Desperate to find new sources of revenue, Grenville looked to the colonies and viewed from cash-strapped London, the North American settlements were very attractive. Americans, British officials concluded, benefited from the protection afforded by the British army and the Royal Navy, and it would only be fair if they contributed to their own defence.
So in Grenville, acting as prime minister, proposed a far-reaching tax for Americans and Parliament adopted a Stamp Act in March of Under the terms of the Act, scheduled to take effect on 1 November, almost anything formally written or printed would have to be on special stamped paper for which a tax must be paid. Among the items covered by the tax were wills, deeds, diplomas, almanacs, advertisements, bills, bonds, newspapers, playing cards and even dice. Anyone who was involved in any legal transactions, purchased a newspaper or pamphlet or accepted a government appointment would have to pay the tax.
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In short, the Stamp Act would affect nearly all Americans. Grenville intended, with the full agreement of Parliament, that the Stamp Act should not only raise revenue, it should clearly demonstrate that the British government through Parliament exercised political sovereignty over the colonies. Unsurprisingly, Americans responded negatively to the Stamp Act, arguing that they had contributed to their own defence during the late war by providing manpower, money and supplies to the British war effort.
They argued that they already paid taxes which were raised locally - each colony had its own assembly which levied local taxes. Colonists in America felt that they discharged their obligations when they paid colonial taxes and they resented being compelled to pay taxes levied by a Parliament in which they were not represented. Moreover, they contended, the distance between America and Britain precluded American representation in Parliament.
And so, in the spring and early summer of , most of the colonial assemblies adopted resolutions condemning the Stamp Act. The government in London was unimpressed by the constitutional arguments made by the colonists or the petitions and resolutions adopted by their assemblies. If the Americans wanted to register their dissatisfaction with the Stamp Act, they would have to resort to less subtle means.
Its major town, Boston, had a long tradition of rioting and popular demonstrations to defend local interests and it was particularly hard hit by the downturn. The combination of economic hard times, an unpopular and unprecedented tax as well as a local tradition of violent resistance was potentially dangerous. On 14th August, an angry mob attacked the house of Andrew Oliver - the local man rumoured to be responsible for collecting the tax. Then on the 26th they damaged the houses of colonial officials and completely destroyed the home of the colony's Lieutenant Governor.
The demonstrations spread throughout the colonies and, through threats, intimidation and violence, American opponents of the Act rendered it a dead letter by the autumn. Having nullified the proposed tax on the streets, American protestors wanted to secure the repeal on the offending legislation in Parliament. In October several colonies sent delegates to New York to attend a 'Stamp Act Congress' which proposed a commercial boycott as means to pressure Parliament to act.
History: American Revolution
American opponents of the Stamp Act would refuse to purchase British goods in order to put commercial pressure on Parliament to repeal the act. The tactic worked.
- Full House (Full Series, Book 1);
- Quincys First Year.
- Rote Frauen (German Edition);
In March , Parliament acquiesced and repealed the Stamp Act. Parliament simultaneously declared:. Parliament assembled, had, hath and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America. In other words, although Parliament was repealing the Stamp Act, it retained its right to govern America. Many Americans took a different view.
The American Revolution, Race, and the Failed Beginning of a Nation
The Boston loyalist Peter Oliver - the brother of Andrew Oliver who had suffered during the riots of August - wrote bitterly of the repeal:. A Law without Penalties, or one with Penalties not exacted, is It is in Government as it is in private Life: a desultory, undetermined Conduct often induces Contempt. Oliver was one of the few supporters of British rule in America who understood its limits and could explain its failure.
Having given in to colonial pressure, Parliament ceded the authority it was trying to assert. For most of the previous years, the colonists had been left largely to their own devices in what some historians have described as 'salutary neglect'. Because land was plentiful most adult males at least those of European origin could meet property requirements and vote. In consequence a strong tradition of self-government developed in the colonies and colonists jealously guarded their political rights which they saw as theirs because they were British.
Paradoxically it was Parliament, supposedly the guardian of British liberty, which seemed to endanger the liberties of Britons in America in Paradoxically, it was Parliament, supposedly the guardian of British liberty, which seemed to endanger the liberties of Britons in America in In the aftermath of the Seven Years' War, British political leaders and imperial administrators sought to assert greater control over the far-flung parts of the empire and in so doing they came into conflict with the political traditions and assumptions of the colonists who resisted what they saw as unconstitutional parliamentary innovation.
The American Revolution began in a dispute over finance in which the British government advocated change and the colonists sought to maintain tradition. As the imperial crisis developed neither British nor American political leaders demonstrated a willingness or ability to compromise.
George Grenville resigned from the Chancellorship in July at the height of the Stamp Act crisis. His successors over the next decade confronted the same problem of trying to raise revenue in America. In , Parliament adopted a wide range of customs duties which revived American opposition so that protests and rioting ensued and British troops were moved from frontier posts to the major seaports, especially Boston, where the resistance was concentrated.
- Was the American Revolution Inevitable?.
- Lequilibrio instabile (BiBook) (Italian Edition);
- Major Events That Led to the American Revolution?
- David Hume and the Problem of Other Minds (Continuum Studies in British Philosophy).
In another climbdown, in March Parliament repealed the duties, with the symbolic exception of the tax on tea. Relations continued to deteriorate and the American resistance became more intransigent.
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British officials throughout the colonies increasingly found their authority challenged by informal local governments, although loyalist sentiment remained strong in some areas. Despite these changes, colonial leaders hoped to reconcile with the British Government, and all but the most radical members of Congress were unwilling to declare independence. However, in late , Benjamin Franklin, then a member of the Secret Committee of Correspondence, hinted to French agents and other European sympathizers that the colonies were increasingly leaning towards seeking independence.
While perhaps true, Franklin also hoped to convince the French to supply the colonists with aid. Independence would be necessary, however, before French officials would consider the possibility of an alliance. Throughout the winter of —, the members of the Continental Congress came to view reconciliation with Britain as unlikely, and independence the only course of action available to them.
When on December 22, , the British Parliament prohibited trade with the colonies, Congress responded in April of by opening colonial ports—this was a major step towards severing ties with Britain. By February of , colonial leaders were discussing the possibility of forming foreign alliances and began to draft the Model Treaty that would serve as a basis for the alliance with France. Leaders for the cause of independence wanted to make certain that they had sufficient congressional support before they would bring the issue to the vote. Other members of Congress were amenable but thought some colonies not quite ready.
However, Congress did form a committee to draft a declaration of independence and assigned this duty to Thomas Jefferson. They preserved its original form, but struck passages likely to meet with controversy or skepticism, most notably passages blaming King George III for the transatlantic slave trade and those blaming the British people rather than their government. The committee presented the final draft before Congress on June 28, , and Congress adopted the final text of the Declaration of Independence on July 4.
The British Government did its best to dismiss the Declaration as a trivial document issued by disgruntled colonists. The Declaration divided British domestic opposition, as some American sympathizers thought the Declaration had gone too far, but in British-ruled Ireland it had many supporters.