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Holiday Gift Guide 2023

Give the gift of Revolution. Whatever holiday you celebrate, we’re here to help you find the perfect Colonial Williamsburg-inspired gift for the loved ones in your life.

Inspired by three taxation acts that led to the American Revolution — The Sugar, Stamp, and Townshend Acts — we’ve created a gift guide for the ultimate history lover. Learn why these acts were put in place and how they affected the colonists, then shop for items that would have been taxed.

You can get these items online, at one of our Colonial Williamsburg stores in Merchants Square, or one of our Historic Area retail locations.

Please double-check our holiday deadlines when shopping online to ensure your gifts arrive on time.

Sugar Act – 1764

With Great Britain in debt after the French and Indian War, Parliament looked for a way to raise revenue for continuing to defend the colonies. In 1764, Prime Minister George Grenville presented a plan, the Sugar Act, to Parliament as a way to raise money from the colonies by reforming the existing customs system.

One part of the Sugar Act focused on better enforcement of existing laws. In addition, the Sugar Act included customs duties on goods including Madeira wine, coffee, pimento, foreign indigo, foreign sugar, and molasses. In general, the purpose of the duties was to raise the cost of foreign goods enough that colonists would purchase more goods directly from Great Britain.

While colonial merchants feared the Sugar Act would be an economic blow, it did not inspire the same level of vehement protest that later acts would. Even so, it did spark debate about whether Great Britain had the right to levy taxes on the colonies who did not have representation in Parliament.

Stamp Act – 1765

Like the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act’s intent was to raise money for the defense of the colonies. This act placed a tax on specific types of documents, which would now need to be written on paper with official stamps. The types of documents included court documents, bonds, land deeds, mortgages, indentures, contracts, playing cards, pamphlets, newspapers, and almanacs.

The Stamp Act lit a fire under the colonists, who felt that their petitioning against the Sugar Act and Stamp Act had gone ignored by Parliament. Almost immediately after word of the Stamp Act reached the colonies, colonial legislatures passed resolutions that outright denied Parliament had the right to tax the colonies. In some colonial towns, resolutions were not enough. Riots broke out in opposition of the Stamp Act in Boston, New York City, Newport, and other colonial towns.

After the fierce protest from the American colonies against the Stamp Act, Parliament repealed the Act in 1766. At the same time, they passed the Declaratory Act, which reaffirmed their right to levy taxes upon the colonies.

Townshend Acts – 1767 & 1768

Still intent on raising revenue from the colonies, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts in 1767, which placed customs duties on a wide variety of imported goods, including glass, paint, paper, lead, and tea. Like the Sugar Act, the Townshend Acts also included provisions to help enforce the collection of taxes.

Colonists vehemently opposed the Townshend Acts on the same grounds they had opposed the Sugar and Stamp Acts: they argued that Parliament did not have the right to tax the colonists. The most widespread protest of the Townshend Acts came in the form of non-importation agreements signed by colonial merchants and shopkeepers. These men and women agreed not to import goods from Great Britain in the hopes that the economic impact on British merchants would help convince Parliament to repeal the taxes. In 1770, all of the Townshend Acts except for the tax on tea were repealed.

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