United States History

The Road to Revolution:  The Stamp Act


   Did a 1 cent stamp launch the American Revolution?

   "Such another Experiment as the Stamp-Act wou'd produce a general Revolt in America." - George Mason, 1766.


    In March 1765, the British Parliament announced a stamp tax. Beginning that November, American colonists would be charged taxes on a variety of printed items, including newspapers, wills, and playing cards. In most cases, the tax would be small, beginning at a half-penny. The response was surprising, at least to the men in Britain who had designed and approved the tax. American colonists, having recently fought in support of Britain, rose up in protest against the tax before it went into effect. The protests began with petitions, led to refusals to pay the tax, and eventually to property damage and harassment of officials. The Stamp Act protests established a pattern of action against British officials that would, in some cases, involve physical assault, as shown in the image to the right. We will take a closer look at this and other images and evidence in exercises that follow. But consider these questions for now. What would cause Americans to act in this manner?   Was the tax that expensive? Or were other issues at play?   But watch out.

    Stamp agents are on their way and Sons of Liberty are on the prowl!

     •      Process:

     1.      Familiarize yourself with the links listed below.  Then write answers to the questions on the activity worksheet given to you in class (or you can download the worksheet here).

     2.      Prepare a speech that will detail your response to the Stamp Act.  You will write your speech from the perspective of either a Son of Liberty, a Colonial Loyalist, or a Member of Parliament.

     •      Web Links:

     •      Background Reading

     •      Benjamin Franklin’s testimony before Parliament

     •      Thomas Hutchinson, Account of a Stamp Act Riot

     •      Colonial Protest:  “no taxation without representation”

     •      Colonial Protest:  The Funeral Process of Miss Americ-Stamp