GEORGE GRENVILLE’S ACTS


external image gg.jpg There was a great need for England to generate revenue after 1763. The cost of the Seven Years’ War had increased Britain’s debt from approximately 73 million pounds to almost double that by the end of the war, most of which was shouldered by high interest loans. There was also newly acquired land and a newly imposed standing army of redcoats to support in America. English taxpayers alone could not cover the costs of winning the war, and maintaining an empire. With British countrymen already highly taxed and on the brink of revolt; it was the job of the first Lord of the Treasury, George Grenville, to bring Britain’s financial matters under control. His main goal was to pay off debts that the war accumulated, because The Seven Years’ War was more than a war of casualties; it was also a war that hit countries in their pocket.

While Grenville argues that several of his imposed acts were his approach to increase revenue, decrease smuggling, and support the British soldiers, he mistakenly equates Parliaments authority with the rights of the colonies, and ignores the individual liberties of the colonies, taxation without representation; the Sugar and Stamp Acts contributed to the buildup of the American Revolution.

In peace time the British land tax stood at three in a pound, but was raised to four in a pound to help bear the burden of war costs. Most people thought it would be reduced after the Peace in Paris, so in an attempt to generate more revenue Greenville’s first plan of action was to leave the land taxes at four in a pound, but he looked for revenue from America.

Because Grenville understood Britain’s loss of revenue from the Molasses Act of 1733, he began with that. What was originally meant to be just a trade regulator, the Molasses Act of 1733 charged the colonist a tariff of six pence (a pence being approximately equivalent to a penny) on every gallon of molasses imported from the French and Dutch; meanwhile, keeping England’s molasses duty-free. Therefore, most colonial merchants evaded the tariff and bribed British customs officials to obtain the molasses.

In accordance with Grenville’s suggestion, on April 5, 1764, Parliament passed a modified version of the earlier Molasses Act called the Revenue Act; which is commonly called the Sugar Act. Unlike the earlier tariff, the role of the Sugar Act was undeniably to generate revenue. It did so by lowering the tariff on imported molasses from six pence per gallon to three pence per gallon in hopes that merchants would legitimize and buy more British molasses. Grenville’s plan was to severely crack down on smugglers violating the Sugar Act who would get tried in admiralty courts instead of getting a colonial jury—a first and demoralizing facet for Americans.

The Sugar Act not only put a tariff on molasses; which was crucial in colonial rum production, it also listed many other foreign goods to be taxed including sugar, certain wines, coffee, pimiento, cambric (linen cloth) and printed calico, and it also regulated the export of lumber and iron. The tax on molasses caused an almost immediate decline in the rum industry in the colonies. The Sugar Act alone did not bring in enough revenue so Gexternal image stamp-act0.gifrenville imposed the Stamp Act.

Grenville served notice that his Parliament would put a direct tax upon the colonists, known as the Stamp Act, which was passed in February of 1765. The Stamp Act required the colonies to pay a tax on every piece of printed paper. This included anyone who made a will, purchased a newspaper, received a college degree, or to simply taking a chance on playing cards. There were fifty five separate provisions in the literature of the act detailing tax prices ranging from one pence to several shillings and even up to several pounds. This tax was already in place in England, so Grenville and his Parliament assumed that it would be universally accepted and understood by the colonies. However, American colonists thought the taxes were intolerable. The taxing was not done through the Americans own representative assemblies, which led many colonists to believe that the small tax would lead to a much larger taxes.

external image samueladams.jpg
external image sons-liberty.jpgViolation of the Stamp Act, like the Sugar Act, resulted in trial in an admiralty court without a colonial jury. The colonists began to perceive Grenville as a dictator trying to deprive them of their own liberties by unlawfully taxing their property; they expressed their discontent with riots throughout the streets and stamp burning. Although Grenville hoped to accomplish a control on public spending and to gain revenue to help pay for the continuing defense of the colonies, it ignited colonial opposition and led to the first effort by the colonists to go after Parliament. They cried out, “No taxation without representation,” in hopes the Parliament would discontinue the tax, but Parliament still would not repeal the Act. This led to the formation of the organized resistance group called the Sons of Liberty. Led by Samuel Adams, the Sons of Liberty were a group of patriots dedicated to independence, and did whatever they could to help regain the colonies’ rights and grievances to become an independent country.

The combined effect of the two acts reduced trade for colonists, disrupting their whole economy. The people were not pleased with these laws and it resulted in riots throughout the American Colonies. Finally, in 1766, the Stamp Act was repealed. By creating the first direct taxes to be levied on the American colonies, Grenville’s ill-judged measure to generate revenue for the benefit of the British Parliament certainly proved that the American colonists were not at all respected in England. Eventually, Grenville was asked to resign by George III. Even though Grenville did not accomplish what he wished to, the struggle throughout the colonies contributed to the spirit and organization of unity within the people. The revolutionaries were no longer English, they were becoming Americans.



external image stamp-act-5.jpg
Stamp Act: Reading the Stamp Act


Works cited

“A Summary of the 1765 Stamp Act”. (n.d) Retrieved March 4, 2011, from http://www.history.org/history/revolution/stampact.cfm.
“George Grenville”. 2 March 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Grenville.
James Davidson, Brain Delay, Christine Heyrman, Mark Lytle, Michael Stoff. (2009). U.S. A Narrative History Volume 1: to 1877 and Toward the War for American Independence. Michael J. Ryan. (106). New York: McGraw Hill.
Marjie, Bloy, (2009 September 28th) George Grenville (1712-1770).Victorian Web. Retrieved February 1, 2011, from //http://www.victorianweb.org/history/pms/grenville.html//.
Markham, Richard. Colonial Days: Being Stories and Ballads for Young Patriots. New York: Dodd, Mead, & Company, 1881.
McGraw-Hill. (Eds.). (2009). U.S A Narrative History (Volume 1: to 1877). “Stamp Act.” West’s Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved March 4, 2011, from www.ushistory.org/declaration/related/sugaract.htm.
http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Stamp_Act.aspx.