Today In History: Lighting the Fuse

On this day, in 1765, the English Parliament passed legislation that would come to be known in the North American colonies as the Stamp Act.  In the wake of the Seven Years’ War against France (referred to in the colonies as the French and Indian War), the British Empire found itself badly in debt, and in need of new ways to generate the revenue necessary to maintain its colonial holdings.

George Grenville, who in 1763 became Prime Minister of England and Chancellor of the Exchequer, believed that Britain’s colonists were deeply under-taxed, and that the North Americans needed to assume greater responsibility for the funding of their own administration and protection.  In 1764, he pushed for passage of the Sugar Act, which he and others in Britain called the American Revenue Act.  In 1765, he followed that up with the Stamp Act.

The Stamp Act established the first direct tax (as opposed to a tariff) on the colonists, by requiring that any and all public and private documents have a stamp affixed to them.  Said stamp was to be purchased, the funds going directly to the English Exchequer to pay for the British military presence in North America.

The act met with some opposition in the English Parliament, but that was nothing compared to the backlash it would provoke in the colonies.  On this day in 1765, of course, Grenville, King George III, and their allies in Parliament had no inkling of this.  They passed the legislation fully expecting that British subjects in North America would follow the law.  It took just over two months for word of the act to reach the colonies.

In the months to come, the Stamp Act would lead to the colonies’ first truly violent protests against British rule, and would thus begin the long, winding march toward separation and revolution.

Thieftaker, by D. B. Jackson, book I of the Thieftaker ChroniclesAnd for the purposes of this site and the Thieftaker books, this act would also provide the backdrop for the first Ethan Kaille novel.  For Thieftaker (due out from Tor Books on July 3) opens on the night of August 26, 1765, when, for the second time in as many weeks, Boston’s streets are filled with rioters protesting against the new Stamp Tax.  As angry mobs rampage through the streets of Boston, a young girl, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is murdered.  Is she, as some believe, a victim of the rabble that has destroyed property and threatened the lives of those who represent the Crown?  Or is there more at work here, something darker, more evil, something that draws on conjuring power the likes of which Ethan has never encountered before?

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