Title: The Stamp Act
Lesson Overview: This lesson is student centered and designed to take place within one class period. It will engage students in analyzing primary source documents in order to understand the climate in the colonies after the passing of the Stamp Act in 1765. The topics discussed loosely adhere to California State Standard 8.1, which states, "Students understand the major events preceding the founding of the nation and relate their significance to the development of American constitutional democracy." While this lesson does not directly address Elizabeth Murray's experience, it does illuminate the context of the 1760s, when consumer activities and individual loyalties became more overtly political and challenging.
Historical Background: In the aftermath of the French and Indian War, 1754-1763 (also known in England as the Seven Years' War, 1756-1763), during which Britain put tremendous resources of men, money, and ships into the victorious war effort, the British government was saddled with massive debt. Looking for sources of revenue to decrease the debt, Parliament turned to the colonies it had defended, strengthened the Navigation Acts, and passed revenue-raising measures that affected colonial trade. Many colonists saw these new acts, such as the Sugar Act of 1764 and more particularly the Stamp Act of 1765, as trampling their rights to their own income and property and as infringements on their rights to trade. Colonial merchants and consumers who were outraged by the Stamp Act and the 1767 Townshend Duties organized mass boycotts of English imports that generated widespread support. Through non-importation and non-consumption agreements, many individuals who had little or no political experience prior to the 1760s began to participate in political life in ways that helped mobilized the populace against the government of Britain. The bonds forged among colonists in their efforts to protect their rights and push for marketplace independence eventually fueled the broader movement to break all colonial ties with Great Britain.
Bibliography See Charles M. Andrews, The Boston Merchants and the Non-Importation Movement. (New York: Russell & Russell, 1968); T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped the American Revolution. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Richard Brown, ed., Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000); Stuart Bruchey, ed. The Colonial Merchant: Sources and Readings. (New York: Harcout, Brace & World, Inc, 1966); John W. Tyler, Smugglers and Patriots: Boston Merchants and the Advent of the American Revolution. (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1986).
Guiding Questions: Why were Americans so angry over the Stamp Act? What did they fear from King George III? What freedoms did they have before the Stamp Act? How did these freedoms inform their ideas toward the new tax? What did they do in response to the act? Did everyone disagree with the new tax?
Learning Objectives: Students will show an understanding of major issues surrounding the passing of the Stamp Act by reading a brief overview, analyzing primary sources, and answering critical thinking questions in pairs.
Activities: 1.) Students are placed in groups of two to pair-share information 2.) Begin with this question on the overhead, "If you were earning $20.00 a week for allowance and your parents decided to cut it (but not your chores) down to $10.00, how would you feel? Why?" These questions will open up a discussion about representation and participation in decision making and how one reacts to having an accustomed way of life altered. 3.) Students will read quietly the brief overview of the "French and Indian War and Its Aftermath." 4.) Students will need copies of both primary sources and two primary source analysis sheets, one for the cartoon and one for the written document. 5.) After completing the analysis sheets, students work together to answer questions regarding both documents. 6.) Conclude with a class discussion on war debt, the Stamp Act, colonial responses, and British attitudes toward the colonies.
Assessment: For independent practice, have the students choose a side: either anti-Stamp Act colonist or pro-Stamp Act British official. Using the information from the primary source documents and class discussion, students then write newspaper editorials (about one page) explaining the reasons for their views. The following day, have the students share their editorials. It may be effective to set up the classroom as a town hall and separate the class to have a debate on the Stamp Act.
Teacher-author: This lesson was created by Ryan Baker, Long Beach Unified School District.