Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James P Whittenburg


This dissertation argues that the American colonists came to resist the Stamp Act of 1765 through equating it with slavery, a state still understood as resulting from surrender in war. This metaphor both dominated print discourse and served to justify violence against supporters of the Act. Slavery rhetoric implied that resistance through violent struggle was essential for the colonists both to win their freedom and to demonstrate to the wider world that they deserved such freedom. Understanding resistance in these terms reveals the close connections between the rhetoric deployed against the Stamp Act and the actions taken against stamp officers and other supporters of the Act. A close examination of the chronology of rhetoric and resistance shows that it was the colonists' commitment to violent struggle---the actions of urban crowds and of a vigilant network of Sons of Liberty---that prevented enactment of the Stamp Act. and it was knowledge of that resistance that caused Parliament to vote against sending troops to enforce the Stamp Act, well before merchants and manufacturers testified to their economic straits.;The four chapters proceed chronologically through the period May 1765 -- May 1766. The first chapter examines the colonists' decision to resist the Stamp Act and ends in July 1765. Chapter 2 is a study of the crowd actions against crown officers in August through October. The third chapter contrasts the ineffectual Stamp Act Congress with the actions of the Sons of Liberty in the winter of 1766, while the final chapter focuses on the repeal celebrations of May 1766.



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