The Stamp Act

 

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Stamp Act, THE. Laws authorizing the use of stamps, stamped paper, or stamps on packages, bearing fixed rates for the stamps, for raising revenue, were introduced into England, in the reign of William and Mary, from Holland. From that time until now the system has been a favorite one in England for raising revenue. Each stamp represents a tax for a certain sum which must be paid to obtain it. A penalty is imposed upon those attempting to evade it, and the transaction in which it should have been used was declared invalid without it. A stamp duty had never been imposed in the colonies. In 1732 it was proposed, but the great minister, Walpole, said," I will leave the taxation of America to some of my successors who have more courage than I have." In 1739 Sir William Keith, governor of Pennsylvania, proposed such a tax in that province. Franklin thought it just, as he said in the convention at Albany in 1754; Lieutenant-governor De Lancey proposed it in New York in 1755; and in 1756 Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts, urged Parliament to adopt a stamp tax. In 1757 it was proposed to Pitt to tax the colonies. " I will never burn my fingers with an American stamp tax," he said. But George Grenville, Pitt's brother-in-law, bolder than his predecessors, proposed in 1764 a stamp tax to be extended to the colonies. It was delayed to await suggestions from the latter.

The law required that for every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which should be engrossed, written, or printed any declaration, plea, replication, rejoinder, demurrer, or other pleading, or any copy thereof, in any court of law within the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty should be imposed. Also for all legal documents of every kind, marriage certificates, etc., a stamp duty should be paid. The stamps were printed in embossed letters, sometimes directly upon the paper used, but more generally, for the colonies, on coarse blue paper, such as is known as " tobacco paper." The value of each stamp was indicated upon it, and varied from 3d. to £2. The kinds of documents and other papers to be stamped to make them legal numbered fifty-four. To the blue-paper stamps was attached a narrow strip of tinfoil, represented in the larger engraving by the white space. The ends of the foil were passed through the parchment or paper, flattened on the opposite side, and a piece of paper with a rough device and number, seen in the smaller engraving, with a crown and the initials of the King pasted over to secure it.

Britain Tries To Tax Colonies via the Stamp Act

In the preamble to the Stamp Act the open avowal was made that its purpose was the " raising of a revenue for defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing his Majesty's dominions in America." This phraseology was rather deceptive. The British treasury had been exhausted not by defending the colonies, but by wars in Europe, and its coffers needed replenishing. This was the real meaning of the Stamp Act, and the Americans clearly perceived it. When accounts of this scheme reached Boston, the newly elected representatives of that town were instructed to use all their efforts " against the pending plan of parliamentary taxation," and for the " repeal of any such acts already passed." These instructions were drawn by Samuel Adams, and contained the first decided protest uttered against this taxation scheme. It was suggested that a. combination of all the colonies in opposition to the act would be expedient. A committee of correspondence was appointed to hold communications with the other colonial assemblies, and the political postulate—"Taxation without representation is tyranny "—an idea borrowed from the Dutch, was boldly enunciated in a pamphlet by James Otis, entitled The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted. The Assembly also resolved, " That the imposition of duties and taxes by the Parliament of Great Britain upon a people not represented in the House of Commons is absolutely irreconcilable with their rights." Opposition to the measure soon appeared in all the colonies. The people in cities and villages gathered in excited groups and loudly expressed their indignation. The pulpit denounced the scheme, and associations calling themselves the "Sons of Liberty," in every colony, put forth their energies in defense of popular freedom. The press, then assuming much power, spoke out fearlessly. Men appointed by the crown, known as "stamp distributors," were insulted and despised, and not allowed to act. Stamps were seized on their arrival and secreted or burned, and when Nov. 1 arrived--the day on which the law was to take effect—there were no officials courageous enough to attempt to enforce it. The public sentiment had already taken a more dignified tone and assumed an aspect of nationality. A general congress of delegates was called, and met in New York (see STAMP ACT CONGRESS, THE) in October, 1765, and sent out documents boldly asserting the rights of the people. Nov. 1 was observed as a day of fasting and mourning. Funeral processions paraded city streets, and bells tolled funeral knells. The colors of sailing-vessels were trailed at half-mast, and the columns of newspapers exhibited broad black lines. The courts were closed, legal marriages ceased, ships remained in port, and for a while all business was suspended. Out of this calm a tempest was evolved. Mobs began to assail the residences of officials and burn distinguished royalists in effigy. Merchants entered into agreements not to import goods from Great Britain, and very soon such a cry of remonstrance from all classes in America assailed the ears of the British ministry, as well as from merchants and manufacturers of London, that the question of repealing the act was raised.

