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Stamp Act

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Olivier Tabary

on 18 May 2017

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Transcript of Stamp Act



The quest for gold has brought the Spaniards into Mexico from their first landfall in the Caribbean. The search for the northwest passage has sent the French up the St Lawrence river to establish a vigorous royal province based largely on trade in furs, brought to the European market from the interior of the continent. Rather later a wish for overseas settlements prompts the English to found a string of colonies down the eastern seaboard.

Map of French and British North American possessions in the early 18th century
Harvard Square, Cambridge, New England in 1767
Vieux Québec by 1750
The Seven Years' War took place between 1754 and 1763; the main conflict occurred during the seven-year period 1756–1763. It involved most of the great powers of the time and affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines, but the two major sides were Great Britain and France.
Locator map of the competing sides of the Seven Years War before outset of the war (mid-1750s)
The Seven Years' War: the First World War?
In North America, the Seven Years' War was known as the French and Indian War
The British victory in the French and Indian War had a great impact on the British Empire. Firstly, it meant a great expansion of British territorial claims in the New World. But the cost of the war had greatly enlarged Britain's debt. Moreover, the war generated substantial resenment towards the colonists among English leaders, who were not satisfied with the financial and military help they had received from the colonists during the war. All these factors combined to persuade many English leaders that the colonies needed a major reorganization and that the central authority should be in London. The English leaders set in motion plans to give London more control over the government of the colonies
With France removed from North America, the vast interior of the continent lay open for the Americans to colonize. But The English government decided otherwise. To induce a controlled population movement, they issued a Royal Proclamation that prohibited settlement west of the line drawn along the crest of the Alleghenny mountains and to enforce that meassure they authorized a permanent army of 10,000 regulars (paid for by taxes gathered from the colonies; most importantly the "Sugar Act" and the "Stamp Act"). This infuriated the Americans who, after having been held back by the French, now saw themselves stopped by the British in their surge west.
As a result of the British victory in the French and Indian War, France was effectively expelled from the New World. They relinquished virtually all of their New World possessions including all of Canada. They did manage to retain a few small islands off the coast of Canada and in the Caribbean. They also agreed to stay out of India, which made Great Britain the supreme military power in that part of Asia. In addition, as compensation for Spain’s loss of Florida to England, Spain was awarded the Louisiana territory. The entire face of North America had been dramatically changed.
The situation changes dramatically in the 18th century. The main clash is between the French and the English. The two nations are at war with each other in Europe almost constantly from 1689 (in the wars of the Grand Alliance, the Spanish Succession, the Austrian Succession). This is inevitably reflected in relationships between their neighbouring American colonies.
The North American fur trade began as early as the 1530s. Early French Fur Trading and was a central part of the early history of contact between and the native peoples of what is now the United States and Canada.
The flash point occurred when young George Washington, a then-colonel in the British army, built a small fort on the Ohio River in Pennsylvania. He refused to leave when ordered by the French and the fort was attacked. Washington lost a third of his troops before surrendering and being allowed to return to Wills Creek. The battle had begun.
After the French and Indian War, it began to become apparent that America and Britain were developing culturally and socially along different lines, and the war exposed and exacerbated the fundamental differences between British and American goals.
Between 1758 and 1760, the British military launched a campaign to capture the Colony of Canada. They succeeded in capturing territory in surrounding colonies and ultimately Quebec. Though the British were later defeated at Sainte Foy in Quebec, the French ceded Canada in accordance with the 1763 treaty.
"A View of the Taking of Quebec September 13th 1759 . Vue de la Prise de Quebec le 13 Septembre 1759" after H Smyth published by R Sayer & I Bennett.
North America witnessed multiple territorial disputes between the French and British, both of whom wanted to claim settlements and benefit from the vigorous economic growth that was sure to follow.
