Colonial America & Revolution
The Stamp Act Effect
Author: Mitchell Seipt
School: Mercer Middle
Grade Level: 6th
Time Estimated: 2 days
As the British and French battled for empire around the globe, North America became one of the primary battlegrounds. Since the beginnings of North American exploration, Great Britain and France had used different tactics in their settlements – the British going for permanent, profit driven colonies and the French for a decentralized, trading post model seeking to profit from the fur trade. As British colonies became more well established and began to move westward, conflicts arose between the British and French on the Appalachian frontier. As this conflict grew larger, the two imperial nations launched into the Great War for Empire (a.k.a. the Seven Years War, a.k.a. the French and Indian War), fighting for worldwide supremacy.
When the fighting in North America concluded after nine years, the British emerged victorious, but victory came at great expense. Shipping soldiers and supplies across the Atlantic was very expensive, as was the maintenance of troops on the frontier aimed at defending the colonies from Indian attack. Having gone into tremendous debt over the course of this war, Great Britain sought to recoup some of the money it had spent by levying a seemingly harmless tax on its American colonies. As proposed in the Stamp Act of 1765, there would be a tax placed on all paper goods, such as documents, contracts and playing cards. The British Parliament felt justified in issuing this tax, as the American colonies were taxed significantly less than regular British citizens, and they had no idea that this action would be met with protest. Many in the American colonies felt strongly that this tax was a violation of their rights as Englishman. Unlike the Navigation Acts of the previous decade which were a form of customs duty, the Stamp Act was seen as an internal tax that had been levied without the American colonists having any say about it. This internal taxation was seen as patently unfair and unnecessary, as few American colonists wanted a standing British army in the first place. The passage and attempted enforcement of this tax led to widespread protest and resistance, both in the streets of the colonies and the halls of their legislatures, and Parliament was forced to repeal it only a year later.
I want the students to be able to understand the reasons for the Stamp Act, the colonists’ reactions to the Stamp Act, and the impact of the Stamp Act on the pocketbooks of American colonists.
I want the students to be able to analyze and closely read these primary sources in the context of 1765. I want them to be able to find key details in each source that will further their understanding of the impact of the Stamp Act.
I want the students to be able to organize their thoughts into a three-paragraph essay in which they address the reasons for, opposition to, and impact of the Stamp Act. These essays should include direct references and quotations from the primary sources as support for their arguments.
- Analysis of Primary Sources
- Close Reading
- Note Taking
- Essay Writing
This lesson will focus on the Stamp Act and the crisis that followed. I will be providing historical background on the expenses of the French & Indian War in previous lessons, helping them to understand Great Britain’s motivations for taxing the colonies. I will also be providing them with a general foundation of information about the Stamp Act. We will then be analyzing the sources provided to come up with evidence for the students’ essays.
USI.1 a, d, e: The students will develop skills for historical and geographical analysis, including the ability to identify and interpret primary and secondary source documents to increase understanding of events and life in United States history to 1877, interpret ideas and events from different historical perspectives, and evaluate and discuss issues orally and in writing.
USI.5d: The students will demonstrate knowledge of the factors that shaped colonial America by identifying the political and economic relationships between the colonies and England.
USI.6a: The students will demonstrate knowledge of the causes and results of the American Revolution by identifying issues of dissatisfaction that led to the American Revolution.
- Copies of Primary Source Materials:
- PowerPoint Notes on French and Indian War and Stamp Act
- Evidence Chart 1
- Evidence Chart 2
- Guidelines and Rubric for Essay
I will start the class with a review of the events leading up to the passage of the Stamp Act.
This lesson will then start out in small groups, with each group working at a station with a primary source. The students will have a copy of their evidence chart, which will ask them to find specific pieces of evidence that can shed light on the impact of the Stamp Act in the colonies. The chart will be divided into sections for each source, and the guiding question will be, “In what ways did the passage of the Stamp Act affect the relationship between the colonies and Great Britain?” The groups will have about ten minutes at each station.
I will be walking the room, observing discussion and pointing out things that they might not have noticed.
We will rotate through all of the sources and then come back together as a group.
I will then put the sources up on the Promethean board one at a time and we will analyze them together as a class. Students will add any additional evidence to their charts. I will then have them re-mark their evidence lists, labeling each piece of evidence as Reason, Opposition, or Impact.
Once they have done this I will pass out a second evidence chart organized into these three categories. Before they transfer them over, I will have them rank their evidence from strongest to weakest and then list them in their new categories. This new chart will be the foundation of our essays, which will be an assignment that will be worked on during this class period, at home, and during the next class period.
Students will be assessed informally during their evidence gathering and formally as I grade their re-organized evidence chart and their three paragraph essays.
- Mitchell Seipt, Primary Source Analysis
- This document comprises an extended analysis by Mitchell Seipt of each primary source used in this lesson. Analysis examines the genesis of the source, as well as its significance.
- Virginia Resolves, Wikipedia
- While this is Wikipedia, it does provide a relatively useful synopsis of the meaning, intention and impact of the Virginia Resolves.
- Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions, Colonial Williamsburg Website
- This site from Colonial Williamsburg provides the full text of the Virginia Resolves, including the fifth Resolution that was repealed.
- Images of American Political History, Page of William J. Ball, Visiting Associate Professor of Political Science, Stetson University
- This is the site where I found the copy of the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser.
- National Archives and Records Administration
- This is the site where I got the Rothermel painting of Patrick Henry.