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This Day in NC History: Angry Wilmingtonians protest Stamp Act with mock funeral

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On October 31, 1765, angry Wilmingtonians held a mock funeral for Liberty the day before the Stamp Act was to go into effect. The Stamp Act placed taxes on most forms of paper in the colonies, including newspapers, letters, pamphlets and wills.

While Parliament intended to defray costs incurred from stationing British troops in the colonies at critical sites such as Boston, the imposition of the tax drove many colonies to the brink of rebellion.

Possibly recognizing the effect of holding a funeral on Halloween, and certainly distressed about the impending tax, concerned citizens of Wilmington assembled and placed an effigy of Liberty in a casket and carried the casket to the churchyard in a mock funeral procession, where they planned to bury it. Just before committing the casket to the earth, a member of the group checked liberty’s vital signs, and with an affirmative, the colonist rose up and proclaimed “LIBERTY had still an Existence in the Colony!”

Other similar acts of defiance in North Carolina and elsewhere took their toll on British resolve. Within a few months, the colonies learned that Parliament had repealed the Stamp Act.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online at www.ncdcr.gov.

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