1765-1767: Stamp Act and Townshend Acts


The Stamp Act

Bostonians Reading the Stamp Act

Bostonians Reading the Stamp Act

John Hancock’s political career started in 1765 when he was elected as a Boston selectman becoming his first public post in a series that would last until the end of his life. This was a tumultuous year in the colony as the Stamp Act was passed and the crowds took it to the streets to protest. During this period Hancock became acquainted with Samuel Adams with whom he forged a friendship, though fifteen years older than him. Samuel Adams took Hancock as a protégé. They complemented each other, Hancock had the charm and power to influence people and Adams had the experience. Adams guided him to use his wealth and power to advance the cause for independence.

Hancock’s initial position on the Stamp Act was moderate, he thought that the colonist should subject to the act but he also believed that Parliament was mistaken on its policy to taxing its colonies. However he gradually became more radical and by the end of the year, working together with Samuel Adams, he took a more active role in the quest for the repeal of the Stamp Act by participating in the boycott of British goods. Publicly he condemned the violence that took place during the Stamp Act crisis. As a result of his participation and as a powerful figure in Massachusetts Hancock became a popular politician and in May 1766 he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Townshend Acts

“No taxation without representation protests in Boston”

In 1767, a year after the repeal of the Stamp Act, Parliament approved another revenue raising taxation in the colonies, the Townshend Acts. The Townshend Acts consisted on new duties on imports and a series of acts to regulate trade in the colonies and reduce smuggling. The new regulations were oppressive for many colonial merchants and Hancock called for a non-importation agreement and boycott of non-essential British goods.

Because duties and import procedures were so overwhelming for trading businesses they avoided paying taxes by smuggling goods into the colony and so did Hancock. In 1767 Hancock’s political career took a turning point when he was targeted by the new Board of Customs Commissioners. They may have suspected him of smuggling or it was an intimidation tactic for his political views. He resisted an attempt to seize a cargo in his brig Lydia without a writ of assistance. He also resisted the capture his sloop Liberty, an event known as the Liberty Affair. These British actions against Hancock made him a popular hero.


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