1815 Stamp Act

1815 Stamp Act

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A tax was first imposed on British newspapers in 1712. The tax was gradually increased until the 1815 Stamp Act increased it to 4d. a copy. As few people could afford to pay 6d. or 7d. for a newspaper, the tax restricted the circulation of most of these journals to people with fairly high incomes.

Some radicals such as Richard Carlile ignored the law and continued to publish his newspaper, the Republican without paying stamp duty. Carlile was found guilty of blasphemy and seditious libel and sentenced to three years in Dorchester Gaol and fined £1,500.

In the 1830s men such as Henry Hetherington, James Watson, John Cleave, George Julian Harney and James O'Brien joined Richard Carlile in the fight against what they called a tax on knowledge. As these radical publishers refused to pay stamp-duty on their newspapers, this resulted in fines and periods of imprisonment.

At the beginning of 1836 the two leading unstamped radical newspapers, the Poor Man's Guardian, and John Cleave's Police Gazette, were selling more copies in a day than The Times sold all week. It was estimated at the time that the circulation of leading six unstamped newspapers had now reached 200,000.

In the House of Commons, John Roebuck led the campaign against taxes on newspapers. In 1836 the campaigners had their first success when the 4d. tax on newspapers was reduced to 1d. The same year Parliament agreed to remove the tax on pamphlets. The campaigned continued and in 1849 a group of publishers led by Henry Hetherington formed the Newspaper Stamp Abolition Committee. However, it was not until 1855 that the newspaper stamp duty was finally abolished.

Last spring the Germans had constructed huge tents in an open space in the Lager. For the whole of the good season each of them had catered for over 1,000 men: now the tents had been taken down, and an excess 2,000 guests crowded our huts. We old prisoners knew that the Germans did not like these irregularities and that something would soon happen to reduce our number.

Today we round off our Peterloo blog series with Dr Katie Carpenter’s second post about the legislation that was rushed through Parliament following the Peterloo Massacre on 16 August 1819. Today she discusses its aim of censoring the press…

After the Peterloo Massacre, Lord Liverpool’s government quickly passed six pieces of oppressive legislation in late 1819. These new laws, which became known as the Six Acts, were designed to prevent another incident like the Peterloo Massacre, by quashing political radicalism and preventing mass meetings. Two of these Acts were designed to counter what, on introducing the bills to Parliament, Lord Castlereagh called ‘the treasonable, blasphemous, and seditious branch of the press’ (Lord Castlereagh, HC Hansard, 29 November 1819).

The ‘Six Acts’, 1819 © Parliamentary Archives

Prior to 1819, radical newspapers had been able to avoid paying some taxes by publishing ‘opinion’ and not ‘news’. The Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act imposed taxes on? these publications. Subsequently the price of the newspapers went up, and fewer people could afford them, forcing some out of business. The Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Acts placed harsher punishments on those accused of publishing blasphemous or seditious material. The maximum sentence was transportation for up to fourteen years. The other four of the Six Acts sought to suppress mass meetings and prevent the use of weapons by protesters.

The passing of the Six Acts prompted protest from all over the country. However, this is not to suggest that condemnation of the Acts was universal. Indeed, one petition from the vicar, churchwarden, vestrymen and others of St. Pancras, presented to the House of Lords on 29 November 1819, was in favour of restricting the freedom of newspapers, or, to use their phrase, to prevent ‘Abuses of the Liberty of the Press’. The petition was over three metres long with hundreds of signatures arranged in three columns.

The petitioners were very grateful ‘to Almighty God for the Liberty, both Civil and Religious, which has been enjoyed by the Inhabitants of this Country for a Course of Years’. However, the petitioners [or they] were in favour of the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act, on the grounds that it would protect the uneducated working classes from being unduly influenced by blasphemous and radical ideas. They wrote: ‘That the petitioners do therefore view with indignation, the unwearied and audacious efforts of evil-minded men, who labour, by abusing the liberty of the press’. They described the efforts of such men to ‘delude and inflame the Mass of the people into a hatred of those principal [sic] and habits on which the well-being of society and the everlasting happiness of mankind depend.’ The petition concluded by asking for laws which could suppress blasphemy or sedition in the press more effectively.

Habeas Corpus © Parliamentary Archives

The suggestion that the poor and uneducated masses were susceptible to being ‘deluded’ by radical reform was common in this period. In 1817, just before habeas corpus was suspended, a House of Lords report described politically radical clubs and societies as aiming ‘to infect the minds of all classes of the Community, and particularly of those whose situation most exposes them to such impressions’ (The Report of the Secret Committee (1817), 23-24, HL/PO/JO/10/8/387, Parliamentary Archives). Indeed, when Castlereagh introduced the Six Acts to the House of Commons, he declared, ‘It was in his opinion utterly impossible for the mind of man long to withstand the torrent of criminal and seductive reasoning which was now incessantly poured out to the lower orders’ (Lord Castlereagh, HC Hansard, 29 November 1819).

