The Accomplishments of the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act

Every war comes at a price; innocent lives taken, established countries broken, and national economies shattered. While the colonies were still under England's control, they were forced to help relieve the cost of the Seven Years' War. However, before the United States became the most powerful country in the world, it did not have much money to willingly give to their mother country. Therefore, under the reasoning of George Grenville, many items became taxed in order to provide the British government with means of paying for the damages caused by the war. The Sugar Act and Stamp Act were two of numerous taxes put in place on the colonies.

George Grenville (1712-1770)

History of George Grenville
George Grenville was born on October 14, 1712 at Westminster in London {Anecdote: My Visit to Westminster}. He was the second oldest of seven kids. His parents were Richard and Hester Grenville. George Grenville attended school at Eton between 1725 and 1728. He went on to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1730. In May of 1749, Grenville married Elizabeth Wyndham. He and his wife had four sons and five daughters. Their son, William Wyndham Grenville, became Prime Minster in his own right. George Grenville served as Prime Minister from April 16, 1763 to July 10, 1765.

George Grenville was friends with Earl of Bute, the individual who asked him to become the Prime Minster after the signing of the Peace of Paris on April 16, 1763. Grenville's goverment borrowed money from the Dutch to help them in the Seven Years' War. Grenville felt indebted to the Dutch and wanted to pay them back. However, there was no money to be found. Being faced with financial problems caused by the Seven Years' War as the first lord of the treasury, Grenville approached Parliment with the idea of establishing means of income through taxes on goods in England and in the colonies. This is how the Sugar Act and Stamp Act came to be.

The Sugar Act
Newspaper article by James Gillray shows King George III and Queen Charlotte enjoying a cup of tea with sugar. The several women in the background also drinking tea portray a sad facial expression because they could not afford the high price of sugar.

The sugar growers in the West Indies wanted the British government's assistance in forcing the American colonies to buy their products because the colonists were buying similar products from the Spanish and French for a cheaper price. In response, Britain signed The Molasses Act in 1733, which asked for six pence per gallon on sugar and molasses imported into the North American colonies. However, many colonists discovered ways around the tax; smuggling products into the colonies and paying bribes to get the product without paying taxes became fairly common practices. In 1764, George Grenville revised the Molasses Act and called it the Sugar Act, also known as the Revenue Act. Grenville made some changes to the act and used the British government to enforce the new act. He reasoned that since the colonists were willing to pay extra money to protect the illegal trade, they would be willing to pay extra to make the trade legitimate.

In the new Sugar Act, it will only cost three pence per gallon, instead of six on sugar and molasses. The Sugar Act also included taxes on items of wines, coffee, cloth, tropical foods and silk. The Sugar Act also monitored American exports of lumber and iron. Grenville introduced new procedures that supervised the loading of ships. The Sugar Act was designed to create revenue and eliminate the corrupt practices of the American colonist. Any offenders to the new tax were tried in admiralty courts, where royally appointed judges decided the verdicts rather than colonial juries.

The Stamp Act
In March of 1765, Parliment passed the Stamp Act in England in order to defray the cost of running a successful empire. At the beginning of November of the same year, the Stamp Act became effective in the colonies. This law required every legal document, newspaper, diploma, almanac, and playing card to be embossed as proof that the tax had been paid. The funds raised by the tax were sent to support the British soldiers in charge of protecting the American colonies, an expense England did not have the funds to continue supporting without the colonists' help. Like the violators of the Sugar Act, the colonists who did not follow the guidelines put in place by this tax were tried without juries in admiralty courts. Grenville and Parliament reasoned that since the English had paid a similar tax for almost a century, the colonists had no reason to object.

A Pennsylvania newspaper expresses the colonists' disapproval toward the Stamp Act

The Reaction of the Colonists
Despite Grenville's seemingly good intentions to raise money for England, the colonists were outraged. They feared that their individual rights as human beings were slowly being taken away. The Sugar Act and Stamp Act were both passed by Parliament, where none of the members had been elected by colonials. Prosecution in admiralty courts for disobeying the guidelines of the new taxes deprived the colonists of the freedom of a fair trial claimed by the men and women still living in England.

Colonists realized that if England had the power to tax, England also had the power to destroy them by depriving them of property. To the colonists, property was the source of strength for every individual; it provided them the freedom to think and act independently. They felt that if a person's property was not protected, then a person's liberty was also at stake.

Grenville aimed at helping England recover financially from the Seven Years' War. He accomplished his goal by embedding the Sugar Act and Stamp Act in the colonies. However, Grenville also embedded something much more into the hearts and minds of the colonists in the process; the desire to separate from England.

Counter Argument
(Tyler Painter)
"Therefore, under the reasoning of George Grenville, many items became taxed in order to provide the British government with means of paying for the damages caused by the war. The Sugar Act and Stamp Act were two of numerous taxes put in place on the colonies.”

