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Lesson Plans - Rules, Resistance and Repeal:  How the Stamp Act Was Repealed

NAME OF LESSON: Rules, Resistance and Repeal:  How the Stamp Act Was Repealed

3 class periods of 45 minutes, 1 museum visit of 90 minutes


Karen Corbett                         

The United States and the World: American Foreign Relations


SALEM in History Topic Addressed:

The Long Road to Lexington

Lesson Summary | Frameworks | Essential Question(s) | Lesson Objectives
Historical Background Essay | Materials List and Pre-Arrangements/Preparations Needed
Vocabulary | Lesson Activities | Student Product or Performance
Assessment Criteria | Possible Modifications | Possible Extension Activities
Cross Curricular/Interdisciplinary Links/Activities | Sources and Resources
Additional Resources for Students and Teachers


This lesson teaches students about the causes of the American revolution and gives them a chance to experience how it might feel to be a victim of “taxation without representation.” Students will also study an object from 1776 at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, and think about how that piece might have been a form of 18th century propaganda.

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Teapot, “Stamp Act Repeal’d,” 1766. Cockpit Hill Factory, Derby, England. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

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  • What were some of the causes of the American Revolution?
  • How did specific events lead the colonists to revolt?
  • How much can you oppress people before they revolt?
  • What can artifacts tell us about political, economic and social implications of British rule? In general?
  • How does examining an artifact from 1766 connect to politics and society today?
  • How can a group of people be persuaded to change their opinion?
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Students will be able to understand:

  • British dominance in the colonies
  • Why colonists felt oppressed and eventually the need to rebel
  • That protests changed the way people thought about British dominance
  • The significance of the Stamp Act
  • That many events, including the Stamp Act, led to the American Revolution


Students will be able to:

  • Observe and carefully analyze an artifact for political, economic and social significance.
  • Show connections between historical events and how they impacted life in the colonies
  • Make connections between how people in the 1770s tried to impact their government, and how people today can impact their government   
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US History I, Grade 8 (5-8)


The Political and Intellectual Origins of the American Nation: The Revolution and the Constitution, 1763-1789.


USI.4 Analyze how Americans resisted British policies before 1775 and analyze the reasons for the American victory and the British defeat during the Revolutionary War


GRADE AND SUBJECT: Grade 8 History


#5.  Explain how the cause and effect relationship is different from a sequence or correlation of events

#7.  Show connections, causal and otherwise, between particular historical events and ideas and large social, economic and political trends and developments

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In 1765, the American Revolution was still only an idea in the minds of a few visionary patriots.  Most colonists were confused about where their allegiance belonged.  Only one third of the population supported some kind of drastic action to gain independence from Britain.  One third clearly supported Britain, while the remaining third was torn.  In order to support a revolution, there had to be, according to John Adams, a revolution “in the minds and hearts of the people.”(1)  This lesson examines one of the most important catalysts that helped change the minds of the people -- the Stamp Act and its repeal.

The Stamp Act was the first direct tax imposed on the American colonies by King George III.  After overextending itself in conflicts all over the world, Britain found itself severely in debt.  Most recently, the war against the French and Native Americans over territory in the Ohio Valley left Britain in financial distress and it still needed to cover the continuing costs of maintaining troops in the colonies. 

The Stamp Act was issued in November 1765, and ordered that a tax be placed on all legal and commercial documents, and all printed materials such as newspapers and pamphlets.  These documents had to have a special stamp as proof that the tax had been paid.

Since the colonists who had to pay this tax had not been a part of its enactment, and because the tax violated the new principle of “no taxation without representation, The Stamp Act infuriated the colonists.  Colonists resisted to the act in many different ways, including petitions to the king, a boycott of British goods, debates in colonial legislatures, the refusal of lawyers and printers to use stamped paper, and even violence.  In New York, angry rioters destroyed the house of a British officer.

