Background and Reasons for Resistance

The Sugar Act caused alarm in the American colonies, partly because of the expected economic disadvantages, but also because of a number of other reasons, one of the most important being the severe implementation by the navy. Added to this was a general post-war depression and the enactment of another act prohibiting the use of paper money as legal tender, almost immediately following the Sugar Act. It was this combination of factors which provided the background for the oppositional activities. A lot of assemblies spoke against the new taxes. In addition, the Sugar Act also became an issue in the struggle between various factions in the different states, but in general opposition was strong. One of the steps taken, for example, was to threat with a boycot of English products. Meanwhile rumours of a possible new act which was being prepared by the British added to the growing tension.

Apart from the fear of economic hardship and disaster a more fundamental objection came to the fore: Parliament's right to tax the colonies was being challenged. This was an important turning point in the American attitude because from now on opposition was not only based on practical politics, but increasingly became grounded on fundamental juridical and theoretical objections, which challenged British souvereignty in its very core.

As it turned out, the rumours about a new tax were right. Grenville was preparing a new tax because revenues were still too low. Instead of offering it too Parliament rightaway he made the colonies a proposal. He gave them the chance to raise money themselves, in other words, to tax themselves. It is not entirely clear why Grenville did this as some say he was planning to introduce a new tax anyway. Probably he tried to give the colonies a feeling of having some degree of control in their own affairs in an attempt to bypass American opposition. The fact Grenville didn't mention the exact ammount of money he wanted left the Assemblies in the American colonies in a state of confusion and suggest indeed the proposal was merely a strategic move. Colonial agents defending their cause were not heard by Parliament during the time the Act was scheduled to be discussed, another fact which added to the already tense atmosphere. Parliament accepted the Stamp Act in january 1765. It called for a tax on all kinds of paper in use, like various kinds of official documents used in court, harbors, landtransactions, etcetera. The Act prescribed these documents had to be printed on paper carrying an official stamp.