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American Revolution: Part II

American Revolution: Part II

Events after 1763

1764–1766: Taxes imposed and withdrawn

  • Currency Act (1764):
    • In 1764 Parliament passed the Currency Act to restrain the use of paper money that British merchants saw as a means to evade debt payments.
    • It prohibited the colonists from designating paper currency for use as payment for any debts, public or private. Parliament did not, however, prohibit the colonists from issuing paper money.
    • This tight money policy created financial difficulties in the colonies, where gold and silver were in short supply.
  • Sugar Act (5 April 1764):
    • This Act was aimed at ending the smuggling trade in sugar and molasses from the French and Dutch West Indies and at providing increased revenues to fund enlarged British Empire responsibilities following Seven Years War.
    • Actually a reinvigoration of the largely ineffective Molasses Act of 1733, the Sugar Act provided for strong customs enforcement of the duties on refined sugar and molasses imported into the colonies from non-British Caribbean sources.
    • The Act established a Vice-Admiralty Court in Nova Scotia to hear smuggling cases without jury.
    • These measures led to widespread protest.
    • That same year Prime Minister George Grenville proposed to impose direct taxes on the colonies to raise revenue, but delayed action to see if the colonies would propose some way to raise the revenue themselves.
    • The colonists objected chiefly on the grounds not that the taxes were high (they were low), but because they had no representation in the Parliament.
      • Benjamin Franklin testified in Parliament in 1766 that Americans already contributed heavily to the defence of the Empire.
      • He said local governments had raised, outfitted and paid 25,000 soldiers to fight France—as many as Britain itself sent—and spent many millions from American treasuries doing so in the French and Indian War alone.
    • More objectionable to the colonists were the stricter bonding regulations for shipmasters, whose cargoes were subject to seizure and confiscation by British customs commissioners and who were placed under the authority of the Vice-Admiralty Court in distant Nova Scotia if they violated the trade rules or failed to pay duties.
    • As a result of the Sugar Act, the earlier clandestine trade in foreign sugar and, thus, much colonial maritime commerce were severely hampered.
  • Stamp Act (22 March 1765):
    • The enormous new defense burdens resulting from Seven Years War and and Pontiac’s War (war with Native American Tribes) and expenditure incurred on the additional troops to be quartered in the colonies forced British chancellor of the Exchequer, George Grenville to raise taxes by the the Sugar Act (1764) and the Stamp Act, a common revenue device in England.
    • British Parliament passed the Stamp Act which imposed direct taxes on the colonies for the first time.
      • All official documents, newspapers, almanacs and pamphlets—even decks of playing cards—were required to have ‘stamped’ paper showing that a tax on them had been paid.
    • Completely unexpected was the avalanche of protest from the colonists, who effectively nullified the Stamp Act by outright refusal to use the stamps as well as by riots, stamp burning, and intimidation of colonial stamp distributors.
      • Merchants, lawyers, ministers, legislatures and editors, all joined hands and expressed strong opposition to this Act.
      • Colonists passionately upheld their rights as Englishmen to be taxed only by their own consent through their own representative assemblies. They felts that taxation for revenue would threaten foundations of colonial self-government.
      • In addition to non-importation agreements among colonial merchants, the Stamp Act Congress was convened in New York (October 1765) by moderate representatives of nine colonies to frame resolutions of “rights and grievances” and to petition the king and Parliament for repeal of the objectionable measures.
      • Bowing chiefly to pressure (in the form of a flood of petitions to repeal) from British merchants and manufacturers whose colonial exports had been curtailed, Parliament, largely against the wishes of the House of Lords, repealed the act in early 1766. Simultaneously, however, Parliament issued the Declaratory Act, which reasserted its right of direct taxation anywhere within the empire, “in all cases whatsoever.”
    • The protest throughout the colonies against the Stamp Act contributed much to the spirit and organization of unity that was a necessary prelude to the struggle for independence a decade later.
    • Virginian Resolution (30 May 1765):
      • Apart from call made by Massachusetts to delegates of House of Representative of colonies, Virginia assembly passed a set of resolutions refusing to comply with the Stamp Act.
