“An Epocha in History”
Great Britain's mainland colonies boiled over in 1765 with angry protests against the Stamp Act, the parent state's first attempt to tax the provincials. Washington and Adams responded to the tumultuous events of that year in intensely personal ways. Declaring that the crisis was “very unfortunate for me, ” and “set on foot for my Ruin, ” Adams feared the destruction of his “small … Reputation” if he openly denounced the mother country. 1 Washington immediately predicted that the stamp tax would be especially injurious to the wealthier provincials. 2
Few, if any, Americans played more important roles in theAmerican Revolution than Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. Yet during the Stamp Act crisis, and much that followed, these three acted cautiously, often preferring not to be involved, or to be only covertly active. During the first several years of theAnglo-American crisis, none were uninhibited firebrands. Each was yet a young man in 1765—at age thirty-three, Washington was the eldest—and each, not unnaturally, was eager to begin a family and achieve financial security. Furthermore, each knew that intemperate behavior could jeopardize his aspirations. Theirs was a very human response to the often bewildering and unsettling events that roared about them in the decade after 1765.
Only Washington had truly experienced the workings of the British empire and its officials. He had fought under the British flag, served under regular officers, dealt with royal governors, pursued a commission in the British