Public Act, 5 George III, c. 12
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- Held At: Parliamentary Archives: GB-061
- Catalogue Reference: HL/PO/PU/1/1765/5G3n11
- Former Archival Reference: Display Document E.126
- Date: 1765
- Level: File
- Extent: 1 document
- Category: Acts of Parliament/Laws/Legislation
- Description: An Act for granting and applying certain Stamp Duties, and other Duties, in the British Colonies and Plantations in America, towards further defraying the Expences of defending, protecting and securing the same; and for amending such Parts of the several Acts of Parliament relating to the Trade and Revenues of the said Colonies and Plantations, as direct the Manner of determining and recovering the Penalties and Forfeitures therein mentioned [the 1765 Stamp Act].
The Act, better known as the Stamp Act of 1765 has often been seen by historians as the single most important piece of Parliamentary legislation to have affected British-American relations, with many suggesting that the Act ultimately led to the outbreak of the American War of Independence in 1775.
Britain's victory in the Seven Years War of 1756-1763 left the country with an increased national debt and concerns about the costs of supporting the American colonies. It was against this background that on the 13th February 1765 the Chancellor of the Exchequer presented a Bill to the House of Commons, at the instigation of the then Prime Minster George Grenville, which sought to impose duties in the American colonies and the West Indian plantations on all legal and official papers, such as deeds, wills and ship's papers, as well as on pamphlets, newspapers, and even dice and playing cards.
The Bill met with little real opposition in the Commons, and although several petitions were received against its provisions these were rejected. The House passed the Bill with some minor amendment on 27 February 1765, and the following day it was sent up to the House of Lords, where it prompted even less debate. The Lords agreed to the Bill without amendment on 8 March, and it received ultimately Royal Assent by commission, as George III was ill and unable to attend Parliament, on 22 March 1765.
The introduction of the Stamp Act, however, galvanised American public option against Britain, stimulating previously unrivalled inter-colonial political awareness and co-operation. The Act met with an open and unexpectedly determined opposition, with many arguing that it was unconstitutional and calling for greater political liberty under the slogan of 'no taxation without representation'. The ensuing intense political debate focused initially on the issue of Parliamentary representation, but soon expanded into wider questions of sovereignty.
A series of riots and the boycott of British goods, together with political pressure at home, persuaded the new Prime Minister, the Marquess of Rockingham of the need to repeal the Act. This was achieved on 18 March 1766 but the gesture was tempered somewhat by the passing the 1766 Declaratory Act, which specifically reasserted the sovereignty of the British Parliament over the American colonies and its right to impose taxes on them.
- Related Material: HL/PO/JO/10/3/295/6 is the Royal Commission for the Stamp Act.
- Access Status: Open
- Access Conditions: This record contains information of outstanding constitutional or historical importance and access to the original document is restricted. Requests to view will be dealt with by providing access to a copy.
- Reproduction Conditions: Copies should be made from the digital surrogate of this record. Note - The individual membranes on the original act are numbered. There is no membrance 39 - the text flows from membrane 38 into membrane 40. This is why there is no membrane 39 in the digital copies.
- Physical Description: The individual membranes on the original act are numbered. There is no membrance 39 - the text flows from membrane 38 into membrane 40.
- Copies Exist: A digital copy of this record is available. For information about how to view it, which may include online access, please follow the link below.
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