In Their Own Words
January 15, 1766
Opposition to Stamp Act in Georgia
As a result of the French and Indian War, Britain incurred large expenditures defending the American colonies. In an effort to recover some of these costs, Parliament in 1765 passed the Stamp Act – the first direct tax on American colonists. The law required all legal documents, newspapers, advertisements, and many other printed items used in the American colonies to bear a British revenue stamp showing that a tax had been paid. Moreover, before printing documents, colonists had to use blank paper already bearing a revenue stamp showing that the required tax had been paid – and this was only available from local British officials. Opposition to the Stamp Act in the colonies was immediate and angry, though initially it was less vocal than in the other colonies. In fact, there appears to have been limited use of stamped paper relative to the port at Savannah – which would make Georgia the only American colony where the Stamp Act was administered. Nevertheless, opposition quickly grew in Georgia, as royal governor James Wright described in a letter to the British Board of Trade:
“… I think it my Indispensable Duty to give your Lordships a Short detail of Some things that have happened here relative to the Stamp Duty affair. Since I had the Honor to write last on Thursday, the 2nd instant about 3 o’clock in the afternoon I received intelligence by the two Captains of Rangers, Milledge & Powell, that the Liberty Boys, as they call themselves, had assembled together to the Number of about 200 & were gathering fast and that Some of them had declared they were determined to go to the Fort & break open the Store & take out & destroy the Stamp’t Papers &c. Upon which I immediately ordered them to get their Men together and armed myself & went to the guard House. And having got together to the Number of about 54 Marched to the Fort & had the Papers taken out of the Store & Carried in a Cart to the guard House Escorted by the above Number of Rangers. This was done my Lords between 4 & 5 o’clock in the afternoon and without any disturbance or opposition tho there was at that time at Least 200 assembled together.
But my Lords appearances & threats were Such that I have not had less than 40 Men on duty every Night Since that to Protect the [stamped] Papers, or I am Confident they would have been destroyed, and for the 1st four nights I had not my Cloathes off… . And I have had the Papers distributed & Lodged in all the different Offices relative to the Shipping & Opening our Ports, but understand my Lords that the People in General are determined not to apply for any other Papers untill His Majesties Pleasure is known on the Petitions Sent from the Colonies… .
… No Pains my Lords has been Spared in the Northern Colonies to Spirit up and inflame the People here, and a Spirit of Faction & Sedition has been Stirred up throughout this Province, and Partys of armed Men actually assembled themselves together … .
The People in general my Lords … have been Misled & Influenced to a degree of Madness, by the Seditious & Rebellious acts & Publications in the other Colonies… .”
Source: Kenneth Coleman and Milton Ready (eds.), Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, Vol. 28, Part II (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979), pp. 132-134.