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Colonial Reaction to the Stamp Act Young hothead Patrick Henry addresses the Virginia House of Burgesses on May 29, 1765. Henry emerged as a major spokesman after British lawmakers passed the Stamp Act on March 22, placing a heavy tax on all legal documents, newspapers, diplomas, licenses and even playing cards issued or sold in America. The colonists viewed the act as taxation without representation and reacted with a violence that astonished the British. Henry proposed the Virginia Resolves, five resolutions that denied Parliament’s right to tax America. He shocked the more conservative members of the Virginia legislature when he reportedly said, ‘Caesar had his Brutus, Charles I his Cromwell. May George III profit from their example.’

Engraving from Peter F. Rothermel’s 1851 painting, Patrick Henry before the Virginia House of Burgesses, National Archives