonial merchants also organized an effective economic boycott that led to the bankruptcy of some London merchants.

The Stamp Act was repealed in 1766. Nevertheless, Parliament then passed the Declaratory Act, which asserted that Parliament had full authority to make laws that were legally binding on the colonies.

Stamp Act

An Act for Granting and Applying Certain Stamp Duties, and Other Duties, in the British Colonies and Plantations in America, towards Further Defraying the Expenses of Defending, Protecting, and Securing the Same; and for Amending Such Parts of the Several Acts of Parliament Relating to the Trade and Revenues of the Said Colonies and Plantations, as Direct the Manner of Determining and Recovering the Penalties and Forfeitures Therein Mentioned

Source: Danby Pickering, ed., The Statutes at Large from Magna Carta to the End of the Eleventh Parliament of Great Britain, Anno 1761: Continued, vol. 26 (1765), pp. 179–205.

CHAPTER 1

Whereas by an act made in the last session of Parliament, several duties were granted, continued, and appropriated towards defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the British colonies and plantations in America; and whereas it is just and necessary that provision be made for raising a further revenue within your Majesty's dominions in America, towards defraying the said expenses, we, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled, have therefore resolved to give and grant unto your Majesty the several rates and duties hereinafter mentioned; and do most humbly beseech your Majesty that it may be enacted, and be it enacted by the king's most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that from and after the first day of November, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-five, there shall be raised, levied, collected, and paid unto his Majesty, his heirs, and successors throughout the colonies and plantations in America which now are, or hereafter may be, under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs, and successors,

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any declaration, plea, replication, rejoinder, demurrer, or other pleading, or any copy thereof, in any court of law within the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty of three pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any special bail and appearance upon such bail in any such court, a stamp duty of two shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any petition, bill, answer, claim, plea, replication, rejoinder, demurrer, or other pleading in any court of chancery or equity within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of one shilling and six pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any copy of any petition, bill, answer, claim, plea, replication, rejoinder, demurrer, or other pleading in any such court, a stamp duty of three pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any monition, libel, answer, allegation, inventory, or renunciation in ecclesiastical matters in any court of probate, court of the ordinary, or other court exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of one shilling.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any copy of any will (other than the probate thereof), monition, libel, answer, allegation, inventory, or renunciation in ecclesiastical matters in any such court, a stamp duty of six pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any donation, presentation, collation, or institution of or to any benefice, or any writ or instrument for the like purpose, or any register, entry, testimonial, or certificate of any degree taken in any university, academy, college, or seminary of learning within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of two pounds.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any monition, libel, claim, answer, allegation, information, letter of request, execution, renunciation, inventory, or other pleading, in any admiralty court within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of one shilling.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which any copy of any such monition, libel, claim, answer, allegation, information, letter of request, execution, renunciation, inventory, or other pleading shall be engrossed, written, or printed, a stamp duty of six pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed, any appeal, writ of error, writ of dower, ad quod damnum, certiorari, statute merchant, statute staple, attestation, or certificate by any officer or exemplification of any record or proceeding in any court whatsoever within the said colonies and plantations (except appeals, writs of error, certiorari, attestations, certificates, and exemplifications, for or relating to the removal of any proceedings from before a single justice of the peace), a stamp duty of ten shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any writ of covenant for levying of fines, writ of entry for suffering a common recovery, or attachment issuing out of, or returnable into, any court within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of five shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any judgment, decree, sentence, or dismission, or any record of nisi prius or postea, in any court within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of four shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any affidavit, common bail or appearance, interrogatory deposition, rule, order, or warrant of any court, or any dedimus potestatem, capias, subpoena, summons, compulsory citation, commission, recognizance, or any other writ, process, or mandate, issuing out of, or returnable into, any court or any office belonging thereto or any other proceeding therein whatsoever or any copy thereof or of any record not herein before charged within the said colonies and plantations (except warrants relating to criminal matters and proceedings thereon or relating thereto), a stamp duty of one shilling.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any license, appointment, or admission of any counselor, solicitor, attorney, advocate, or proctor to practice in any court, or of any notary within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of ten pounds.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any note or bill of lading, which shall be signed for any kind of goods, wares, or merchandise to be exported from, or any cocket [a document sealed by the Custom House] or clearance granted within, the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of four pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed letters of marque, or commission for private ships of war, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of twenty shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any grant, appointment, or admission of or to any public beneficial office or employment for the space of one year, or any lesser time, of or above the value of twenty pounds per annum sterling money in salary, fees, and perquisites within the said colonies and plantations (except commissions and appointments of officers of the army, navy, ordnance, or militia, of judges, and of justices of the peace), a stamp duty of ten shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which any grant of any liberty, privilege, or franchise under the seal of any of the said colonies or plantations, or under the seal or sign manual of any governor, proprietor, or public officer alone or in conjunction with any other person or persons, or with any council, or any council and assembly, or any exemplification of the same, shall be engrossed, written, or printed within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of six pounds.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any license for retailing of spirituous liquors, to be granted to any person who shall take out the same within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of twenty shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any license for retailing of wine, to be granted to any person who shall not take out a license for retailing of spirituous liquors within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of four pounds.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any license for retailing of wine, to be granted to any person who shall take out a license for retailing of spirituous liquors within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of three pounds.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any probate of a will, letters of administration, or of guardianship for any estate above the value of twenty pounds sterling money; within the British colonies and plantations upon the continent of America, the islands belonging thereto, and the Bermuda and Bahama islands, a stamp duty of five shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such probate, letters of administration or of guardianship within all other parts of the British dominions in America, a stamp duty of ten shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any bond for securing the payment of any sum of money, not exceeding the sum of ten pounds sterling money, within the British colonies and plantations upon the continent of America, the islands belonging thereto, and the Bermuda and Bahama islands, a stamp duty of six pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any bond for securing the payment of any sum of money above ten pounds, and not exceeding the sum of twenty pounds sterling money, within such colonies, plantations, and islands, a stamp duty of one shilling.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any bond for securing the payment of any sum of money above twenty pounds, and not exceeding forty pounds sterling money, within such colonies, plantations, and islands, a stamp duty of one shilling and six pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any order or warrant for surveying or setting out any quantity of land, not exceeding one hundred acres, issued by any governor, proprietor, or any public officer alone, or in conjunction with any other person or persons, or with any council or any council and assembly, within the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty of six pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such order or warrant for surveying or setting out any quantity of land above one hundred, and not exceeding two hundred acres, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of one shilling.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such order or warrant for surveying or setting out any quantity of land above two hundred, and not exceeding three hundred and twenty acres, and in proportion for every such order or warrant for surveying or setting out every other three hundred and twenty acres within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of one shilling and six pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any original grant or any deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever by which any quantity of land not exceeding one hundred acres shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned within the British colonies and plantations upon the continent of America, the islands belonging thereto, and the Bermuda and Bahama islands (except leases for any term not exceeding the term of twenty-one years), a stamp duty of one shilling and six pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such original grant or any such deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever by which any quantity of land above one hundred, and not exceeding two hundred acres, shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned within such colonies, plantations, and islands, a stamp duty of two shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such original grant or any such deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever by which any quantity of land above two hundred, and not exceeding three hundred and twenty acres, shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned, and in proportion for every such grant, deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument, granting, conveying, or assigning, every other three hundred and twenty acres within such colonies, plantations, and islands, a stamp duty of two shillings and six pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such original grant or any such deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever by which any quantity of land not exceeding one hundred acres shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned within all other parts of the British dominions in America, a stamp duty of three shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such original grant or any such deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever by which any quantity of land above one hundred, and not exceeding two hundred acres, shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned within the same parts of the said dominions, a stamp duty of four shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such original grant or any such deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever whereby any quantity of land above two hundred, and not exceeding three hundred and twenty acres, shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned, and in proportion for every such grant, deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument, granting, conveying, or assigning every other three hundred and twenty acres within the same parts of the said dominions, a stamp duty of five shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any grant, appointment, or admission of or to any public beneficial office or employment, not herein before charged, above the value of twenty pounds per annum sterling money in salary, fees, and perquisites, or any exemplification of the same, within the British colonies and plantations upon the continent of America, the islands belonging thereto, and the Bermuda and Bahama islands (except commissions of officers of the army, navy, ordnance, or militia, and of justices of the peace), a stamp duty of four pounds.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such grant, appointment, or admission, of or to any such public beneficial office or employment, or any exemplification of the same, within all other parts of the British dominions in America, a stamp duty of six pounds.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any indenture, lease, conveyance, contract, stipulation, bill of sale, charter party, protest, articles of apprenticeship, or covenant (except for the hire of servants not apprentices, and also except such other matters as are herein before charged) within the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty of two shillings and six pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which any warrant or order for auditing any public accounts, beneficial warrant, order, grant, or certificate under any public seal, or under the seal or sign manual of any governor, proprietor, or public officer alone, or in conjunction with any other person or persons, or with any council or any council and assembly not herein before charged, or any passport or let-pass, surrender of office, or policy of assurance shall be engrossed, written, or printed within the said colonies and plantations (except warrants or orders for the service of the navy, army, ordnance, or militia, and grants of offices under twenty pounds per annum in salary, fees, and perquisites), a stamp duty of five shillings.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any notarial act, bond, deed, letter of attorney, procuration, mortgage, release, or other obligatory instrument not herein before charged within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of two shillings and three pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any register, entry, or enrollment of any grant, deed, or other instrument whatsoever herein before charged within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of three pence.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any register, entry, or enrollment of any grant, deed, or other instrument whatsoever not herein before charged within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of two shillings.

