King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences

Riots and proclamations

Extract from the Boston evening-post of 2 September 1765Extract from the Boston evening-post of 2 September 1765The item reproduced here contains extracts from proclamations and letters published in the Boston evening-post on 2 September 1765 on the subject of riots occasioned by the imposition of the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act was a tax imposed on all printed documents in the American colonies by the British government in1765. The tax was deeply unpopular, with Americans arguing that only their representative assemblies could tax them. Objectors resorted to mob violence in opposition, aiming to intimidate stamp collectors into resigning.

The opening shown is a proclamation by the governor of colonial Massachusetts, Francis Bernard (1712-79). In this proclamation, Bernard reports riotous scenes that occurred on 26 August 1765 in Boston and offers rewards for information on members of the mobs. Bernard reports how crowds attacked and pillaged the properties of several political figures of the province in opposition to the Stamp Act. The most brutal attack described is that against the property of Thomas Hutchinson, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. Bernard describes how a group forcibly entered Hutchinson’s home and destroyed fittings and windows, demolished and stole furniture, clothes and money, and even uncovered part of the roof:

…the said people continuing thus riotously and tumultuously assembled the whole night and until day-light the next morning, committing divers outrages and enormities and threatening the custom-house, and the houses of divers persons, to the great terror of his majesty’s liege subjects

Similar riots broke out in other colonial towns, resulting in mass resignations of the stamp distributors. This made the Act incredibly difficult to implement, and led to its repeal just one year after it had been sanctioned. The issues of taxation and representation raised by the Act put strain on the relationship between Britain and the colonies, with relations further deteriorating over the next decade until the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775.

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