The Costs of Empire: Native Americans and the Origins of the Stamp Act


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Michael A. McDonnell
University of Sydney
Follow on Twitter @HstyMattersSyd

This month, 250 years ago, the British Parliament in London met to consider the vehement colonial response to the hated Stamp Act. The tax had been introduced in 1764 to raise revenue from the colonies in North America. But as most Americans know, colonial protests forced Parliament to back down, and in doing so, set off the fuse that would eventually ignite the American Revolution. Yet few Americans know why this legislation was passed in the first place.

In part, it was to recover some of the tremendous costs of Britain’s imperial wars. In 1763, Britain emerged victorious from the Seven Years’ War, a conflict that began on the frontiers of its North American colonies but which quickly became global in scope. Britain bested its rival France in India, the Caribbean, and North America, but only after pouring hundreds of thousands of pounds into its navy and army.

Though the war had been tremendously costly, it quickly led to another imperial war that gets less attention – this time with Native Americans – in a conflict we often now call “Pontiac’s War.” At the end of the Seven Years’ War, Native Americans insisted the British had only conquered the French, and not them. But British military officers, with their confidence brimming from their previous successes, acted imperiously and ignored native claims to sovereignty and their land. Continue reading “The Costs of Empire: Native Americans and the Origins of the Stamp Act”