Debating the Issues in Colonial Newspapers: Primary Documents on Events of the Period

By David A. Copeland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 16
The Stamp Act Crisis, 1765-
1766

In 1764 Great Britain faced a massive debt. For years, it had been involved in the Seven Years' War, a world war with France, but the Peace of Paris in 1763 officially ended the confrontation. Fighting had taken place on every continent or adjacent body of water except Antarctica and Australia. Now it was time to pay the war's expenses. Most of the fighting in the war took place in Great Britain's colonial possessions, and many governmental leaders believed that those who were protected by British troops and sailors should now pay for the expense of that protection.

America's part in the Seven Years' War, known as the French and Indian War, began in 1754, two years before the official beginning of the Seven Years' War. American colonies, before the end of that year, had already pledged thousands of pounds to protect the colonies. New York, for example, passed an act to raise £15,000 to protect the colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia,1 and North Carolina's assembly voted to spend £12,000 to protect colonial interests in the Ohio Valley.2 Even earlier, Maryland had levied a tax on tobacco to create a stockpile of weapons and ammunition because its leaders believed war with France was imminent.3 Similar acts for raising money and assessing taxes took place in nearly all the colonies.

By 1763, the colonies had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the war and these debts had to be paid. But the British Lord of the Treasury, George Grenville, also wanted Americans to pay their fair share in reducing Great Britain's debt, which had doubled since 1754. Americans felt that Grenville's proposed taxes represented a double burden on

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