And for and upon every pack of playing cards and all dice which shall be sold or used within the said colonies and plantations, the several stamp duties following (that is to say):

For every pack of such cards, the sum of one shilling.

And for every pair of such dice, the sum of ten shillings.

And for and upon every paper, commonly called a pamphlet, and upon every newspaper containing public news, intelligence, or occurrences, which shall be printed, dispersed, and made public, within any of the said colonies and plantations, and for and upon such advertisements as are hereinafter mentioned, the respective duties following (that is to say):

For every such pamphlet and paper contained in half a sheet, or any lesser piece of paper, which shall be so printed, a stamp duty of one halfpenny for every printed copy thereof.

For every such pamphlet and paper (being larger than half a sheet and not exceeding one whole sheet), which shall be so printed, a stamp duty of one penny for every printed copy thereof.

For every such pamphlet and paper being larger than one whole sheet and not exceeding six sheets in octavo, or in a lesser page, or not exceeding twelve sheets in quarto, or twenty sheets in folio, which shall be so printed, a duty after the rate of one shilling for every sheet of any kind of paper which shall be contained in one printed copy thereof.

For every advertisement to be contained in any gazette, newspaper, or other paper, or any pamphlet which shall be so printed, a duty of two shillings.

For every almanac or calendar for any one particular year, or for any time less than a year, which shall be written or printed on one side only of any one sheet, skin, or piece of paper, parchment, or vellum within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of two pence.

For every other almanac or calendar for any one particular year, which shall be written or printed within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of four pence.

And for every almanac or calendar written or printed within the said colonies and plantations to serve for several years, duties to the same amount respectively shall be paid for every such year.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment or sheet or piece of paper on which any instrument, proceeding, or other matter or thing aforesaid shall be engrossed, written, or printed within the said colonies and plantations in any other than the English language, a stamp duty of double the amount of the respective duties before charged thereon.

And there shall be also paid in the said colonies and plantations a duty of six pence for every twenty shillings, in any sum not exceeding fifty pounds sterling money, which shall be given, paid, contracted, or agreed for, with or in relation to any clerk or apprentice, which shall be put or placed to or with any master or mistress to learn any profession, trade, or employment.

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CHAPTER 12

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that the said several duties shall be under the management of the commissioners, for the time being, of the duties charged on stamped vellum, parchment, and paper in Great Britain: and the said commissioners are hereby empowered and required to employ such officers under them for that purpose as they shall think proper; and to use such stamps and marks to denote the stamp duties hereby charged as they shall think fit; and to repair, renew, or alter the same, from time to time, as there shall be occasion; and to do all other acts, matters, and things necessary to be done for putting this act in execution with relation to the duties hereby charged.

CHAPTER 13

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that the commissioners for managing the said duties, for the time being, shall and may appoint a fit person or persons to attend in every court or public office within the said colonies and plantations to take notice of the vellum, parchment, or paper upon which any of the matters or things hereby charged with a duty shall be engrossed, written, or printed, and of the stamps or marks thereupon, and of all other matters and things tending to secure the said duties; and that the judges in the several courts and all other persons to whom it may appertain shall, at the request of any such officer, make such orders and do such other matters and things for the better securing of the said duties, as shall be lawfully or reasonably desired in that behalf: and every commissioner and other officer, before he proceeds to the execution of any part of this act, shall take an oath in the words, or to the effect following (that is to say):

I A.B. do swear that I will faithfully execute the trust reposed in me, pursuant to an act of Parliament made in the fifth year of the reign of his majesty King George the Third for granting certain stamp duties and other duties in the British colonies and plantations in America without fraud or concealment; and will from time to time true account make of my doing therein and deliver the same to such person or persons as his Majesty, his heirs, or successors shall appoint to receive such account; and will take no fee, reward, or profit for the execution or performance of the said trust or the business relating thereto from any person or persons other than such as shall be allowed by his Majesty, his heirs, and successors, or by some other person or persons under him or them to that purpose authorized.

Or if any such officer shall be of the people commonly called Quakers, he shall take a solemn affirmation to the effect of the said oath; which oath or affirmation shall and may be administered to any such commissioner or commissioners by any two or more of the same commissioners, whether they have or have not previously taken the same: and any of the said commissioners or any justice of the peace within the kingdom of Great Britain, or any governor, lieutenant governor, judge, or other magistrate within the said colonies or plantations, shall and may administer such oath or affirmation to any subordinate officer.

CHAPTER 14

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that the said commissioners and all officers to be employed or entrusted by or under them as aforesaid shall, from time to time, in and for the better execution of their several places and trusts observe such rules, methods, and orders as they respectively shall, from time to time, receive from the high treasurer of Great Britain or the commissioners of the treasury or any three or more of such commissioners for the time being; and that the said commissioners for managing the stamp duties shall take especial care that the several parts of the said colonies and plantations shall, from time to time, be sufficiently furnished with vellum, parchment, and paper, stamped or marked with the said respective duties.

CHAPTER 15

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that if any person or persons shall sign, engross, write, print, or sell, or expose to sale or cause to be signed, engrossed, written, printed, or sold or exposed to sale in any of the said colonies or plantations or in any other part of his Majesty's dominions any matter or thing for which the vellum, parchment, or paper is hereby charged to pay any duty before the same shall be marked or stamped with the marks or stamps to be provided as aforesaid, or upon which there shall not be some stamp or mark resembling the same; or shall sign, engross, write, print, or sell, or expose to sale or cause to be signed, engrossed, written, printed, or sold or exposed to sale any matter or thing upon any vellum, parchment, or paper that shall be marked or stamped for any lower duty than the duty by this act made payable in respect thereof; every such person so offending shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of ten pounds.

CHAPTER 16

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that no matter or thing whatsoever by this act charged with the payment of a duty shall be pleaded or given in evidence or admitted in any court within the said colonies and plantations, to be good, useful, or available in law or equity, unless the same shall be marked or stamped in pursuance of this act with the respective duty hereby charged thereon, or with an higher duty.