In March, 1766, a protest, prepared by Lord Lyttelton, against the repeal of the Stamp Act, was signed by thirty-three peers. In that House it was maintained that such a strange and unheard-of submission of King, Lords, and Commons to a successful insurrection of the colonies would make the authority of Great Britain contemptible. There were sixty-three members of the House of Lords, including several bishops, who were for subduing the colonies with fire and sword, if necessary; but the vote for repeal stood 105 against 71. Soon afterwards a second protest, containing a vigorous defense of the policy of Grenville, and showing a disposition to enforce the Stamp Act at all hazards, was signed by twenty-eight peers. At that hour of efforts for conciliation five of the bishops " solemnly recorded, on the journal of the House of Lords, their unrelenting enmity to measures of peace."

Stamp Act is Repealed

On March 18, 1766, in pursuance of the provisions of a bill introduced in Parliament by William Pitt, the act was repealed. In the bill was a clause declaratory of the right of Parliament to tax the colonies, which was not acceptable to the latter. Pitt said the repealing bill could not have passed but for this clause, so of two evils he chose the least. The Americans were so pleased, however, with the repeal of the obnoxious act that, in gratitude to the King and to Pitt, statues were erected to them. An equestrian statue of the King was erected in Bowling Green, New York City, and a statue of Pitt in the attitude of speaking was set up at the intersection of Wall and William streets. Another was erected in Charleston, S. C. The King was dissatisfied with the repeal of the Stamp Act, regarding it as " a fatal compliance which had wounded the majesty of England, and planted thorns under his pillow." He scolded Lord North, for he preferred the risk of losing the colonies rather than to yield one iota of his claim to absolute authority over them. (See PITT, WILLIAM.)

The following is the full text of the Stamp Act, which received the royal signature, March 27, 1765:

The Stamp Act

Whereas, by an act made in the last session of Parliament, several duties were granted, continued, and appropriated towards defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the British colonies and plantations in America; and whereas it is first necessary that provision be made for raising a further revenue within your Majesty's dominions in America, towards defraying the said expenses; we, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, have therefore resolved to give and grant unto your Majesty the several rights and duties hereinafter mentioned; and do most humbly beseech your Majesty that it may be enact-ed. And be it enacted by the King's most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that from and after the first day of November, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-five, there shall be raised, levied, collected, and paid unto his Majesty, his heirs and successors, throughout the colonies and plantations in America, which now are, or hereafter may be, under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs and successors:

1. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any declaration, plea, replication, rejoinder, demurrer, or other pleading, or any copy thereof, in any court of law within the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty of three pence.

2. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any special bail, and appearance upon such bail in any such court, a amp duty of two shillings.

3. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which may be engrossed, written, or printed any petition, bill, or answer, claim, plea, replication, rejoinder, demurrer, or other pleading, in any court of chancery or equity within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp act of one shilling and six pence.

4. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any copy of any petition, bill, answer, claim, plea, replication, rejoinder, demurrer, or other pleading, in any such court, a stamp duty of three pence.

5. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any monition, libel, answer, allegation, inventory, renunciation, in ecclesiastical matters, in any court of probate, court of the ordinary, or other court exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of one shilling.

6. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any copy of any will (other than the probate thereof), monition, libel, answer, allegation, inventory, or renunciation, in ecclesiastical matters in any such court, a stamp duty of six pence.

7. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any donation, presentation, collation or institution, of or to any benefice, or any writ or instrument for the like purpose, or any register, entry, testimonial, or certificate of any degree taken in any university, academy, college, or seminary of learning, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of two pounds.

8. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any monition, libel, claim, answer, allegation, information, letter of request, execution, renunciation, inventory, or other pleading, in any admiralty court within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of one shilling.

9. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which any copy of any such monition, libel, claim, answer, allegation, information, letter of request, execution, renunciation, inventory, or other pleading shall be engrossed, written, or printed, a stamp duty of six pence.

10. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any appeal, writ of error, writ of dower, ad quo damnum, certiorari, statute merchant, statute staple, attestation, or certificate, by any officer, or exemplification of any record or proceeding, in any court whatsoever, within the said colonies and plantations (except appeals, writs of error, certiorari, attestations, certificates, and exemplifications, for, or relating to, the removal of any proceedings from before a single justice of the peace) a stamp duty of ten shillings.

11. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any writ of covenant for levying fines, writ of entry for suffering a common recovery, or attachment issuing out of or returnable into any court within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of five shilings.

12. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any judgment, decree, or sentence, or dismission, or any record of nisi prius or postea, in any court within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of four shillings.

13. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any affidavit, common bail, or appearance, interrogatory, deposition, rule, order or warrant of any court, or any dedimus potestament, capias subpoena, summons, compulsory citation, commission, recognizance, or any other writ, process, or mandate, issuing out of or returnable into any court, or any office belonging thereto, or any other proceeding therein whatsoever, or any copy thereof, or of any record not hereinbefore charged, within the said colonies and plantations (except warrants relating to criminal matters, and proceedings thereon, or relating thereto), a stamp duty of one shilling.

14. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any note or bill of lading, which shall be signed for any kind of goods, wares or merchandise, to be exported from, or any cocket or clearance granted within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of four pence.

15. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed letters of mart or commission for private ships-of-war, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of twenty shillings.

16. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any grant, appointment, or admission of or to any public beneficial office or employment, for the space of one year, or any lesser time, of or above twenty pounds per annum sterling money, in salary, fees, and perquisites, within the said colonies and plantations (except commissions and appointments of officers of the army, navy, ordnance, or militia, of judges, and of justices of the peace), a stamp duty of ten shillings.

17. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which any grant, of any liberty, privilege, or franchise, under the seal or sign manual of any governor, proprietor, or public officer, alone or in conjunction with any other person or persons, or with any council, or any council and assembly, or any exemplification of the same, shall be engrossed, written, or printed within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of six pounds.

18. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any license for retailing spirituous liquors, to be granted to any person who shall take out the same, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of twenty shillings.

19. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any license for retailing of wine, to be granted to any person who shall not take out a license for retailing of spirituous liquors, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of four pounds.

20. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any license for retailing of spirituous liquors, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of three pounds.

21. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any probate of will, letters of ad-ministration, or of guardianship for any estate above the value of twenty pounds sterling money, within the British colonies and plantations upon the continent of America, the islands belonging thereto, and the Bermuda and Bahama islands, a stamp duty of five shillings.

22. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such probate, letters of ad-ministration or of guardianship, within all other parts of the British dominions in America, a stamp duty of ten shillings.

23. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any bond for securing the payment of any sum of money, not exceeding the sum of ten pounds sterling money, within the British colonies and plantations upon the continent of America, the islands belonging thereto, and the Bermuda and Bahama islands, a stamp duty of six pence.

24. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any bond for securing the payment of any sum of money above ten pounds and not exceeding twenty pounds sterling money, within such colonies, plantations, and islands, a stamp duty of one shilling.

25. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any bond for securing the payment of any sum of money above twenty pounds and not exceeding forty pounds sterling money, within such colonies and plantations and islands, a stamp duty of one shilling and six pence.

26. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written or printed any order or warrant for survey- I ing or setting out any quantities of land not exceeding 100 acres, issued by any governor, proprietor, or any public officer, alone or in conjunction with any other person or persons, or with any council, or any council or assembly, with the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty of six pence.

27. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such order or warrant for surveying or setting out any quantity of land above 100 and not exceeding 200 acres, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of one shilling.

28. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such order or warrant for surveying or setting out any quantity of land above 200 and not exceeding 320 acres, and in proportion for every such order or warrant for surveying or setting out every other 320 acres, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of one shilling and six pence.

29. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any original grant or any deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever, by which any quantity of land not exceeding 100 acres shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned, within the British colonies and plantations upon the continent of America, the islands belonging thereto, and the Bermuda and Bahama islands (except leases for any term not exceeding the term of twenty-one years), a stamp duty of one shilling and six pence.

30. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such original grant, or any such deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever, by which any quantity of land above 100 and not exceeding 200 acres shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned, within such colonies, plantations, and islands, a stamp duty of two shillings.

31. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such original grant, or any such deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever, by which any quantity of land above 200 and not exceeding 320 acres shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned, and in proportion for every such grant, deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument, granting, conveying, or assigning every other 320 acres, within such colonies, plantations, and islands, a stamp duty of two shillings and six pence.

32. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such original grant, or any such deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever, by which any quantity of land not exceeding 100 acres shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned, within all other parts of the British dominion in America, a stamp duty of three shillings.

33. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such original grant, or any such deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever, by which any quantity of land above 100 and not exceeding 200 acres shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned, within the same parts of the said domains, a stamp duty of four shillings.

34. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such original grant, or any such deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument whatsoever, by which any quantity of land above 200 and not exceeding 320 acres shall be granted, conveyed, or assigned, and in proportion for every such grant, deed, mesne conveyance, or other instrument, granting, conveying, or assigning every other 320 acres within the same parts of the said dominions, a stamp duty of five shillings.

35. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any grant, appointment, or admission of or to any beneficial office or employment, not hereinbefore charged, above the value of twenty pounds per anmum sterling money, in salary, fees, and perquisites, or any exemplification of the same within the British colonies and plantations upon the continent of America, the islands belonging thereto, and the Bermuda and Bahama islands (except commissions of the officers of the army, navy, ordnance, or militia, and of justices of the peace), a stamp duty of four pounds.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any such grant, appointment, or admission of or to any such public bene- ficial office or employment, or any exempli- fication of the same within all other parts of the British dominions in America, a stamp duty of six pounds.

For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any indenture, lease, conveyance, contract, stipulation, bill of sale, charter party, protest, articles of apprenticeship or covenant (except for the hire of servants not apprentices, and also except such other matters as hereinbefore charged), within the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty of two shillings and six pence.

38. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which any warrant or order for auditing any public accounts, beneficial war- rant, order, grant, or certificate, under any public seal, or under the seal or sign manual of any governor, proprietor, or public officer, alone or in conjunction with any person or persons, or with any council, or any council and assembly, not hereinbefore charged, or any passport or letpass, surrender of office, or policy of assurance, which shall be engrossed, written, or printed within the said colonies and plantations (except warrants or orders for the service of the army, navy, ordnance, or militia, and grants of offices under twenty pounds per annum, in salary, fees, and perquisites), a stamp duty of five shillings.

39. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any notarial act, bond, deed, letter of attorney, procuration, mortgage, release, or other obligatory instrument, not hereinbefore charged, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of two shillings.

40. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed any register, entry, or enrolment of any grant, deed, or other instrument whatsoever, hereinbefore charged, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of three pence.

41. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written, or printed grant register, entry, or enrolment of any grant, deed, or other instrument whatsoever, not hereinbefore charged, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of two shillings.

42. And for and upon every pack of playing cards, and all dice, which shall be sold or used within the said colonies and plantations, the several stamp duties following (that is to say) :

43. For every pack of cards, one shilling.

44. For every pair of such dice, ten shillings.

45. And for and upon every paper called a pamphlet, and upon every newspaper containing public news or occurrences, which shall be printed, dispersed, and made public, within any of the said colonies and plantations, and for and upon such advertisements as are herein-after mentioned, the respective duties following (that is to say) :

46. For every such pamphlet and pa-per, contained in a half sheet or any lesser piece of paper, which shall be so printed, a stamp duty of one half-penny for every printed copy thereof.

47. For every such pamphlet and pa-per (being larger than half a sheet and not exceeding one whole 'sheet) which shall be printed, a stamp duty of one penny for every printed copy thereof.

48. For every pamphlet and paper, being larger than one whole sheet and not exceeding six sheets in octavo, or in a lesser page, or not exceeding twelve sheets in quarto, or twenty sheets in folio, which shall be so printed, a duty after the rate of one shilling for every sheet of any kind of paper which shall be contained in one printed copy thereof.

49. For every advertisement to be con-tained in any gazette, newspaper, or other paper, or any pamphlet which shall be so printed, a duty of two shillings.

50. For every almanac, or calendar, for l any one particular year, or for any time less than a year, which shall be written 1 or printed on one side only of any one sheet, skin, or piece of paper, parchment, or vellum, within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of two pence.

51. For every other almanac or calendar, for any one particular year, which shall be written or printed within the said colonies and plantations, a stamp duty of four pence.

52. And for every almanac or calendar, written or printed in the said colonies and plantations, to serve for several years, duties to the same amount respectively shall be paid for every such year.

53. For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which any instrument, proceeding, or other matter or thing aforesaid shall be engrossed, written, or printed, within the said colonies and plantations, in any other than the English language, a stamp duty double the amount of the respective duties before charged thereon.

54. And there shall be also paid, in the said colonies and plantations, duty of six pence for every twenty shillings, in any sum not exceeding fifty pounds sterling money, which shall be given, paid, contracted, or agreed for with or in relation to any clerk or apprentice, which shall be put or placed to or with any master or mistress, to learn any pro- fession, trade, or employment. II. And also a duty of one shilling for every twenty shillings, in any sum not exceeding fifty pounds, which shall be given, paid, contracted, or agreed for, with or in relation to, any such clerk or apprentice.

55. Finally, the produce of all the aforementioned duties shall be paid into his Majesty's treasury, and there held in reserve, to be used from time to time by the Parliament for the purpose of defraying the expenses necessary for the defence, protection, and security of the said colonies and plantations.

 

 

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