Diplomatic persuasion was also attempted.  Some Americans, like Benjamin Franklin, tried to reason with the British and offered different solutions to the British problem of needing to maintain troops in the colonies.  These attempts were unsuccessful.  However, eventually, the continued protest by the colonies made it impossible for the British to collect the taxes in the manner they had originally envisioned.  On March 18, 1766, The Stamp Act was repealed.  It is possible that if Parliament had simply given the colonists some form of representation in their government, the American Revolution could have been prevented entirely.  Instead, the protest tactics and bad feelings against unfair taxation paved the way for the American Revolution.

1 John Ferling. A Leap in the Dark, The Struggle to Create the American Empire. (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 54.

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Wars Come to North America handout (Appendix A)

Events Leading to American Revolution handout (Appendix B)

Fake Memorandum from City of Salem regarding budget cuts (Appendix C)

Picture of the PEM object, Teapot (Appendix D)

Worksheet with questions for examining the Teapot

Pictures of the stamps used during the Stamp Act (Appendix F)

Bumper stickers and buttons from current political campaigns


Pre-teach vocabulary

Pre-teach creation of a timeline

Pre-teach concept of taxation without representation

Pre-teach establishment of 13 colonies and their forms of government

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  • taxation without representation
  • French/Indian War
  • tax
  • tariff
  • repeal
  • protest
  • propaganda
  • economic
  • Sons of Liberty
  • John Adams
  • Sam Adams
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • King George III
  • primary source
  • patriot
  • loyalist

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Lesson One: Overview and Timeline

The first lesson acts as an overview for students of the events leading to the American Revolution.  Students will have already learned about how the colonies were formed, that characteristics were unique to each colony, and how they tried to govern themselves.  Students will also have learned that the colonies were British, and that the colonists had no representation in the British Parliament. 

Goal: The goal is for students to realize that many events over a period of time led to the American Revolution, one of which was the Stamp Act.

A mini-lesson on the effects of the French/Indian War will be taught using a map of the US, ideally one from the 1750s and one from today. Students will identify the Ohio Valley region.  Students will read a short explanation of the French/Indian War, Wars Come to America, (Appendix A) to set the stage for the discussion of why the British started directly taxing the colonists.  Next, students will look at a handout with the causes, Events Leading to American Revolution (Attachment B), and create a timeline using these events. 

This activity should be done in the classroom so that the teacher can help explain events that students don’t remember or completely comprehend.  Students will be given a piece of paper with a timeline printed on it and will use the handout to fill in the timeline, using correct spacing.   The importance of this activity is that students see that although the Stamp Act was repealed, there were many events that followed, which also helped give rise to the American Revolution.

Lesson Two: Taxation Without Representation

Although students will have already learned about the concept of Taxation Without Representation, this activity gives them the opportunity to experience how oppression might actually feel.  Students should feel what it is like to be unrepresented in decisions that impact them financially.

Goal:  Students will experience what if feels like to have policies made that impact them financially, without being able to voice their concerns in the process.

Students will be told that due to school budget cuts they will need to pay 10 cents for each piece of photocopied paper for the quiz they are about to take.  They will be told that if they can’t pay the 10 cents, they will receive a quiz grade of “0.”  Read the memo out loud to all students (Attachment C).  Those students who can’t pay will have to sit quietly while others take the quiz.   Show students a copy of the fake City of Salem memo that details this new policy.

Once the quiz is completed, ask students the following questions:

  • How do you feel about this new policy?
  • Do you understand why the principal has instituted this new policy?
  • How do you feel about the principal for doing this?
  • How do you feel about your teacher’s reaction to this policy?
  • How did you feel taking the test when you knew others could not? And how did you feel sitting quietly while others were taking the test because they paid the 10 cents?
  • How can you let the principal know that you object to this new policy?
  • What do you think the principal will do if she knows students don’t like her policy?
  • If your first step in telling the principal your concerns doesn’t work, what will you do next?
  • What kinds of emotions did this policy bring out in you and your classmates?
  • How would you feel if you lived in a country where people were powerless all the time?  What would you do?

