Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Happy Stamp Act Repeal Day! Part 1

March 18, 1766 was the day that the British Parliament repealed the very unappealing Stamp Act. (Here's a article about it.)

I thought this might be a good place to post what I wrote about this many years ago in a mansucript I called 
The American Revolutions, By a Partial, Prejudiced, and Ignorant Historian:

When it became apparent that the Sugar Act (the last bright idea that failed) was going to reap more resentment than revenue from the colonies, George III brought in a replacement for [Prime Minister] Grenville: the Marquis of Rockingham. This new minister looked at the upheaval caused by taxing imports into the colonies, and decided that there was a better way. The idea Rockingham came up with was based on a very simple idea - a stamp on paper goods. (This was embossed on the paper concerned by means of a metal stamping device, rather like a notary stamp.)

The Prime Minister, with the help of the King’s majority, ushered a new law through Parliament called the Stamp Act which required all colonial legal documents (such as wills, wedding licenses, indentures and contracts) and all commercial papers (such as almanacs, newspapers, and pamphlets), and even playing cards to be stamped in order to be legal. 

Rockingham’s requirement really rocked the boat. For the first time, the daily life of nearly every colonist was to be directly affected by an Act of Parliament. Every time anybody wanted to get married or sell a cow or lease a cottage - that person was supposed to track down the stamp agent and buy a stamp to show he had paid to make the transaction legal. Thus, it was not only the prospective cost of the stamps which irritated people, but, in modern terms, the fact that they would make many everyday activities a hassle and continually remind the colonists that they were contributing to British coffers. Unfortunately for Rockingham’s plan, some of the people most affected were those who published newspapers and pamphlets, who would have had to buy a stamp for every copy of their publications before they could be sold. These people, however, were in an excellent position to let everybody know what they thought of the Stamp Act. In print, they took careful aim at the Stamp Act and the political issues it represented. 

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