The Stamp Act
On February 6th, 1765 George Grenville rose in Parliament to offer the fifty-five resolutions of his Stamp Bill.
A motion was offered to first read petitions from the Virginia colony and others was denied. The bill was passed on February 17, approved by the Lords on March 8th, and two weeks later ordered in effect by the King. The Stamp Act was Parliament's first serious attempt to assert governmental authority over the colonies. Great Britain was faced with a massive national debt following the Seven Years War. That debt had grown from £72,289,673 in 1755 to £129,586,789 in 1764*. English citizens in Britain were taxed at a rate that created a serious threat of revolt.
The Stamp Act of 1765 (short title Duties in American Colonies Act 1765; 5 George III, c. 12) was a tax imposed by the British Parliament on the colonies of British America. The act required that many printed materials in the colonies carry a tax stamp. The purpose of the tax was to help pay for troops stationed in North America following the British victory in the Seven Years' War. The British government felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and should pay at least a portion of the expense.
The Stamp Act met with great resistance in the colonies. It was seen as a violation of the right of Englishmen to be taxed only with their consent—consent which could only be granted through their colonial legislatures. Colonial assemblies sent petitions of protests, and the Stamp Act Congress, reflecting the first significant joint colonial response to any British measure, also petitioned Parliament and the king. Local protest groups, led by colonial merchants and landowners, established connections through correspondence that created a loose coalition that extended from New England to Georgia. Protests and demonstrations initiated by the Sons of Liberty often turned violent and destructive as the masses became involved. Very soon all stamp tax distributors were intimidated into resigning their commissions, and the tax was never effectively collected.
Opposition to the Stamp Act was not limited to the colonies. British merchants and manufacturers, whose exports to the colonies were threatened by colonial economic problems exacerbated by the tax, also pressured Parliament. The Act was repealed on 18 March 1766 as a matter of expedience, but Parliament affirmed its power to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever” by also passing the Declaratory Act. This incident increased the colonists' concerns about the intent of the British Parliament and added fuel to the growing movement that became the American Revolution.