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The Acts that Started the American Revolution

Updated on December 12, 2016
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

This was a shock to the colonists who had had freedom for such a long time. Britain wanted the colonies to pay with higher taxes. The colonists did not exactly protest the fact that taxes might be needed. They were protesting the method and the unreasonableness of the taxes.

The Currency Act

Though the Molasses Act died from protests and the ignoring of it, Parliament passed in 1764 a revenue act that did more than tax the colonists. This act dictated the results of judicial decisions. Immediately afterwards, Parliament passed the Currency Act targeting the use of paper money that the colonies had begun using. Now, paper money was not to be used to pay any debt including private debts unless the Crown had approved the paper. This hurt the colonists as they were ones to quickly pay off debts and keep their credit clean.

The colonies were not ones to just ignore a new law if they felt that it was something foolish and useless as when the board of trade “ordered Virginia to abolish the use of paper money in the payment of private debts, the House of Burgesses flatly refused.” Another currency act was passed to enforce it which only led to more colonists getting angry at the economic results this could and would bring upon the colonies.


British Ignorance

Each act passed only made the tension between the mother country and the colonies rise. Before the Seven Years War, Indian affairs, trade, and land management was under the control of the local colonial governments. The British did not understand the nature of the people or the geography of the land. This ignorance added fuel to the fire as they developed act after act that were directed to the new colonies. Taking over all these measures made matters worse in dealing with the Indians and in dealing with the colonies, who once were the ones in control.

The Famous Stamp Act

The one act that was the proverbial straw on the camel’s back was the Stamp Act. Britain believed that the colonies would not submit and just pay for all the expenses of the war and for their defense. So, the Stamp Act was passed to get the tax another way. The British did know that the colonies could not function well without their legal documents.

Placing a tax on every document would help bring in the funds whether the colonists wanted to or not. It sounded easy until Parliament had to make a list of the colonial documents to be taxed. No one was educated enough in colonial life and government to know what legal documents that they used. They had to contact representatives in the colonies to get that list.



The Stamp Act was passed without any consideration from the colonies’ protests. When word reached across the Atlantic what Parliament was in the process of doing, the “assemblies of eight colonies drew up and endorsed formal petitions claiming that the Stamp Act was causing economic injury.” The act passed without taking into account the petitions that were sent. The result was immediate anger expressed by the colonists at being ignored.

Britain Pushed the Limits

Placing military units in the colonies and enforcing the Quartering Act was too much for the colonists. Parliament firmly believed that the colonial governments did not have the ability o deal successfully with the Indians and could not protect themselves. Having soldiers cost money and the colonies were looked to be the source of all that revenue. It did not matter if the colonies felt the same way. For over a hundred years, the colonies did very well without the interference from Britain. The war had even taken its toll on the colonies and cost them lives and money. Having Britain cut off their trade and make them pay for their part of the Seven Years War was too much for the colonies to handle.


Benjamin Franklin. ‘”Benevolus’” On the Propriety of Taxing America’. Franklin Papers, (accessed April, 20, 2011).

Butler, Jon. Becoming America: the Revolution Before 1776. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Jensen, Merrill. The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution, 1763-1776. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.

King, David C. Colonies and Revolution. Hoboken: John Wiley, 2003.

Marston, Daniel. American Revolution 1774-1783. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York: Penguin, 2001.

Wood, Gordon S. The American Revolution: A History. New York: Random House, 2003.


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