Up until the attempt to collect the Stamp duty colonists had accepted minor duties on trade such as the Navigation Acts, Molasses Act and even the Sugar Act. The Molasses Act cost more to administer than it collected in revenue. Those measures were not considered as “tax” by the colonial assemblies but as trade regulations that compensated for protection, access to foreign products and a foreign market for American goods.
Colonists were careful to draw distinction between internal and external taxes. Internal taxes were those imposed by the provincial government, members of which were elected by residents, therefore had the power given by the people to tax them. External taxes were enacted to regulate trade of the empire.
The American arguments for opposing the British imposed Stamp duties are the following:
- The most popular view was that the Stamp Act was an internal tax levied without the consent of the colonists. Virtual representation in a far away parliament did not guarantee the protection of colonial residents in the North American continent, therefore they lacked representation. New England was the most vocal opponent. “No taxation without representation” was in their charter of rights that had existed since 1620.
- The British had budget a collection of annual American revenue of twice as much as the provincial taxes raised by the provincial governments of the thirteen colonies. Colonial residents feared that it was the beginning on a series of legislation and of a heavy taxation policy that would destroy their hard earned prosperity.
- Colonial assemblies feared a loss of authority from the British appointed officials and the establishment of an autocratic government. Salaries of officials such as governors, judges, military officers, councilors, tax collectors among others depended on colonial governments. If a tax was raised by Britain to pay for their salaries, then provincial assemblies would lose any power over them.
- Provincial governments were strong and independent institutions in the colonies, it took more than a century and much effort to get to such degree of autonomy.
- Leading political figures did not want to accept a diminished status.
- Established merchants wanted freedom to trade and any additional tax would likely decrease consumption.