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Lesson One

Reading 3

Boycott of British Goods

Writing from Philadelphia on November 7, 1765 to Welsh, Wilkinson & Co., Charles Thomson described the impact of the Stamp Act.

I have not time otherwise should inform you particularly of the Distractions and confusions of the Colonies by reason of the Stamp act, where things will end God knows. So exasperated are the people that to appease them and indeed for our own Safety the merchants are obliged to pawn their word and honour and give from under their hands that they will not import any more Goods from Great Britain until that act is repealed. So that if the ministry determine to carry that act into execution the Connection between G. B. & her Colonies must in a great measure cease and you must look out for other markets to vend your wares. For besides that it would be unsafe for any man to import while the Stamp act continues unrepealed the people are determined not to use the manufactures of Great Britain but either to manufacture for themselves or go without—but of this you will hear more from others. . . .

Source: TheThomson Papers (New-York Historical Society, Collections, 1878), pp. 5–6.

Although the Stamp Act was to have gone into effect on November 1, 1765, by that date protests had been so great that stamp agents had not issued one sheet of stamps. In December, a colleague from Pennsylvania wrote to Franklin describing the boycott

of British goods.

A stop is put to our commerce and our courts of justice is shut up

. . . . Our harbors are filled

with vessels, but none of them . . . dare move, because neither the governor or collector will clear them for want of papers agreeable to the laws of trade.

Source: Hawke, Franklin, p. 236.


Benjamin Franklin Dictionary of American Portraits Dover Publications, Inc., 1967

1. According to Franklin’s letter to Charles Thomson, why was it impossible to prevent the passage of the Stamp Act?

  • 2.

    What course of action does Franklin recommend?

  • 3.

    Why did the colonists respond to the Stamp Act by an

embargo of British goods?

4. How effective was the embargo?


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