CHAPTER 17

Provided nevertheless, and be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that if any vellum, parchment, or paper containing any deed, instrument, or other matter or thing shall not be duly stamped in pursuance of this act at the time of the signing, sealing, or other execution or the entry or enrollment thereof, any person interested therein, or any person on his or her behalf, upon producing the same to any one of the chief distributors of stamped vellum, parchment, and paper, and paying to him the sum of ten pounds for every such deed, instrument, matter, or thing, and also double the amount of the duties payable in respect thereof, shall be entitled to receive from such distributor vellum, parchment, or paper stamped pursuant to this act to the amount of the money so paid; a certificate being first written upon every such piece of vellum, parchment, or paper, expressing the name and place of abode of the person by or on whose behalf such payment is made, the general purport of such deed, instrument, matter, or thing, the names of the parties therein and of the witnesses (if any) thereto, and the date thereof, which certificate shall be signed by the said distributor; and the vellum, parchment, or paper shall be then annexed to such deed, instrument, matter, or thing, by or in the presence of such distributor, who shall impress a seal upon wax to be affixed on the part where such annexation shall be made in the presence of a magistrate, who shall attest such signature and sealing; and the deed, instrument, or other matter or thing from thenceforth shall and may, with the vellum, parchment, or paper so annexed, be admitted and allowed in evidence in any court whatsoever and shall be as valid and effectual as if the proper stamps had been impressed thereon at the time of the signing, sealing, or other execution or entry or enrollment thereof: and the said distributor shall once in every six months, or oftener if required by the commissioners for managing the stamp duties, send to such commissioners true copies of all such certificates and an account of the number of pieces of vellum, parchment, and paper so annexed and of the respective duties impressed upon every such piece.

CHAPTER 18

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that if any person shall forge, counterfeit, erase, or alter any such certificate, every such person so offending shall be guilty of felony and shall suffer death as in cases of felony without the benefit of clergy.

CHAPTER 19

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that if any person or persons shall, in the said colonies or plantations or in any other part of his Majesty's dominions, counterfeit or forge any seal, stamp, mark, type, device, or label to resemble any seal, stamp, mark, type, device, or label which shall be provided or made in pursuance of this act; or shall counterfeit or resemble the impression of the same upon any vellum, parchment, paper, cards, dice, or other matter or thing thereby to evade the payment of any duty hereby granted; or shall make, sign, print, utter, vend, or sell any vellum, parchment, or paper or other matter or thing with such counterfeit mark or impression thereon, knowing such mark or impression to be counterfeited; then every person so offending shall be adjudged a felon and shall suffer death as in cases of felony without the benefit of clergy.

CHAPTER 20

And it is hereby declared that upon any prosecution or prosecutions for such felony, the dye, tool, or other instrument made use of in counterfeiting or forging any such seal, stamp, mark, type, device, or label, together with the vellum, parchment, paper, cards, dice, or other matter or thing having such counterfeit impression, shall, immediately after the trial or conviction of the party or parties accused, be broke, defaced, or destroyed in open court.

CHAPTER 21

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that if any register, public officer, clerk, or other person in any court, registry, or office within any of the said colonies or plantations shall, at any time after the said first day of November, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-five, enter, register, or enroll any matter or thing hereby charged with a stamp duty, unless the same shall appear to be duly stamped; in every such case such register, public officer, clerk, or other person shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of twenty pounds.

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CHAPTER 49

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that the high treasurer of Great Britain, or the commissioners of his Majesty's treasury, or any three or more of such commissioners, for the time being shall once in every year at least set the prices at which all sorts of stamped vellum, parchment, and paper shall be sold by the said commissioners for managing the stamp duties and their officers; and that the said commissioners for the said duties shall cause such prices to be marked upon every such skin and piece of vellum and parchment and sheet and piece of paper: and if any officer or distributor to be appointed by virtue of this act shall sell, or cause to be sold, any vellum, parchment, or paper for a greater or higher price or sum than the price or sum so set or affixed thereon; every such officer or distributor shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of twenty pounds.

CHAPTER 50

And be it also enacted by the authority aforesaid that several officers who shall be respectively employed in the raising, receiving, collecting, or paying the several duties hereby charged within the said colonies and plantations shall every twelve months or oftener, if thereunto required by the said commissioners for managing the said duties, exhibit his and their respective account and accounts of the said several duties upon oath, or if a Quaker upon affirmation, in the presence of the governor, or commander in chief, or principal judge of the colony or plantation where such officers shall be respectively resident, in such manner as the high treasurer, or the commissioners of the treasury, or any three or more of such commissioners for the time being shall, from time to time, direct and appoint, in order that the same may be immediately afterwards transmitted by the said officer or officers to the commissioners for managing the said duties, to be comptrolled and audited according to the usual course and form of comptrolling and auditing the accounts of the stamp duties arising within this kingdom: and if any of the said officers shall neglect or refuse to exhibit any such account, or to verify the same upon oath or affirmation, or to transmit any such account so verified to the commissioners for managing the said duties in such manner, and within such time, as shall be so appointed or directed; or shall neglect or refuse to pay, or cause to be paid into the hands of the receiver general of the stamp duties in Great Britain, or to such other person or persons as the high treasurer, or commissioners of the treasury, or any three or more of such commissioners for the time being shall, from time to time, nominate or appoint, the monies respectively raised, levied, and received by such officers under the authority of this act, at such times, and in such manner as they shall be respectively required by the said high treasurer, or commissioners of the treasury; or if any such officers shall divert, detain, or mis-apply all or any part of the said monies so by them respectively raised, levied, and received, or shall knowingly return any person or persons insuper for any monies or other things duly answered, paid, or accounted for by such person or persons, whereby he or they shall sustain any damage or prejudice; in every such case, every such officer shall be liable to pay treble the value of all and every sum and sums of money so diverted or misapplied; and shall also be liable to pay treble damages to the party grieved, by returning him insuper.

CHAPTER 51

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that the commissioners, receiver or receivers general, or other person or persons who shall be respectively employed in Great Britain in the directing, receiving, or paying the monies arising by the duties hereby granted shall, and are hereby required, between the tenth day of October and the fifth day of January following, and so from year to year, yearly, at those times, to exhibit their respective accounts thereof to his Majesty's auditors of the imprest in England for the time being, or one of them, to be declared before the high treasurer or commissioners of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer for the time being, according to the course of the exchequer.

CHAPTER 52

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that if the said commissioners for managing the said duties, or the said receiver or receivers general, shall neglect or refuse to pay into the exchequer all or any of the said monies in such manner as they are required by this act to pay the same, or shall divert or misapply any part thereof, then they, and every of them so offending, shall be liable to pay double the value of all and every sum and sums of money so diverted or misapplied.

CHAPTER 53

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that the comptroller or comptrollers for the time being of the duties hereby imposed shall keep perfect and distinct accounts in books fairly written of all the monies arising by the said duties; and if any such comptroller or comptrollers shall neglect his or their duty therein, then he or they, for every such offense, shall forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds.

CHAPTER 54

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that all the monies which shall arise by the several rates and duties hereby granted (except the necessary charges of raising, collecting, recovering, answering, paying, and accounting for the same, and the necessary charges from time to time incurred in relation to this act, and the execution thereof) shall be paid into the receipt of his Majesty's exchequer, and shall be entered separate and apart from all other monies, and shall be there reserved to be from time to time disposed of by Parliament towards further defraying the necessary expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the said colonies and plantations.

CHAPTER 55

And whereas it is proper that some provision should be made for payment of the necessary expenses which have been and shall be incurred in relation to this act and the execution thereof; and of the orders and rules to be established under the authority of the same before the said duties shall take effect, or the monies arising thereby shall be sufficient to discharge such expenses; be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid that his Majesty may, and he is hereby empowered by any warrant or warrants under his royal sign manual, at any time or times before the twentieth day of April, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-six, to cause to be issued and paid out of any of the surpluses, excesses, overplus monies, and other revenues composing the fund commonly called The sinking fund (except such monies of the said sinking fund as are appropriated to any particular use or uses, by any former act or acts of Parliament in that behalf) such sum and sums of money as shall be necessary to defray the said expenses; and the monies so issued shall be reimbursed by payment into the exchequer of the like sum or sums out of the first monies which shall arise by virtue of this act; which monies, upon the payment thereof into the exchequer, shall be carried to the account, and made part of the said fund.

