University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Kaminski, John P.; Saladino, Gaspare J.; Moore, Timothy D. (Historian); Lannér-Cusin, Johanna E.; Schoenleber, Charles H.; Reid, Jonathan M.; Flamingo, Margaret R.; Fields, David P. (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Maryland (1)
11 (2015)

Introduction,   pp. xxi-lvi


Page xxiv

INTRODUCTION
Economic conditions in Maryland were favorable during much of
the French and Indian War (1754-63). Imports grew, crop production
was good, and prices were strong. But the economic winds changed
direction in the early 1760s. Tobacco prices dropped sharply, even be-
low the cost of shipping, and the end of that war brought with it still
greater hardships, especially in Europe. Dutch bankers recognized the
precarious situation of the war's belligerents, Britain and France, nei-
ther of which would be able to pay off their wartime debts, and the
end to wartime trade, which had bolstered German currency, caused a
financial collapse on the European continent. Maryland merchants were
particularly affected by such conditions and the unfavorable balance of
trade that resulted from them. The fear of bankruptcy led some English
merchants to call in their colonial debts, which drained Maryland of
specie. The importation of European goods relied upon the exporta-
tion of American stores, like grain and lumber. But restrictions on co-
lonial exports, especially lumber and iron, prevented Maryland mer-
chants from righting the trade imbalance. Ronald Hoffman casts the
story of prewar Maryland in cycles of boom and bust, and these cycles,
Hoffman contends, served as a bellwether for the colony's politics at
any given time. "Maryland's planters and merchants knew both soaring
profits and agonizing losses in the years immediately before the Revo-
lution," Hoffman writes. Much of the political ferment in the American
colonies that eventually led to the Revolution concerned a particular
piece of parliamentary legislation: the Stamp Act.8
Parliament passed the Stamp Act on 22 March 1765. "Anger and frus-
tration developed over the Stamp Act of 1765, which coincided with
depression," writes Hoffman, "while indifference characterized the re-
action to the Townshend program initiated in 1767 during prosperous
years," so it was not the act alone that aggravated the inhabitants of
Maryland. But the Stamp Act was certainly a catalyst for escalating ten-
sions. The act placed a tax on newspapers, pamphlets, licenses, academic
degrees, wills, warrants, bills of sale, deeds, and a host of other documents
and printed materials. Burdensome for some colonists, less burdensome
for others, the tax brought to the fore a critical principle at the heart
of the transatlantic debate: the colonies' right to tax themselves. The
Stamp Act Congress, which represented the climax of "formal opposi-
tion" to the act, met in New York City between 7 and 24 October to
debate an appropriate colonial response to parliamentary abuses. Nine
colonies, including Maryland, sent delegates at the invitation of the Mas-
sachusetts legislature. The declarations that emerged from the Stamp
Act Congress reaffirmed the prerogatives of colonial legislatures. The
xxiv


Go up to Top of Page