Samuel Adams and the Stamp Act

Today we are going to share a post with you from our friends over at Founders Keep (  Since we learned about Samuel Adams in our Bullet-Point Bio last week, we thought this would be a great follow up!

The Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, imposed by the British government in 1764 and 1765 respectively, were viewed with a disapproving eye among people who perceived the British as overstepping their power over the colonies.  They wanted to tax people without their approval to raise income to pay for the troops stationed in the colonies after the French-Indian War.  The Sugar Act was the first in the series of British Colonial taxation acts that provided fuel for the revolutionary mood in the American colonies.  The tax was masterfully implemented to cause little grief to the general public by including the duty in the cost of goods.  One can even argue that it would have passed with little notice if Sam Adams did not see it as an infringement on the rights and liberties of colonists.  His campaign against the tax was successful in three respects.

samuel-adams17-300x225First, Adams gained an important political ally in James Otis, an influential lawyer and the Advocate General of the Admiralty Court.  The second success was that his proposal to protest the tax to the British Parliament actually gained the votes and the support of the Massachusetts Assembly. The third achievement was all the publicity that Samuel Adams gained while campaigning against the Sugar Act – his protest was reprinted in many local newspapers.

Shortly thereafter, came the British Stamp act of 1765.  This time the new tax burden took the form of official stamps that colonists had to purchase and that were required for legal contracts, newspapers, court documents and other official paperwork.  The protests in the colonies started as soon as the news broke.  This time, Sam Adams took it to the streets.  Adams tried to unify his Country Party with the North Boston and the South Boston opposition groups.  Together they became known as the Sons of Liberty. Under Adams they organized riots and violent attacks to intimidate tax collectors. They destroyed the building that was going to house the stamp headquarters and the house of Thomas Hutchinson.  Their intimidation tactics varied from arson, burning official offices and stamps, to ceremonial hangings of British-appointment officials on the Liberty Tree in Boston Common.  It took several years for Britain to realize what was happening.stamp-act3-225x300

In the meantime, Adams and the Sons of Liberty were said to completely control Boston.  Sam Adams well understood that political forces needed support of the crowd to act decisively and the Sons of Liberty organized this support.  The culmination was the Stamp Act Congress where representatives of all but four colonies demanded the King to repeal the tax in a document called the Declaration of Rights of the Stamp Act Congress.  They met to coordinate response to the Stamp Act which laid the groundwork for the future Continental Congress.  It also helped to coordinate their anti-British movements.  In 1766 the British gave up to the pressure and the tax was never collected.  The Act was repealed in March, 1766.

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Photo credit: Founders Keep (

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