The Revenue Act of 1763 (Sugar Act) and The Stamp Act of 1765

Most of the members of Parliament agreed with Lord Grenville, even if he was an "insufferable bore" as King George III so eloquently mentioned once [9]. Lord Grenville was entirely correct in his assessment of the situation concerning the American colonies. The debt incurred to defend them was great, and the colonists were paying very little of that bill. "The time had come to pay for these victories which . . . the American colonies had done very little to achieve. . . . [And] in helping to meet the [$2 million] expenses, Grenville considered it was only proper that at least part of the high cost of maintaining a force of ten thousand men in America . . . should be met by the colonists themselves"[10] . Most Americans today would agree that this was not an unreasonable request. The debt had been incurred on the colonies' behalf, and they should have to help pay for their protection. After all, Parliament reserved the right to tax any and every citizen of the British Empire, and the colonies were part of the empire. In Lord Grenville's eyes, and in Parliament's as well, there was no question as to whether or not Parliament could tax the colonies. But a voice of opposition rose from another member or Parliament. Grenville's own brother - in - law, William Pitt the Earl of Chatham. He did not question whether or not they could tax, there was no doubt about that in any one's mind --but whether or not they should. Pitt, like Burke, had taken into account that American has been left alone for a very long time and that they would not appreciate a swift action from Parliament demanding a tax. Unfortunately, William Pitt's fear became a reality. In the colonies, there was opposition to the Revenue Act of 1763, on a basis that no one in Parliament could have foreseen.
The Revenue Act, which came to be called the Sugar Act, was actually an extension of an act from 1733 called the Molasses Act. The Molasses Act required a tariff on all sugar products that were imported into America from the West Indies. The American colonists, however, had found that it was not difficult to smuggle their sugar items into the colonies and avoid the tariff that was due to the British government. This sort of activity was not allowed to go on in any other part of the British Empire, and Lord Grenville saw no reason why it should be permitted in the colonies and be winked at by England. The colonies were lightly taxed when compared to the rest of the British Empire. American colonists "paid no more than sixpence a year against the average English taxpayer's twenty-five shillings" [11]. They were doing well in America. There was enough industry to surprise an Englishman who had never been there before. There was absolutely no excuse for the colonists to be further exempt from taxes that every other British citizen paid. Therefore, with logic on their side, King George, Lord Grenville, and Parliament agreed that through the Revenue Act the colonists should help pay for their own protection.
The price of sugar products was actually lowered through this act because the tariff was removed and "the duty on foreign molasses imported into the British colonies was reduced from sixpence to threepence"[12] . Therefore, the Sugar Act should have come as a relief to the American colonists, as it would have been, provided they had been paying the tariff all along rather than avoiding it. Instead of enjoying this reduction in the cost, the colonists boycotted the purchase of sugar purchases. Lord Grenville was shocked. The tax that had been implemented to pay for the protection of these people had failed. Lord Grenville did not understand how a lowered price on an item could have caused so much opposition. Most people today would understand his confusion. If the price of an item were to be lowered, even if it did involve a new tax, most people would cheerfully pay the new tax and enjoy the lower price. The mind set of the colonists was obviously very different. In accepting the tax, they would have been accepting the right for Parliament to impose a tax upon them. The problem for the colonists was that Parliament did indeed have the right to tax them. According to the contemporary jurist William Blackstone, "The power of Parliament [was] absolute" [13].
Due to the opposition to this particular act, Parliament repealed the Revenue Act and Lord Grenville attempted to gain the required revenues though another route. He gave the colonies the chance to impose a tax upon themselves. After all, William Pitt had said that in his opinion, the "kingdom [had] no right lay a tax upon the colonies. Taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power. Taxes are a voluntary gift and grant of the commons alone" [14] . This idea of Pitt's was noble, the offer of Lord Grenville was generous, and it may have actually worked very well had he not neglected to mention the amount of money he expected the colonies to raise. They expected Parliament to say that any amount collected would not be enough, so they did not bother raising the funds required to avoid a new tax. Given the distrust that the colonists had for Parliament, this was another fatal error in the to relationship between England and her colonies. The necessary funds were not raised by the colonists, and a new act was implemented. This act required a tax on any paper product, including a wide range of items from legal documents such as, a marriage license, to common items, such as a deck of cards. This new law was called the Stamp Act of 1765.
The Stamp Act was despised even more than the Sugar Act that had preceded it, and this caused even more rebellion in the colonies. Parliament was forced yet again to deal with an unpleasant situation involving the colonies. The debates on how to handle this particular rebellion were even more heated than the previous ones involving the Revenue Act. Even a colonist by the name of Benjamin Franklin spoke to Parliament concerning The Stamp Act. He mentioned that the taxes that the colonists hated so much were the internal taxes, and that is exactly what the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act were. However, if there were an external tax, then the colonists, according to Franklin, would more readily pay it and not be so ready to rebel. This idea sparked even more debate. Lord Grenville, along with other members of parliament "[could] not understand the difference between external and internal taxes. They [were] the same in effect and [differed] only in name" [15]. William Pitt answered Lord Grenville in a debate on that very same day. He said that there was definitely a difference between the two, and that if Lord Grenville could not see the difference on his own, then he could not help him [16]. Pitt went on to say that "If [he] could have endured to have been carried in [his] sick bed . . . [he would] have borne [his] testimony against [the Stamp Act]" [17]. It was said later that "if Pitt had been in his place . . . the disasterous policy of taxing the colonies could not have been carried . . ." to the point of actually becoming a law [18]. Pitt did not agree with the Stamp Act, and he even applauded the colonists for refusing to pay it, but he did "[maintain] that the Parliament [had] the right to bind [and] to restrain America" [19]. It is important to remember that he did not think Parliament could not tax the colonies, just that Parliament should not tax them.
While Pitt and Grenville were in disagreement over the Stamp Act in Parliament, governing officials in the colonies who had been charged with seeing that this law was carried out were being harassed to the point of being tarred and feathered by the rebels in some areas [20]. Others had been threatened with the destruction of their homes. The Stamp Act was doomed from the start. There was not a royal official in the colonies who was actually going to enforce this particular act. The Stamp Act was repealed before it even went into enforcement. Grenville was again devastated by the failure of his plan to make the colonists pay for their protection. He began to worry about the outright refusal of the rebels to pay their taxes. He even said the he "[doubted] that they [bordered] on open rebellion . . . [and feared] they would loose that name to take that of a revolution [21]. In his disappointment at the failure of both of his plans, Grenville had no way of knowing how true his words would ring in just a few years.