London in late eighteenth century
The British government had accumulated a massive debt fighting the French and Indian War
Eastern North America at the end of the Seven Years War: showing the British Province of Quebec, the British thirteen colonies on the Atlantic coast and the Indian Reserve (as of the Royal Proclamation of 1763)
in 1766 the British military was concentrated in areas acquired from France, and the Proclamation Line of 1763 was intended to minimize the need for new forts in the contact zone between colonists and Native Americans
The war had an equally profound but very different effect on the American colonists. First of all, the colonists had learned to unite against a common foe. Before the war, the thirteen colonies had found almost no common ground and they coexisted in mutual distrust. But now thay had seen that together they could be a power to be reckoned with.
The colonial government recruited militia support when needed. Most British colonies mustered local militia companies
British victory in the Seven Years War (1756-63) sowed the seeds of the revolt, for it freed the colonists from the need for British protection against the French threat on their frontier.
The colonists argued only their own popular assemblies, not the British Parliament, had a right to levy taxes.
The colonies and their inhabitants were enormously diverse. The lumber, livestock and grain-producing North had little in common with the tobacco, cotton and indigo-producing South. The prosperous coastal townsfolk had more to do with British government than the independently-minded inland settlers. Although most were British Protestants, there were colonists from all over Europe with a variety of religious faiths.
Ministerial efforts to stamp out illegal trade coincided with attempts to subordinate the colonies to the metropolis. Colonists who believed that Anglo-American cooperation and shared sacrifice had achieved the victory were outraged, and the patriotic fervor of the war evaporated in the face of postwar reforms.
Paul Revere's 1768 engraving of British troops arriving in Boston was reprinted throughout the colonies.
A British Governor - John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore - Governor of the Province of New York. In office 1770–1771. When the Revolutionary war started, he offered freedom to enslaved Africans and Indians for joining the British Army
A Colonist family - 1771-73 Charles Willson Peale (American colonial era artist, 1741-1827). The Peale Family.
An act of the Parliament of Great Britain that imposed a direct tax on the colonies of British America
The Americans said there was no military need for the soldiers because there were no foreign enemies and the Americans had always protected themselves against Native Americans, and suggested it was rather a matter of British patronage to surplus British officers and career soldiers who should be paid by London.
These printed materials were legal documents, magazines, playing cards, newspapers and many other types of paper used throughout the colonies. Like previous taxes, the stamp tax had to be paid in valid British currency, not in colonial paper money.
S T A M P A C T , 1 7 6 5
W H A T ?
H O W ?
W H Y ?
W H E N ?
Coronation portrait of George III by Allan Ramsay, 1762
House of Lords, London
The Sons of Liberty was an organization of American landowners that was created in the Thirteen American Colonies. The secret society was formed to protect the rights of the colonists and to fight taxation by the British government.
Colonial leaders argued the colonies were not and could not be represented in Parliament. Englishmen could not be taxed without their consent and therefore only the colonial legislatures possessed the power to levy internal taxes in the colonies. The rallying cry was “No Taxation without Representation.”
The theory of virtual representation held that the members of Parliament did not only represent their specific geographical constituencies, but rather that they took into consideration the well being of all British subjects when deliberating on legislation.
The actual cost of the Stamp Act was relatively small. What made the law so offensive to the colonists was not so much its immediate cost but the standard it seemed to set. In the past, taxes and duties on colonial trade had always been viewed as measures to regulate commerce, not to raise money.
If this new tax were allowed to pass without resistance, the colonists reasoned, the door would be open for far more troublesome taxation in the future.
Few colonists believed that they could do anything more than grumble and buy the stamps, though
The Parliament warned that those accused of violating the Stamp Act could be prosecuted in Vice-Admiralty Courts, which had no juries and could be held anywhere in the British Empire
Adverse colonial reaction to the Stamp Act ranged from boycotts of British goods to riots and attacks on the tax collectors
Fort Ticonderoga, former French fort taken in 1758
Sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile, the Eastern tribes were no longer strangers to the colonists. Although Native Americans benefitted from access to new technology and trade, the disease and thirst for land which the early settlers also brought posed a serious challenge to the Indian's long-established way of life.
The proclamation tried to protect the Indians from further encroachments by the settlers. It said "
And whereas great Frauds and Abuses have been committed in purchasing Lands of the Indians, to the great Prejudice of our Interests and to the great dissatisfaction of the said Indians.
