March 8, 2010
It can easily be said that the Stamp Act of 1765 was the beginning of the revolution for the colonies of North America. Before the Stamp Act, there were other failed attempts to tax the colonies by the British parliament. Each attempt to gain money from the colonies was unlawful because there was a lack of representation from Parliament. The Stamp Act of 1765 was very detailed and expensive for the colonists. The Stamp Act was the final act of taxation by Parliament before the colonies started to fight back and seek independence from Britain. Britain was struggling with a growing debt from previous wars. For example, the French and Indian War that lasted from 1756 until 1763 was very expensive for Britain. It nearly doubled their debt. The debt was so expensive that “Merely to pay the interest would require a heavier burden of taxation that had been known before” (Morgan, 21). Moreover, it continued to be expensive after this war was over due to the fact that Bute Ministry decided in early 1763 to keep ten thousand British regular soldiers in the American colonies. It was said that the soldiers were kept in the colonies because many would be out-of-work otherwise. Also, the American colonies “were a liability: until the Englishmen outnumbered the hostile French and Indian population, there would be constant danger of repossession by France in a future war” (Morgan, 22). Therefore, British Parliament felt that it was necessary to keep soldiers within the colonies. Because of this, Parliament looked directly at the colonies for money to help their own debt. “In all fairness the Americans should help support the army protecting them” (Morgan, 22). George Grenville of British Parliament, who became the Prime Minister in April of 1763, undertook the job of finding ways to alleviate his country’s debt. He thought “Americans were grossly under taxed by comparison with Englishmen” (Morgan, 23). Giving the British people more taxes was out of the question for Grenville because the Cider Tax was proof that there would be continued protesting if they received another. Grenville found that there were already laws on the books that should have been making money for Parliament from the Americans. However, “the returns from these duties demonstrated equally the success of the American smugglers and the failure of the royal custom collectors” (Morgan, 23). Grenville demanded that the deputies stop taking bribes instead of customs, that colonial governors start checking in on the deputies and that the Navy to start patrolling the American ports. “To obtain a satisfactory revenue from them, he would have to get Parliament to revise them” (Morgan, 24). George Grenville did much research before going ahead and taxing the colonists with the Sugar Act of 1764. ‘The Sugar Act of 1764, it was usually called, because the part of it which drew most attention was the three-penny tax on molasses” (Morgan, 27). Grenville always had in mind of giving the American colonists stamp duties. “Grenville evidently doubted that the revenue from the new [Sugar Act] duties would be as much as he wanted from the colonies…he simply announced his intention of levying a stamp duty—that is, an excise tax on various documents and articles made of paper—sometime in the future” (Morgan, 26). Grenville received much advice from other Parliament members about how much the Sugar Act tax should be set at. He knew that “duties on foreign molasses, whether large or small, were an advantage to the British sugar planters. But in order to benefit the Treasury, the duties must be set at a figure which, though high enough to yield a good income, would not be so high as to stop the flourishing trade and hence the revenue” (Morgan, 26). After much debate, in May of 1764 the colonists received news of the sugar tax that was to be imposed upon them. It was settled on a tax of 3 pence a gallon of molasses...
Cited: Franklin, Benjamin, colonial agent in London. Personal interview. 1766.
Morgan, Edmund S. and Helen M. Morgan. The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to
Revolution. Williamsburg, Virginia: The University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
Otis, James. The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved. 1763.
Paine, Thomas. Common Sense. 14 February, 1776.
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