In the years leading up to the American Revolution, the English Parliament passed harsh legislation, including taxes, which were onerous to the American colonists. Among these taxes was the Stamp Act (March 22, 1765) which required that any printed material be accompanied by a “stamp” on which a tax had to be paid. The money collected by the Stamp Act was to be used to help pay the costs of defending the American frontier.
The Stamp Act was different from other taxes which had been levied by the English Parliament on the colonists. Taxes and duties on colonial trade had been viewed by the colonists as measures to regulate commerce. The Stamp Act was seen as an attempt to raise taxes without the approval of the colonial legislatures.
Patrick Henry introduced into the Virginia House of Burgesses the Stamp Act Resolves. These resolutions declared that “Americans possessed the same rights as the English, especially the right to be taxed only by their own representatives; that Virginians should pay no taxes except those voted by the Virginia House of Burgesses; and that anyone supporting the right of Parliament to tax Virginians should be considered an enemy of the colony.” Upon passage of these resolutions, the governor of the Virginia colony, a representative of the crown, dissolved the House of Burgesses.
The Stamp Act was fiercely resisted and was later repealed after the colonists boycotted English goods …. The king and Parliament were flooded with requests, petitions and resolutions. But it appears that it was English merchants, who were suffering from the boycotts, who were responsible for convincing Parliament to repeal the hated tax.
In a letter to George Mason, a neighbor, on April 5, 1769, George Washington wrote: “At a time, when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be satisfied with nothing less than the deprivation of American freedom, it seems highly necessary that something should be done to avert the stroke, and maintain the liberty, which we have derived from our ancestors. But the manner of doing it, to answer the purpose effectually, is the point in question ….. Addresses to the throne, and remonstrances to Parliament, we have already, it is said, proved the inefficacy of. How far, then, their attention to our rights and privileges is to be awakened or alarmed, by starving their trade and manufacturers, remains to be tried.”
What the American colonists faced in 1767 with the English Parliament, we as American citizens now face with our own elected representatives. Innumerable attempts to petition our representatives, letters and emails sent to their offices, phone calls to the representatives, attendance at Townhall meetings and even large nationwide protests have had no effect on the policies of the current Administration and Congress.
So what remains for Americans to do to alter the behavior of our elected representatives before our freedoms are destroyed? Can we use the ideas of our Founding Fathers to help us in the cause of restoring our republic? Can the Stamp Act Resolves provide an important lesson for us?
Let us boycott the candidacy of any elected representative who has not listened to our voices. And let us tell them plainly, often, and in a loud voice that removing them from their office is our goal. We have a clear record of their votes and their beliefs. Let us not be deterred from our mission.