When George Grenville taxed the colonies all he was think of what would benefit the England and how to get out of the hole they were in after the war. What he did not realize was that he was causing more damage by taxing the colonies which was pushing them away. If George Grenville had thought more about his strategy on how to help England he might have seen that the colonies and the new land would be more of a benefit to the country instead of using them for money.

If George Grenville had helped the colonies grow and not taxed them England may be a bigger country in present day. Let us say he didn’t tax them. The colonies may not have felt the need to fight for their freedom from England. This would cause England to be a much bigger and strong country today. The United States may have never come to be and the Revolutionary war might never have happened saving England even more money in the long run. So if George Grenville had stepped back and looked at the big picture and future he may have saved the country more and turned England into what the United States of America is today. It might have been the country that controlled a majority of the world.

Stated from how England Instigated the Revolution this quote says a lot. "Soon after England established the colonies in the New World, it began a period of salutary neglect. The English rarely intervened with colonial business. It was during this time that the colonies began gradually to think and act independently of England. This scared England, and initiated a period in which they became more involved in the colony's growth. Parliament tried o establish power in the New World by issuing a series of laws. The passage of these laws undermined the Colonist's loyalty to Britain and stirred the Americans to fight for their freedom."

Counter Argument
(Emily Bromberek)
It is often thought that the colonists overreacted to the establishment of the Sugar Act and Stamp Act. As the lord of the Treasury following the end of the Seven Years’ War, George Grenville proposed several ideas aimed toward raising revenue for England; all of his ideas involved taxation. England needed funds in order to continue running a successful country and had nowhere to turn but to its citizens. Therefore, Parliament followed Grenville’s suggestions and established numerous taxes to reduce the country’s debt. The people of England received the full force of taxation immediately following the signing of the Peace of Paris, whereas it took months for the new taxes to reach the colonies.

Overall, England's citizens knew the weight of debt better than any colonist in the Americas. Therefore, the colonists should not have reacted with such defiance to the taxes since the people still living in England had to pay the same taxes that the colonists had to, in addition to others that were placed on them. Compared to the lower social classes of Britain, the colonists’ lives were nearly unaffected by the establishment of the new taxes.

However, colonists understood something the people still residing in England could not understand: the importance of maintaining the sanctity of property. Property gave the colonists the freedom to think and act independently, a source of strength. Under Parliament’s rule, British commoners were unable to maintain property. They were unaware of the injustice that they were facing on a daily basis. The colonists realized that if England had the power to tax them without their consent, England also had the power to eventually deprive them of their right to property and personal liberty. With this threat to their freedom in mind, the colonists began defying the Sugar Act and Stamp Act and harassing supporters of the taxes. The uproar toward the threat of individual liberty sparked a desire to separate from England in the hearts of the colonists.

Counter Argument(James Sinovich)
Historian Alan Taylor stated the following, “the colonists had a very good deal—and they knew it. They resisted the new taxes in the hope that the British would back down, preserving their loose relationship with the mother country. But, of course, the British would not back down, which brought on a long and bloody war that no one really wanted." I used Taylor’s statement to help look beyond the primary reason of the Sugar/Stamp Act to diminish Britain’s national debt. It shed light on another mistake Britain made over 200 years ago; a mistake which our current society still makes. Britain made the mistake of creating a short term solution and did not think of the effects. If a nation is financially struggling from a war or just from a poor nation wide economy, some suggest raising taxes. When the government applies or raises taxes to an already poor nation, you will not get a successful outcome. As history has proven, you will create an unhappy, poorer nation. Eventually the unhappy and now poorer nation with create black market sales, riots, mobs, and eventually an entire nation against the government; the exact opposite of which the government targeted. A term our current world can share with the mid 1700’s is virtual representation. The colonies believed they could be better represented if they had direct or actual representation. In the modern era we also have suffered from corrupt politics.

Much easier said than accomplished, we can only hope to learn from out past. Regardless if the mid 1700 century leaders knew of history to learn from or not, time prevailed. Even with the repeal of the Stamp Act in the late 1760’s, it lead to more useless acts, the Declaratory Act, The Townshend Act, to more successful accomplishments such as the First continental Congress. While we can easily be critics of the 1700 century but it is our history that makes us what we are today.

Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America (Viking/Penguin, 2001), p. 442.
Counter Argument
(Jordan Drane)
The Sugar Act and the Stamp Act did not accomplish anything significant or noteworthy. These taxes were meant to help the English soldiers after the Seven year war, but to the colonist these taxes did not benefit anyone in the end. It is because of these two acts colonist saw fit to protest against them and become violent toward the English. England did not handle the two acts properly and caused the separation between themselves and America.

"All of sudden after over a century and a half of permitting relative self-rule, Britain was exercising direct influence over colonial life" The problem with the two acts was the way they were imposed unto the American colonist. For years the colonist had been in control of their territory and all of the sudden England started taxing them. The tax they imposed in America was smaller than it was in England, and the English had been paying taxes for many years. Americans saw what was happening, and felt that these taxes were only there to regulate the people and that they barely helped pay for any of the funds created from the Seven Year War.

