Wednesday, March 22, 2017


George Grenville (1712-1770)
March 22, 2017 — This day in 1765 the British Government imposed the Stamp Act on the American colonies, provoking serious Resistance.

The Act lasted only until the next year, but in the meantime it angered so many of the colonists that it started stiff opposition to the Crown that resulted in American independence.

The British Government at that time was led by two Georges, George III and George Grenville.

A previous Prime Minister, savvy William Pitt the Elder (alumnus of Trinity College, Oxford) had been popular in the colonies. Pitt had urged the King to relinquish his obsession with what was happening in the German duchies and had the vision to see the value of securing the North American continent by using British troops to defeat the French and Indians. The colonists were so grateful to Pitt they named Pittsburgh after him. That was where the last battle of the formidable Gen. Edward Braddock took place. Before his death, Braddock gave his general's sash to his second-in-command, Col. George Washington.

Although victorious against the French, the British Government ran up debts to  send over their redcoats and faced having to borrow more to defend the vast new American territories won in the French and Indian War (known in Europe as the Seven Years’ War, 1756-1763).

The parliament of George Grenville therefore passed the Stamp Act as a revenue-raising attempt, following on the Sugar Act of 1764.

Grenville entered Parliament in 1741, one of the men interrelated by blood or marriage dubbed Cobham's Cubs who united in opposition to Sir Robert Walpole. Walpole was the first person to be considered by historians to have the primus inter pares status of Prime Minister and he held this power from 1721 to 1742 — a length of service not subsequently equalled. Walpole practiced a policy of benign neglect toward the American colonies, which had the advantage of not costing the Crown any money.

Grenville was a graduate of Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. His ministry 22 years after the end of Walpole lasted only two years (1763–65). It was disastrous. He never developed a close relationship with the king because George III continually consulted with Bute, who had recommended Grenville as his successor.

The Stamp Act levied a tax on all materials printed for commercial and legal use in the colonies, from newspapers and pamphlets to playing cards and dice. This was a common fundraising vehicle in England, but stirred up protest in the colonies, which had already been burdened with three new major taxes: the Sugar Act (1764), adding duties on imports of textiles, wines, coffee and sugar; the Currency Act (1764), which reduced the value of paper money used by colonists; and the Quartering Act (1765), which required colonists to provide room and board to British troops.

The Stamp Act raised the issue for the colonists of taxation without representation. They started to organize against the British government. By October of 1765, nine of the 13 colonies sent representatives to the Stamp Act Congress, where they drafted a “Declaration of Rights and Grievances.”

Grenville’s ministry ended in the year he pushed through the Stamp Act. Realizing that it would be more expensive to enforce the Act, Parliament abolished it in 1766. But it was too late. The damage had been done. Resistance to the Mother Country had started and did not stop until the Treaty of Paris was signed.

Most important of the organizing groups was the Sons of Liberty in Boston and other ports. In the south, wealthy landowners were the leaders.  Societies continued to meet to address what they saw as the abusive policies of George III and the newly consolidated British empire.

Frederick North (1732-1792) was the son of the Earl of Guilford. Like Pitt, he was an alumnus of Trinity College, Oxford. He served in the Treasury from 1759 to 1766, when the government of George Grenville fell following the disaster of the Stamp Act (not to mention other stumbles). North became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the second ministry of Pitt the Elder, and then became Prime Minister during the years when the American colonies broke away.

Sources include (besides links) - and  Encyclopedia Britannica