During my recent book tour, the Stamp Act riot part of my talk generated the loudest audience reactions so I thought I’d re-purpose what I call the “Stamp Act riot to-do list” for readers of the Journal of the American Revolution.
In late 1765 and early 1766, protests against the stamp duty took place throughout the colonies. Large, violent crowds of colonists destroyed personal property and intimidated Crown sympathizers in Annapolis, Newport, Providence, New York, Albany, New Haven, Philadelphia, Portsmouth, Charleston, Savannah and so on. Stamp officers were forced to publicly resign, which had a desirable effect — preventing the Stamp Act from being enforced.
The humiliation of the stamp masters was well documented in colonial newspapers, which made them virtual instruction manuals, or to-do lists, for how to successfully riot against the Stamp Act. One newspaper that illustrates this well is the September 5, 1765, Supplement to the Boston News-Letter. As a modern adaptation, I converted the News-Letter‘s report about the August 27-29 riot in Newport, Rhode Island, into a to-do list to emphasize the destructionand because, well, Americans love lists.
DAY ONE (morning):
- Assemble and erect gallows in middle of town
- Make effigies to represent stamp master, two hated loyalists
- Cart effigies through town to gallows
- Hoist effigies by neck 15 feet high
- Make fire under gallows
- Burn effigies to ashes
- Choose deputies of town
- Choose committee to instruct deputies on Stamp Act
DAY TWO (evening):
- Gather crowd, march to house of hated loyalist No. 1
- Shatter windows
- Break doors to pieces
- Damage partitions of house
- Ruin furniture
- March to home of hated loyalist No. 2
- Tear house to pieces
- Demolish furniture
- Ravage cellar
- Destroy all provisions, wine, etc.
- March to home of stamp master
- Threaten his home if he doesn’t resign
- Receive promise of resignation
- Return to first two homes to continue destruction
DAY THREE (morning):
- Listen to stamp master’s public resignation
- Wait for loyalists to sail to England, advertise land/home for sale