Taxation in the American Revolution

Many people know about the American Revolution. People know why the American Revolution started but we are going to look at the specific reasons. Some of the reasons the American Revolution started was because of taxation without representation, they wanted their freedom from Great Brittan, and the federal government made the states pay the war debt. Some of the taxes were the Tea act, the sugar act, and the navigation acts. All of them affected the people differently.

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The “shot heard round the world” was the key starting point to the American Revolution. The shot heard round the world was when British soldiers and the American militia met in Lexington Kentucky and exchanged gunfire. The shot heard round the world was in 1775. The American Revolution ended in 1783.

According to the book A People’s History of the American Revolution on August 14, 1765, in response to the Stamp Act, a Boston crowd in the thousands beheaded a statue of Andrew Oliver, a Massachusetts stamp distributor. After witnessing this, Oliver announces that he will resign from his position. The Stamp Act of 1765 put a tax on every piece of paper that was printed. Such as marriage licenses, ships papers, legal documents, and newspapers. Pleased with the outcome of the protest in Boston other cities followed their path. Cities such as Charleston, South Carolina hung the statue of the stamp distributor along with a figure of the devil. By the end of 1765 all stamp distributors had resigned from their position except Georgia. Rioters in Newport had switched from hanging the statues to the destruction of homes. In New York they hung the Governors statue and carted it around in his prize chariot, which they later burned. In the end the New York protestors forced Governor Colden to hand over all the stamps. Reaction to the stamp act in the colonies and the south was one of the most political events since the landing of James town . This was one of the first acts of taxation without representation and it was even before the American Revolution.

The Tea act of 1773 gave the British East India Company a tea monopoly which increased the taxes on tea. This was the final straw for Americans. They were sick of the British controlling them with these taxes. New York and Philadelphians were upset with the tea act because it reaffirmed the Townshend Act of 1767. The Tea act made every pound that entered an American port cost three pence to American merchants. Bostonians resented any parliamentary taxation. They also feared that the tea act would set a precedent for government supported monopolies and that their merchants would be cut out of the tea trade. In Massachusetts the tax not only filled the commissioner’s pockets but also the pockets of Governor Hutchinson and other local officials. A writer that went by the name, PRAEDICUS, accused governor Hutchinson of “establishing an American revenue for the opposition to that measure is daily gaining strength.” Boston was only importing a small amount of tea, at least less than before 1768, which had encouraged the British government to pass the Tea act of 1773 and encouraged the East India Company to send its tea to America. Other than not drinking British Tea colonial women are spinning their own cotton so they didn’t have to buy British Cotton. On December 16, 1773 three British ships sailed into the Boston harbor filled with British Tea that Americans refused to buy. Sam Adams put armed guards at the waterfront to prevent them from bringing the tea ashore. Adams had a prearranged agreement with some men to be dressed up as Indians to destroy all the tea. The “Indians” shouted “Boston Harbor a teapot tonight” before they left the church and went to destroy the tea. The total number of men by the time they reached the ships was about 150 men. They boarded the three ships and proceeded to throw all the tea overboard. This was another example of Brittan placing a tax on the colonies without asking them what they wanted.

On April 5, 1764 the British Parliament passed The Sugar Act. The Sugar Act was also known as the revenue act of 1764. The British Parliament imposed this tax to discourage trade between the Northern colonies and foreign colonies in the East Indies. “The sugar act had actually been an extension of the molasses act of 1733 which placed a six pence per gallon of molasses, nine pence for rum, and five shilling per hundredweight of sugar” . They suggested that for the Molasses act of 1733 that they make the punishment stricter if someone was smuggling anything covered in the act . Grenville saw that the income from the Molasses act would not be enough to cover the troops in America . The New England merchants persuaded themselves that the Molasses act could not be obeyed even if it was revised. They figured it would destroy their trade in both molasses and rum . Although the sugar act was not taken very well it was not quite as bad as the stamp act. The sugar act wasn’t well liked by the people because it put a tax on the stuff they used in their everyday lives.

The Navigation act of 1651 was, obviously, way before the American Revolutionary War but its effects were long lasting which helped the cause of the war. The prototype of the navigation act of 1650 restricted trade between the British and the rebellious colonies such as; Barbados, Bermuda, Antigua, and Virginia. The British however had the power to go to those places with a special license from the Council of State . This act was similar to the restraints on trade during the first Civil War. The Navigation acts of 1650 differed very little from the navigation acts of 1651 . “It has long been agreed that the object of this act was to put an end to an extensive sea-borne trade in Dutch Merchandise and in products from other countries??¦” . There were multiple navigation acts after 1651. They kept making them until at least 1845. The navigation act made the colonists mad because it restricted their ability to trade with other countries for things that were actually useful.

Many people know about the American Revolutionary war. People also know some of the reasons that it started. There were multiple reasons why it started but the ones we focused on were how taxes helped start the war. I believe that the reason the American Revolution happened was because the colonists were fed up with the taxation by England. Those people left England for a reason only to come to the “new world” and still be under England’s control. All of the taxes put on the colonies by England were very well disliked by the entire country which eventually led to the revolutionary war. In October 1781 the Americans surrounded General Cornwallis in Yorktown, Virginia and forced him to surrender. In 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed giving America its independence from England.


  1. Carp, Benjamin L, Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America, Yale University Press, Pg. 1476
  2. Clapham, J. H. “The Last Years of the Navigation Acts.” The English Historical Review 25, no. 99 (1910): 480-501.
  3. Farnell, J. E. “The Navigation Act of 1651, the First Dutch War, and the London Merchant Community.” The Economic History Review, New Series, 16, no. 3 (1964): 439-54. doi:10.2307/2592847.
  4. Fradin, Dennis B, The Boston Tea Party, Marshall Cavendish Benchmark
  5. Johnson, Allen S. “The Passage of the Sugar Act.” The William and Mary Quarterly 16, no. 4 (1959): 507-14. doi:10.2307/1920217.
  6. Johnson, Oscar Albert, “The Navigation Act of 9 October, 1651” The Journal of historical association, Volume 34. Issue 120-121. February 1949. Pg.89-96
  7. Raphael, Ray, A peoples history to the American Revolution, The New York Press, Pg. 2
  8. Russel, David Lee, The American Revolution in the Southern Colonies, Pg. 26-27
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Taxation in the American Revolution. (2019, Dec 23). Retrieved January 31, 2023 , from

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