What was the Stamp Act? How did colonists react to it?

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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Following the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), the British throne was deep in debt. Looking to collect more revenue from its American colonies, the throne instituted the Stamp Act in 1765. The act placed a tax on all paper documents in the colonies and was the first tax that was internal in nature. The colonists rallied against the Stamp Act, as they had never had to pay an internal tax before and believed only colonial assemblies could levy this type of tax. They also argued that they should not have to pay the tax because they did not have direct representation in the British Parliament.

In reaction to the Stamp Act, the colonists harassed tax collectors. In Boston, mobs, part of the newly formed Sons of Liberty, created an effigy of the stamp distributor and dangled the effigy from the Liberty Tree. Representatives from nine colonies formed the Stamp Act Congress to protest the Stamp Act. In reaction, the British crown repealed the Stamp Act in 1766 but passed the Declaratory Act at the same time. This new act stated that the crown had the right to impose any legislation it wanted on the colonies.  

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Stamp Act was an important law passed for the colonies in 1765. The colonists had a definite reaction to it.

The British believed the colonists should pay some of the costs of running the colonies. The British believed the colonists were benefitting from some of the services that Britain provided. Therefore, the colonists should share in some of the costs. The Stamp Act placed a tax on various items like newspapers, legal documents, and playing cards. When a person bought one of these items, a stamp was placed on it, and the colonists had to pay a fee for the stamp. The colonists didn’t like the tax.

The colonists created the Stamp Act Congress to protest the tax. They agreed to not buy British products until the Stamp Act was repealed. They also argued that the tax violated their rights as British citizens. Since the colonists didn’t have representatives in Parliament who could speak about and vote on the proposed tax, this was not a legal action. In Britain, citizens can’t be taxed unless their representatives can vote on the proposed tax. Since the colonists were British citizens, they believed they had this right also.

Other groups also formed to protest the tax. One of the groups was the Sons of Liberty. This group would be very active as the tensions rose between the British and the colonists.

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