Whilst the Six Acts might seem draconian today, historians such as Norman Gash and John Plowright have highlighted their ineffectiveness. Norman McCord has argued that in comparison to other regimes in Europe at this time, these measures seem fairly minor. The new punishments were rarely implemented. In 1830, the sentence of banishment was repealed from the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act. Arguably it was the four-penny stamp duty imposed by the Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act which had the ‘most lasting injury to the community’, but even this was reduced to a penny in 1836, before all taxes on newspapers, sometimes called the ‘taxes on knowledge’, were completely repealed between 1853 and 1861 (George Trevelyan, British History in the Nineteenth Century and After (1782-1919), 190-191).

  • Norman Gash, Aristocracy and People: Britain 1815-1865 (1979)
  • Norman McCord, British History 1815-1906 (1991)
  • John Plowright, Regency England: The Age of Lord Liverpool (1996), 31-32.
  • George Trevelyan, British History in the Nineteenth Century and After (1782-1919) New ed. (1960), 190-191.

Katie Carpenter is an AHRC Creative Economy Engagement Fellow with the Citizens Project at Royal Holloway, and the Parliamentary Archives, who has been researching Peterlooas part of the Citizens Project’s forthcoming Massive Online Open Course, From Peterloo to the Pankhursts and the Parliament & Peterloo exhibition.

1774: The Year Between Resistance and Rebellion

In July of 1774, as colonial resistance to British rule consumed the American colonies, the Virginia House of Burgesses asked thirty-one-year old Thomas Jefferson to draft instructions for the colony’s delegates to the First Continental Congress. Jefferson’s draft argued that Parliament had “no right to exercise authority” over the colonies and hinted that King George might be blamed for the turmoil if Parliament did not back down. The Virginia House set aside Jefferson’s draft and adopted a more conciliatory approach toward the crown. Jefferson quickly arranged to have his work published as A Summary View of the Rights of British America. Jefferson’s pamphlet was widely read in America and London, and he became known as a talented wordsmith and radical proponent of the colonial cause.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, seventy-eight-year-old Samuel Whittemore served as a civic spokesman for his colony’s resistance. Like Jefferson, he helped draft instructions for various Massachusetts delegations, joining strong stands against the Stamp Act in 1766 and the Tea Act in 1773.

Daniel Vassily, “Memorial for my 1st Cousin 9 X Removed – Samuel Whittemore Revolutionary War Hero and Massachusetts State Hero,” https://www.pinterest.com/pin/372743306631754599/.

Jefferson’s career was getting started, while Whittemore’s life seemed to be drawing to a close, when armed conflict erupted in 1775. Jefferson’s weapon of choice in the war remained his eloquent and forceful pen, but aged Samuel Whittemore chose more conventional weapons. On April 19, 1775, as British regulars retreated to Boston following their skirmishes with American militia in Lexington and Concord, Whittemore shot and killed at least two British soldiers, wounding another before being surrounded. He was stabbed, shot in the face, and left for dead. Yet, he lived until February of 1793, long enough to see George Washington become President under the United States’ new Constitution.

What inspired these two men, from two different colonies, separated in age by over 45 years and in geography by nearly six hundred miles, to abandon their allegiance to the British empire, risk their lives, and join the revolutionary cause? Is it true, as John Adams argued in a letter he wrote Jefferson in 1815, that the revolution occurred first in “the minds of the people”? If so, what led Americans to begin considering themselves no longer British subjects, bu rather American patriots?

Teachers often use questions like these to guide the teaching of American history in their classrooms. One of my favorite undergraduate professors used to say, “it is more important to ask the right questions than to have answers.” We embrace that philosophy at Teaching American History. We believe the best way to learn and teach American history and government is to ask thoughtful questions of the authors of original documents. In Chapter 5, Between Resistance and Rebellion from our Documents and Debates two-volume collection, we ask what was in the American people’s minds in the critical year before the American Revolutionary War began. We encourage you to explore this chapter with your students and challenge them to find their own answers.

Documents in this chapter include:

A. New Yorkers Celebrate “Loyalty” and the Anniversary of the Repeal of the Stamp Act, March 18, 1774

B. Gouverneur Morris, “We Shall be Under the Domination of a Riotous Mob,” May 20, 1774

C. Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America, August 177

D. Philadelphia Welcomes the First Continental Congress, September 9, 1774

E. Joseph Galloway, Plan of Union, September 28, 1774

F. General Thomas Gage, “I am to Do My Duty,” October 20, 1777

We have also provided audio recordings of the chapter’s Introduction, Documents, and Study Questions. These recordings support literacy development for struggling readers and the comprehension of challenging text for all students.

Teaching American History’s We the Teachers blog will feature Documents and Debates with their accompanying audio recordings each month until recordings of all 29 chapters are complete. In today’s post, we feature Volume I, Chapter 5: Between Resistance and Rebellion. On October 20, we will highlight Chapter 20: Progressive Foreign Policy The Philippines from Volume II of Documents and Debates in American History.


