Stamp Act of 1765

Stamp Act

Stamp Act, 1765, revenue law passed by the British Parliament during the ministry of George Grenville. The first direct tax to be levied on the American colonies, it required that all newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents, commercial bills, advertisements, and other papers issued in the colonies bear a stamp. The revenue obtained from the sale of stamps was designated for colonial defense; while the means of raising revenue was novel, the application of such revenue to defense continued existing British policy.

The act was vehemently denounced in the colonies by those it most affected: businessmen, merchants, journalists, lawyers, and other powerful persons. Among these were Samuel Adams, Christopher Gadsden, Patrick Henry, John Dickinson, John Lamb, Joseph Warren, and Paul Revere. Associations known as the Sons of Liberty were formed to organize opposition to the Stamp Act. Merchants boycotted English goods; stamp distributors were forced to resign and stamps were destroyed; and the Massachusetts legislature, at the suggestion of James Otis, issued a call for a general congress to find means of resisting the law.

The Stamp Act Congress, which met in Oct., 1765, in New York City, included delegates from New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, Maryland, and Connecticut. The congress adopted the Declaration of Rights and Grievances; it declared that freeborn Englishmen could not be taxed without their consent, and, since the colonists were not represented in Parliament, any tax imposed on them without the consent of their colonial legislatures was unconstitutional. Faced with a loss of trade, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in 1766.

See J. L. Bullion, A Great and Necessary Measure: George Grenville and the Genesis of the Stamp Act (1983); E. S. and H. M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis (rev. ed. 1983).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Stamp Act of 1765: Selected full-text books and articles

Events That Changed America in the Eighteenth Century By John E. Findling; Frank W. Thackeray Greenwood Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "The Stamp Act, 1765"
Debating the Issues in Colonial Newspapers: Primary Documents on Events of the Period By David A. Copeland Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 16 "The Stamp Act Crisis, 1765-1766"
The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800: The Challenge By R. R. Palmer Princeton University Press, 1959
Librarian’s tip: "The First American Crisis: The Stamp Act" begins on p. 153
The Boisterous Sea of Liberty: A Documentary History of America from Discovery through the Civil War By David Brion Davis; Steven Mintz Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "The Stamp Act Crisis" begins on p. 146
Daily Life during the American Revolution By Dorothy Denneen Volo; James M. Volo Greenwood Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "The Stamp Act Crisis" begins on p. 38
A College History of the United States By David Burner; Elizabeth Fox-Genovese; Virginia Bernhard Brandywine Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: "The Stamp Act Crisis" begins on p. 110
A World History of Tax Rebellions: An Encyclopedia of Tax Rebels, Revolts, and Riots from Antiquity to the Present By David. F. Burg Routledge, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "1765 Stamp Act Crisis and Stamp Act Congress" begins on p. 260
The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence By T. H. Breen Oxford University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of the Stamp Act of 1765 begins on p. 218
A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic By John Ferling Oxford University Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of the Stamp Act of 1765 begins on p. 31
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