The proclamation outlawed the purchase of land from the Indian, unless the land was licensed by the British. The proclamation established a western boundary for colonial settlement, along the Appalachian Mountains. To the west the lands were reserved for the Indians.
The British had 10,000 troops in North America at the end of the French and Indian War. The British felt they had, and were, spending a great deal of money to defend the colonies. These massive forces were needed to protect the Colonists from Indian attacks. By war's end, the British found themselves in debt to the tune of 140 million pounds. The British tried to address both their problems: governing and protecting the Colonists, as well as, keeping their costs down. First, they issued new proclamations to protect the Indians from further encroachment by the colonists. They hoped this effort would decrease the violence between the Colonists and the Indians, thus decreasing the need for troops. Second, the British government decided to impose new taxes, with the hopes of at least covering the cost of the British troops stationed in North America.
5 April 1764 - Britain had long regulated colonial trade through a system of restrictions and duties on imports and exports. In the first half of the 18th century, however, British enforcement of this system had been lax. Starting with the
Sugar Act
, which imposed new duties on sugar and other goods, the British government began to tighten its reins on the colonies
The terms of the act and its methods of enforcement outraged many colonists. There were sporadic outbreaks of violence, most notably in Rhode Island. The American colonists responded with outrage to the new law. They took whatever actions they could to ignore defy the new laws. Often with the blatant help of colonial officials, molasses and other goods would be smuggled into the colonies without paying the required taxes
The Sugar Act was repealed in 1766
In 1765, Andrew Oliver was commissioned to administer the unpopular Stamp Act in Massachusetts. He was privately against the act, but told people he was in favor of it, leading colonists to rise against him. On August 14, he was hanged in effigy from Boston's Liberty Tree in a protest organized by the precursors to the Sons of Liberty. That night his house and offices were ransacked by an angry crowd. On August 17, he was compelled to publicly resign his commission. On December 17, the Sons of Liberty again forced him to publicly swear that he would never act as stamp distributor
Nine stripe Sons of Liberty flag adopted in 1767
John Adams
- lawyer (2nd president of the United States)
Samuel Adams
- Political philosopher (one of the Founding Fathers of the United States)
John Handcock
- merchant/smuggler/fire warden (remembered for his large and stylish signature on the U.S. Declaration of Independence)
Paul Revere
- silversmith/fire warden (served as a Massachusetts militia officer)

Four notable Sons of Liberty
The Stamp Act Congress was held in New York in October 1765. Twenty-seven delegates from nine colonies were the members of the Congress and their responsibility was to draft a set of formal petitions stating why Parliament had no right to tax them.
Historian John Miller observes that "
[t]he composition of this Stamp Act Congress ought to have been convincing proof to the British government that resistance to parliamentary taxation was by no means confined to the riffraff of colonial seaports.
New York's City Hall, Seat of Congress. 1790 hand-colored engraving by Amos Doolittle, depicting Washington's April 30, 1789 inauguration.
Depiction of the Stamp Act Congress voting for the Resolutions.
The Stamp Act was repealed in 1766
Many colonial newspapers mocked the act by leaving a place for the stamp.
The Repeal, or the Funeral Procession, of Miss America Stamp. The coffin is carried by George Grenville. Source: Library of Congress
Many streets riots occurred in 1765/66
Beginning of 1767 - The purpose of the
Townshend Acts
was to raise revenue in the colonies to pay the salaries of governors and judges so that they would remain loyal to Great Britain, to create a more effective means of enforcing compliance with trade regulations, and to establish the precedent that the British Parliament had the right to tax the colonies
By the beginning of 1766, most of the stamp distributors had resigned their commissions, many of them under duress. Mobs in seaport towns turned away ships carrying the stamp papers from England without allowing them to discharge their cargoes. Determined colonial resistance made it impossible for the British government to bring the Stamp Act into effect.