After the questions have been discussed, revisit the concept of taxation without representation.  Explain why the colonists were so angry that their financial lives were being impacted by decisions made by people in another country.  Discuss how people were able to change their government by protesting against many policies such as the Stamp Act.  Discuss how we change things in our society today.

Lesson Three: Primary Source Analysis: Visiting the “Teapot”

This lesson asks students to examine a primary source, a 1766 teapot, which is on display at the Peabody Essex Museum.  Students will use the Viewing Primary Sources worksheet to help them analyze this object.  After visiting the PEM, the teacher will discuss student observations and use the following questions to help students make deeper connections.

Goal: The goal is for students to look at a 1766 object and make connections between it and the political, economic and social climate in the colonies before the revolution.  In particular, ask student to make connections between the teapot (as propaganda) and propaganda object students see or even purchase themselves today.


  • What is this object?
  • What is the reference of the writing on the object?
  • Where would this object have been used?
  • Do we use this object today?
  • What do you think this object is made out of?
  • How old does this object look?


  • What was the Stamp Act?
  • What does “repealed” mean?
  • Where would this object have been used?
  • Why would this object have been made?
  • Where would this object have been made?
  • Why would someone have created this object in Great Britain?
  • Who would have bought this object?


  • What does this object tell us about domestic, social and political life in the 1760s?
  • How important are economic factors in determining whether a population is content?
  • What can we determine about the status of the economy, society and political culture when we think about why this object was made and how it may have been used?
  • What objects do you purchase today to make a political or social statement?
  • What kinds of objects do people today display to make political statements?

Students will take notes around these questions while they are in the Peabody Essex Museum.  After the surveys have been completed, we will discuss their answers.  The final questions, “what objects do you purchase today, and what objects do people display today” will be the jumping off point for the next lesson. 

By actually viewing the object, students have an opportunity to be next to something that was made over 200 years ago.  Rarely, do students have such an opportunity.  Also, by answering the prepared questions, and discussing the teapot and its significance in its presence, students are more fully engaged in their learning.  While a photograph of the object is available, when students see the artifact, realize its dimensions and walk around it for a three-dimensional examination, their interest is peaked.

Another reason for viewing the piece is to help students realize that the way people behave in society today is not too different from the way people behaved in the 1760s.  Having students make connections between the present day and an event that occurred over 200 years ago is an extremely powerful learning experience.

Lesson Four: Making Connections

After understanding that there were many events that led up to the American Revolution, and the feeling of being taxed without representation, and that policies and objects were used to persuade people to support the revolution, students will have an opportunity to examine their own political culture.  Students will examine modern day political memorabilia and discuss what people do today to change governmental policies.

Goal:  The goal of this lesson is for students to make links between the society that they live in and the society of the 1760s.

Students will examine many objects and pictures of objects that have been used in recent years to persuade people to vote for a particular person or issue.  The objects will be grouped together and placed on 5 different tables.  The themes for the 5 tables will be as follows:

  • Anti war related materials
  • Campaign materials from the 2004 Presidential election
  • Pro Choice and Pro Life materials
  • Propaganda on the legalization of drugs
  • Materials on a theme that is important to students during the time this lesson is taught (i.e., MCAS, military draft, etc.)

Students will be divided into five groups and will have and opportunity to examine each set of objects.  On the board should be pieces of poster paper and markers where students can record their observations about the objects.  Observations can include the following questions, which should be printed out and placed on each table. 

  • Have you ever heard of this person/issue?
  • How do you feel about the person/issue at this table?
  • Did looking at some of these objects make you think about the issue?
  • Did looking at some of these objects make you think differently about the issue?
  • Do non-violent methods of persuasion work to make changes happen in government and in society?

After all the groups have taken a turn at each table, the class should discuss the observations posted on the board. 


Students will write a five paragraph essay on the power of propaganda to change the minds of people, policy or the government.  Students will use at least one example from the American Revolution and one example from the current decade. 