Stamps acts were enacted in various Australian states in 1878, 1882, 1886, 1890, and 1894, with amendments from 1892 to 1907. [2] According to these acts, stamps were required on many types of business transactions: negotiable instruments, promissory notes, bills of lading, and receipts. [2]

In Western Australia, duties of this type were overhauled in the Western Australian Stamp Act 1921, which took effect on 1 January 2010. [3] In South Australia, the Stamp Duties Act 1923 was first enacted in 1923, then revised or amended almost yearly until its current version of 2017. [4]

Stamps Act 1694 Edit

A stamp duty was first introduced in England in 1694 following the Dutch model as An act for granting to Their Majesties several duties on Vellum, Parchment and Paper for 10 years, towards carrying on the war against France (5 & 6 Will. & Mar. c. 21). [5] The duty ranged between 1 penny to several shillings on a number of different legal documents including insurance policies, documents used as evidence in courts, grants of honour, grants of probate and letters of administration. It raised around £50,000 a year and although it was initially a temporary measure, it proved so successful that its use was continued.

Stamp Act 1712 Edit

The Stamp Act of 1712 was an act passed in the United Kingdom on 1 August 1712 to create a new tax on publishers, particularly of newspapers. [6] [7] [8] The initial assessed rate of tax was one penny per whole newspaper sheet, a halfpenny for a half sheet, and one shilling per advertisement contained within. [9] Other than newspapers, it required that all pamphlets, legal documents, commercial bills, advertisements, and other papers be issued the tax. [10] The act was increased in 1797 with greater taxes and wider spectrum of materials affected, reached its height around 1815 during the "taxes on knowledge" struggle, reduced in 1836, and repealed in 1855. [11]

The stamp tax was a tax on each newspaper and thus hit cheaper papers and popular readership harder than wealthy consumers, because it formed a higher proportion of the purchase price. The act had a chilling effect on publishers the tax is blamed for the decline of English literature critical of the government during the period, notably with The Spectator ending the same year of the tax's enactment. [12] Its repeal in 1855 allowed a cheap press again.

Stamp Duties Management Act 1891 and Stamp Act 1891 Edit

All the above Acts were superseded by the Stamp Duties Management Act 1891 and the Stamp Act 1891, which still constitute the bulk of UK law on stamp duties today.

The modern UK Stamp Act Edit

From 1914 to 1928, the Director of Stamping at the Stamp Office oversaw the production of Treasury Notes (a type of banknote, not to be confused with US Treasury notes). These were issued for denominations of £1 and 10's to enable coins to be removed from circulation and were not convertible to gold. Existing Bank of England banknotes in higher denominations continued to circulate alongside the Treasury Notes. In 1963 production of postage stamps passed to the General Post Office.

The Finance Act 1986 introduced Stamp Duty Reserve Tax. From October 27, 1986, the charge was imposed on 'closing' transactions at the London Stock Exchange which until then had been transactions where no document was used and therefore exempt from Stamp Duty.

A public display of Stamp Office artifacts and records was held at the Courtauld Institute in 1994 to commemorate the three hundredth anniversary of the introduction of UK Stamp Duty. The Stamp Office was also awarded the Charter Mark by John Major's Advisory Committee as a reward for its public service.

Stamp duties are the oldest taxes still raised by the HM Revenue and Customs.

Israel used to have a stamp duty on signed documents, [13] which was regulated by the 1961 "Stamp Tax on Documents" (Law 5731-1961), [14] the 1965 "Stamp Tax on Documents Regulations", [13] and subsequent Additions. [13] The stamp duty was repealed as of 2006. [15]

As part of domestic taxation, the PRC includes a stamp tax as one of the "behavioural taxes". Foreign investors are also subject to a stamp tax. Stamp taxes in China are governed by "Provisional Regulations of the People's Republic of China Concerning Stamp Tax Detailed Rules for Its Implementation", implemented in 1988. In 1997, stamp taxes produced revenue of 26.63 billion yuan and comprised 3.6% of China's gross domestic product.

Stamp Act 1765 Edit

After Great Britain was victorious over France in the Seven Years' War – which manifested in America as the French and Indian War – a small Stamp Act was enacted that covered of all sorts of documents. The Stamp Act 1765 (short title Duties in American Colonies Act 1765 5 George III, c. 12) was a direct tax imposed by the British Parliament on the colonies of British America. The act required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London and carrying an embossed revenue stamp. [16] [17] These printed materials were on every legal document, magazine, and newspaper, plus many other types of paper used throughout the colonies, including playing cards. [18] Unlike previous taxes, the stamp tax had to be paid in valid British currency, not in colonial paper money.