CHAPTER 56

And it is hereby further enacted and declared that all the powers and authorities by this act granted to the commissioners for managing the duties upon stamped vellum, parchment, and paper shall and may be fully and effectually carried into execution by any three or more of the said commissioners, anything herein before contained to the contrary notwithstanding.

CHAPTER 57

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that all forfeitures and penalties incurred after the twenty-ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-five, for offenses committed against an act passed in the fourth year of the reign of his present Majesty, entitled, An act for granting certain duties in the British colonies and plantations in America; for continuing, amending, and making perpetual an act passed in the sixth year of the reign of his late Majesty King George the Second, entitled, An act for the better securing and encouraging the trade of his Majesty's sugar colonies in America; for applying for produce of such duties, and of the duties to arise by virtue of the said act towards defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the said colonies and plantations; for explaining an act made in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of King Charles the Second, entitled, An act for the encouragement of the Greenland and Eastland trades, and for the better securing the plantation trade; and for altering and disallowing several drawbacks on exports from this kingdom, and more effectually preventing the clandestine conveyance of goods to and from the said colonies and plantations, and improving and securing the trade between the same and Great Britain, and for offenses committed against any other act or acts of Parliament relating to the trade or revenues of the said colonies of plantations; shall and may be prosecuted, sued for, and recovered in any court of record, or in any court of admiralty in the respective colony or plantation where the offense shall be committed, or in any court of vice admiralty appointed or to be appointed, and which shall have jurisdiction within such colony, plantation, or place (which courts of admiralty or vice admiralty are hereby respectively authorized and required to proceed, hear, and determine the same) at the election of the informer or prosecutor.

CHAPTER 58

And it is hereby further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid that all sums of money granted and imposed by this act as rates or duties, and also all sums of money imposed as forfeitures or penalties, and all sums of money required to be paid, and all other monies herein mentioned shall be deemed and taken to be sterling money of Great Britain, and shall be collected, recovered, and paid to the amount of the value which such nominal sums bear in Great Britain; and that such monies shall and may be received and taken according to the proportion and value of five shillings and six pence the ounce in silver; and that all the forfeitures and penalties hereby inflicted, and which shall be incurred in the said colonies and plantations, shall and may be prosecuted, sued for, and recovered in any court of record, or in any court of admiralty in the respective colony or plantation where the offense shall be committed, or in any court of vice admiralty appointed or to be appointed, and which shall have jurisdiction within such colony, plantation, or place (which courts of admiralty or vice admiralty are hereby respectively authorized and required to proceed, hear, and determine the same) at the election of the informer or prosecutor; and that from and after the twenty-ninth day of September, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-five, in all cases where any suit or prosecution shall be commenced and determined for any penalty or forfeiture inflicted by this act, or by the said act made in the fourth year of his present Majesty's reign, or by any other act of Parliament relating to the trade or revenues of the said colonies or plantations in any court of admiralty in the respective colony or plantation where the offense shall be committed, either party, who shall think himself aggrieved by such determination, may appeal from such determination to any court of vice admiralty appointed or to be appointed, and which shall have jurisdiction within such colony, plantation, or place (which court of vice admiralty is hereby authorized and required to proceed, hear, and determine such appeal) any law, custom, or usage to the contrary notwithstanding; and the forfeitures and penalties hereby inflicted, which shall be incurred in any other part of his Majesty's dominions, shall and may be prosecuted, sued for, and recovered with full costs of suit in any court of record within the kingdom, territory, or place where the offense shall be committed, in such and the same manner as any debt or damage, to the amount of such forfeiture or penalty, can or may be sued for and recovered.

CHAPTER 59

And it is hereby further enacted that all the forfeitures and penalties hereby inflicted shall be divided, paid, and applied as follows; (that is to say) one-third part of all such forfeitures and penalties recovered in the said colonies and plantations shall be paid into the hands of one of the chief distributors of stamped vellum, parchment, and paper residing in the colony or plantation wherein the offender shall be convicted, for the use of his Majesty, his heirs, and successors; one-third part of the penalties and forfeitures so recovered, to the governor or commander in chief of such colony or plantation; and the other third part thereof to the person who shall inform or sue for the same; and that one moiety of all such penalties and forfeitures recovered in any other part of his Majesty's dominions shall be to the use of his Majesty, his heirs, and successors, and the other moiety thereof to the person who shall inform or sue for the same.

CHAPTER 60

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that all the offenses which are by this act made felony and shall be committed within any part of his Majesty's dominions, shall and may be heard, tried, and determined before any court of law within the respective kingdom, territory, colony, or plantation where the offense shall be committed, in such and the same manner as all other felonies can or may be heard, tried, and determined in such court.

CHAPTER 61

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that all the present governors or commanders in chief of any British colony or plantation shall, before the said first day of November, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-five, and all who hereafter shall be made governors or commanders in chief of the said colonies or plantations, or any of them, before their entrance into their government shall take a solemn oath to do their utmost that all and every the clauses contained in this present act be punctually and bona fide observed, according to the true intent and meaning thereof, so far as appertains unto the said governors or commanders in chief, respectively, under the like penalties, forfeitures, and disabilities, either for neglecting to take the said oath, or for wittingly neglecting to do their duty accordingly, as are mentioned and expressed in an act made in the seventh and eighth year of the reign of King William the Third, entitled, An act for preventing frauds and regulating abuses in the plantation trade; and the said oath hereby required to be taken shall be administered by such person or persons as hath or have been, or shall be appointed to administer the oath required to be taken by the said act made in the seventh and eighth year of the reign of King William the Third.

CHAPTER 62

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that all records, writs, pleadings, and other proceedings in all courts whatsoever, and all deeds, instruments, and writings whatsoever, hereby charged, shall be engrossed and written in such manner as they have been usually accustomed to be engrossed and written, or are now engrossed and written within the said colonies and plantations.

CHAPTER 63

And it is hereby further enacted that if any person or persons shall be sued or prosecuted, either in Great Britain or America, for anything done in pursurance of this act, such person and persons shall and may plead the general issue, and give this act and the special matter in evidence; and if it shall appear so to have been done, the jury shall find for the defendant or defendants: and if the plaintiff or plaintiffs shall become nonsuited, or discontinue his or their action after the defendant or defendants shall have appeared, or if judgment shall be given upon any verdict or demurrer against the plaintiff or plaintiffs, the defendant or defendants shall recover treble costs and have the like remedy for the same, as defendants have in other cases by law.

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Stamp Act (22 March 1765)

STAMP ACT (22 March 1765)


Maintaining order in the New World proved to be an expensive business. The end of the French and Indian War in 1763 greatly increased Great Britain's material holdings in North America, but it also brought under the watchful eye of the King's army large numbers of the defeated and disaffected. To meet the desperate need for fresh soldiers and new garrisons, the London Parliament leveled the Stamp Act, the first direct tax ever imposed on the American colonies. A duty on printed material, such as pamphlets, newspapers, and commercial documents (all of which were emblazoned with a special stamp), the Stamp Act of 1765 inflamed the colonists, who were not allowed to elect members of Parliament, and led to boycotts of British goods, petitions to the King, and a formal declaration of American grievances and rights from a body calling itself the Stamp Act Congress. Surprised by such harsh reaction, Parliament repealed the Act in 1766 (along with a restatement of its dominance over the colonies "in all cases whatsoever"), but the damage had already been done, and the groundwork for the American Revolution had been laid.

Laura M.Miller,
Vanderbilt University

See also Colonial Policy, British ; Stamp Act ; "Taxation Without Representation."

An act for granting and applying certain stamp duties, and other duties, in the British colonies and plantations in America, towards further defraying the expences of defending, protecting, and securing the same; and for amending such parts of the several acts of parliament relating to the trade and revenues of the said colonies and plantations, as direct the manner of determining and recovering the penalties and forfeitures therein mentioned.

