The Stamp Act

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 10900

Have you heard about the Boston Tea Party? It wasn't a fun social gathering but an act of protest against what the British did to the colonists. As parties go, it wasn't fun, but it was revolutionary!


United States

learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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We all know that America declared independence from the British in 1776. But why would a few small colonies make such a bold declaration against what was the greatest political and military power in the world?

In the 1760s, the British government was facing a serious problem: they were financially broke!

From 1756-1763, the British fought the French over land in North America. This war is known as the French and Indian War, or the Seven Years War. For centuries, the British and French disagreed over who had claim to the land in North America. The French and Indian War finally settled that disagreement. Although the British won the war, officially receiving the North American colonies and Canada, the war caused them to go into serious debt.

Parliament, a branch of British government similar to what we call Congress in the United States, decided the colonies should play a role in paying off the debt since the French and Indian War was of greatest benefit to the colonists.

In 1765, the British government issued the Stamp Act. According to the Stamp Act, colonists had to pay a tax on almost all paper products, including newspapers, playing cards, and writing paper. A tax is an additional fee added to the cost of a good or service, that goes to the government. The Stamp Act was given its name because a stamp was placed on paper goods once the tax had been paid.

1765 penny stamp

Image, via Wikimedia Commons, was created by the United Kingdom Government and is in the public domain.

The Stamp Act caused outrage in the colonies. There were two main reasons for this outrage:

  1. First, the colonists were upset because they were not given any say in the matter. They were not allowed to vote for members of Parliament, and were not given any form of representation in Parliament. The colonists thought it was unfair that they were being forced to pay a tax to Parliament when they were not given the ability to participate in it.
  2. The colonists' second problem with the Stamp Act had to do with the way the British dealt with those who refused to pay the tax. When people were convicted of a crime in the colonies, they were typically given a trial by jury. In order to ensure the colonists obeyed the Stamp Act, the British government decided that any colonist who refused to pay the tax would have a trial without a jury. A trial without a jury almost guaranteed that those sent to trial would be convicted.

The Stamp Act is just one of several laws enforced on the colonists without their say.

What is most unique about the Stamp Act is that it was the first act that taxed goods primarily bought and sold in the colonies rather than goods imported to the colonies. In the coming years, each tax and law that Parliament created would lead the colonists one step closer to the Revolutionary War.

To learn more about the Stamp Act, read Duckster's article, American Revolution: The Stamp Act.

To find out how the Stamp Act connects to the Revolutionary War, watch this Tea, Taxes, and the American Revolution: Crash Course World History #28 video:

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Continue on to the Got It? section to think about the Stamp Act and quiz yourself!

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