The purpose of the tax was to help pay for troops stationed in North America. The British government felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and the colonial population should pay at least a portion of the expense. The colonists claimed their constitutional rights were violated since only their own colonial legislatures could levy taxes. [19] The colonies sent no representatives to Parliament, and therefore had no influence over what taxes were raised, how they were levied, or how they would be spent. Some opponents of the Stamp Act distinguished between "internal" taxes like the stamp duty, which they claimed Parliament had no right to impose, and revenue legitimately raised through the regulation on trade. [18] In general, however, most colonists considered the Act to be a violation of their rights as Englishmen to be taxed without their consent – consent that only the colonial legislatures could grant because Americans were unrepresented in Parliament. The rallying cry of "No Taxation without Representation" reflected an increasingly major grievance that led to the American Revolution. [20] The Americans saw no need for the troops or the taxes the British saw colonial defiance of their lawful rulers. [21]

The Stamp Act met great resistance in the colonies. Colonial assemblies sent petitions and protests. Local protest groups, led by colonial merchants and landowners, established connections through correspondence – the so-called "Committees of Correspondence – that created a loose coalition extending from New England to Georgia. British goods were boycotted. [20] [22] Opposition to the tax also took the form of violence and intimidation. Custom houses and tax collectors were attacked. [20] Protests and demonstrations initiated by the newly formed Sons of Liberty often turned violent and destructive as the masses became involved. A word used frequently by colonists was "liberty" during the Stamp Act upheaval. Opponents of the new tax staged mock funerals in which "liberty's" coffin was carried to a burial ground. They insisted that liberty could not be "taken away without consent." [23]

A more reasoned approach was taken by some elements. James Otis, Jr. wrote the most influential protest, The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved. Otis, the radical leader in Massachusetts, convinced the Massachusetts assembly to send a circular letter to the other colonies, which called for an inter-colonial meeting to plan tempered resistance. The Stamp Act Congress convened in New York City on October 7, 1765, with nine colonies in attendance others would likely have participated if earlier notice had been provided. The Stamp Act Congress was another step in the process of attempted common problem-solving. The Albany Congress in 1754 had been held at the urging of royal officials as a forum for voicing constitutional concerns and afforded the more conservative critics of British policy some hope of regaining control of events from the unruly mobs in the streets of many cities in contrast, the Stamp Act Congress was strictly a colonial affair, reflecting the first significant joint colonial response to any British measure. Delegates to the Stamp Act Congress approved a fourteen-point Declaration of Rights and Grievances as a petition to the Parliament and the King, formulated largely by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. The statement echoed the recent resolves of the Virginia House of Burgesses, which argued that colonial taxation could only be carried on by their own assemblies. [18] The delegates singled out the Stamp Act and the use of the vice-admiralty courts for special criticism, yet ended their statement with a pledge of loyalty to the King.

Opposition to the Stamp Act was not limited to the colonies. In Canada, Nova Scotia largely ignored the Act they allowed ships bearing unstamped papers to enter its ports, and business continued unabated after the distributors ran out of stamps. [24] Newfoundland experienced some protests and petitions based on legislation dating back to the reign of Edward VI forbidding any sort of duties on the importation of goods related to its fisheries. [25] The Caribbean colonies also protested. Political opposition was expressed in a number of colonies, including Barbados and Antigua, and by absentee landowners living in Britain. The worst violence took place on St. Kitts and Nevis, with rioting and blockage of stamp delivery. Montserrat and Antigua also succeeded in avoiding the use of stamps. In Jamaica there was also vocal opposition, and much evasion of the stamps. [26] British merchants and manufacturers, whose exports to the colonies were threatened by colonial boycotts, also pressured Parliament.

The act was repealed in early 1766, although the Declaratory Act maintained Parliament's right to tax the colonies. [20]

Revival Edit

"Revenue stamps" were revived in the United States during the American Civil War. In 1862, the United States (Union) government began taxing a variety of goods, services, and legal dealings, in an effort to raise revenue for the great costs of the war. [27] To confirm that taxes were paid a "revenue stamp" was purchased and appropriately affixed to the taxable item. [27] This excise tax continued until the federal government finished paying the war debt in 1883, at which time the tax was repealed. [27]

In 1898, revenue stamps were again issued, to provide funding for the Spanish–American War. Tax was levied on a wide range of goods and services including alcohol, tobacco, tea, and other amusements and also on various legal and business transactions such as stock certificates, bills of lading, manifests, and marine insurance. To pay these tax duties revenue tax stamps were purchased and affixed to the taxable item or respective certificate. [28]

Revenue stamps were issued at irregular intervals for alcohol products, tobacco products, matches, proprietary medicines, and perfumes. [29] Revenue stamps were finally discontinued on December 31, 1967.

Violent opposition

A reconstruction of the Redcoats and Rebels in Lexington, USA © During the summer, matters came to a head in the colony of Massachusetts which was in the grip of a post-war recession. Its major town, Boston, had a long tradition of rioting and popular demonstrations to defend local interests and it was particularly hard hit by the downturn. The combination of economic hard times, an unpopular and unprecedented tax as well as a local tradition of violent resistance was potentially dangerous.

. American opponents of the Act rendered it a dead letter by the autumn.

On 14th August, an angry mob attacked the house of Andrew Oliver - the local man rumoured to be responsible for collecting the tax. Then on the 26th they damaged the houses of colonial officials and completely destroyed the home of the colony's Lieutenant Governor. The demonstrations spread throughout the colonies and, through threats, intimidation and violence, American opponents of the Act rendered it a dead letter by the autumn.

