The Stamp Act crisis in North Carolina
Amos, Jessie A.
Gruber, Ira D.
Master of Arts
Recent accounts of the Stamp Act crisis deal with general issues as they evolved in the thirteen colonies during 1765 and 1766. Historians such as Helen M. and Edmund S. Morgan argue convincingly that these two years were decisive ones for the American colonies. There is a need, however, to study this period from a narrower viewpoint. Focusing on only one colony, North Carolina, will disclose the special nature of the resistance: that: such a successful undertaking should have been so little known outside the area. The success of North Carolina’s opposition resulted from the colony’s unique attack on Parliamentary taxation. From the outset, North Carolinians were determined to prevent the implementation of the Stamp Act. The principals in the dissenting faction were community leaders who made no attempt to conceal their identity. Their strategy included making the opposition position known to William Tryon, the royal governor, involving bystanders as a. means to augment the anti-Stamp Act forces, and avoiding violence. Similarly, Tryon met his antagonists in a peaceful manner. When his solution was rejected, Tryon continually prorogued the colony’s Assembly to squelch the opposition’s effectiveness. As a result of the controlled response by both sides, commerce continued in North Carolina, the ports and courts remained open, and the royal governor retained his authority. The preceding developments constituted a successful resistance; however, the North Carolinians’ undertaking became little known outside the area. The events and ideology implicit in the events received little consideration from North Carolinians. Of the large number of pamphlets which the Stamp Act generated, only one was the work of a native North Carolinian, Maurice Moore. This dearth of writing reflects the pragmatic tone of the crisis in North Carolina. Results were the first concern; ideology, a lagging second. Newspapers had no better success in North Carolina. During the period of the Stamp Act crisis only one newspaper was published in the colony, even though several centers of activity were developing, North Carolinians needed a spokesman to espouse their views if their endeavors were to have had effect elsewhere. The pragmatism with which all involved confronted Parliamentary taxation directed the course of the Stamp Act crisis in North Carolina. The result was a very strong reaction against Parliament’s claim to tax the colonists. Ironically, these colonists who were able to force open their ports, courts, and newspaper attracted little attention outside the Cape Fear basin and did not establish their place in the forefront of intercolonial opposition to Parliamentary taxation. North Carolinians' efforts were so little known that at the time of the Stamp Act crisis a merchant in Great Britain noted that: as to the former making restitutions for any damage done during any disturbances I believe your province will be at no trouble about as I have not heard of any commotions in North Carolina...