By March 22, 1765, the British–short on funds to absorb the costs of their military presence in the colonies–unloaded the Stamp Act on the overburdened citizenry. Already, they were anteing up for the sugar tax on imported goods, paying an assessment for paper money, and a quartering fee for the housing and food costs of the Redcoats.
The Stamp Tax levied a charge on everything from newspapers, and pamphlets, to playing cards, but that offense kicked off outrage and defiance. According to History.com, “They raised the issue of taxation without representation and formed societies throughout the colonies to rally against the British government and nobles who sought to exploit the colonies as a source of revenue and raw materials. By October of that year, nine of the 13 colonies sent representatives to the Stamp Act Congress, at which the colonists drafted the ‘Declaration of Rights and Grievances,’ a document that railed against the autocratic policies of the mercantilist British empire.”
Although it was eventually rescinded, the public’s pique unified the colonists, suffused them with nationalism, and—slowly– activated America’s war of independence.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution by Edmund S. Morgan and Helen M. Morgan.
Did you know that the United States does not have an official language? The Constitution does not specify one, nor is there a law which mandates the country to speak English; most Americans have accepted it as their “mother tongue,” but adapting it in a very un-British way.
Take the distinctly American “okay,” which started out as an abbreviation: “OK.” It was common in the mid-19th century for younger, educated men and women to deliberately misspell words for amusement. For example, the slang for “all correct” became “oll korrect” or OK—and was sopped up in the American lexicon when the editor of the March 23, 1839 edition of the Boston Morning Post, tagged it “OK” to denote that the copy was “all correct” or– “oll korrect.”
Other newspapers replicated the abbreviation; it diffused all over the world and morphed into “the most frequently spoken word on the planet.”
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, by Allan Metcalf.
March Madness is overwhelming the nation. It has been that way since March 27, 1939 when the University of Oregon beat Ohio State University 46–33 in the final game of the very first NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
If the Super Bowl causes the nation to stop and focus on football for one day, the annual NCAA basketball tournament holds the attention of the nation about three weeks. It starts mid-month when the “first four” –or first round games–are played, and last until the “final four” games culminate with the selection of the two teams that will compete in the championship.
In the beginning, eight schools were invited to participate; this year, 68 will face off in the men’s competition.
The inaugural women’s NCAA tournament of 1982 had representation from 32 schools; the 2021 line-up will be generated from sixty-four.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends How March Became Madness: How the NCAA Tournament Became the Greatest Sporting Event in America by Eddie Einhorn and Ron Rapoport.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.