When the Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763) ended, England accumulated a considerable financial debt and sought to resolve this problem as fast as possible. Prime Minister George Grenville and his government reasoned that the debt had to be partly decreased at the expense of the Colonies which were held responsible for it by many politicians in London (Nesnay “The Stamp Act). One of the proposed options to raise the necessary revenue was the introduction of the stamp duties, a law which would require a governmental stamp on all important official papers and documents to make them legally acceptable (Nesnay “The Stamp Act).
Grenville determined that this tax had to be levied to maintain English troops in America that were supposed to preserve public order there. But the colonists saw no need in the British standing army of ten thousand men in America in time of peace and believed it was stationed on their soil to keep them under control (Elson “History of the United States of America”). At first, Grenville requested the colonial assemblies to come up with a better mechanism to raise the revenue from the Colonies than his stamp tax law.
But as instead of proposing an alternative method most colonial assemblies expressed strong opposition to the proposed tax law, the Stamp Act was passed in March, 1765 and was due to go into effect in the Colonies on November 1 of the same year (Elson “History of the United States of America”). Colonial response When the news of the act reached America, it was received with a storm of outrage and protests throughout the Colonies. The colonists explained their indignation by the fact that England had no right to impose taxes on them without their consent and because they were not represented in the decision-making process.
A special letter was circulated to all the Colonies in which its authors called for a general congress that would be held in the autumn “Page # 2” of 1765. As a result, the representatives of nine Colonies held the Stamp Act Congress in New York while the other four Colonies expressed their support for its resolutions. The Congress criticized London’s policies, questioned its right to impose taxes on the Colonies, challenged its power to enforce the new law, and issued a Declaration of Rights.
Its participants also signed a petition to the King and Parliament of England and called them to repeal the Stamp Act which they believed was unfair and discriminatory (Elson “History of the United States of America”). Meanwhile, as November 1, 1765 was approaching, the Colonies showed their determination to oppose the Stamp Act. Riots broke out and numerous meetings were organized in many American cities. Governors and newly appointed stamp distributors soon realized that it was impossible and even dangerous to try to enforce the new law.
Most distributors finally refused to receive the boxes of stamps that had just arrived from England (Elson “History of the United States of America”). The general uprising was masterminded by several newly founded organizations, the most famous among which was “The Sons of Liberty”. It was formed in the summer of 1765 of thousands of men who chose the policy of intimidation of royal officials and were determined to lead the furious mobs to protect the rights of the Colonies.
Businessmen also vowed to boycott English goods until the Stamp Act was repealed (Elson “History of the United States of America”). Rioting in Massachusetts In Boston, Andrew Oliver, who was designated as stamp distributor for Massachusetts, was faced with the same difficulties as stamp distributors in other places. Local townspeople hanged him in effigy which they left in a street. Some neighbors tried to remove the effigy but were intimidated by the rioters into keeping away from it.
At first, the majority of members of the City Council did not take the matter seriously. Massachusetts Governor Francis Bernard “Page # 3” requested that the Sheriff send his officers to remove the effigy. However, it turned out that taking down the effigy would put the lives of officers in danger as the crowd was emboldened to attack them (Bernard “Stamp Act Riot, 1765”). At the afternoon meeting of the Council, most of its members decided to give up any attempts to take down the effigy.
Some believed that it could be done after the crowd cooled down. But others suggested that the riot was to be taken seriously due to the fact that the majority of townspeople were involved in it. So they suggested that as they had no real support, they should do nothing about the effigy as it would only infuriate the crowd and unnecessarily put their lives in danger (Bernard “Stamp Act Riot, 1765”). By the end of the day, the mob brought the effigy to the Town House, went to a building that had been erected by Mr.
Oliver, and destroyed it in a few minutes. After that, they headed for Mr. Oliver’s residence where they first beheaded and then burnt the effigy. Mr. Oliver had sent his family away and with a couple of his friends remained in his house at that moment. After having burnt the effigy, the crowd decided to attack the house. They demolished the fence, broke some windows, and then entered the house only to find out that Mr. Oliver had fled away. Infuriated, the mob declared that they were going to find the stamp distributor and kill him.
