The Declaration of Independence
When in the course of human events . . .
A Tax Stamp
The stated objective of the Stamp Act was to reduce the burden of administering the colonies by taxing trade and certain commodities to develop a self-supporting colonial regime. The royalist argument was that the policies of crown and parliament in America had favored business interests to such an extent that all trade in the colonies had been heavily subsidized by the British treasury.
"Such was the policy of Great Britain at the dictation of the mercantile class; and in the maintenance of that policy, in sixty years between 1714 and 1774, [Great Britain] paid out of her Exchequer the enormous sum of £34,697,142 sterling, a sum greater than the estimated value of the whole real and personal property in the colonies"*. Taxes collected under the provisions of the Stamp Act were to be applied exclusively to treasuries in America, and used only for the administration of the colonies. However, the colonials were already chaffing at the nature of that administration.
While certain commodities traded between Britain, the East Indies, and the Colonies had always been taxed the Stamp Act had the (probably unintentional) effect of inciting widespread mobilization against British authority. The act provided that a revenue stamp be applied to a long list of items, including newspapers, books, pamphlets, legal documents, licenses, diplomas, and playing cards. Each such item would be marked on its face with the symbol of British authority, (see sample at left) such that every colonist was reminded almost moment to moment of the control that parliament would assert over the colonies.