Stamps of Tyranny
Parliament had an even more offensive measure in store. In 1765, it passed the Stamp Act, which required that every paper document-ranging from newspapers, to deeds, to playing cards—bear a revenue stamp purchased from royally appointed colonial stamp agents. Worse, violations of the act were to be tried summarily by vice-admiralty courts, in which there were no juries. Not only did the colonists see the stamps as evil, but denial of trial by jury attacked a right as old as the Magna Carta.
The Stamp Act united the colonies in opposition to the “tyranny” of the Mother Country. Subversive secret societies such as the Sons of Liberty were formed in many towns, the boycott of English goods was stepped up, and a Stamp Act Congress was called in New York in October 1765 (eight colonies sent delegates). The congress drafted a “Declaration of Rights and Grievances,” claiming that the colonists had the rights of British subjects and that taxation without parliamentary representation was a violation of those rights. Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in March 1766, but simultaneously delivered a political slap in the face by passing the Declaratory Act, which affirmed Parliament’s authority to create laws for the colonies “in all cases whatever.”