The stamp that inspired a revolution


11 February 2020
The eight-year war that won thirteen American colonies their freedom from British colonial powers started with the issue of a revenue stamp, as this expert guide from Stanley Gibbons reveals

The Parliament of Great Britain imposed a direct tax on American colonies to contribute towards the costs of defending the American Colonies from the French. The act required printed materials to be produced on stamped paper produced in London and bear an embossed stamp. This applied to wills, ship papers, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets and almanacs

Historically, stamp acts had been successful in generating revenue as a document would be null and void without the use of the required stamp. A stamp duty had first been introduced in England in 1694 and collected £100,000 for the government.

However, in the first link in the chain of events that caused the American Revolutionary War of 1775, colonists opposed with petitions and protests.

While previous acts were seen as essential in regulating the economy, the Stamp Act was the first direct tax levied to raise money from colonialists. Furthermore, it was issued without consent from the colonial legislature. Thus the rallying cry of "no taxation without representation" was born.

So unpopular was the tax that it was abandoned on 1 May the following year, but relations with American Colonies had been irreparably soured by then as politically charged colonists began to conduct boycotts and demonstrations.

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The proof of the Stamp Act of 1765 is evident in the United States Declaration of Independence, which represents the collective first step toward forming the United States of America, and outlines 27 grievances against the British government and King George. Grievance 17 in the document read "For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent."

Stanley Gibbons

With a distinguished heritage dating back to 1856, Stanley Gibbons is the world’s longest established rare stamp merchant. The firm’s much-heralded experts travel globally in search of authentic, high quality material often of extreme rarity and value. It is this adherence to quality that earned Stanley Gibbons the Royal Warrant in 1914 and affords them the luxury of being able to offer a lifetime guarantee on all rare items – they remain the only philatelist in the world to offer this assurance. 

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