They then headed for the two neighboring houses to check whether Mr. Oliver was hiding there. He was indeed in one of those houses, but a gentleman told them that Mr. Oliver had just fled to the Castle. No one doubted that if the townspeople had found Mr. Oliver there, they would certainly have murdered him (Bernard “Stamp Act Riot, 1765”). By midnight, the Sheriff and his officers went to Mr. Oliver’s house with the aim of persuading the townspeople to disperse. But the rioters began to hurl stones at them and they had no choice but to retreat.
And it was not until after midnight that the crowd dispersed and the town became quieter (Bernard “Stamp Act Riot, 1765”). “Page # 4” Uprising in New York The most terrific riots occurred in New York where Cadwallader Colden, the Governor, tried to enforce the Stamp Act and in anticipation of the uprising ordered to strengthen Fort George and had its cannon pointed at the town. He expected the townspeople to get intimidated and disperse, but by introducing such measures he only further infuriated them (“The Stamp-Act Riot of 1765”).
Colden was so furious that he was ready to fire on the townspeople as soon as they came closer to the gate of the fort. But the Sons of Liberty got wind if his intention and instead of storming the fort they sent a letter to Colden and warned him that they would hang him if he gave the order to fire on the townspeople. Terrified, Colden had no choice but to forbear from any aggression against the rioters (“The Stamp-Act Riot of 1765”). A few hours later the Sons of Liberty demanded to hand over to them the boxes of stamps that were kept in the fort so that they could destroy them.
Colden’s refusal to cooperate only exasperated the townspeople, who erected the gallows on the Broadway and, like in many other places, hanged the Governor of New York in effigy (“The Stamp-Act Riot of 1765”). After that they seized Colden’s elegant coach, which was a symbol of his pride and power and after dragging it around the town, made a bonfire and burned it as well as the effigy and other property from his house. The Governor and other officers did not dare to interfere as they feared that it would trigger a general massacre that none of them would survive (“The Stamp-Act Riot of 1765”).
After having burnt the effigy and the coach, the mob headed for the beautiful house of the mayor of New York and destroyed it setting fire to his rich library and many precious works of art. However, all these acts did not appease the townspeople’s anger as they failed to get hold of the stamps. The mob sent another letter to Colden in which they threatened to “Page # 5” storm Fort George and kill all of its occupants if he did not give up the boxes of stamps to them. The Governor finally agreed to have the stamps transported to the City Hall and the rioters never harassed him again (“The Stamp-Act Riot of 1765”).
Moor, the new Governor of New York who arrived from England, at first also believed that he could enforce the Stamp Act and refused to accept any papers without the governmental stamps on them. But he soon realized the seriousness of the situation and was forced to publicly declare that he would not try to enforce the Stamp Act. All these concessions were not enough, though, and merchants and townspeople were still angry and refused to buy goods arriving from England until the law was repealed (“The Stamp-Act Riot of 1765”).
Although Colden tried hard to execute the Stamp Act, he received no support from London and later was even severely reprimanded by English Government for having failed to enforce the law (Nesnay “The Stamp Act). The repeal London’s reaction to the uprising in the Colonies was calm. The Government could not send the army to America to punish the colonists and help British officials execute the Stamp Act because it had no money. By 1766, it became obvious that the law had brought more trouble than profit. British merchants complained that they were loosing a lot of money because the colonists were boycotting their goods.
Parliament began to realize that insisting on the execution of the act would lead to serious consequences. So, when the majority of Members of Parliament in both Houses voted for the repeal of the Stamp Act, George III granted his consent on March 18, 1766 and the law was officially repealed. As a result of the Stamp Act uprising, the Colonies were victorious and London was defeated. However, larger problems between England and America were not solved and ended later in civil war (Nesnay “The Stamp Act). WORKS CITED: 1. Bernard, Francis.
“Stamp Act Riot, 1765. ” Prologue to Revolution: Sources and Documents on the Stamp Act Crisis, 1764-1766. Ed. Edmund S. Morgan, 1987. 2. Elson, Henry William. History of the United States of America. New York: the MacMillan Company, 1904. 224-231. 15 June 2008 <http://www. usahistory. info/American-Revolution/Stamp-Act. html> 3. Nesnay, Mary. “The Stamp Act. ” April 2004. 15 June 2008 <http://www. marynesnay. com/STAMPACT. pdf> 4. “The Stamp-Act Riot of 1765. ” 15 June 2008 < http://www. accessgenealogy. com/african/nyriots/stamp_act_riot. htm>