1815 Stamp Act - History

Prelude to Revolution
1763 to 1775

1763 - The Proclamation of 1763 , signed by King George III of England, prohibits any English settlement west of the Appalachian mountains and requires those already settled in those regions to return east in an attempt to ease tensions with Native Americans.

1764 - The Sugar Act is passed by the English Parliament to offset the war debt brought on by the French and Indian War and to help pay for the expenses of running the colonies and newly acquired territories. This act increases the duties on imported sugar and other items such as textiles, coffee, wines and indigo (dye). It doubles the duties on foreign goods reshipped from England to the colonies and also forbids the import of foreign rum and French wines.

1764 - The English Parliament passes a measure to reorganize the American customs system to better enforce British trade laws, which have often been ignored in the past. A court is established in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that will have jurisdiction over all of the American colonies in trade matters.

1764 - The Currency Act prohibits the colonists from issuing any legal tender paper money. This act threatens to destabilize the entire colonial economy of both the industrial North and agricultural South, thus uniting the colonists against it.

1764 - In May, at a town meeting in Boston, James Otis raises the issue of taxation without representation and urges a united response to the recent acts imposed by England. In July, Otis publishes "The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved." In August, Boston merchants begin a boycott of British luxury goods.

1765 - In March, the Stamp Act is passed by the English Parliament imposing the first direct tax on the American colonies, to offset the high costs of the British military organization in America. Thus for the first time in the 150 year old history of the British colonies in America, the Americans will pay tax not to their own local legislatures in America, but directly to England.

Under the Stamp Act, all printed materials are taxed, including newspapers, pamphlets, bills, legal documents, licenses, almanacs, dice and playing cards. The American colonists quickly unite in opposition, led by the most influential segments of colonial society - lawyers, publishers, land owners, ship builders and merchants - who are most affected by the Act, which is scheduled to go into effect on November 1.

1765 - Also in March, the Quartering Act requires colonists to house British troops and supply them with food.

1765 - In May, in Virginia, Patrick Henry presents seven Virginia Resolutions to the House of Burgesses claiming that only the Virginia assembly can legally tax Virginia residents, saying, "If this be treason, make the most of it." Also in May, the first medical school in America is founded, in Philadelphia.

1765 - In July, the Sons of Liberty , an underground organization opposed to the Stamp Act, is formed in a number of colonial towns. Its members use violence and intimidation to eventually force all of the British stamp agents to resign and also stop many American merchants from ordering British trade goods.

1765 - August 26, a mob in Boston attacks the home of Thomas Hutchinson, Chief Justice of Massachusetts, as Hutchinson and his family narrowly escape.

1765 - In October, the Stamp Act Congress convenes in New York City, with representatives from nine of the colonies. The Congress prepares a resolution to be sent to King George III and the English Parliament. The petition requests the repeal of the Stamp Act and the Acts of 1764. The petition asserts that only colonial legislatures can tax colonial residents and that taxation without representation violates the colonists' basic civil rights.

1765 - On November 1, most daily business and legal transactions in the colonies cease as the Stamp Act goes into effect with nearly all of the colonists refusing to use the stamps. In New York City, violence breaks out as a mob burns the royal governor in effigy, harasses British troops, then loots houses.

1765 - In December, British General Thomas Gage, commander of all English military forces in America, asks the New York assembly to make colonists comply with the Quartering Act and house and supply his troops. Also in December, the American boycott of English imports spreads, as over 200 Boston merchants join the movement.

1766 - In January, the New York assembly refuses to completely comply with Gen. Gage's request to enforce the Quartering Act.

1766 - In March, King George III signs a bill repealing the Stamp Act after much debate in the English Parliament, which included an appearance by Ben Franklin arguing for repeal and warning of a possible revolution in the American colonies if the Stamp Act was enforced by the British military.

1766 - On the same day it repealed the Stamp Act, the English Parliament passes the Declaratory Act stating that the British government has total power to legislate any laws governing the American colonies in all cases whatsoever.

1766 - In April, news of the repeal of the Stamp Act results in celebrations in the colonies and a relaxation of the boycott of imported English trade goods.

1766 - In August, violence breaks out in New York between British soldiers and armed colonists, including Sons of Liberty members. The violence erupts as a result of the continuing refusal of New York colonists to comply with the Quartering Act. In December, the New York legislature is suspended by the English Crown after once again voting to refuse to comply with the Act.

1767 - In June, The English Parliament passes the Townshend Revenue Acts , imposing a new series of taxes on the colonists to offset the costs of administering and protecting the American colonies. Items taxed include imports such as paper, tea, glass, lead and paints. The Act also establishes a colonial board of customs commissioners in Boston. In October, Bostonians decide to reinstate a boycott of English luxury items.

1768 - In February, Samuel Adams of Massachusetts writes a Circular Letter opposing taxation without representation and calling for the colonists to unite in their actions against the British government. The letter is sent to assemblies throughout the colonies and also instructs them on the methods the Massachusetts general court is using to oppose the Townshend Acts.

