Four American Patriots  by Alma Holman Burton

The Stamp Act

After his victory over the clergymen, Patrick Henry had all the business he could attend to. Whoever got into trouble hastened to ask the young lawyer to help him get out of it.

His fees increased. He soon became so rich that he loaned money to his father, and then he loaned to Sarah's father.

He could not throw off his old habits at once. He still loved to hunt and to fish. Sometimes he was away in the forest whole days at a time.

Sometimes he came into the court-room with his gun in his hand and his buckskin clothes red with the blood of the deer he had killed. But he studied hard and read a great deal of history, and talked much with the people as he traveled about from court to court.

Now just at that very time there was good reason for talking. The king and his Parliament were beginning to make trouble. They saw the colonies getting richer and richer.

Ship after ship came over the sea laden with furs, wheat, tobacco, and rice from America. Even cotton was beginning to be profitable.

"Those colonies across the sea shall be taxed," said the king.

So Parliament, with the king's advice, made a law that required all legal papers in America to be stamped. If a man made a deed of his farm, or wrote out a will on his death bed, or got a license to marry, he had to use stamped paper bought in England. The price to be paid for the paper was much greater than the cost of it, and thus a large tax might be collected.

The Americans said that they alone had the right to vote a tax. They were willing to vote for a tax, but Parliament should not do it for them.

Almost all the colonies sent petitions to the king against the Stamp Act. The province of Virginia sent a petition signed by George Washington and many others. But the king gave no answer. What should be done?

If the tax were paid once, it would have to be paid twice.

"We must fight the law," said someone.

"But most of the burgesses are the mere tools of the king," said another; "let us elect Patrick Henry a burgess. He is bold and will defend our rights."

And so it came about that Patrick Henry was sent to the House of Burgesses to speak for the people of his county against the oppressions of the king and his Parliament.