[REVOLUTIONARY WAR]. [STAMP ACT]. Partly printed document signed ("G. Whitmore," "John Kenrick," and "J. Bindley"), as Royal Commissioners, London, 5 September 1765. 1 page, folio (11½ x 16 in.), ON PARCHMENT, large gothic initial capital enclosing engraved portrait of George III, accomplished in manuscript, wax seals alongside each commissioner's signature, THREE BLUE 40 SHILLING STAMPS AFFIXED TO UPPER LEFT CORNER. Docketed on verso; a George III paper stamp also on verso. Creased from folding but otherwise excellent condition.
AN EXTREMELY RARE STAMP ACT APPOINTMENT, naming "Adam Hunter, Gentleman," to oversee the enforcement of the fateful Stamp Tax "within the Colonies of Maryland and Virginia in America." Hunter, a Fredericksburg resident, is empowered to "Search, Inspect, View and Examine, at all seasonable Times, all Courts, Offices and Places, whatsoever...and then and there to take strict Notice of all Frauds, and suspected Frauds, and Omissions, relating to the said Duties, and carefully to Inquire and Search whether all Proceedings in such Courts and Places, be duly Entered, Registered and Recorded..." The language of this appointment emphasizes the sheer intrusiveness of the Act--something which must have provoked American opposition as much if not more than the abstract principle of no taxation without representation. For Hunter is empowered "to take out of the Publick Books, Files, Records, Remembrances, Docquets and proceedings, of any Registries, Court, Corporation, Company or Office, such Notes and memorandum that may tend to the securing of his Majesty's Stamp-Duties..." It gives him a blank warrant to enter any court or legal office, and examine any document to ascertain if it has the appropriate stamp. He is to present "an Account of the Names, Places of Abode and Offices, of all such Persons as" deny him entry or refuse to supply documents for his inspection. Such a degree of Parliamentary intrusion on American affairs was unparalleled, and bitterly resented.
Enacted on 22 March1765, and scheduled to go into effect on 1 November of that year, the Stamp Act was regarded by its Whitehall authors as a perfectly justified means of raising revenues to defray the huge costs of the French and Indian War (stamp taxes on legal documents had long been a revenue source in England). The range of documents in the American bill was much wider, covering everything from legal documents to newspapers and playing cards. But lawyers and merchants were the groups that were most burdened by the bill, and they were at the vanguard of the protest movements in the colonial assemblies. The six most populous colonies formed committees of correspondence to coordinate their actions. The first colony-wide assembly met in New York in October, and issued the Stamp Act Resolves. By the end of the year, every colonial assembly had petitioned London requesting repeal. Crowd protests threatened and harassed the officials charged with implementing the tax, and by November, twelve of them had resigned. In the face of such overwhelming opposition, London repealed the Act in March 1766.
The Stamp Act's brief life energized the American colonists, but precisely because of its brevity and unpopularity, it left few official, documentary traces behind. NO OTHER APPOINTMENT OF A STAMP ACT ADMINISTRATOR HAS APPEARED AT AUCTION IN THE LAST THIRTY YEARS.