,How Many Americans Think the Repeal of the Stamp Act brought on the Forever Stamp?
Sorry, but The Stamp Act was repealed 250 years ago. What was the Stamp Act of 1765 and why did it have nothing to do with postage?
The Stamp Act was imposed only on the British American colonies. It was a punitive tax designed to repay the British treasury for the cost of the French and Indian War. The British and French called this war the Seven Years War. The French Canadians called it the War of Conquest. Europe was fond of identifying its numerous wars with the period of exertion from the time war is declared until a peace treaty is signed.
While this war raged from 1754 to 1763, only seven years of the nine years was actually declared a war. Try explaining this to the colonist while they were fighting the Iroquois and Mohawk Indians and their French Canadian and French professional armies.
The colonies sent 30,000 soldiers (unsupported but best estimate) in support of the British. New England and Virginia with vast interests in Ohio were the strongest contributors to the British missions. It continues to be difficult to accurately assess the human cost of the war. Records of deaths were not uniform or complete. Probably, 5,000 to 15,000, died on both sides and perhaps as many as 2,000, colonist. But the Indians, in particular, were pushed back to Ohio, upstate New York and Canada. This was clearly the colonist’s chief objective as the Iroquois allied nations were consistently hostile and cruel.
Simultaneously, with this wars conclusion, the wars in Europe came to a halt under the same peace treaty. By most historical standards today, the better name for this confrontational period would be WWI. England and her allies emerged the overwhelming winner. In general, France, Spain, Prussia, German republics, Austria and England exchanged real estate upon signing the Treaty of Paris.
The treaty covered land and economic interests that extended as far as India and Asia. The patriotic theme of the poem “Rule Britannia” was now a fact. However, England, with a population of 6.4 million people, modest compared to France’s 16 million, was now the policeman of the world’s oceans. She had an overwhelming problem just staffing her navy. And behind it all was a treasury that was exhausted of all funds along with a debt nine times its annual budget.
Here was the reason for Parliament approving the Stamp Act of 1765. So was it a tax on first class, third class or bulk stamps? No, it was a tax affixed to every piece of paper to be used by the colonists: Legal papers, newspapers, writing paper, advertisements, leather satchel’s binding paper, marriage licenses, playing cards, journals and diaries. Pretty intrusive, wouldn’t you say? You couldn’t submit a document to the court system unless it already had the stamp of the British Government on it as proof you paid the tax. If you published a newspaper without the stamp, you risked confiscation of your printing press.
So Parliament printed all sorts of paper and sent it by sea to Andrew Oliver, their commissioner representative in Boston. It wasn’t long before the forerunners to the Sons of Liberty attacked his warehouse and destroyed the facility and then partially abused Oliver’s home. Not the first mob to rule Boston but certainly, the clearest message sent to Parliament: “Taxation without representation is Tyranny”.[i]
Boston, if not the thirteen colonies had many friends in Parliament but not a majority. In this particular matter, Parliament quickly reversed itself and repealed the stamp act on March 18, 1766, nearly one year from its declaration. Unfortunately for Andrew Oliver word of its repeal took five weeks to travel over the ocean. Before word reached the colonies Oliver was forced by the local radicals to resign his commission. A couple of years later his brother-in-law, acting governor Thomas Hutchinson, brought him back into the British administration only to land him in the middle of broader tax controversies known as the “Townshend Acts.”
So the stamp you see within this article commemorates the repeal of the stamp act. The United States Postal Service unveiled it on June 2, 2016, at the Massachusetts Historical Society, two-hundred and fifty years later. You are viewing their poster sized advertisement.
[i] James Otis, undeclared voice of the people, and soon to be the official leader of the Massachusetts Assembly.