Whereas by an act made in the last session of parliament, several duties were granted, continued, and appropriated, towards defraying the expences of defending, protecting, and securing, the British colonies and plantations in America: and whereas it is just and necessary, that provision be made for raising a further revenue within your Majesty's dominions in America, towards defraying the said expences: … be it enacted …, That from and after [November 1, 1765, ] there shall be raised, levied, collected, and paid unto his Majesty, his heirs, and successors, throughout the colonies and plantations in America which now are, or hereafter may be, under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs and successors,

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be ingrossed, written or printed, any declaration, plea, replication, rejoinder, demurrer, or other pleading, or any copy thereof, in any court of law within the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty of three pence.

For every skin … on which shall be ingrossed … any donation, presentation, collation, or institution of or to any benefice, or any writ or instrument for the like purpose, or any register, entry, testimonial, or certificate of any degree taken in any university, academy, college, or seminary of learning … a stamp duty of two pounds.…

For every skin … on which shall be ingrossed … any note or bill of lading, bill of lading, which shall be signed for any kind of goods, wares, or merchandize, to be exported from, or any cocket or clearance granted within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of four pence.…

For every skin … on which shall be ingrossed … any grant, appointment, or admission of or to any publick beneficial office or employment, for the space of one year, or any lesser time, of or above the value of twenty pounds per annum sterling money, in salary, fees, and perquisites …, (except commissions and appointments of officers of the army, navy, ordnance, or militia, of judges, and of justices of the peace) a stamp duty of ten shillings.…

For every skin … on which shall be ingrossed … any licence for retailing of spirituous liquors, to be granted to any person who shall take out the same …, a stamp duty of twenty shillings.…

For every skin … on which shall be ingrossed … any probate of a will, letters of administration, or of guardianship for any estate above the value of twenty pounds sterling money; within the British colonies and plantations upon the continent of America, the islands belonging thereto, and the Bermuda and Bahama islands, a stamp duty of five shillings.…

For every skin … on which shall be ingrossed … any bond for securing the payment of any sum of money, not exceeding the sum of ten pounds sterling money, within the British colonies and plantations upon the continent of America, the islands belonging thereto, and the Bermuda and Bahama islands, a stamp duty of six pence.…

For every skin … on which shall be ingrossed … any order or warrant for surveying or setting out any quantity of land, not exceeding one hundred acres, issued by any governor, proprietor, or any publick officer alone, or in conjunction with any other person or persons, or with any council, or any council and assembly, within the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty of six pence.…

For every skin … on which shall be ingrossed … any such original grant … by which any quantity of land not exceeding one hundred acres shall be granted … within all other parts of the British dominions in America, a stamp duty of three shillings. [Further provision for larger grants.]

For every skin … on which shall be ingrossed … any grant, appointment, or admission, of or to any publick beneficial office or employment, not herein before charged, above the value of twenty pounds per annum sterling money in salary, fees, and perquisites, or any exemplification of the same, within the British colonies and plantations upon the continent of America, the islands belonging thereto, and the Bermuda and Bahama islands (except commissions of officers of the army, navy, ordnance, or militia, and of justices of the peace) a stamp duty of four pounds.…

For every skin … on which shall be ingrossed … any indenture, lease, conveyance, contract, stipulation, bill of sale, charter party, protest, articles of apprenticeship, or covenant (except for the hire of servants not apprentices, and also except such other matters as are herein before charged) within the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty of two shillings and six pence.…

For every skin … on which shall be ingrossed … any notarial act, bond, deed, letter of attorney, procuration, mortgage, release, or other obligatory instrument, not herein before charged …, a stamp duty of two shillings and three pence.…

And for and upon every pack of playing cards, and all dice, which shall be sold or used …, the several stamp duties following (that is to say)

For every pack of such cards, the sum of one shilling.

And for every pair of such dice, the sum of ten shillings.

And for and upon every paper, commonly called a pamphlet, and upon every news paper … and for and upon such advertisements as are herein after mentioned, the respective duties following (that is to say)

For every such pamphlet and paper contained in half a sheet, or any lesser piece of paper …, a stamp duty of one half-penny, for every printed copy thereof.

For every such pamphlet and paper (being larger than half a sheet, and not exceeding one whole sheet) …, a stamp duty of one penny, for every printed copy thereof.

For every pamphlet and paper being larger than one whole sheet, and not exceeding six sheets in octavo, or in a lesser page, or not exceeding twelve sheets in quarto, or twenty sheets in folio …, a duty after the rate of one shilling for every sheet of any kind of paper which shall be contained in one printed copy thereof.

For every advertisement to be contained in any gazette, news paper, or other paper, or any pamphlet …, a duty of two shillings.

For every almanack or calendar, for any one particular year, or for any time less than a year, which shall be written or printed on one side only of any one sheet, skin, or piece of paper parchment, or vellum …, a stamp duty of two pence.

For every other almanack or calendar for any one particular year …, a stamp duty of four pence. And for every almanack or calendar written or printed …, to serve for several years, duties to the same amount respectively shall be paid for every such year.

For every skin … on which any instrument, proceeding, or other matter or thing aforesaid, shall be ingrossed …, in any other than the English language, a stamp duty of double the amount of the respective duties before charged thereon.…

  • II. And also a duty of one shilling for every twenty shillings, in any sum exceeding fifty pounds, which shall be given, paid, contracted, or agreed, for, with, or in relation to any such clerk or apprentice.…
  • V. And be it further enacted …, That all books and pamphlets serving chiefly for the purpose of an almanack, by whatsoever name or names intituled or described, are and shall be charged with the duty imposed by this act on almanacks, but not with any of the duties charged by this act on pamphlets, or other printed papers.…
  • VI. Provided always, that this act shall not extend to charge any bills of exchange, accompts, bills of parcels, bills of fees, or any bills or notes not sealed for payment of money at sight, or upon demand, or at the end of certain days of payment.…
  • XII. And be it further enacted …, That the said several duties shall be under the management of the commissioners, for the time being, of the duties charged on stamped vellum, parchment, and paper, in Great Britain: and the said commissioners are hereby impowered and required to employ such officers under them, for that purpose, as they shall think proper.…
  • XVI. And be it further enacted …, That no matter or thing whatsoever, by this act charged with the payment of a duty, shall be pleaded or given in evidence, or admitted in any court within the said colonies and plantations, to be good, useful, or available in law or equity, unless the same shall be marked or stamped, in pursuance of this act, with the respective duty hereby charged thereon, or with an higher duty.…
  • LIV. And be it further enacted …, That all the monies which shall arise by the several rates and duties hereby granted (except the necessary charges of raising, collecting, recovering, answering, paying, and accounting for the same and the necessary charges from time to time incurred in relation to this act, and the execution thereof) shall be paid into the receipt of his Majesty's exchequer, and shall be entered separate and apart from all other monies, and shall be there reserved to be from time to time disposed of by parliament, towards further defraying the necessary expences of defending, protecting, and securing, the said colonies and plantations.…
  • LVII. … offences committed against any other act or acts of Parliament relating to the trade or revenues of the said colonies or plantations; shall and may be prosecuted, sued for, and recovered, in any court of record, or in any court of admiralty, in the respective colony or plantation where the offence shall be committed, or in any court of vice admiralty appointed or to be appointed, and which shall have jurisdiction within such colony, plantation, or place, (which courts of admiralty or vice admiralty are hereby respectively authorized and required to proceed, hear, and determine the same) at the election of the informer or prosecutor.…

SOURCE: "Authentic account of the proceedings of the Congress held at New York in 1765, on the subject of the American Stamp Act," 1767. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

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Stamp Act

STAMP ACT

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.

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 papers, licenses, and even playing cards and dice. These documents and objects had to carry a tax stamp. The act was to be enforced by stamp agents, with penalties for violating the act to be imposed by vice-admiralty courts, which sat without juries.

