=The Stamp Act (1765).=—The Grenville-Townshend combination moved steadily towards its goal. While the Sugar Act was under consideration in Parliament, Grenville announced a plan for a stamp bill. The next year it went through both Houses with a speed that must have astounded its authors. The vote in the Commons stood 205 in favor to 49 against; while in the Lords it was not even necessary to go through the formality of a count. As George III was temporarily insane, the measure received royal assent by a commission acting as a board of regency. Protests of colonial agents in London were futile. “We might as well have hindered the sun’s progress!” exclaimed Franklin. Protests of a few opponents in the Commons were equally vain. The ministry was firm in its course and from all appearances the Stamp Act hardly roused as much as a languid interest in the city of London. In fact, it is recorded that the fateful measure attracted less notice than a bill providing for a commission to act for the king when he was incapacitated.
The Stamp Act, like the Sugar Act, declared the purpose of the British government to raise revenue in America “towards defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the British colonies and plantations in America.” It was a long measure of more than fifty sections, carefully planned and skillfully drawn. By its provisions duties were imposed on practically all papers used in legal transactions,—deeds, mortgages, inventories, writs, bail bonds,—on licenses to practice law and sell liquor, on college diplomas, playing cards, dice, pamphlets, newspapers, almanacs, calendars, and advertisements. The drag net was closely knit, for scarcely anything escaped.
=The Quartering Act (1765).=—The ministers were aware that the Stamp Act would rouse opposition in America—how great they could not conjecture. While the measure was being debated, a friend of General Wolfe, Colonel Barre, who knew America well, gave them an ominous warning in the Commons. “Believe me—remember I this day told you so—” he exclaimed, “the same spirit of freedom which actuated that people at first will accompany them still ... a people jealous of their liberties and who will vindicate them, if ever they should be violated.” The answer of the ministry to a prophecy of force was a threat of force. Preparations were accordingly made to dispatch a larger number of soldiers than usual to the colonies, and the ink was hardly dry on the Stamp Act when Parliament passed the Quartering Act ordering the colonists to provide accommodations for the soldiers who were to enforce the new laws. “We have the power to tax them,” said one of the ministry, “and we will tax them.”