The Stamp Act

Historians believe that it was the Stamp Act of 1765 that began the strained tension between the thirteen colonies and the British Government that eventually led to the American Revolution.

The Stamp Act was instituted by Parliament as a way of collecting additional tax money on anything and everything that was printed in the colonies. Each document or item was to have an embossed “stamp” on it to show that taxes were paid. The items taxed could be playing cards, flyers, or even newspapers, and the tax was charged by page.

The main reason that the British wanted the colonies to pay extra taxes was due to the high expense that they incurred for the Seven Years’ War. The British Parliament felt that the expense should be shared by the colonies since the British were fighting for them as well. The French Indian War was part of the Seven Years’ War, and the colonies benefitted from the wins that the British succeeded in.

Beyond the obvious that the Stamp Act was a ridiculous tax, the more important factor is that Parliament passed the Act without having any representation in Parliament by the colonists. The colonists were so outraged that a rallying cry of “taxation without representation” spread across all thirteen colonies.

The Stamp Act put a tax on every page that was printed. Newspapers changed the size of their pages so that they were larger and could get more type on each page. Printing presses were developed throughout the years to those newspaper sizes, and that is why the pages are still the same large size today.

Even more of an insult, the taxation on printed materials had to be paid with British money, and they would not accept colonial money to pay taxes.

The colonists sent representatives to council meetings called the Stamp Act Congress, who then created petitions to be presented to the King, as well as the British Government, to request representation in Parliament.

When the petitions were ignored, not only did the colonists refuse to pay the tax, but they boycotted all products and goods that were British. They also threatened tax collectors and burned some of the stamped papers in the middle of the streets.

The anti-British feelings were rising in the colonies, and they organized a group called the Sons of Liberty that were gathering colonists to make a physical show of protest in the streets. American patriot Sam Adams started the Sons of Liberty organization.

Although the Stamp Act was repealed/canceled, it was the first of an additional five acts that were passed that to get the colonists further under the thumb of the British rule and make them pay taxes for the war expenses. The British felt that they had a right to tax the colonies, and the colonies were upset because they were blindly taxed without the right of representation to make their case.

The British continued to push taxes without allowing the colonists to be represented in Parliament, and when they added four more taxation Acts, one included a tax on tea. Tea was very popular in the colonies as it was in all of Britain.

It was the tax on tea that prompted the Boston Tea Party that threw all of the imported tea from England overboard. The taxation process was the catalyst that prompted the colonists to continue with their protests and eventually led to the American Revolution against British rule.


What did the Stamp Act tax?
All printed materials

How was the Stamp Act tax supposed to be paid?
With British money only

Why were the colonists upset about the increased British taxation?
They were being taxed without any representation in Parliament to plead their case

What did the colonists do to protest the Stamp Act?
Threaten tax collectors and burn papers in the street

What anti-British organization was formed due to the British taxation of the colonists?
The Sons of Liberty

The Stamp Act was the first of many taxes that led to what final outcome that changed the history of the country?
American Revolution