An angry mob stormed down the dark streets of Boston toward the palatial home of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson. Once there, they tore windows and doors from their frames and battered down walls. They got drunk in Hutchinson’s wine cellar, destroyed the library, tossed a manuscript that Hutchinson had spent years drafting into the street, and chopped down the trees in his yard. They stole much of what they could, including the family silver and ₤900. When the break of dawn and the resulting fear of capture forced them to disperse, they were trying to tear off the roof.
It was August 16, 1765. This mob violence was precipitated by the Stamp Act, which the British Parliament had imposed on the 13 American colonies on March 22. Already popular in Europe, stamp taxes were levied on such items as newspapers, marriage licenses, almanacs, pamphlets, legal documents, business licenses, insurance policies, diplomas, dice, and playing cards. Colonists would pay the tax by purchasing stamps to be affixed to the items subject to it.
Hoping to make the tax more palatable, Parliament granted colonists the exclusive right to sell the stamps; no British tax collectors would come to America. It wasn’t good enough.
This was a tax on the internal activities of the colonists. Until 1765, all British taxes on the American colonies were external; in other words, they had applied to American commerce with the outside world. To tolerate the Stamp Act would mean to tolerate the feel of British fingers on colonists’ daily lives. Colonial legislatures held emergency sessions. The tax was condemned in town meetings, speeches, and pamphlets. Mob violence erupted in Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island. Tax collectors were burned and hanged in effigy. The homes and offices of British officials were destroyed. When the stamps arrived, no one would sell them. British governors wrote home that the rebellion could not be quelled.
Leading the way to freedom as usual, Massachusetts called for a congress of the colonies. In early October, 27 delegates from nine colonies held the Stamp Act Congress in New York. Its Declaration of Rights and Grievances asserted that taxes could justly be imposed only with the people’s consent, declaring, “[I]t is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted right of Englishmen, that no taxes be imposed on them but with their own consent, given personally, or by their representatives”.
The modest amount of the tax (by today’s standards) was not the issue inciting the colonists. Their fundamental objection was to the imposition of intrusive British power. This was about more than money; it was about freedom.
The colonists were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to back up the sentiment. Two hundred New York merchants refused to order British goods until the Stamp Act was repealed. The traders of Philadelphia, Boston, Salem, and other port cities joined them.
The Act took effect on November 1. American business was disrupted, as little could be conducted without the stamps. Slowly it resumed without them. Meanwhile, thousands of workers in Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, and other British industrial towns lost their jobs due to the American boycott of British merchandize.
Protests over the Stamp Act marked a milestone in colonial resistance to British control and in American tax history. Far beyond concern over mere shillings, the colonists were morally opposed to what they viewed as an inappropriate exercise of British power and the threat to colonial freedom.
One of the premier leaders of this freedom fight was Boston brewer and patriot Samuel Adams, who declared, “I could not help fancying that the Stamp-Act itself was contrived with a design only to inure the people to the habit of contemplating themselves as the slaves of men …”
Today, the Sam Adams Alliance helps keep his love of liberty alive. This weekend, the organization is hosting SamSphere,
a new media forum, hosted by the Sam Adams Alliance, where bloggers and e-activists from across the country can gather together to network and share ideas. Samsphere will be specifically geared toward bloggers and e-activists who focus on local and state-level politics, and who are dedicated to the principles of individual freedom and limited government.
This weekend’s participants include:
Erick Erickson * RedState
Allen Fuller * Flat Creek Management
John Fund * Wall Street Journal
Brad Jones * Face the State
Jenn Sierra * Fort Hard Knox
Erik Telford * Americans for Prosperity
E.M. Zanotti * American Princess
Bill Smith * ARRA News Service
Ben DeGrow * Mount Virtus
Mark Johnson * ILGOPnet
Doug Welch * Stix
Bob Weeks * Wichita Liberty
Earl Glynn * Kansas Meadowlark
Jeff Blanco * Louisiana Conservative
Lance Dutson * Maine Web Report
Jack McHugh * Mackinac Center
Chet Zarko * Outside Lansing
Jim Hoft * Gateway Pundit
Craig Sprout * Montana Politics
Chuck Muth * Muth’s Truths
Skip Murphy * Granite Grok
Mario Burgos * Mario Burgos
Maggie Thurber * Thurber’s Thoughts
Chris Arps * Oklahoma Political News Service
Trent Seibert * Tennessee Policy Institute
Don Ward * Sound Politics
Fred Dooley * Real Debate Wisconsin
Tristen Cramer * Haemet
Chad Everson * Grizzly Groundswell
Steve Sibson * Sibby Online
Nic Hall * Nicky Cheese
Bob Costello * cozcommunio
John Tsarpalas * Tsarchats
Ken Marrero * Blue Collar Muse
Eric Odom * Eric Odom
Mike Van Winkle * A Chicago Blog
Micheal Tams * American Federalist
Jodi Bridges * Thirty Something
Lennie Jarratt * Open Source Activism
Drew Veeneman * Trenches of Democracy
I am honored to be included among this fine group of freedom writers and look forward to meeting everyone this weekend and to blogging about the event (as long as American Airlines breaks out of the federal red tape lashing its planes to the ground).