The most influential colonial response to the Townshend Acts was a series of twelve essays by John Dickinson entitled "Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania", which began appearing in December 1767. Eloquently articulating ideas already widely accepted in the colonies, Dickinson argued that there was no difference between "internal" and "external" taxes, and that any taxes imposed on the colonies by Parliament for the sake of raising a revenue were unconstitutional. Dickinson warned colonists not to concede to the taxes just because the rates were low, since this would set a dangerous precedent.
Merchants in the colonies, some of them smugglers, organized economic boycotts to put pressure on their British counterparts to work for repeal of the Townshend Acts.
The acts were so unpopular in Boston that the Customs Board requested naval and military assistance
The Townshend Acts were mostly repealed in 1770
1770 - 5 March
Boston Massacre
Angered by the presence of troops and Britain's colonial policy, a crowd began harassing a group of soldiers guarding the customs house; a soldier was knocked down by a snowball and discharged his musket, sparking a volley into the crowd which kills five civilians.
Paul Revere’s quite historically inaccurate engraving of the Boston Massacre
May 10, 1773 - Its principal overt objective was to reduce the massive surplus of tea held by the financially troubled British East India Company in its London warehouses and to help the struggling company survive. A related objective was to undercut the price of illegal tea, smuggled into Britain's North American colonies
In many colonies successful efforts were made to prevent the tea from being landed.
- In New York and Philadelphia, opposition to the Act resulted in the return of tea delivered there back to Britain.
- In Charleston, the colonists left the tea on the docks to rot. Governor Hutchinson in Boston was determined to leave the ships in port, even though vigilant colonists refused to allow the tea to be landed.
- In Boston, this resistance culminated in the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773, when colonists (some disguised as Native Americans) boarded tea ships anchored in the harbor and dumped their tea cargo overboard.
This iconic 1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier was entitled "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor"; the phrase "Boston Tea Party" had not yet become standard. Contrary to Currier's depiction, few of the men dumping the tea were actually disguised as Indians.
The Boston Tea Party appalled British political opinion makers of all stripes. The action united all parties in Britain against the American radicals. Parliament enacted the Boston Port Act, which closed Boston Harbor until the dumped tea was paid for.
Intolerable Acts
was the American Patriots' name for a series of punitive laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 after the Boston Tea party. They were meant to punish the Massachusetts colonists for their defiance in throwing a large tea shipment into Boston harbor. In Great Britain, these laws were referred to as the
Coercive Acts
Many colonists saw the Coercive Acts (Intolerable Acts) as a violation of their constitutional rights, their natural rights, and their colonial charters. They therefore viewed the acts as a threat to the liberties of all of British America, not just Massachusetts
Great Britain hoped that the Coercive Acts would isolate radicals in Massachusetts and cause American colonists to concede the authority of Parliament over their elected assemblies. It was a calculated risk that backfired, however, because the harshness of some of the acts made it difficult for moderates in the colonies to speak in favor of Parliament
The citizens of Boston not only viewed this as an act of unnecessary and cruel punishment, but the Coercive Acts drew the revolting hate against Britain even further. As a result of the Coercive Acts, even more colonists wanted to go against Britain
The acts promoted sympathy for Massachusetts and encouraged colonists from the otherwise diverse colonies to form the First Continental Congress which pledged to support Massachusetts in case of attack, which meant that all of the colonies would become involved when the American Revolutionary War began at Lexington and Concord
22 March 1765 - The Stamp Act required Americans to buy special watermarked paper for newspapers and all legal documents.
Andrew Oliver, stamp collector attacked by the mob. His mansion on Oliver street, Fort Hill, was wrecked and he narrowly escaped with his life.
Reading the Stamp Act in King Street, Boston, MA
The superiority of the mother country can at no time be better exerted than now.

Charles Townshend spearheaded the Townshend Acts
Cartoon depicting Lord North, with the Boston Port Bill extending from a pocket, forcing tea (representing the Intolerable Acts) down the throat of a female figure representing the American colonies.
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Sugar Act
Stamp Act
Treaty of Paris
Proclamation Line
Stamp Act Congress
Declaratory Act
Townshend Acts
British troops arrive in Boston
Boston Massacre
Burning of the Gaspee
Publication of Thomas Hutchinson letters
Tea Act
Intolerable Acts
May to June
Boston Tea Party
Continental Congress
Parliament argued that it was the supreme authority in the British Empire and that its power to legislate, including the power to levy taxes, was unlimited.
