Stamp Master’s Hand Forced, 1765

On November 16, 1765, North Carolina’s stamp master, William Houston, resigned his post amid demonstrations against the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act of 1765, the first direct tax placed on the American colonies by Great Britain, was intended to raise revenue to defray Britain’s national debt. The measure, however, was met with great disdain throughout the colonies.

Houston, a Duplin County physician and early Irish immigrant, was selected as the stamp distributor in 1765 after Parliament passed the Act. His appointment led to public demonstrations and Houston being hanged in effigy in Wilmington, New Bern and Cross Creek throughout October 1765.

Upon arriving in Wilmington the following month to take his post, Houston was confronted by several hundred protestors. He publicly declared that he did not want to be responsible for government actions with which the public disagreed, but the unsatisfied crowd forced him to the county courthouseanyway, where he penned his resignation.

After his resignation, Houston evidently regained a level of respect. The following year, he became clerk of the Committee of Public Claims at New Bern, and later he was appointed a justice of the peace for Duplin County.

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