1768 - In April, England's Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Hillsborough, orders colonial governors to stop their own assemblies from endorsing Adams' circular letter. Hillsborough also orders the governor of Massachusetts to dissolve the general court if the Massachusetts assembly does not revoke the letter. By month's end, the assemblies of New Hampshire, Connecticut and New Jersey have endorsed the letter.

1768 - In May, a British warship armed with 50 cannons sails into Boston harbor after a call for help from custom commissioners who are constantly being harassed by Boston agitators. In June, a customs official is locked up in the cabin of the Liberty, a sloop owned by John Hancock. Imported wine is then unloaded illegally into Boston without payment of duties. Following this incident, customs officials seize Hancock's sloop. After threats of violence from Bostonians, the customs officials escape to an island off Boston, then request the intervention of British troops.

1768 - In July, the governor of Massachusetts dissolves the general court after the legislature defies his order to revoke Adams' circular letter. In August, in Boston and New York, merchants agree to boycott most British goods until the Townshend Acts are repealed. In September, at a town meeting in Boston, residents are urged to arm themselves. Later in September, English warships sail into Boston Harbor, then two regiments of English infantry land in Boston and set up permanent residence to keep order.

1769 - In March, merchants in Philadelphia join the boycott of British trade goods. In May, a set of resolutions written by George Mason is presented by George Washington to the Virginia House of Burgesses. The Virginia Resolves oppose taxation without representation, the British opposition to the circular letters, and British plans to possibly send American agitators to England for trial. Ten days later, the Royal governor of Virginia dissolves the House of Burgesses. However, its members meet the next day in a Williamsburg tavern and agree to a boycott of British trade goods, luxury items and slaves.

1769 - In July, in the territory of California, San Diego is founded by Franciscan Friar Juniper Serra. In October, the boycott of English goods spreads to New Jersey, Rhode Island, and then North Carolina.

1770 - The population of the American colonies reaches 2,210,000 persons.

1770 - Violence erupts in January between members of the Sons of Liberty in New York and 40 British soldiers over the posting of broadsheets by the British. Several men are seriously wounded.

March 5, 1770 - The Boston Massacre occurs as a mob harasses British soldiers who then fire their muskets pointblank into the crowd, killing three instantly, mortally wounding two others and injuring six. After the incident, the new Royal Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, at the insistence of Sam Adams, withdraws British troops out of Boston to nearby harbor islands. The captain of the British soldiers, Thomas Preston, is then arrested along with eight of his men and charged with murder.

1770 - In April, the Townshend Acts are repealed by the British. All duties on imports into the colonies are eliminated except for tea. Also, the Quartering Act is not renewed.

1770 - In October, trial begins for the British soldiers arrested after the Boston Massacre. Colonial lawyers John Adams and Josiah Quincy successfully defend Captain Preston and six of his men, who are acquitted. Two other soldiers are found guilty of manslaughter, branded, then released.

1772 - In June, a British customs schooner, the Gaspee, runs aground off Rhode Island in Narragansett Bay. Colonists from Providence row out to the schooner and attack it, set the British crew ashore, then burn the ship. In September, a 500 pound reward is offered by the English Crown for the capture of those colonists, who would then be sent to England for trial. The announcement that they would be sent to England further upsets many American colonists.

1772 - In November, a Boston town meeting assembles, called by Sam Adams. During the meeting, a 21 member committee of correspondence is appointed to communicate with other towns and colonies. A few weeks later, the town meeting endorses three radical proclamations asserting the rights of the colonies to self-rule.

1773 - In March, the Virginia House of Burgesses appoints an eleven member committee of correspondence to communicate with the other colonies regarding common complaints against the British. Members of that committee include, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee. Virginia is followed a few months later by New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and South Carolina.

1773 - May 10, the Tea Act takes effect. It maintains a threepenny per pound import tax on tea arriving in the colonies, which had already been in effect for six years. It also gives the near bankrupt British East India Company a virtual tea monopoly by allowing it to sell directly to colonial agents, bypassing any middlemen, thus underselling American merchants. The East India Company had successfully lobbied Parliament for such a measure. In September, Parliament authorizes the company to ship half a million pounds of tea to a group of chosen tea agents.

1773 - In October, colonists hold a mass meeting in Philadelphia in opposition to the tea tax and the monopoly of the East India Company. A committee then forces British tea agents to resign their positions. In November, a town meeting is held in Boston endorsing the actions taken by Philadelphia colonists. Bostonians then try, but fail, to get their British tea agents to resign. A few weeks later, three ships bearing tea sail into Boston harbor.

1773 - November 29/30, two mass meetings occur in Boston over what to do about the tea aboard the three ships now docked in Boston harbor. Colonists decide to send the tea on the ship, Dartmouth, back to England without paying any import duties. The Royal Governor of Massachusetts, Hutchinson, is opposed to this and orders harbor officials not to let the ship sail out of the harbor unless the tea taxes have been paid.

December 16, 1773 - About 8000 Bostonians gather to hear Sam Adams tell them Royal Governor Hutchinson has repeated his command not to allow the ships out of the harbor until the tea taxes are paid. That night, the Boston Tea Party occurs as colonial activists disguise themselves as Mohawk Indians then board the ships and dump all 342 containers of tea into the harbor.

