What Was the Stamp Act? (with pictures)

M. Dee Dubroff
M. Dee Dubroff
The Stamp Act can be viewed as sowing the seeds that eventually grew into the American Revolution.
The Stamp Act can be viewed as sowing the seeds that eventually grew into the American Revolution.

The Stamp Act of 1765 will forever be associated with the colonial battle cry of “no taxation without representation.” The use of stamped, embossed paper on legal documents, newspapers and even playing cards were required fare under the stipulations of the act. Stamps did not refer to the postage stamps that we know today, but rather, in colonial times, they were used in an embossing process. Pressure is applied to the stamp, leaving the imprint of a raised design on different materials. In colonial times, a stamp was used on paper, metal or fabric.

The Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament to raise money for British troops defending the American colonies.
The Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament to raise money for British troops defending the American colonies.

The presence of the stamp indicated payment of the imposed tax. Using paper that had been stamped for legal documents was an established practice in England for years, but the American colonists had never been subject to the same restrictions. They were outraged and responded violently.

The English Parliament passed the Stamp Act in a direct attempt to raise funds for the British military defending the borders of the American colonies. Violators of the law were subject to trial in vice-admiralty courts. The concept was alien to the early colonists, who had up to that time experienced only external and indirect taxation. The Sugar Act of 1764 was a tax on trade, but it did not directly affect their lives in the same way. It can be said that the agitation stirred by the passage of the Stamp Act sowed the seeds of discontent that some ten years later erupted into the conflict known as the American Revolution.

The Stamp Act was not intended or considered to be an act of oppression by many of the luminaries of the day. Even Benjamin Franklin gave his agreement to the tax, albeit not without considerable hesitation. Despite the intentions of the mother country, colonial reaction was intense, adverse and immediate. One of the unexpected effects of the passage of the act was the unification of some of the more powerful factions of colonial society, namely the lawyers, clergy, businessmen and journalists.

The American colonists did not feel that they were fairly represented in the British government, and their protest of “no taxation without representation” was never legally addressed. The Stamp Act angered them because they saw no need for the army that the proceeds were supposed to defray. The colonists stood their ground and, unable to enforce the law, the English Parliament was forced to repeal it the following spring. Taxes and discontent swelled until colonial America went to war with the mother country, exerting its need for independence in the American Revolution.

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Discussion Comments


The Tea Party is owed an apology. They have been wrongly accused of being racist; and then crazy; and then "nazi" like. Wash, rinse, repeat, it's the usual passive-aggressive leftist mantra. Condemn, then scoff, then feign martyrdom. Only it's not working anymore.

As far as the Tea Party being angry about the choice of president: Remember that incompetence has no color or political lines. The HR reform bill is a scam. It was an excuse for a pork feast of spending, wrapped around a thinly disguised test bed for a V.A.T. Otherwise, why have your benefit amount appear on your w-2?

Real HC reform should have started with cutting top-heavy management that causes a hospital to charge $48 for two Tylenol.


Please remember that within this debate of what our modern political struggles are and what our founding fathers faced, there resides a large gap in the way information was delivered. During the time of the stamp act and the present day media had completely different technological delivery systems as well as a total difference in the ethical creation of the content being delivered to the public.

It was actually around the time of the stamp act that journalists started to come together and form what is our modern day system of reporting. The big difference is that when the stamp act was being protested, newspapers were still mostly editorial pages full of opinion and often not backed up by anything other then logic and sometimes not even that.

Today the field of journalism has progressed vastly and now requires an objective eye on the workings of the world. Unfortunately I feel this struggle for an unbiased approach to journalism fading with the rise in conservative talk radio and television.

Media organizations are now taking political sides and not so subtly. The Fox News network is perhaps the biggest criminal in this regard with their obvious conservative bias coming through in a barrage of subjective comments and selective reporting styles.

The reason this is so critical to how we look at civil dissent is that the form of media that people are exposed to will greatly effect the type of response they have the any administration's policies.

It is scary to me that we might actually be stepping back in time politically because of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. The fact that people actually think we are treated like the colonial citizens of the stamp act days is very concerning.


@Ubiquitous, from what you say I can only imagine the absolute disappointment that our founding fathers would express at your apathetic political views.

We are constantly in a struggle with our organized government to fight back from them taking to much control of our lives and finances. Any new tax just adds to the burden that our families are facing everyday here in America.

I am proud to take to the streets and let my voice be heard just as my ancestors did and I do think that we have some of the very same problems today that existed back then. Sure, they were fighting against a matriarchal dictatorship with absolutely no means of voting but the way that our administration treats us I wouldn't be surprised if that is what happens next to us.

We must stay aware and make sure that all this legislation that is passing through congress will not create another modern day stamp act.


@summertime, I do think you are right about the roots of the current political movement calling themselves the Tea Party. While some things are similar I honestly think that the original founding fathers had much more cause for dissent then these so-called modern day freedom fighters.

When the stamp act was passed as well as when the actual tea party event happened in the bay of Boston there was physically no representation available to the colonies in matters of taxation by England.

Without this voice they were much more justified with the actions of civil disobedience then the Tea Party. Now this isn't to say that the Tea Party doesn't have the right to take to the streets and voice their grievances I just personally don't think it is justifiable and rather a political play by a group of disgruntled republicans that are hurt by America's latest choice in a president.

That being said I think there are some legitimate claims that they make I just think that they are far and few between. If they really want to change the way the current administration is handling things they might just have to wait until the next election cycle and voice their opinion. If things don't change then I suppose their voice is truly a minority like I suspect it to be.


This historic event in history has truly inspired generations of political activism all the way into today's public scene. One could say that the stamp act was actually one of the original motivators for the modern day Tea Party movement.

This common conservative based cry of less taxation and demanded representation is still present in the bellows of right-wing agendas.

The anger that was felt against our motherland of England and their action to impose a new tax on us with no ability to protest is very similar to the Tea Party protests of today.

Common protest signs seen at these events will portray sentiments of being over taxed as well as general malicious feelings at the authoritative government in power.

Maybe these Tea Party members have some basis in their thoughts about today's administration here in the United States.

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    • The Stamp Act can be viewed as sowing the seeds that eventually grew into the American Revolution.
      The Stamp Act can be viewed as sowing the seeds that eventually grew into the American Revolution.
    • The Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament to raise money for British troops defending the American colonies.
      The Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament to raise money for British troops defending the American colonies.