Shortly after colonists fought as British subjects in the Seven-Years War, Parliament imposed excessive Tax Acts to raise money for the Crown.
Colonists resisted & claimed these taxes were ruinous & against their rights and liberties. The King claimed them rebellious Subjects in need of forceful suppression.
The Colonists not only saw the taxes as unfair, they considered them oppressive and the ruin of their businesses & lives.
The Act imposed taxes and required the affixing of stamps as evidence of payment on all paper related products created or used in the American colonies. The Stamp Act was applied to, every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written or printed … within the British colonies and plantations in America.
John Adams called the Stamp Act, “that enormous engine fabricated by the British Parliament, for battering down all the rights and liberties of America” (The Statutes at Large Vol 1-46, Danby Pickering).
The Stamp Act listed every type of use from a calendar, playing cards, pamphlets, newspapers, deed, memorandum, letter, etc.
The Stamp Act read in part:
“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, 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 . . .
That from and after the 1st day of November, 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.
The Stamp Act finalized its long list of taxes paper related products, stating, “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 pat of His Majesty’s dominions, shall and may be heard, tried, and determined before any court of law . . . in such and the same manner as all other felonies can or may be heard, tried, and determined in such court.” (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1968). Stamp Act Tea Party American Revolution
Colonists tar & feather British loyalists and tax agents.
"Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First had his Cromwell and George the Third (“Treason” cried the Speaker) may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it.”
– Patrick Henry, speech in the House of Burgesses, Williamsburg Virginia, May 29, 1765
Excerpt of an adopted Resolutions:
Resolved, that the taxation of the people by themselves, or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them, who can only know what taxes the people are able to bear, or the easiest methods of raising them and must themselves be affected by every tax laid on the people, is the only security against a burdensome taxation, and the distinguishing characteristic of British freedom, without which the ancient constitution cannot exist. (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1968)
The 1767 Virginia assembly resolves encapsulated the words of James Otis, “Taxation without representation is tyranny."
A group called “the Sons of Liberty” destroyed the stamps wherever they found them, and tarred and feathered stamp agents.
Formal opposition to the Stamp Act led to the Stamp Act Congress in New York. in October 1765. Delegates from nine colonies convened and wrote a moderate statement of colonial rights.
In addition to the adoption of the "Declarations" on October 19, the delegates prepared petitions to the King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons.
Because the members of the congress were far more conservative in the sentiments than colonial legislatures had been, some of the delegates refused to sign even the moderate documents that were produced by the congress.
Parliament rejected the petitions in spite of their mildness.
The Stamp Act Congress was the first intercolonial congress to meet in America. It was foundation from which the subsequent Continental Congress arose.
(Source: Proceedings of the Congress at new York, Boston, 1765, Saturday, October 19, 1765, A.M.)
Colonial resistance to the new British imperial policies was directed particularly toward the Stamp Act. The reaction of the colonies to its passage was vehement. In Boston a radical group called the Sons of Liberty destroyed the stamps wherever they found them, tarred and feathered stamp agents, and sacked the homes and warehouses of the rich, who could be presumed to be favorites of the royal governors. Source: British Public Record Office, C.) 5/755.
The following is excerpts from the account of the riots by Francis Bernard, governor of Massachusetts, prepared for the Earl of Halifax August 31, 1765.
“. . . After the demolition of Mr. Oliver’s house was found so practicable and easy that the government was obliged to look on without being able to take any one step to prevent it, and the principal people of the town publicly avowed and justified the act, the mob both great and small, became highly elated, and all kinds of ill humors were set on float. Everything that for years past had been the cause of any popular discontent was revived and private resentments against persons in office . . . On Monday, August 26, there was some small rumor that mischief would be done that night, but it was in general disregarded.
Toward evening some boys began to light a bonfire before the Town House, which is a usual signal for a mob. Before it was quite dark a great company of people gathered together, crying liberty and property, which is the usual notice of their intention to plunder and pull down a house. They first went to Mr. Paxton’s house (who is marshal of the Court of Admiralty and surveyor of the port), and finding before it the owner of the house (Mr. Paxton had quitted the house with his best effects; that the house was his; that he had never injured them; and finally invited them to go to the tavern and drink a barrel of punch. The offer was accepted and so the house was saved.
As soon as they had drunk the punch, they went to the house of Mr. Story, registrar deputed of the Admiralty, broke into it and tore it all to pieces; and took out all the books and papers, among which were all the records of the Court of Admiralty, and carried them to the bonfire and there burned them . . .” (The Annals of America, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968).
A member of Parliament tells King George that the Stamp Act, "has made the blood of these sons of liberty boil within them" (Library of Congress).
1766- The Stamp Act was repealed, but The Declaratory Act was passed and asserted Britain's sovereignty over the colonies.
The Quartering Act was passed in 1766, which allowed British troops to enter and use private residences, without the residence's permission.
These actions only provoked more protests from the colonists and further organization by the Continental Congress to prepare for their fight.
The British government passed "Revenue Act of 1767" which became known as the Townshend Acts, named after Charles Townshend, Chancellor of the Exchequer.
This Act established new duties (taxes) on tea, glass, lead, paper, painter's paint, etc. Revenue from these duties caused outrage as they were mainly used to pay the salaries of Royal Governors, and meant to influence their allegiance to the Crown.
The acts added new taxes to those that had already been levied on the colonies, but their chief affront was in creating a Board of Customs Commissioners in Boston to enforce the British trade laws with heavy penalties.
As the burden of this provision fell hardest upon the merchants of Boston, they decided, with the agreement of other merchants, that no further imports from abroad would be accepted in America.
At the same time the Massachusetts General Court adopted a circular letter, drafted by Samuel Adams, protesting the idea of taxation without representation.
For circulating this letter among the colonies, the Massachusetts General Court was dissolved by the royal governor, Francis Bernard, in 1768. The Assembly of Virginia met the same fate for receiving the letter of approval.
(source: the Writings of Samule Adams, Harry A. Cushing, ed. Vol. I, NY., 1904, pp. 184-188).
The Tea Act gave British merchants a monopoly on the tea sales in colonies.
On December 16, 1773, Samuel Adams led Boston Patriots (some dressed as Indians) to British ship "Dartmouth" & dumped tea cargo into harbor & other colonies did the same.
1774 Coercive Act closed harbor to punish colonist, and refused to open until dumped tea was paid for by colonist.
On September 5, 1774, 56 intercolonial congress delegates gathered for the first Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia, where they organized a boycott of British products, and prepared a formal list of rights & grievances to the King.
King George III declares Colonists are seditious and rebellious subjects.
Benjamin Franklin wrote an article in the Pennsylvania Gazette promoting the Albany Plan - A union of the Colonies. This cartoon (left) was published with his article. The snake cut into parts represents the different colonies. Franklin's point was the colonies could not survive if they did not join together.
Journal of the South Carolina Provincial Congress, 9 February 1776: "Col. Gadsden presented to the Congress an elegant standard, such as is to be used by the commander in chief of the American navy; being a yellow field, with a lively representation of a rattle-snake in the middle, in the attitude of going to strike, and these words underneath,
"DON'T TREAD ON ME!"
By the time of the War of Independence, the rattlesnake, frequently used in conjunction with the motto "Don't Tread on Me," was a common symbol for the United States, its independent spirit, and its resistance to tyranny.
Timeline of major taxation events leading colonists to form new self-government system