By Johnson, Allen S.
George Grenville was King George III's First Minister from 1763 to 1765. The central issue of Grenville's administration was to deal with the aftermath of the Seven Year's War, particularly with the sharply increased national debt and the cost of continued protection of the Ameri...can colonies. In seeking to balance the national budget, he blundered into levying taxes on the Americans. The Sugar Act of 1764 aroused very little opposition or even discussion. But it was an entering wedge. The ease with which it sailed through Parliament led Grenville to propose another American tax, the Stamp Act. This aroused vigorous, even violent opposition, both in America and among the business community in Great Britain. Grenville's career also saw the development of numerous techniques for shaping and manipulating public opinion, and he was intimately involved in using them, particularly the newspaper and pamphlet press. He was one of those principally involved in attempting to suppress John Wilkes and the North Briton No. 45, an episode in the evolution of freedom of the press in Great Britain. Grenville was dismissed from office by the King because of issues that had nothing to do with American taxation. The years between 1765 and 1770, between his dismissal and his death, show a mellowing as well as maturing of his political wisdom. Increasingly he played the role of elder statesman, advising the House of Commons on important questions concerning not only American taxation but freedom of the press and freedom of elections.Read more
Allen S. Johnson is Professor of History and Geography at N.C. Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
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