When enacted in May, 1764, the Sugar
Act (Revenue Act of 1764) was intended to raise revenue to repay
England's national debt. Although the act is frequently compared to
the unenforced Molasses Act of 1733, the Sugar Act imposed
duties on a number of goods including molasses and other forms of
sugar, textiles and dye, coffee, and wines. The duty on molasses,
a key ingredient in rum and one of the more important products that
the colonists used, was actually cut in half under the Sugar
Act. The difference was that England intended to strictly
enforce the new duties.
The tall coastal pines of Georgia yielded lumber, which had become
a major export of the colony by 1754. One major consumer of Georgia
lumber was the Caribbean Islands, whose molasses exports help pay
for the lumber. When the Sugar Act was passed Georgians
were concerned about the sale of lumber to customers in the Caribbean
who would be using money gotten from the export of molasses to pay
for the lumber. Georgia was also concerned because they might not
be able to adhere to the strict shipping requirements of the act.
Georgians protested the act in England on strictly economic terms,
unlike the other colonies who protested the levy of a tax without
approval of those being taxed.
Stamp Act of 1765 (passed March 22,
1765) brought the first true rift between
loyalist and colonist in Georgia. England sees the colonies as a part
of the mother country, populated by Englishmen, and Parliament serves
all Englishmen, whether they live in England or America. Colonists,
especially the educated and the coastal wealthy, see a mother country
out of control. Heady from the defeat of the Spanish and French, and
recognized as the preeminent world power, the colonists see an England
that begins to extract more from the colonies abroad and less from
English at home. And the fact that the colonists, as loyal Englishmen,
no longer enjoy the privilege of electing members of Parliament does
not sit well with many men. Most colonists and many others around
the world view King George III as incapable.
Massachusetts took the lead in organizing resistance to the act,
calling for a Stamp Act Congress of the colonial governments.
When word reached Georgia, Alexander Wylly called the members
of the Commons House to Savannah. Governor Wright refused to
call the session to order so no official action could be taken, however,
with the consensus of the members an unofficial document of support
including a commitment to back any action taken was forwarded to the
Stamp Act Congress.
November 1, 1765
was the date set for the Stamp Act to go into effect,
but with no instruction from England, Wright turned to his council
for advice. They recommended holding up all land grants and warrants,
but permitting ships to pass (ships would need stamped papers to enter
or leave port). On November 5 the
Sons of Liberty met at MacHenry's Tavern
in Savannah, plotting their course of action should
a stampmaster arrive.
In December the Commons House convened and issued to the king and
others the documents recommended by the Stamp Act Congress,
fulfilling the House's pledge to back any action taken by the congress.
Then, on January 2, 1766,
a most unique meeting occurred at the gates of the Governor's Mansion
in Savannah. A rowdy group of men, some of whom were Sons
of Liberty, marched to the gate where they were greeted by
-- the royal governor himself, alone (but armed with a pistol). After
discussing the Stamp Act and his actions, he told them they needed
to trust his decisions.
On January 3 the royal stampmaster,
Mr. George Angus, arrived below the port of Savannah
and was immediately taken to Governor Wright's house. With his
arrival the colony began to issue stamps as required by law. Some
stamps were purchased, but in general Georgians had decided to
"wait and see" if the act would be rescinded.
Wright decided the stamps, which no longer had buyers were not safe
from the Liberty Boys in Savannah, so he moved them to Fort
George on Cockspur Island, where they remained
until the act was repealed. Parliament repealed of the act on March
18, 1766, but they included an affirmation
of their sovereignty. (Georgia was official notified of the repeal
on July 16, 1766).
George Knox, who acted as agent for Georgia on colonial
matters in England wrote an article agreeing with the right of Parliament
to levy taxes on the colonies. Knox was removed by the Commons House.
Stamp Act Timeline
Acts Of War
Georgia in 1763
Sugar Act; Stamp Act
The House dissolved
Radicals Gain Power
Georgia joins the Continental Congress
A Colony at War
A State and Union Formed
The First Florida Expedition
A Leader Dies
The Second Florida Expedition
The Third Florida Expedition
Britain Attacks Georgia
Georgia Fight Backs
The Siege and Battle of Savannah
There Comes a Reaper
The Liberation of Georgia