If the two taxes were handled properly and were actually approved by the colonist then things may have been different. But because of the suddenness of the two taxes and how it did not show much benefit toward the English soldiers, Americans felt the need to put an end to it before the taxes became a bigger problem. Freedom was one of the main reasons for leaving England in the first place. Because of the taxes Americans felt that they were slowly losing that freedom that they had and thus felt the need to fight for themselves. Grenville and the English did expect what was going to happen, but England felt the need to defend their reasoning. Because of these two acts English had basically started what we know now as the American Revolution.

Counter Argument
(Holly Wysong)
This British law was an attempt to curb the smuggling that flourished in the colonies by reducing the previous tax rate and enforcing the collection of duties. It was introduced by the new British prime minister, George Grenville. The new law reduced the previous tax on sugar and molasses in half and allowed the customer to try violators in admiralty courts rather than local colonial courts. Because of the strict enforcement the act did accomplish it’s goal of reducing smuggling, which affected colonial economy, especially in Massachusetts. The protests against the act were moderate, but it nevertheless promoted boycott of British luxury goods in some colonies and gave some boost to local manufacturing.

The debt incurred to defend them was great, and the colonists were paying very little of that bill. This is what gave them their freedom and their ways to provide for their country. Although many disliked these acts they did a lot more good then bad.]

Counter Argument
(Zachary Wong Loi Sing)

The British were simply looking to pay off their debts caused by the colonists in implementing the Stamp Act of 1765. The Stamp Act of 1765's "apparent purpose was to raise £60,000 yearly in the colonies in order to help support the cost of maintaining British troops there, a cost totaling £350,000 annually. In fairness to the colonies, the money collected would remain in America, and Americans would be appointed stamp agents." (Indiana EDU). So while the Stamp Act of 1765 helped to pay off some of England's debt in the grand scheme of things it did not pay off everything. The amount paid for by the colonists did not cover even a quarter of what was needed to protect them. The British troops were there to help protect the colonists from other forces looking to expand, and the colonists did not want to pay for protection. While it is true that parliament did not have representatives from the colonies they could have lobbied for getting those people in place rather than going against their government to repel a law. That would have been a more peaceful method that was looking out for the long term interest of the colonists rather than the best way to save money now. I believe that while there were some negatives to the Stamp Act of 1765 that there was a lot that was positive as well. A few things should have been changed, such as how the act was enforced and how it was brought up. The colonists, in my mind, did not see all of the benefits of the Stamp Act of 1765 like they should have. It provided a cheap way to gain protection from one of the most powerful nations in the world. Also, a better way for the British to bring the Act about would be to get the opinion of the colonists. This would allow for discussion and understanding rather than simply going against everything set in place. Due to the lack of planning by the British and the colonists the Stamp Act of 1765 would lead to the Revolutionary War, with the colonists trying to gain absolute freedom from the British.

Travis Miller
William Pitt, a former British Prime Minister, actually defended the colonies on many occasions, such as his speech against the stamp act. He believe they had the power to legislate the colonies, but could not put such taxes on them. I found an anecdote on the internet to share, I thought it was interesting how popular Pitt was to the crowd and how overwhelming the vote was to repeal the stamp act. "The great day for the consideration of the repeal of the Stamp Act, Feb 21, at length arrived. Every seat in the Commons was filled. The merchants crowded the lobby, and awaited the decision. William Pitt came down to the House on crutches, cheers from the American agents greeted him in the lobby". ... "At half-past one, the next morning, the House divided; and the Rockingham Administration, weak as it was, carried the motion for the repeal of the Stamp Act by an overpowering majority." I couldn't really find a good story to put in my own words, so I wanted to share this quote and say what I thought about it.

Emily Bromberek

October 31, 1765. With only hours until dawn, William shifted uneasily in his chair in the dimly-lit front room, too anxious to sleep. The day before, news had been received that the colonists were going to be bombarded with yet another tax from Britain, the Stamp Act. Colonists would now be required to pay a tax on every legal document, newspaper, almanac, and playing card. Each paper good would, in turn, receive a special stamp showing proof of payment. It was his job to inform the good people of Philadelphia and provide his opinion the only way he knew how; through newsprint. William Bradford, official printer for the Continental Congress and the written voice for the people of Philadelphia. On a daily basis, the colonists would read his thoughts regarding the insanity surrounding the current issues faced by the colonies. Today would be no different; except for the mock representation of the Stamp Act stamp he included in the top right corner. A skull and cross bones with the words “This is the place to affix the STAMP” boldly professed his deep disdain for the injustice he and his neighbors were about to experience. He had taken a chance by including the image and now his racing thoughts and sweaty palms were not letting him forget it. How would the men that England had sent to watch over the colonies react? Would he be sent to admiralty court for disobeying the law? Would he lose his print shop or even his life? Only time would tell.

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