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  • Students will be assessed on their timelines, including if the spacing accurately reflects the chronology and timing of events.
  • Students will be assessed on their responses on their Primary Source Viewing Handouts
  • Students will be assessed on their essays about propaganda.  FCA’s (Focus Correction Areas) will be determined when the assignment is given.
  • Students will be assessed on their contributions to class discussions.
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(see above)

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  • Computer technology is available for all writing activities
  • Students overwhelmed with the concept of developing a timeline will receive a template with the dates already correctly apportioned
  • Students could work in pairs at the Peabody Essex Museum visit to complete their Primary Source Viewing Handouts
  • A list of related vocabulary and definitions could be displayed at the front of the classroom

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  • Students could be asked to find additional primary and secondary sources that demonstrate how policy has been changed
  • Students could be asked to create a campaign to change a particular issue in society/government that impacts them
  • Students could research additional propaganda that could have been used to repeal the Stamp Act, or protest against any of the other unfair policies levied by the British in the 1760s and 1770s


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This lesson includes components of language arts, graphic organizing, art interpretation, computer research and cooperative learning. 

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Teapot, “Stamp Act Repeal’d,” 1766. Cockpit Hill Factory, Derby, England. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. (On view in the galleries as of spring 2005)

“This British-made teapot is imprinted to celebrate the repeal of the contentious legislation in 1766.” (PEM)  This artifact is a real teapot that was made in England in 1766, containing a political statement trying to get the Stamp Act repealed.  It is an excellent piece for helping students discuss and understand how people protested in the 1760’s. This primary source can also be accessed through ARTSCAPE on the PEM website, However, if a trip to the museum can be arranged, it is more effective to have students view the actual object, rather than a photograph. 


Handout from Reasons for Revolution, “Events Leading to American Revolution” Colonial and Revolutionary America, 1997.  McDonald Publishing, Co.

This handout gives a brief overview of the causes of the revolution.  It should only be used as an introduction or as a review because it does not go into enough detail to teach students about the events.  Additional reading or lecture should be used when the lesson is originally taught. 

Handout from The American Revolution.  USA: Mark Twain/Carson-Dellosa Publishing Company, Inc., 1996.

This one handout gives a short, but concise explanation of the French/Indian War, its causes and its aftermath.  It can be used as a short reading assignment during a mini-lesson on the war and can be read out loud together.  Follow up questions should be asked by the teacher to check understanding. 

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Ferlilng, John.  A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic.  Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

This book offers and excellent account of the causes of the Revolutionary War.  Ferling sees the revolution as a “leap in the dark” because the separation from Britain was an uncertain future for the colonies.  According to Ferling, war is a function of economics and this book details the economic impact of many of Britain’s oppressive tactics and how especially key individuals helped steer the way to a liberated society.

Hakim, Joy. From Colonies to Country.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Hakim uses some standard facts to give a comprehensive overview of the causes, battles and outcome of the revolution.  She inserts some interesting facts that would appeal to young readers, often questioning her reader in the text.  She also adds different types of visuals from photographs, to excerpts of letters, to political cartoons, to drawings.  The result is a captivating approach to teaching the events of the revolution.

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Rinaldi, Ann.  Give Me Liberty.  New York: Gulliver Books Harcourt, Inc., 2003.

The author brings to life some of the tough issues of living during the revolution.  This is a fictitious account of Patrick Henry’s family and in particular how they deal with issues of mental illness, slavery, boycotts and resistance against Britain.  Told through the voice of his children, the story is another way of teaching the revolution.  Also, the book profiles the man who convinced the Virginia House of Burgesses to adopt Stamp Act Resolves, which resulted in the British Governor to dissolving that legislative branch.

Liberty! The American Revolution

From Revolution to Reconstruction. University of Groningen

The American Revolution Homepage

Liberty! The American Revolution. VHS. KTCA in association with Middlemarch Films, Inc. 1997

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