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Stamp from the Stamp Act of 1765

This is a black stamp on white or cream paper. It has the numbers 184 on top of the Coat of Arms of King George III, and so has a G3R around the crown.

Postage Stamp

Stamp from the Stamp Act of 1765, National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution, NPM-0_022044.2

The Stamp Act, passed by Parliament in 1765, required that all official documentation use a special paper that was stamped with marks like this one. The stamped paper cost money and was used as a direct tax on the people who bought it. The paper had to be used for wills, newspapers, pamphlets, and even playing cards and dice. Who do you think would be most affected by this extra cost? How do you think that American colonists felt having to pay this additional tax on things some people used every day? Who could they blame for this additional tax? Why do you think that having to pay extra tax on every paper would push Americans to feel rebellious toward Britain?

The Stamp Act was passed by Parliament in March 1765 and was a direct tax on paper goods sold in the colonies. The intention was to use the tax to pay the debts accrued by the British government for the Seven Years’ War and to station soldiers in the colonies. The American colonists responded by forming a Stamp Act Congress, a colonial meeting of delegates, which occurred in October 1765 in New York City. This delegation argued that the British Parliament had the authority to regulate transatlantic commerce to and from the colonies, including taxes (duties) on that trade, but not the authority to directly tax colonists, which was a power reserved for their own elected colonial governments. As the Stamp Act went into effect in November 1765, Americans resisted through boycotts, public attacks on stamp officials, and editorials in the press. This source is an image of the stamp that would be affixed to paper goods purchased by the colonists. It represents King George III’s Coat of Arms, thus visually reminding colonists of their dependent relationship to the British state each time they purchased these consumer goods. Using the questions above as prompts to guide students through the significance of the Stamp Act, be sure to point out that placing taxes on ordinary transactions would affect many people, not just merchants or wealthy people.