Parliament passed the act without debate. Similar stamp acts had become an accepted part of raising revenues in England, leading parliamentary leaders to mistakenly believe that the measure would generate some grumbling but not defiance. The colonies thought otherwise, interpreting the Stamp Act as a deliberate attempt to undercut their commercial strength and independence. They were also concerned about the implicit assault on their rights to trial by jury, the unprecedented use of a direct tax as a means of raising imperial revenue, and the allinclusive character of the law that applied to all thirteen colonies.

The colonists raised the issue of taxation without representation. Some colonists drew a distinction between the English regulation of trade, which was viewed as legal, and the English imposition of internal taxes on the colonies, which was perceived to be illegal. Theories and arguments against the Stamp Act were distributed from assembly to assembly in the form of "circulars." patrick henry introduced seven resolutions against the Stamp Act in the Virginia House of Burgesses, five of which were passed. All seven resolutions were reprinted in newspapers such as the Virginia Resolves. These and other pamphlets pressed Parliament to repeal the act.

In October 1765 nine of the thirteen colonies sent delegates to New York to attend the Stamp Act Congress. The congress issued a "Declaration of Rights and Grievances," declaring that English subjects in the colonies had the same "rights and liberties" as the king's subjects in England. The congress, noting that the colonies were not represented in Parliament, concluded that no taxes could be constitutionally imposed on them except by their own legislatures. Petitions embracing these resolutions were prepared for submission to the king, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords.

The Stamp Act also led to the formation of formal opposition groups in the colonies. The Sons of Liberty, which remained active until the American Revolution, grew directly out of the Stamp Act controversy. Often organized by men of wealth and standing in the community, Sons of Liberty groups were active in towns throughout the colonies, and their members often engaged in violent acts. In Boston, for example, an angry mob forced the stamp agent to resign.

Colonial merchants also organized an effective economic boycott, with merchants in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia entering into nonimportation agreements. The drop in trade was dramatic, leading to the bankruptcy of some London merchants. In addition, businesses flouted the act by carrying on their trade without purchasing the required stamps.

The virulence of the opposition to the Stamp Act surprised the colonists as much as the British government. The costs of simply maintaining order in the colonies threatened to negate any economic advantages of the legislation. benjamin franklin, as the colonial agent for Pennsylvania, testified before the House of Commons in early 1766 that any attempt to enforce the Stamp Act by the use of troops might bring on rebellion. His call for repeal was joined by a committee of English merchants, which cited the dire economic consequences the act was producing. When Grenville's government fell from power, the new prime minister, Marquis of Rockingham, moved quickly to resolve the issue. In February 1766 the repeal of the Stamp Act was approved by the House of Commons. The House of Lords, under pressure from the king, approved the repeal as well, which became effective in May 1766. Nevertheless, in the Declaratory Act of March 1766, Parliament ominously asserted that it had full authority to make laws that were legally binding on the colonies.

England's need for revenue and Parliament's conviction that it alone, in the empire, was sovereign did not end with the repeal of the Stamp Act. New and harsher laws were enacted in succeeding years, producing a predictable reaction from the colonies. The full significance of the Stamp Act crisis is that it served as the initial event unifying all the colonies in their resistance to parliamentary authority. The opponents to the act laid a theoretical foundation for later revolutionary thought in their elaboration of the doctrine of consent by the governed. The act led to the creation of enduring resistance groups, such as the Sons of Liberty, which were capable of springing into action at the least provocation. And it established precedents for later resistance, including the use of a congress, the issuance of circulars, the resort to legislative resolves, and the adoption of economic sanctions. Most importantly, the Stamp Act crisis made the colonists more aware of the identity of their interests, which would ultimately lead them to think of themselves as "Americans."

further readings

Morgan, Edmund S. and Helen M. 1995. The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

Thomas, Peter David Garner. 1975. British Politics and the Stamp Act Crisis: The First Phase of the American Revolution 1763–1767. New York: Clarendon Press.

cross-references

Continental Congress; Declaration of Independence; Paine, Thomas; "Stamp Act" (Appendix, Primary Document); Townshend Acts; War of Independence.

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Stamp Act

Stamp Act

Source

New Tax. While New England merchants protested the Sugar Act, news arrived in April 1765 that Parliament had passed the Stamp Act. This act imposed an excise tax on all newspapers and pamphlets, legal documents, leases, deeds, licenses, playing cards, diplomas, broadsides, and other paper products. Once the tax had been paid (in gold or silver coin), a revenue officer would affix a stamp on the paper. The act would take effect on 1 November 1765.

Predictions of Reaction. The Stamp Act passed Parliament easily although the American colonies had warned that though they were loyal subjects of the king, they could be taxed only by their own assemblies. Col. Isaac Barre, a member of Parliament, warned that this revenue measure would cause the blood of these sons of liberty to recoil within them. Massachusetts lieutenant governor Thomas Hutchinson wrote that There is not a family between Canada and Pensacola that has not heard the name of the Stamp Act and but very few... but what have some formidable apprehensions of it. Hutchinson, who opposed the Stamp Act but believed Parliament had a right to levy it, told of a farmer whose servant was suddenly afraid to go to the barn at night. Afraid of what? the farmer asked. Of the Stamp Act, the servant replied.

Sons of Liberty. Reaction to the Stamp Act was violent and widespread. Taking their name from Barres speech, groups of colonists formed the Sons of Liberty, political action groups that channeled resistance to the Stamp Act. In Boston, Andrew Oliver, Hutchinsons brother-in-law, had been appointed stamp agent. On the night of 15 August a mob led by the Sons of Liberty attacked Olivers office, where he stored the hated stamps. After destroying the office and stamps, they marched to his home, which they nearly completely destroyed. Two weeks later the mob descended on Hutchinsons home, regarding his moderate response as a sign of duplicity: James Otis charged Hutchinson with creating the idea of the Stamp Act. The mob destroyed Hutchinsons home and his papers, including documents Hutchinson was collecting for his history of Massachusetts. Similar violence in other colonies greeted the arrival of stamps and the appointment of stamp agents as the Sons of Liberty and an active press whipped the people into a frenzy.

Stamp Act Congress. Colonial leaders opposed the Stamp Act, but most also deplored the kind of violent action taken by the Sons of Liberty. To avoid tyranny and anarchy they called for a general meeting of delegates from all the colonies to make a united stand against the Stamp Act. In October 1765 delegates from nine colonies (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina) met in New York to draw up a unified response. The Stamp Act Congress affirmed their loyalty to the king but insisted that they could be taxed only by their own representatives. They would gladly support the British government financially, but these levies could ony be made by their own assemblies.

Actual versus Virtual Representation. The colonists and the British government had different ideas about the nature of representation. Members of Parliament did not represent specific locations or constituents. Members did not have to live in the boroughs they represented, and since most of the boroughs had been created centuries earlier, some of Englands largest cities, such as Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool, were not represented at all. For the Americans to claim that because they had not voted for members of Parliament that Parliament could not tax them, was ridiculous. People in Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool had not voted for members of Parliament either. Parliaments job was to take care of the welfare of the whole realm, not to represent the interests of each locale. Members of Parliament were supposed to represent the good of the nation, not the interests of local constituency. In the American colonies, however, members of the colonial assemblies were chosen by towns or counties and were specifically chosen to represent their constituents. The Stamp Act, and Englands attempt to tax the colonists, brought to light this fundamentally different approach to representation. Though the American colonists were asserting a fundamental right of English people, not to be taxed without their own consent, their experience as colonists had given them a different idea of the role of representatives and how consent was to be given.

