What do Americans do when they feel their government, isn’t representing them? In 1765, we revolted. That year Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which taxed all paper documents in the colonies. And according to the New Yorker, the revolutionary narrative is not so different than it is today: “The protests began because people felt that the government wasn’t representing their interests, and that a privileged few were benefitting at the expense of the many.” Sound familiar?
The Stamp Act is on view at the New-York Historical Society as part of the exhibition Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn, which ties together the American, French and Haitian revolutions into one global narrative about the drive for freedom and equality. Co-curator Richard Rabinowitz told The New Yorker, “Back in 2006, when we started this project, there was no hint of revolution around the country, but now that it is opening we have these Occupy movements.”
The similarity was not lost on the exhibition’s designers. In one room, designed to look like the interior of an eighteenth-century tavern, the walls are covered with “graffiti” about the Stamp Act and King George III. But “one of the artists testing the paint had scrawled ‘Occupy Wall Street’ on the wall. The slogan now lies behind an oil painting on the right side of the tavern.”
In another 200 years, will we be putting on an exhibition about the Occupy movements? The New-York Historical Society has been collecting memorabilia, in the hopes of telling the story of the movement to future generations. Who knows if they will see the movement the same way we see the American Revolution, but none of America’s history—or future—would exist without this document.
Above: An Act for granting and applying certain Stamp Duties, and other Duties, in the British Colonies and Plantations in America, towards further defraying the Expences of defending, protecting and securing the same; and for amending such Parts of the several Acts of Parliament relating to the Trade and Revenues of the said Colonies and Plantations, as direct the Manner of determining and recovering the Penalties and Forfeitures therein mentioned (5 George III, c. 12). Parliamentary Archives, London, HL/PO/PU/1/1765/5G3n11. Parliamentary Copyright House of Lords 2011