Provoking America: Early reactions to the Stamp Act could bring $50,000


2015-06-26 12:32:51


Provoking America: Early reactions to the Stamp Act could bring $50,000

Two newspapers, one including text written by Benjamin Franklin, are auctioning at Swann Galleries

Just a week ago, James D Julia sold the fourth volume of the famous Harbottle Dorr collection of annotated newspapers for $345,000 to the Massachusetts Historical Society, allowing them to complete the set.

The collection runs from issues reporting the Stamp Act which infuriated Americans through to the actual Declaration of Independence, and items from this period of history are always valuable. Some more are going up for sale this month as part of the Eric C Caren collection at Swann.

One of the most exciting is Ben Franklin's first reaction to the Stamp Act in The Pennsylvania Gazette. This is believed to contain the first printed American references to the passage of the stamp act:

"Westminster, March 22. This day the Royal assent was given to an Act for granting and applying certain Stamp Duties, and other Duties, in the British colonies and plantations in America, towards further defraying the expences of defending, protecting, and securing the same."

The full impact of this news may not have been immediately apparent. It is discussed in two other articles in the paper, though probably not written by Franklin.

If the initial response to the news was muted, it had grown in volume by the time the bill came into force. That is documented in another newspaper: two pages of The Boston Post-Boy, (&c. Extraordinary) reporting a dramatic protest on the first day of the Stamp Act.

Boston Post Boy Stamp ActRead all about it... The Boston Post Boy reports protests about the Stamp Act

The lead story describes the day's events in detail. After proclaiming the day to be "detested for the boldest Attempts, to invade the Rights of Britons," the article reports that a "vast Concourse of People repaired in the Forenoon, to the Royal Elm; some with Weeds in their Hatts, others with cast-down Eyes, uttering Ejaculations of Sorrow and Wonder."

After a procession through town with the crest, "the justly enraged Multitude moved onwards to the Gallows, without the City Gates, and exhibiting in open view, the emblematic Object of their Wrath, rent it into a Thousand Fragments and dispersed them on the four Wings of the Air; where it is hoped no creating Power will collect them into Being again . . . while Right and Property have Name and Respect among the Sons of Men."

Also included are reports of protests in Philadelphia, New York, and Newport. New Yorkers had opened a homespun market and "have entered into a Resolution not to buy any European Manufactures till their Trade is more opened. . . . It is hoped this will animate the Country People to make plenty of Linens and Woolens, as they may be assured of quick Sale."

The Franklin newspaper carries an estimate of $10,000-15,000 and Boston Post-Boy is expected to bring $25,000-35,000 in the sale which takes place on September 15 in New York and online.

Collectors interested in this period of history might also wish to take a look at this lottery ticket signed by George Washington, which is available on the private markets away from the auction.

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