The Stamp Act

George Grenville knows that the Sugar Act won't generate enough revenue in the colonies, and so he instructs his secretary in the Treasury, Thomas Whately, to draft legislation for a new tax. This duty will require that a wide range of legal and trade documents, as well as newspapers and even dice, carry official stamps.

At the same time, and into February 1765, colonial agents meet with Grenville. The colonists, they insist, are loyal subjects; they are willing to raise a revenue in proper constitutional form, through their own legislatures. But Grenville turns a deaf ear, Parliament refuses to entertain colonial petitions, and the Stamp Act easily passes in March.

Toward the end of May, news of the act reaches the colonies. The Virginia House of Burgesses, ready to adjourn, rushes through a set of resolutions protesting the tax.

After 1 November 1765, the date the Stamp Act is due to go into effect, and throughout the early months of 1766, public life is in disarray. The stamps required to conduct business legally are locked away, and officials debate whether ports and courts should close or remain open. Colonists groan under the burden of the Stamp Act's restrictions and the fear of disobeying it. In England, sympathetic merchants, eager to reestablish a free flow of trade and to regain their former profits, lobby Parliament to rescind the tax on the colonies. After lengthy consideration, Parliament votes to revoke the tax, and when the glorious news reaches the colonies, church bells ring.