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Stamp Act,1765, revenue law passed by the British Parliament during the ministry of George GrenvilleGrenville, George,
1712–70, British statesman, brother of Earl Temple. He entered Parliament in 1741, held several cabinet posts, and in 1763 became chief minister.
..... Click the link for more information. . 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 AdamsAdams, Samuel,
1722–1803, political leader in the American Revolution, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Boston, Mass.; second cousin of John Adams. An unsuccessful businessman, he became interested in politics and was a member (1765–74) and clerk
..... Click the link for more information. , Christopher GadsdenGadsden, Christopher
, 1724–1805, American Revolutionary leader, b. Charleston, S.C., educated in England. He returned to Charleston (1746) and became a wealthy merchant.
..... Click the link for more information. , Patrick HenryHenry, Patrick,
1736–99, political leader in the American Revolution, b. Hanover co., Va. Largely self-educated, he became a prominent trial lawyer. Henry bitterly denounced (1765) the Stamp Act and in the years that followed helped fan the fires of revolt in the South.
..... Click the link for more information. , John DickinsonDickinson, John,
1732–1808, American patriot and statesman, b. Talbot co., Md. After studying law in Philadelphia and in London at the Middle Temple, he developed a highly successful practice in Philadelphia.
..... Click the link for more information. , John LambLamb, John,
1735–1800, American Revolutionary leader, b. New York City. Prior to the Revolution he was a leader of the Sons of Liberty in New York and helped form the New York committee of correspondence to coordinate anti-British activity.
..... Click the link for more information. , Joseph WarrenWarren, Joseph,
1741–75, political leader in the American Revolution, b. Roxbury, Mass. A Boston physician, he participated in the agitation against the Stamp Act (1765).
..... Click the link for more information. , and Paul RevereRevere, Paul,
1735–1818, American silversmith and political leader in the American Revolution, b. Boston. In his father's smithy he learned to work gold and silver, and he became a leading silversmith of New England.
..... Click the link for more information. . Associations known as the Sons of LibertySons of Liberty,
secret organizations formed in the American colonies in protest against the Stamp Act (1765). They took their name from a phrase used by Isaac Barré in a speech against the Stamp Act in Parliament, and were organized by merchants, businessmen, lawyers,
..... Click the link for more information. 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 OtisOtis, James,
1725–83, American colonial political leader, b. Barnstable co., Mass. A lawyer first in Plymouth and then in Boston, he won great distinction and served (1756–61) as advocate general of the vice admiralty court.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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).