Two of the major events commonly regarded as preludes to the American Revolution were the enactment of the Sugar Act (1764) and the Stamp Act (1765), designed to increase British tax revenues. In the American colonies these Acts were not only dealt with in terms of economic disadvantage but increasingly in terms of right, the focal point being the question whether Parliament had the right to tax the colonies.

After the last French and Indian war (1754-63) the British gained Canada and the Missisippi area as new territories. The war was won but the costs had been huge, and would remain high due to the need to protect the colonies against other (western or native) enemies. But even more dangerous to the empire was the fact that Anglo-American strategic and economic interdependence were disrupted and no longer coincided after the War, a factor which would soon prove to undermine the bond between the empire and its American colonies.

Parliament and Grenville, the prime minister, increasingly felt the colonies should at least pay a part of their own protection. Grenville drew up a number of resolutions dealing with new duties, which, after being accepted by Parliament, became know as the Sugar Act, due to the fact that one of the more important resolutions dealt with a new duty on molasses. One of these resolutions was in fact an early draft of what later became known as the Stamp Act, but it was not included in the final version of the Sugar Act.