For a broader perspective on how the conflict over the American Stamp Act fit into the dynamics of the British Empire, check out Donald Carleton, Jr.’s essay at Mass Humanities. Don spearheaded the commemoration of the Peace of 1763 in Boston two years ago (check out the website), and he highlights the link between that event and Parliament’s new law:
The ending of lavish wartime military spending triggered an empire-wide economic contraction. British national debt had nearly doubled in nominal terms during the conflict, surging from 78% to 117% of estimated GDP. With domestic taxes already high, Britain’s postwar leadership determined that their American subjects should start paying a share of imperial administrative and defense costs and begin properly adhering to imperial regulations in general.The mainland colonies developed more unity in opposing the Crown’s new taxes than they had ever mustered before the war.
But measures which seemed mild in London looked outrageous in the colonies. Gripped by recession and already paying heavy provincial taxes, more than a few colonists were sufficiently angered—or desperate—to take the streets. Many more expressed their opposition to the Stamp Act by boycotting British consumer goods. Nine colonial governments took part in a “Stamp Act Congress” to coordinate their opposition.