American Stamp Act

The administration of Mr. Grenville is memorable for the first attempt tax the American colonies. An act passed under his influence (March 1765) for imposing stamps on those countries, appeared to the colonists as a step extremely dangerous to their liberties, considering that they had no share in the representation. They therefore combined almost universally to resist the introduction of the stamped paper by which the tax was to be raised. Resolutions were passed in the various assemblies of the States. protesting against the assumed right of the British legislature to tax them. Partly by popular violence, and partly by the declarations issued by the local legislative assemblies, the object of the act was completely defeated.

The home government were then induced to agree to the repeal of the act, but with the reservation of a right to impose taxes on the colonies, Between the Stamp Act and its repeal, a change had taken place in the administration: the latter measure was the act of a Whig ministry under the Marquis of Rockingham, which, however, did not long continue in power, being supplanted by one in which Mr. Pitt, now created Earl of Chatham, held a conspicuous place. The second Pitt administration was less popular than the first: the Earl of Chesterfield, reflecting on the title conferred on the minister, at the same time that he sunk in general esteem called his rise a fall up stairs. All the ministries of this period labored under a popular suspicion, probably not well founded, that they only obeyed the will of the sovereign, while the obnoxious Earl of Bute, as a secret adviser behind the throne, was the real, though irresponsible minister.

At the suggestion of Mr. Charles Townshend, a member of the Earl of Chatham's cabinet, it was resolved, in 1767, to impose taxes on the Americans in a new shape namely, upon British goods imported into the colonies, for which there was some show of precedent. An act for imposing, duties on tea, glass, and colors, was accordingly passed with little opposition. Soon after this, Mr. Townshend died, and the Earl of Chatham, who had been prevented by illness from taking any share in the business, resigned. The Americans met the new burdens with the same violent opposition as formerly.

In 1770, the Duke of Grafton retired from the cabinet, and his place was supplied by Lord North, son of the Earl of Guilford. The new ministry was the tenth which had existed during as many years, but the first in which the king might be considered as completely free of the great Whig families, who, by their parliamentary influence, had possessed the chief power since the Revolution. This was the beginning of a series of Tory administrations, which, with few and short intervals, conducted the affairs of the nation down to the close of the reign of George IV.