Repeal. The British government would not accept the notion that the American colonists could be taxed only by their own representatives. The government insisted that because the Americans were British subjects, their interests were represented by Parliament. However, the British government recognized that enforcement of the Stamp Act would provoke continued violence in the American colonies. Opposition made the Stamp Act nearly impossible to enforce. Gov. Francis Bernard of Massachusetts wrote in December that all real power in this town is in the hands of the people, and the Sons of Liberty threatened violence against any officials who dared use the stamps. The time is come, Bernard wrote, when even a nominal governor, though without authority or pretending to any, will not be allowed to reside here. In 1766 Parliament voted to rescind the act if the loyal colonial assemblies would raise money to meet royal requisitions, would volunteer to support British troops sent to protect the colonists, and would compensate those whose property had been destroyed by the mobs. At the same time Parliament passed the Declaratory Act, insisting that it had the power to tax the colonists for all purposes.

Aftermath. Parliament believed it had struck a bargain with the colonists, giving up a tax the colonists did not like in order to affirm the principle that Parliament could tax them. The colonists who had resisted the Stamp Act, however, interpreted the result differently. They had not wavered from the idea that only their own assemblies could tax them, and they had also learned that loud and sometimes violent opposition could force Parliament to back down. They also resisted the idea of paying the victims of the riots. In addition, the colonial assemblies and the Sons of Liberty had begun to learn the benefit of cooperation, seeing that the colonists had common interests that benefited from working together.

Source

Edmund S. Morgan and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution (Chapel Hill: Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture by the University of North Carolina Press, 1953).

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Stamp Act Congress

STAMP ACT CONGRESS

STAMP ACT CONGRESS was the first official intercolonial gathering of the revolutionary era. The Stamp Act Congress met in New York City between 7 October and 24 October 1765. Much more than the Albany Congress of 1754, it pointed toward union among white colonial people in the face of external threat, portending the First Continental Congress (1774), the Second Continental Congress (1775–1781), the Articles of Confederation (1781–1789), and debates about the U.S. Constitution (1787–1788).

New Hampshire and Georgia sent no delegates to the Stamp Act Congress. Connecticut, the host province of New York, and South Carolina gave their delegates no power to act. Virginia already was on record against the Stamp Act in the resolutions of its House of Burgesses. At first glance then the records of the Congress might seem to be a minority report. But in fact the Congress's members laid out a tenable position regarding the Stamp Act and by extension the emerging crisis in colonial relations. They pointed toward coalescence among the separate elites they represented into a coherent leadership. And with their silence on some issues, they addressed the problem of relations among different sorts of colonials who were becoming Americans.

The Congress produced four documents: a general declaration intended for both colonial and British readers, a petition to the king, a memorial to the House of Lords, and a petition to the House of Commons. Each term, declaration, petition, and memorial bespoke a different understanding of the Congress's relationship to the intended readers, but all four documents made the same essential points. (White) colonial Americans were Britons. They had abandoned none of their traditional "Rights and Liberties" by living outside the "Realm" that comprised England, Scotland, and Wales. Self-taxation through representatives was among such rights, because it meant a free gift of the subject's property to the Crown. That right could not be exercised through supposed representatives in the House of Commons, and other British rights, particularly the right to trial by jury, could not be negated. The effect of the Stamp Act would be to stifle the colonial economy, weaken colonial trade with Britain, indirectly harm the British economy itself, and poison relations between the colonies and the metropolis. Colonials were loyal, but they had a duty to seek the Stamp Act's repeal.

The Congress followed Virginia's lead taken in June with resolutions against the Stamp Act by the Virginia House of Burgesses. By the time the Congress met, several colonies had experienced both verbal and violent resistance to the Stamp Act, and it was increasingly clear that the act never would take force. In New York City preparations were under way for the uprising of 31 October 1765 that rendered the act unenforceable there.

The Congress did not address such problems. But both in what it said and what it chose not to say, it did address the complex coalition politics of the revolutionary era. Like the Virginia House of Burgesses, the Congress told discontented colonials that resistance was entirely correct.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Morgan, Edmund S., and Helen M. Morgan. The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953.

Morgan, Edmund Sears, ed. Prologue to Revolution: Sources and Documents on the Stamp Act Crisis, 1764–1766. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959.

EdwardCountryman

See alsoRevolution, American: Political History .

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Stamp Act

STAMP ACT

STAMP ACT. The formal title of the Stamp Act is seventy words long. Prime Minister George Grenville indicated his intention to impose it in 1763, but it was not enacted until 22 March 1765, to take effect on 1 November. The act's mode of raising taxes was familiar to Britons of the time and was still in limited use at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Colonials understood stamp duties too. For a given document to be legal, a stamp of appropriate value had to be purchased from an official distributor and affixed to the document.

The mode may have been familiar, but the act's avowed purpose of raising revenue directly from colonials by act of Parliament was not. The only precedent also was part of Grenville's program of colonial reform. The Sugar


Act (or Revenue Act) of 1764 provoked sporadic protest but did take effect. Grenville was not prepared for colonial protest. Neither were eminent colonials such as Benjamin Franklin, who was in London at the time and who nominated his friend John Hughes as stamp distributor for Pennsylvania. Virginia's future militant Richard Henry Lee sought the same post for his province.

Nonetheless the Stamp Act seemed as if it had been designed to provoke protest. The burdens it imposed may have been lighter than their British equivalents, but to colonials they weighed heavily. The act taxed all legal documents, from bills of lading for outbound ships, to indentures of apprenticeship, to marriage licenses. It taxed books, newspapers, advertisements in newspapers, dice, and decks of cards. No free white person in the colonies could live a normal life without paying one or another stamp duty. The duties had to be paid in gold or silver, both of which were in short supply in the colonial economy of barter, paper currency, and private bills of exchange. Violators of the act were subject to trial in a vice admiralty court. The judge would be a royal appointee holding his post "at the King's pleasure," meaning that too many acquittals could bring his dismissal. No jury would address the traditions and procedures that made up "English" liberty.

One goal of the Stamp Act was to reach deep into the economies of the American provinces, possibly for the sake of putting a brake on their development into potential rivals of Britain. But the act was not intended to strip the colonies of their precious metals. On the contrary, money raised would recirculate after paying the costs of royal governorships, Crown courts, and British troops stationed in America.

Even that change, however, was major, especially to elite colonials, who had grown used to the idea that the Virginia House of Burgesses or the Massachusetts Assembly were local equivalents of the House of Commons, fully able to run the affairs of their own provinces. The Stamp Act presented a fundamental challenge not only to the power and the self-image of the colonial elites but also to the material well-being of every free participant in colonial society.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bullion, John L. A Great and Necessary Measure: George Grenville and the Genesis of the Stamp Act, 1763–1775. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1982.

Thomas, Peter David Garner. British Politics and the Stamp Act Crisis: The First Phase of the American Revolution, 1763–1767. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.

EdwardCountryman

See alsoSons of Liberty (American Revolution) ; andvol. 9:Stamp Act .

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Stamp Act

Stamp Act, 1765, revenue law passed by the British Parliament during the ministry of George Grenville. The first direct tax to be levied on the American colonies, it required that all newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents, commercial bills, advertisements, and other papers issued in the colonies bear a stamp. The revenue obtained from the sale of stamps was designated for colonial defense; while the means of raising revenue was novel, the application of such revenue to defense continued existing British policy.

The act was vehemently denounced in the colonies by those it most affected: businessmen, merchants, journalists, lawyers, and other powerful persons. Among these were Samuel Adams, Christopher Gadsden, Patrick Henry, John Dickinson, John Lamb, Joseph Warren, and Paul Revere. Associations known as the Sons of Liberty were formed to organize opposition to the Stamp Act. Merchants boycotted English goods; stamp distributors were forced to resign and stamps were destroyed; and the Massachusetts legislature, at the suggestion of James Otis, issued a call for a general congress to find means of resisting the law.

The Stamp Act Congress, which met in Oct., 1765, in New York City, included delegates from New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, Maryland, and Connecticut. The congress adopted the Declaration of Rights and Grievances; it declared that freeborn Englishmen could not be taxed without their consent, and, since the colonists were not represented in Parliament, any tax imposed on them without the consent of their colonial legislatures was unconstitutional. Faced with a loss of trade, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in 1766.

