The Royal Colony of North Carolina

The Stamp Act and its Consquences in the Carolinas

November 1, 1765

Although in the works for over a year, with most colonists already aware that it was coming, the Stamp Act of 1765 was a revenue law passed by the British Parliament during the ministry of George Grenville. The first direct tax to be levied on the American colonies, it required that all newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents, commercial bills, advertisements, and other papers issued in the colonies bear a stamp that had to be purchased from British officials.

The revenue obtained from the sale of stamps was designated for colonial defense. While the means of raising revenue was novel, the application of such revenue to defense continued existing British policy. The Act was vehemently denounced in the colonies by those it most affected: businessmen, merchants, journalists, lawyers, and other powerful persons.

Among these were Samuel Adams, Christopher Gadsden, Patrick Henry, John Dickinson, John Lamb, Joseph Warren, and Paul Revere. Associations known as the Sons of Liberty were formed to organize opposition to the Stamp Act. Merchants boycotted English goods; stamp distributors were forced to resign and stamps were destroyed; and the Massachusetts legislature, at the suggestion of James Otis, issued a call for a general congress to find means of resisting the law.

The Stamp Act Congress, which met in October of 1765, in New York City, included delegates from New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, Maryland, and Connecticut. The congress adopted the Declaration of Rights and Grievances; it declared that freeborn Englishmen could not be taxed without their consent, and, since the colonists were not represented in Parliament, any tax imposed on them without the consent of their colonial legislatures was unconstitutional. Faced with a loss of trade, the English Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in 1766.

North Carolinians reacted strongly to British taxation and reorganization schemes introduced in 1763. The Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts drew the growing radical element's ire in particular and led to the emergence of a Sons of Liberty group. Pressure was exerted on colonial officials in the colony, which forced them to abandon efforts to implement the Stamp Act; only the royal governor held firm and attempted to enforce the law.

In 1765, the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act. It was a tax that required all manner of papers, public and private, to have a seal affixed to them. Establishing the American tradition of resistance to the government, the colonies protested. On the Cape Fear the protests were particularly colorful. A November issue of the North Carolina Gazette reported on some of the activities. Click Here to read that report.

The next month the colonists confronted the stamp master en masse and convinced him to resign his office.

Down the river, a British sloop-of-war was trying to put a store of the stamps ashore. Armed townspeople refused to allow the landing. And, since the stamp master had prudently quit his job, there was no one to receive the stamps. The warship, soon joined by another, was helpless.

A final incident occurred when two merchant ships arrived in Brunswick Town. Not having the required stamps on their clearance papers, they were seized by the British warships. Local citizens were incensed. They confronted the governor and controller of the port. They exacted from the officials a promise that no stamps would be handled in the region. The ships were released, and that was the end of the Stamp Act on the Cape Fear River.

Prior to the American Revolution, the British began taxing American colonies to raise revenue, particularly outraging South Carolinians with the scts that taxed tea, paper, wine, glass, and oil. To protest the Stamp Act, South Carolina sent wealthy rice planter Thomas Lynch, 26-year-old lawyer John Rutledge, and Christopher Gadsden, to the Stamp Act Congress, held in 1765 New York.

Prior to this, Christopher Gadsden had written a letter in 1764 protesting the events that would ultimately lead to the Stamp Act in 1765. Click Here to read his letter.

The state flag of South Carolina was officially adopted in 1861. It has a white crescent moon and a white palmetto tree on a blue ground. Three white crescent moons (on a blue background) were first used on a South Carolina banner protesting the Stamp Act in 1765.
Through the spring and summer of 1765 popular resentment found outlet in mass meetings, parades, bonfires, and other demonstrations. To be sure, only a minority engaged in such public protests. They included farmers, artisans, laborers, businessmen, dock workers, and seamen alarmed at the disruption of business. Lawyers, editors, and merchants such as Christopher Gadsen of Charles Town and John Hancock of Boston took the lead or lent support. North Carolina's governor reported the mobs to be composed of "gentlemen and planters."

The militants began to assume a name adopted from Colonel Barré's speech: Sons of Liberty. They met underneath "Liberty Trees" -- in Boston a great elm on Hanover Square, in Charles Town a live oak.

Click Here for more information on the Stamp Act in general. Link is current as of August 2005.

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved