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The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain (//), is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The country includes the island of Great Britain (a term sometimes loosely applied to the whole state), the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another state: the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea in the east, the English Channel in the south and the Irish Sea in the west.
Modern history, also referred to as the modern period or the modern era, is the historiographical approach to the timeframe after the post-classical era (known as the Middle Ages). Modern history can be further broken down into the early modern period and the late modern period after the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. Contemporary history is the span of historic events that are immediately relevant to the present time. The modern era began approximately in the 16th century.
Some events, while not without precedent, show a new way of perceiving the world. The concept of modernity interprets the general meaning of these events and seeks explanations for major developments.
The Stamp Act Congress, or First Congress of the American Colonies, was a meeting held between October 7 and 25, 1765 in New York City, consisting of representatives from some of the British colonies in North America; it was the first gathering of elected representatives from several of the American colonies to devise a unified protest against new British taxation. Parliament had passed the Stamp Act, which required the use of specially stamped paper for virtually all business in the colonies, and was coming into effect November 1.
The Congress was organized in response to a circular letter distributed by the colonial legislature of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and consisted of delegates from nine of the eighteen British colonies in North America. All nine of the attending delegations were from the Thirteen Colonies that eventually formed the United States of America. Although sentiment was strong in some of the other colonies to participate in the Congress, a number of royal governors took steps to prevent the colonial legislatures from meeting to select delegates.
A stamp act is any legislation that requires a tax to be paid on the transfer of certain documents. Those that pay the tax receive an official stamp on their documents, making them legal documents. The taxes raised under a stamp act are called stamp duty. This system of taxation was first devised in the Netherlands in 1624 after a public competition to find a new form of tax. A variety of products have been covered by stamp acts including playing cards, patent medicines, cheques, mortgages, contracts and newspapers. The items often have to be physically stamped at approved government offices following payment of the duty, although methods involving annual payment of a fixed sum or purchase of adhesive stamps are more practical and common. Stamp acts have been enforced in many countries, including Australia, People's Republic of China, Canada, Ireland, India, Malaysia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
After England was victorious over France in the Seven Years' War (known in America as the French and Indian War), a small Stamp Act was enacted that covered of all sorts of paperwork from newspapers to legal documents and even playing cards. The British were taxing the colonial population to raise revenue, but the Americans claimed their constitutional rights were violated, since only their own colonial legislatures could levy taxes. Across the American colonies, opposition to the tax took the form of violence and intimidation. A more reasoned approach was taken by some elements. James Otis, Jr. wrote the most influential protest, "The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved." Otis, the radical leader in Massachusetts, convinced the Massachusetts assembly to send a circular letter to the other colonies, which called for an intercolonial meeting to plan tempered resistance to new tax. The Stamp Act Congress convened in New York City on October 7 with nine colonies in attendance; others would likely have participated if earlier notice had been provided. The delegates approved a 14-point Declaration of Rights and Grievances, formulated largely by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. The statement echoed the recent resolves of the Virginia House of Burgesses, which argued that colonial taxation could only be carried on by their own assemblies. The delegates singled out the Stamp Act and the use of the vice admiralty courts for special criticism, yet ended their statement with a pledge of loyalty to the king.
The American Colonies Act 1766 (6 Geo 3 c 12), commonly known as the Declaratory Act, was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, which accompanied the repeal of the Stamp Act 1765. Parliament repealed the Stamp Act because boycotts were hurting British trade and used the declaration to justify the repeal and save face. The declaration stated that Parliament's authority was the same in America as in Britain and asserted Parliament's authority to pass laws that were binding on the American colonies.
Representatives from a number of the Thirteen Colonies assembled as the Stamp Act Congress in response to the Stamp Act 1765, to call into question the right of a distant power to tax them without proper representation. The British Parliament was thus faced with colonies who refused to comply with their Act. This, combined with protests that had occurred in the colonies and, perhaps more importantly, protests which had arisen in Great Britain from manufacturers who were suffering from the colonies' non-importation agreement, all led to the repeal of the Stamp Act. Normally the economic activity in the colonies would not have caused such an outcry, but the English economy was still experiencing a post-war depression from the Seven Years War. Another reason for repeal of the Stamp Act was the replacement of George Grenville, the Prime Minister who had enacted the Stamp Acts, by Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham. Rockingham was more favorable towards the colonies and furthermore he was antagonistic towards policies that Grenville had enacted. Rockingham invited Benjamin Franklin to speak to Parliament about colonial policy and he portrayed the colonists as in opposition to internal taxes (which were derived from internal colonial transactions) such as the Stamp Act called for, but not external taxes (which were duties laid on imported commodities). Parliament then agreed to repeal the Stamp Act on the condition that the Declaratory Act was passed. On March 18, 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act and passed the Declaratory Act.
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland. The Acts created a new unified Kingdom of Great Britain and dissolved the separate English and Scottish parliaments in favour of a single parliament, located in the former home of the English parliament in the Palace of Westminster, near the City of London. This lasted nearly a century, until the Acts of Union 1800 merged the separate British and Irish Parliaments into a single Parliament of the United Kingdom with effect from 1 January 1801.