The Stamp Act Controversy

After over 150 years of permitting self-rule, Britain began exercising direct influence over colonial life. In addition to restricting westward movement, the parent country was actually enforcing its trade laws.

General search warrants were granted to British customs inspectors to search colonial ships. Violators were at the mercy of the British admiralty courts. The British now began levying taxes against American colonists.

From the British point of view, the Seven Years’ War was costly. The revenue raised from taxing the colonies was used to pay for their defense. The funds received from the colonists barely covered one-third of the cost of maintaining British troops in the 13 colonies.

The colonies enhanced the British Empire and the taxation seemed insulting. The colonists began to make a political argument—they had no representation in the British Parliament. To tax them without offering representation was denying their rights as English subjects.

When Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1775, it was the first direct tax on the American colonies. Every legal document had to be written on specially stamped paper, showing proof of payment. Deeds, wills, and marriage licenses were not recognized as legal in a court of law unless they were prepared on this paper. Newspapers, dice, and playing cards also had to bear proof of tax payment. American activists sprang into action.

Americans voiced their protest. A Stamp Act Congress was convened in the colonies to decide what to do. The colonists enacted widespread boycotts of British goods. Radical groups such as the Sons and Daughters of Liberty did not hesitate to harass tax collectors or publish names of those who did not comply with boycotts. The pressure on Parliament by business-starved British merchants was too great to bear. The Stamp Act was repealed the following year.

Source: The Stamp Act Controversy
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