1774 - In March, an angry English Parliament passes the first of a series of Coercive Acts (called Intolerable Acts by Americans) in response to the rebellion in Massachusetts. The Boston Port Bill effectively shuts down all commercial shipping in Boston harbor until Massachusetts pays the taxes owed on the tea dumped in the harbor and also reimburses the East India Company for the loss of the tea.

1774 - May 12, Bostonians at a town meeting call for a boycott of British imports in response to the Boston Port Bill. May 13, General Thomas Gage, commander of all British military forces in the colonies, arrives in Boston and replaces Hutchinson as Royal governor, putting Massachusetts under military rule. He is followed by the arrival of four regiments of British troops.

1774 - May 17-23, colonists in Providence, New York and Philadelphia begin calling for an intercolonial congress to overcome the Coercive Acts and discuss a common course of action against the British.

1774 - May 20, The English Parliament enacts the next series of Coercive Acts, which include the Massachusetts Regulating Act and the Government Act virtually ending any self-rule by the colonists there. Instead, the English Crown and the Royal governor assume political power formerly exercised by colonists. Also enacted the Administration of Justice Act which protects royal officials in Massachusetts from being sued in colonial courts, and the Quebec Act establishing a centralized government in Canada controlled by the Crown and English Parliament. The Quebec Act greatly upsets American colonists by extending the southern boundary of Canada into territories claimed by Massachusetts, Connecticut and Virginia.

1774 - In June, a new version of the 1765 Quartering Act is enacted by the English Parliament requiring all of the American colonies to provide housing for British troops in occupied houses and taverns and in unoccupied buildings. In September, Massachusetts Governor Gage seizes that colony's arsenal of weapons at Charlestown.

1774 - September 5 to October 26, the First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia with 56 delegates, representing every colony, except Georgia. Attendants include Patrick Henry, George Washington, Sam Adams and John Hancock.

On September 17, the Congress declares its opposition to the Coercive Acts, saying they are "not to be obeyed," and also promotes the formation of local militia units. On October 14, a Declaration and Resolves is adopted that opposes the Coercive Acts, the Quebec Act, and other measure taken by the British that undermine self-rule. The rights of the colonists are asserted, including the rights to "life, liberty and property." On October 20, the Congress adopts the Continental Association in which delegates agree to a boycott of English imports, effect an embargo of exports to Britain, and discontinue the slave trade.

1775 - February 1, in Cambridge, Mass., a provincial congress is held during which John Hancock and Joseph Warren begin defensive preparations for a state of war. February 9, the English Parliament declares Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. March 23, in Virginia, Patrick Henry delivers a speech against British rule, stating, "Give me liberty or give me death!" March 30, the New England Restraining Act is endorsed by King George III, requiring New England colonies to trade exclusively with England and also bans fishing in the North Atlantic.

1775 - In April, Massachusetts Governor Gage is ordered to enforce the Coercive Acts and suppress "open rebellion" among the colonists by all necessary force.

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1815 Stamp Act - History

During the period 1812-22, it could be said that England suffered more, economically, socially and politically, than during the French Wars . Consequently there were a number of manifestations of discontent and distress, in the shape of riots and disaffection, which epitomised the 'Condition of England Question'. Following a series of disturbancesbetween 1811 and 1816, the government passed the so-called "Gag Acts". This legislation did little to end the discontent, which continued during the next two years, culminating in the "Peterloo Massacre", the government used the unrest as the reason, or excuse, for passing the Six Acts. This legislation was the work of Sidmouth although Castlereagh proposed the Bills to the House of Commons. The preamble (introduction) to the Six Acts said:

every meeting for radical reform is an overt act of treasonable conspiracy against the King and his government

This indicates a pre-supposition by the government that reform would lead to revolution. The government was out-of-date and had an eighteenth-century mentality however, it comprised men brought up during the French Wars who had seen what demands for reform had done across the Channel. The Six Acts have been seen as the high point of repression their purpose was outlined by Sidmouth in the House of Lords on 30 November 1819: He said:

A conspiracy existed for the subversion of the constitution in church and state, and of the rights of property. He should now describe the measures designed to meet this evil. It was proposed, that any person having been tried, convicted and punished for a blasphemous or seditious libel, should on conviction of a second offence, be liable . to fine, imprisonment, banishment, or transportation . [and] that all publications, consisting of less than a given number of sheets, should be subjected to a duty equal to that paid by newspapers.

To obviate the danger of tumultuous and seditious meetings. any parties wishing to meet for consideration of subjects connected with church or state, should notify their intention by a requisition signed by seven householders, and it should be illegal for any person not usually inhabiting the place where it was called, to attend. It was proposed to give the magistrates the power, with some limitations, of appointing the time and place of meeting.