See J. L. Bullion, A Great and Necessary Measure: George Grenville and the Genesis of the Stamp Act (1983); E. S. and H. M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis (rev. ed. 1983).

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Stamp Act

Stamp Act, 1765. The Stamp Act, introduced by George Grenville, was the most important single piece of parliamentary legislation affecting British–American relations. It imposed duties on goods and services (legal documents, appointments to public offices, ship's papers, etc.) in the British colonies in order to raise money for military expenses in America. Protests against Parliament's right to tax the colonies, widespread discussions of political liberty, crowd violence, and trade boycotts followed. In Britain, petitions from British merchants and manufacturers led to its repeal by the Rockingham Whigs, ostensibly for commercial reasons in 1766. This was accompanied by the Declaratory Act's simultaneous enactment.

Richard C. Simmons

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Stamp Act (1765)

STAMP ACT (1765)


The Stamp Act, passed in March, 1765, was the first direct tax ever placed by the British government on the American colonies. The Act, which was to take effect November 1, 1765, required an official stamp on about 50 different types of documents, ranging from playing cards to newspapers and college diplomas. The stamp's cost depended on the value of the document. King George III's Prime Minister George Grenville, who led Parliament from 1763 to 1765, felt that such a tax was needed to help pay for the costs of the French and Indian War (17541763). Great Britain was deeply in debt from the expenses of winning the war against France, and the revenues it gathered from the colonies did not come close to paying the costs of collecting them. Because of the expenses of the war, the country's national debt had increased by more than 50 percent in the space of seven years, from 75 million pounds sterling to 137 million pounds sterling. In addition, Grenville wanted to keep the peace between Native Americans and settlers along the North American frontier and to crack down on colonial smuggling. The Stamp Act, which Grenville believed would raise about 100,000 pounds sterling per year, was meant to help pay the costs of these programs.

The colonists objected to the Stamp Act in part because it infringed on their rights as English citizens, but also because it put a tremendous financial burden on them. The colonies were in the middle of an economic depression which had its origins in the destruction caused by the French and Indian War, and cash was very scarce. The tax on stamps was payable only in hard cashgold or silver. Paper colonial money (often devalued so much that it was practically worthless) was not accepted. Hard currency was also difficult to find in the colonies because English imports (including most manufactured goods) had to be paid for in cash, not colonial notes. In addition to setting colonists the problem of finding the money to pay their taxes, the act also threatened their material prosperity. The Stamp Act allowed officials to try accused law-breakers in royal vice-admiralty courts, which did not use juries, as well as in regular criminal courts. These vice-admiralty courts, it was believed, would be less sympathetic to colonial viewpoints.

Local politics and class rivalry also played a role in resistance to the Stamp Act, particularly in Virginia and Massachusetts. Virginian lawyer Patrick Henry made the act the subject of his first speech in the colony's House of Burgesses in May, 1765. Henry's opinions on the Stamp Act were narrowly passed by the House and they, as the Virginia Resolutions, inspired open opposition to the Act in other colonies.

In Boston opposition to the Stamp Act was even more conspicuous. At that time a small clique of wealthy families, related by marriage, held most of the royal offices in the colony. These families included Governor Francis Bernard, Thomas Hutchinson (lieutenant governor and chief justice), and the brothers Andrew Oliver and Peter Oliver. This "royalist faction" was opposed by a coalition of poorer men known as the "popular faction," including the lawyer James Otis, Jr. and Boston politician Samuel Adams. The popular faction spread the idea that the royalist faction was behind the Stamp Act, and they were supported in this belief by two of Boston's largest gangs.

In the summer, 1765, Andrew Oliver was appointed distributor of stamps for the Boston area. On August 14 of that year, a dummy made up to look like Oliver was discovered, along with an old boot (a symbol for Lord Bute, George Grenville's predecessor as Prime Minister), hanging from an elm tree near Boylston Market in Boston. Despite the efforts of the town sheriff, until sundown, the objects remained on the elm, which became famous as the Liberty Tree. At that point a crowd, including members of the popular faction, gathered and removed the effigy. These "Sons of Liberty", led by shoemakers Ebenezer Macintosh and Henry Swift, paraded the effigy of Oliver to the waterfront, where they attacked and destroyed a warehouse the tax collector had built. The crowdby this time a mobthen built a bonfire in front of Oliver's house and, when they ran low on firewood, began stripping the trees and buildings on his property. For over an hour, the Boston mob continued to dismantle Oliver's home, smashing his furniture and mirrors and scattering his valuables. Within a week another crowd confronted the tax collector and extorted from him a promise that he would resign his office. Later that month the Sons of Liberty attacked and destroyed the homes of Thomas Hutchinson and customs administrator Benjamin Hallowell in an effort to intimidate them as well.

Angry mobs in other colonies followed Boston's example, using force to intimidate would-be stamp distributors. In Rhode Island the nominee for tax collector, Augustus Johnston, abandoned his duty before the end of August. Connecticut Sons of Liberty forced Jared Ingersoll out of office, while in Maryland Zachariah Hood had to leave the colony after anti-tax rioters burned his home. More conservative protesters tried less violent means to express their dissent. In October, 1765, 27 delegates from nine colonies assembled in New York City to present their grievances as a united body: the Stamp Act Congress. Merchants in major port cities, such as New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, agreed to start an economic boycott of British goods with the goal of seeing the Stamp Act repealed.

On November 1, 1765, the day that the Stamp Act was to be put into effect, colonial government, communications, and commerce all came to a halt. In late November and December, however, the Sons of Liberty and other activists persuaded businesses, courts, and newspapers to begin work again in defiance of the Stamp Act. By this time, however, the government that had passed the Stamp Act had long since fallen. George III found Grenville distasteful and replaced him with Charles Watson-Wentworth, Marquis of Rockingham, in July, 1765. Rockingham, who was much more sympathetic to the American point of view than Grenville had been, launched a campaign to repeal the Stamp Act. On February 22, 1766, the House of Commons, led by William Pitt, repealed the Stamp Act. As an omen of things to come, however, they passed another law: the Declaratory Act (1766), which asserted Parliament's right to tax and make laws for the colonies.

Topic overview

Angry mobs in other colonies followed Boston's example, using force to intimidate would-be stamp distributors. In Rhode Island the nominee for tax collector, Augustus Johnston, abandoned his duty before the end of August. Connecticut Sons of Liberty forced Jared Ingersoll out of office, while in Maryland Zachariah Hood had to leave the colony after anti-tax rioters burned his home.

See also: American Revolution, Intolerable Acts, Sugar Act, Townshend Acts


FURTHER READING

Bullion, John L. A Great and Necessary Measure: George Grenville and the Genesis of the Stamp Act, 17631765. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1982.

Egnal, Marc M. A Mighty Empire: The Origins of the American Revolution. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988.

Fleming, Thomas. Liberty! The American Revolution. New York: Viking Penguin, 1997.

Morgan, Edmund Sears. The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution. Chapel Hill, NC: Institute of Early American History and Culture/University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

Thomas, Peter David Garner. British Politics and the Stamp Act Crisis: The First Phase of the American Revolution, 17631767. New York: Clarendon Press, 1975.

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Stamp Act

Stamp Act (1765) First direct tax levied on the American colonies by the British government. Introduced to raise revenue for the defence of the colonies, it required a special stamp on all printed material, including newspapers and legal documents. It roused widespread opposition and led to the Stamp Act Congress (1765), at which representatives of nine colonies met in New York City, and resolved that only the colonies could tax themselves. It was repealed in 1766.

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Morton, John (political leader in the American Revolution)

John Morton, c.1724–1777, political leader in the American Revolution, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Chester co., Pa. He was a member of the Pennsylvania assembly (1756–66, 1769–75), the Stamp Act Congress (1765), and the Continental Congress (1774–77).

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Stamp Act

Stamp Act an act regulating stamp duty, especially that imposing the duty on the American colonies in 1765 and repealed in 1766.

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ELIZABETH KNOWLES. "Stamp Act." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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