1970-1979 | United States

Post office argues against commemorating the American revolution

Tony Benn (left) c. 1967 –
Andre Cros – CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia.

19 April 1975

Today in 1975, Tony Benn, secretary of state for industry, was astonished to discover that the Post Office did not wish to comply with his request to issue stamps commemorating the American Revolution and the bicentenary of the declaration of independence. Opening his red box, he found a note explaining that ‘this subject is not suitable for inclusion in the special programme. However it might be approached in design terms, there would be a danger that ordinary people would criticise the issue as celebrating a defeat. Moreover, there could well be a feeling in those former British colonies which achieved independence later and without bloodshed, that… we should seem to honour those who rebelled.’1

Benn, who was variously derided by other MPs and the British press as an ‘extremist’ and ‘a Marxist’ with a ‘bull in a china shop approach’, noted in his diary that he ‘sent a letter back saying there had to be a commemorative stamp.’2 Six months later he lunched with the American ambassador, Elliott Richardson, and passing him the letter from the Post Office, commented: ‘You see you are really a militant and this is the way the British establishment views you !’3


  1. Ruth Winstone ( editor ), Tony Benn: Against the Tide, Diaries 1973-76, Hutchinson, London, p. 364.
  2. Ruth Winstone ( editor ), op. cit., p. 364. For a few of the many examples of colourful adjectives used to described Benn see ‘Extremist Benn – by Tory Chief,’ The Daily Mirror, 3 January 1974, p. 17,  John Baker White, ‘The “Red” Link: The Communist Connection Gets Stronger,’ The Aberdeen Evening Express, 23 November 1976, p. 8 and ‘”Mr Benn is like Dr. Goebbels” says MP,’ The Harrow Observer, 6 June 1975, p. 15.
  3. Ruth Winstone ( editor ), op. cit., p. 477.

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