It was proposed to prohibit military training except under the authority of a magistrate, or lord lieutenant of the county. . . and it had been deemed necessary to give magistrates in the disaffected districts, on evidence affording well-grounded suspicion of arms being collected for illegal purposes, the power of seizing them. [ The Annual Register , Vol. 61 (1819) pp.128-29]

The Whig leader in the Commons replied to these proposals by saying

Nothing but rigour and coercion were to be resorted to. Would not the new bills rather exasperate than repress? A dead silence in the country might for a season be produced by soldiers and penal laws, but nothing could reconcile the people to the loss of their rights, or compel them to submit quietly to that grievous deprivation. Property never could be exposed to greater danger ultimately than for a popular representation, as this House called itself, to pass nothing but acts of rigour, and omit all attempts at kindness and conciliation. The right of meeting was not only to be taken away, but the broad liberty of the press was to be invaded. Nothing would satisfy the noble lord but an attack upon the very vital principles of the British constitution. The new laws were not such as the public exigency required the extent, and even the existence of disaffection was not proved and until it should be so, it was the duty of every honest man to pause. ( Parliamentary Debates , 1st Series, Vol.41, (l819) cols. 407-412)

  • the Training Prevention Act (60 Geo III cap. 1)
  • the Seizure of Arms Act (60 Geo III cap. 2)
  • the Seditious Meetings Act (60 Geo III cap. 6)
  • the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act (60 Geo III cap. 4)
  • the Misdemeanours Act (60 Geo III cap. 8)
  • the Newspaper Stamp Duties Act (60 Geo III cap. 9)

Although these pieces of legislation have been vilified by radical and Marxist historians they were not extreme, given the conditions of the day. The measures were successful in restricting the actions of some extremists and they seem to have been vindicated by the events of the Cato Street Conspiracy in 1820.

The Training Prevention Act prohibited civilian bodies from training in the use of weapons. This piece of legislation hardly seems out of place in the modern world, let alone in the period of disaffection of the 18-teens. It also limited the activities of the agents provocateurs .

The Seizure of Arms Act, linked to the the Training Prevention Act, gave JPs and magistrates the right to search private houses for weapons, to seize them and their possessors. This Act also limited the activities of the agents provocateurs

The Seditious Meetings Act restricted to parish level all public meetings that were called to discuss 'any public grievance or any matter on Church and State'. Organisers had to proved local magistrates with due notice of the time and place of the meeting. The magistrates were empowered to change the date and/or time of the meeting at will, to prevent any attempt to organise insurrection. This was, perhaps, the most serious infringement of public liberty but it was repealed in 1824.

The Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act fixed the penalties for these activities to fourteen years' transportation. Magistrates were empowered to seek, seize and confiscate all libellous materials in the possession of the accused. This piece of legislation was not especially effective because it was never enforced rigorously, and also because of Fox's 1792 Libel Act. Juries were reluctant to convict people on flimsy evidence.

The Misdemeanours Act provided for speedier legal machinery so that people could be brought to trial faster. This reduced the likelihood of bail being obtained by the accused it also allowed for quicker convictions. Perhaps this was no bad thing, on either count.

The Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act greatly increased the taxes on printed matter, including newspapers, periodicals and pamphlets. Publishers and printers had to provide securities for their 'good behaviour' . Any publication appearing at least once a month, and costing less than 6d. was subject to a tax of 4d. The Act restricted the freedom of the legitimate press. Radical publications simply went 'underground'.

1815 Stamp Act - History

Proponents of an American Stamp Duty were found on both sides of the Atlantic but most supporters were in Britain. One of the most vocal British opponents on the American tax was William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, who led Britain to victory during the French Indian War. Edmund Burke, a statesman and philosopher, strongly opposed the tax and supported American independence. Most British merchants also opposed taxation.

British expenditure during the French Indian War, that concluded with the Treaty of Paris on February 1763, doubled Britain’s debt. During that period the government borrowed heavily, about four-fifth of the total amount raised to finance the war, and one-fifth was raised through taxes[1]. The annual cost of maintaining the army in the thirteen colonies before the war was £13,000 sterling. The cost of the additional 15 battalions in North America after the war escalated to £220,000. The colonies opposed to pay for their own defense so a tax to raise revenue would ensure colonist provided for their common defense.

Source: Alvin Rabushka, "Taxation in Colonial America", 725. Princeton University Press.

The gap between taxes paid by colonial residents and British inhabitants was intolerable for parliament. For instance each Massachusetts resident paid 2s, Connecticut under 1s, Rhode Island 1.5s, and New Hampshire 1/4s. The per capita tax per British inhabitant was 34.5s.[2]

The following were the most important supporting arguments of the British to legislate for a tax to raise revenue from the American colonies.

First postage stamp


This stamp, known as the Penny Black, was the world’s first postage stamp. Before the postal reforms of 1840 sending a letter was expensive. The charge was for each sheet of paper that a letter comprised, and for the distance covered. The receiver had to pay and not the sender! So a letter of two pages travelling one hundred miles would cost 18 pence or one shilling and six pence. From 1840 the same letter if it weighed under half an ounce cost the sender just one penny. The introduction of uniform penny postage resulted in increased trade and prosperity, with more people sending letters, postcards and Christmas cards than ever before.

Watch the video: History Brief: The Stamp Act is Repealed