    • Stamp Act Congress (7-25 October 1765):
      • In October, 1765, the leaders in the Massachusetts colony called together representatives from other colonies to consider their common problems especially against Stamp Act.
      • Nine colonies sent delegates to the Stamp Act Congress in New York City.
      • Representatives from nine of the thirteen colonies declared the Stamp Act unconstitutional as it was a tax levied without their consent. “No taxation without representation” was the slogan they adopted.
      • Moderates led by John Dickinson drew up a “Declaration of Rights and Grievances” stating that taxes passed without representation violated their rights as Englishmen.
        • In declaration the Congress asserted that “It was an undoubted right of Englishman that no tax be imposed upon them without their own consent, given personally or by their representatives.”
        • They sent petitions to the King, House of Lords and House of Commons in England.
        • At the same time, however, they rejected the idea of being provided with representation in Parliament, declaring it impossible due to the distance involved.
      • They threatened to stop import of British goods.
      • On the other hand, the British Parliament at Westminster saw itself as the supreme lawmaking authority throughout all British possessions and thus entitled to levy any tax without colonial approval.
  • Sons of Liberty:
    • The Sons of Liberty were a secret, underground organization that was founded in Boston by Samuel Adams and John Hancock in July 1765.
    • The Sons of Liberty were opposed to the Stamp Act and their membership spread to a number of colonial towns.
    • The Sons of Liberty was prevented people from using stamp, forced British stamp agents to resign, pulled down the image of king and also stopped many American merchants from ordering British trade goods. They marched in the streets shouting “Liberty, property and no stamps”.
    • Its members were American patriots, many of whom were hot-headed and were not adverse to the use of violence and intimidation.
    • This secret society was formed to protect the rights of the colonists and to fight the abuses of taxation by the British government. They are best known for undertaking the Boston Tea Party in 1773 in reaction to new taxes.
    • In Boston, the Sons of Liberty burned the records of the vice-admiralty court and looted the home of the chief justice, Thomas Hutchinson.
  • Quartering Act (15 May 1765):
    • This Act had the British parliamentary provision requiring colonial authorities to provide food, drink, quarters, fuel, and transportation to British forces stationed in their towns or villages. (Resentment over this practice is reflected in the Third Amendment to the present U.S. Constitution, which forbids it in peacetime.)
    • The burden of supporting British soldiers was thus to be shifted from English to the colonies.
    • The Quartering Act was passed primarily in response to greatly increased empire defense costs in America following the Seven Years War and Pontiac’s War.
    • Like the Stamp Act of the same year, it also was an assertion of British authority over the colonies, in disregard of the fact that troop financing had been exercised for 150 years by representative provincial assemblies rather than by the Parliament in London.
    • Colonies also suspected that the standing army was meant to enforce the Stamp Act as well as to keep the colonists under awe.
    • The act was particularly resented in New York, where the largest number of reserves were quartered, and outward defiance led directly to the Suspending Act as part of the Townshend Acts of 1767 (to be explained later).
    • After considerable tumult, the Quartering Act was allowed to expire in 1770.
  • Declaratory Act (18 March 1766):
    • The work in the colonies was going on as usual without stamps, no one cared for the Act. Customs officers issued clearances, lawyers and court of justice transacted without stamp.
    • In London, the Rockingham government came to power (July 1765) and Parliament debated whether to repeal the stamp tax or to send an army to enforce it.
    • Benjamin Franklin made the case for repeal. Parliament agreed and repealed the tax (February 21, 1766), but at the same time passes the Declaratory Act of March 1766 which insisted that parliament retained full power to make laws for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever”. One para of the Act says: “the said colonies and plantations in America have been, are and ought to be subordinate unto and dependent upon the imperial Crown and Parliament of Great Britain.”
    • The colonists took little notice of the Act for they did not care for any Act as long as it was not enforced. The repeal of Stamp Act nonetheless caused widespread celebrations in the colonies.
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