Stamp Act of 1765 (1765)

By Stefanie KunzeOther articles in Laws and Proposed Laws, Pre-First Amendment

This 1774 print shows Boston colonists pouring tea down the throat of a loyalist official whom they have tarred and feathered. Tax commissioners were commonly threatened with tarring and feathering when they tried to enforce the Stamp Act of 1765, which imposed a tax on all papers and official documents in the American colonies. The aftermath of the Stamp Act influenced constitutional safeguards and the First Amendment. (Print by Philip Dawe via Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

The Stamp Act of 1765 was ratified by the British parliament under King George III. It imposed a tax on all papers and official documents in the American colonies, though not in England.

King George III imposed a tax on official documents in American colonies

Included under the act were bonds, licenses, certificates, and other official documents as well as more mundane items such as plain parchment and playing cards. Parliament reasoned that the American colonies needed to offset the sums necessary for their maintenance. It intended to use the additional tax money to pay for war expenses incurred in Great Britain’s struggles with France and Spain.

Many American colonists refused to pay Stamp Act tax

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Nine American colonies sent a total of 28 delegates to New York City for the Stamp Act Congress. The delegates adopted the “Declaration of Rights and Grievances.”