It required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London, carrying an embossed revenue stamp. All legal documents were invalid unless the bearer had paid for an official stamp.
Battles of Lexington and Concord
George Washington appointed commander-in-chief of Continental Army
Battle of Bunker Hill
Thomas Paine's Common Sense published anonymously in Philadelphia
Continental Congress issues the Declaration of Independence
July, 4th
Battles of Long Island
August to December
Battle of Trenton
British surrender of 5,700 troops at Saratoga
France recognises US Independence
Battle of Camden
Ratification of the Articles of Confederation
Battle of the Capes, denying British reinforcements
British Government authorises peace negotiations
Treaty of Paris, formally ending the Revolutionary War
Adoption of the American Constitution
Drawing, from the U.S. National Archives, depicting the Stamp Act Congress debating issues before it
"The Triumph of America" - Lord Pitt drives America's triumphal chariot into the abyss. The horses symbolize various members of Pitt's administration. This cartoon appeared in London newspapers in 1766.
An American colonist reading with concern the royal proclamation of a tax on tea in the colonies, part of the Townshend Acts; political cartoon, Boston, 1767
The map’s urgent title says it all, “A View of Part of the Town of Boston in New-England and British Ships of War Landing Their Troops!” Revere identifies the different ships, the red-coated soldiers on the docks, rendering a scene of intense invasion from the sea towards the harbor.
Although one of the first people killed in the Massacre was Crispus Attucks, who was of African and Native American descent, no one who fits that description appears in any contemporary print of the incident. The earliest known depiction of Crispus Attucks as a person of color participating in the Boston Massacre is in an 1855 drawing by William L. Champney (fl. 1850-1857), which J. H. Bufford made into the chromolithograph Boston Massacre, March 5th 1770
Engraving of the burning of the Gaspee was published in History of New York, (c1872.)as Destruction of the Schooner Gaspé by J. McKevin, Engraved by J Rogers
Act of open civil defiance of British authority when Rhode Islanders boarded and sank the revenue cutter Gaspee in Narragansett Bay
To the Commissioners Appointed by the East-India Company, for the Sale of Tea, in America. [Philadelphia, 1773]
Notable script:
"The Stamp and Tea Laws were both designed to raise a Revenue, and to establish Parliamentary Despotism in America. ... The Claim of Parliament to Tax America has been too well examined, for you to doubt, at this Time, to which Side Right and Justice have given the Palm.—Do not, therefore, hesitate at the Course you ought to pursue.—If you deliberate, you are lost,—lost to Virtue, lost to your Country. It is in Vain to expect that Americans can give a Sanction to your Office.—Freemen,—American Freeman can never Approve it. ... I sincerely wish ... that your Conduct may be such as will secure your Native Country from the deadly Stroke now aimed in your Persons against her.—If you refuse, no one else will dare to execute the diabolical Commission." Most American Tea Commissioners did resign their posts, and in ports from Charleston to New York, East-India tea was left on the docks to rot or simply not unloaded."
Hutchinson was acting governor of Massachusetts from 1769 to 1771. Appointed royal governor of Massachusetts in 1771, he faithfully followed instructions from the Crown. His popularity waned when he twice called out troops to quell disturbances.
Hutchinson's position became untenable when Benjamin Franklin sent from England the "Hutchinson Letters," which had been written to friends in 1768 and 1769. These documents, published in Massachusetts in 1773, were interpreted so as to make it seem that Hutchinson had secretly urged the British government to exert more stringent authority over the Colonies.
