October 21 history blog post: One of a series of short essays to provide the cultural, political and geographical context for the 1766 travelers.
In 1765 the British government passed the Stamp Act, which was designed to raise revenue by taxing colonial legal papers and published material. Great Britain needed the revenue to offset the costs of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), which secured the dominance of Great Britain in North America and extended the colonial territory well into the Mississippi Valley.
The colonists reacted negatively, and sometimes violently, to the imposition of the new tax. Their argument, which would become the familiar credo during the American Revolution, was that the tax was unconstitutional since the colonists had no representation in Parliament. In October 1765 a Stamp Act Congress was convened in New York to petition Parliament to repeal the tax; Parliament refused.
In North Carolina, the Sons of Liberty organized protests throughout the state, and a mob of 500 protested in Wilmington in October 1765, forcing the newly appointed stamp master to resign and compelling the Wilmington newspaper to publish on unstamped paper. In January, the British seized two cargo ships sailing into Wilmington because they did not have the appropriately stamped papers, and the reaction was swift. Wilmington merchants refused to sell supplies to British ships, the colonists seized the customs house, and the British sailors were jailed.
The Stamp Act was repealed in March 1766.
The Moravians of Bethabara noted their concern about the Stamp Act in 1766: “In spite of the critical and apparently dangerous unrest in this Province on account of the Stamp Act, the might arm of our Heavenly Farmer has been held over us, so that nothing has been demanded of us contrary to our conscience, but under His protection we have remained peaceful and undisturbed as the quiet people of the land.”
Virginia S. Hart A’75
Adelaide Fries, ed., Records of the Moravians in North Carolina Volume I, 1752-1771
“Stamp Act” NCPedia
“Stamp Act” Britannica