Why did Britain impose a Stamp Tax on the American colonies?
Answer: Debt & Defense Caused by Seven Years War
In 1765 the Parliament of Great Britain imposed a tax on the young American colonies to help pay for debts incurred during the Seven Years War, and for future defense from any other foreign or domestic conflict. I'll explain more below, but I highly recommend A Little History of the United States by James West Davidson if you want to read further.
The act required that printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London, carrying an embossed revenue stamp. Printed materials included legal documents, magazines, playing cards, newspapers, and many other types of paper used throughout the colonies. Like previous taxes, the stamp tax had to be paid in valid British currency, not in colonial paper money.
Finding their voice and identity, the Americans argued that there was no military need for the soldiers because there were no foreign enemies on the continent, and the Americans had always protected themselves against Indians. In fact a good deal of colonialist patriots greatly opposed the tax because they viewed it as permission to levy more taxes in the future.
Below are quotes from some of those patriots which illustrate their views on the Stamp Tax:
“It cannot be good to tax the Americans… You will lose more than you gain.”
Thomas Hutchinson, 1765
“The Stamp Act imposed on the colonies by the Parliament of Great Britain is an ill-judged measure. Parliament has no right to put its hands into our pockets without our consent.”
George Washington, 1765
“Planted by your care? No! Your oppression planted them in America… nourished by your indulgence? They grew by your neglect of them… As soon as you began to care about them, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule over them… men whose behaviour on many occasions has caused the blood of those sons of liberty to recoil within them.”
Isaac Barre, British MP, 1765
“The King has degenerated into a tyrant and forfeits all rights to his subjects’ obedience.”
Attributed to Patrick Henry, 1765