A proclamation issued by Hutchinson in 1771
Governor Thomas Hutchinson
President of the American Philosophical Society Benjamin Franklin
Chaplain Jacob Duché leading the first prayer in the First Continental Congress at Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, September 1774: mezzotint, 1848.- Granger Collection - artist unknown
The death of general warren at the battle of bunker hill
John Trumbull - Boston Museum of Fine Arts
The Continental Congress commissioned George Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army on June 19, 1775
The battle at the time was considered to be a colonial defeat; however, the losses suffered by the British troops gave encouragement to the colonies, demonstrating that inexperienced militiamen were able to stand up to regular army troops
Common Sense is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–76 that inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776
"Baron de Kalb introducing Lafayette to Silas Deane", (the US agent in Paris who signed Lafayette for the Continental Army)
France provides covert aid to the Americans
Battle of Princeton
Treaty of Paris
American soldiers in the Battle of Long Island, 1776
Domenick D'Andrea
Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, by John Trumbull
The Battle of Trenton was a small but pivotal battle. Washington led the main body of the Continental Army against Hessian soldiers garrisoned at Trenton. After a brief battle, nearly the entire Hessian force was captured, with negligible losses to the Americans. The battle significantly boosted the Continental Army's flagging morale, and inspired reenlistments.
The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton by John Trumbull, with Captain William Leslie, shown on the right, mortally wounded
France formally recognized the United States on February 6, 1778, with the signing of the Treaty of Alliance. Hostilities soon followed after Britain declared war on France on March 17, 1778. The British naval force, then the largest fleet afloat, and French fleet confronted each other from the beginning
Original Franco-American treaty, signed February 6, 1778
The Battle of Camden was a major victory for the British in the Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War
Battle of Camden, Death of De Kalb
No land force can act decisively unless it is accompanied by maritime superiority
", General George Washington

The Battle of Chesapeake Bay was one of the decisive battles of the world. Before it, the creation of the United States of America was possible; after it, it was certain
", Michael Lewis, The History of the British Navy
19th century painting owned by the U.S. Navy and on display at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, VA
Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown
by John Trumbull, depicting the British surrendering to French (left) and American (right) troops. Oil on canvas, 1820
A preliminary treaty between Great Britain and the United States had been signed in March 1782.
Peace negotiations began in Paris, France, in April 1782. The U.S. delegation included Benjamin Franklin and John Adams
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens and William Temple Franklin in Benjamin West’s 1783-1784 painting. The British commissioners refused to pose, and the painting was never finished
T I M E L I N E O F T H E A M E R I C A N R E V O L U T I O N F R O M 1 7 6 3 T O 1 7 8 7
Grand Union flag (1775-1777)
Surrender of British forces at Yorktown
Surrender of General Burgoyne by John Trumbull, 1822; This painting hangs in the United States Capitol Rotunda
The Battles of Saratoga marked the climax of the Saratoga campaign giving a decisive victory to the Americans over the British in the American Revolutionary War
Hermione leaves France to join US forces
On March 21, 1780, the young major general La Fayette boarded the Hermione. He went to fight alongside the American insurgents who were struggling for their independence.
He landed in Boston after a 38 day crossing and met General Washington to announce the impending arrival of French reinforcement.
“From the first moment I heard the name of America, I loved it; from the instant I knew it struggled for freedom, I was consumed with the desire to shed my blood for her I will count the days I got the chance to serve it, everywhere and anytime, among the happiest days of my life.”
La Fayette
photo taken on April 18th, 2015
Great-Britain versus France:
North America at stake
The Seven Year's War (French and Indian War) from 1756 to 1763 wiped France out of North America almost completely
The American Revolutionary War where the French gave a crucial assistance considerably reduced British possessions in North America
The Treaty of San Ildefonso (1 October 1800) between France and Spain in which a weakened Spain unwillingly supported French short-lived ambitions to challenge Britain in North America once again
The 1803 Louisiana Purchase (828,000 square miles for $11,250,000 USD) is mostly due to an impending war with Great Britain slowly bleeding Napoleonic France dry.
The “Liberty Tree” served as a central meeting place in Boston for speeches and a staging area for organizing street violence, protests, and demonstrations.
Virtual Representative (standing, clad in brown) gives the British State (with blunderbuss) permission to rob a colonist. Catholic Quebec enjoys peace, Protestant Boston burns, and blinded Britannia approaches a pit. 1775 cartoon
British troops fire at a line of minutemen during the battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775
Betsy Ross (1776-1777)
Betsy Ross (1776-1777)
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