Rhode Island Politics and the American Revolution, 1760- 1776

By David S. Lovejoy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
A MATTER OF PARLIAMENTARY TAXATION

I

SO FAR Rhode Islanders had been fairly successful in thwarting the design of Parliament to tax their molasses trade. 'But more alarming than the Sugar Act was Parliament's intent to derive a stamp tax from the American colonies. A stamp duty, the people soon learned, would levy taxes in sterling money on all legal documents such as wills, deeds, mortgages, and licenses, on pamphlets and newspapers, on ships' clearances and business papers. Very few activities of colonial life which involved paper of any kind would escape these onerous stamps. It was a method of taxing the colonists at their very doorsteps, and if executed, the Newport Mercury declared, adieu liberty and every other privilege our ancestors came here for and enjoyed until lately.1 If Parliament, Rhode Islanders believed, could force a stamp duty on the colonies, it could impose taxation of any kind. There would be no end to the parade of taxes passed off on the Americans. "You'll soon have a Parcel of Myrmidonian Ravens," the newspapers warned, "who will feed upon and rip up your very Vitals, such as Officers of Stamp Duties, Appraisers of Lands, Houses, Furniture, Ec." The ministry, the papers continued, had decided to make the colonists pay for the peace because it did not dare load Great Britain with any more taxes.2

The imposition of taxes on the Americans by Parliament stimulated some Rhode Islanders to examine more closely the relationship between Great Britain and America. One outspoken citizen of Providence concluded that the relationship consisted only in that the subjects of both countries had the same King. He denied that the people of New England were any more dependent on the people of Great Britain than the people of Great Britain were dependent on those of New England. These taxes were means for keeping the colonies

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