Categories Selfstudyhistory.com

American Revolution: Part III

American Revolution: Part III

1767–1773: Townshend Acts and the Tea Act

Townshend Acts (June, 1767)

  • The Townshend Acts were a series of laws passed by the British government on the American colonies in 1767.
  • The Townshend Acts was an attempt to assert what it considered to be its historic right to exert authority over the colonies through suspension of a recalcitrant representative assembly and through strict provisions for the collection of revenue duties.
  • The British American colonists named the acts after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend, who sponsored them.
    • The first act called the Suspending Act:
      • It prohibited the New York Assembly from conducting any further business until it complied with the financial requirements of the Quartering Act (1765) for the expenses of British troops stationed there.
    • The second act called the Revenue Act:
      • It imposed direct revenue duties—that is, duties aimed not merely at regulating trade but at putting money into the British treasury.
      • These were payable upon their arrival in colonial ports and fell on lead, glass, paper, paint, and tea.
    • The third act called Commissioner of Customs Act:
      • It established strict and often arbitrary machinery of customs collection in the American colonies, including additional officers, searchers, spies, coast guard vessels, search warrants, writs of assistance, and a Board of Customs Commissioners at Boston, all to be financed out of customs revenues.
    • The fourth act also known as Indemnity Act:
      • It lowered duties on tea imported to England by the East India Company and gave the company refund of 25% duty on tea re-exported to the colonies.
      • It was aimed at enabling the East India Company to compete with the tea that was smuggled by the Dutch.
      • It was an incentive for the colonists to purchase the East India Company tea.
    • In 1768, Vice Admiralty Court Act was also passed which set up new courts in America to prosecute smugglers (without using a local jury). It gave Royal courts rather than colonial courts, jurisdiction over all matters concerning customs violations and smuggling.
  • Resistance of Townshend Acts:
    • The acts posed an immediate threat to established traditions of colonial self- government, especially the practice of taxation through representative provincial assemblies.
    • They were resisted everywhere with verbal agitation and physical violence, deliberate evasion of duties, renewed non-importation agreements among merchants, and overt acts of hostility toward British enforcement agents, especially in Boston.
    • Colonial assemblies condemned taxation without representation.
    • Colonists organized boycotts of British goods to put economic pressure on English merchant and manufacturers.
    • Agreement was signed at Boston to refuse purchase of certain items of England.
    • John Dickinson wrote a letter to the inhabitants of British colonies, raising a constitutional issue and denied the right of British Parliament to tax colonies to raise revenue, declaring Townshend duties unconstitutional.
    • In February 1768 the Assembly of Massachusetts Bay issued a circular letter (prepared by Samuel Adams) assailing the Townshend Acts as “infringement of their natural and constitutional rights” to the other colonies.
      • The governor dissolved the assembly when it refused to rescind the letter.
      • The letter was sent to all colonies assemblies for endorsement and urging them to coordinate resistance
      • The assemblies of Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia endorsed the circular.
      • King ordered dissolution of these assemblies for endorsing the letter.
  • Parliament answered British colonial authorities’ request for protection and upholding authority of Boards of Customs Commissioners by dispatching the British army to Boston, where they arrived in October 1768. The presence of those troops, however, heightened the tension in an already anxious environment. (It led to Boston Massacre)
  • In January 1769 Parliament reactivated a statute which permitted subjects outside the realm to face trials in England for treason.
  • The governor of Massachusetts was instructed to collect evidence of said treason, and although this threat was not carried out it caused widespread outrage.
  • Boston Massacre (5 March, 1770)
    • British troops had been stationed in Boston since 1768 following events prompted by the Townshend Acts of 1767. The posting of the soldiers to Boston had been ordered due to civil unrest in the city.
    • Angered by the presence of troops in Boston and Britain’s colonial policy, a radical crowd began harassing a group of soldiers guarding the customs house; a soldier was knocked down by a snowball and discharged his musket. There was no order to fire but the soldiers fired which killed five civilians. The event quickly came to be called the Boston Massacre.
    • The guilty soldiers of the Boston Massacre were tried but let off with light punishments. This led to the increased bitterness and soon became propaganda to turn colonial sentiment against the British.
    • The term ‘Boston Massacre’ was coined by the patriot Samuel Adams and used in propaganda campaigns against the British. It was commemorated annually in Boston until 1780.
  • Effects of Boston Massacre:
    • The effects of the Boston Massacre were far reaching and led to the creation of the Committee of Correspondence (explained later).
    • The Sons of Liberty and patriots such as Samuel Adams and Paul Revere used the Boston Massacre as a calculated piece of political propaganda, designed to rouse antagonism in all of the colonies toward the Crown.
    • The events of the Boston Massacre were widely publicized, it contributed to the unpopularity of the British regime in America and played a major part in the events that led to the American Revolution including the 1773 Tea Act which led to the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1774.
    • The Boston Massacre was a signal event leading to the Revolutionary It led directly to the Royal Governor evacuating the occupying army from the town of Boston. It would soon bring the revolution to armed rebellion throughout the colonies.
  • Repeal of the Townshend Revenue Act (12 April, 1770):
    • In 1770, Lord North became the P.M. and adopted measures to reconcile the colonists.
    • Responding to protests, in 1770 Parliament withdrew all taxes except the tax on tea, giving up its efforts to raise revenue.
    • This temporarily resolved the crisis and the boycott of British goods largely ceased.
    • During the period of peace of next 2 years, there were two school of thoughts in American colonies:
      • Radicals and conservatives.
        • Radicals were in entangling relations with Britishers and conservatives were interested in restoration of good feeling.
        • Radicals included merchants, lawyers, ship-workers, artists, newspaper publishers, advocate of independence. For e.g. Samuel Adams and Charles Thomson (in Pennsylvania); George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (in Virginia).
        • Conservatives included professional politicians, royal officials, many merchants, many rural population etc.
      • Withdrawal of Townshend Acts had resulted in virtual collapse of non-importation movement. The merchants were eager to give up the movement and resume trading.
      • Only the more radical patriots such as Samuel Adams tried his best to keep alive the The result was formation of Committee of Correspondence in Boston in 1772.
  • Committees of Correspondence:
    • A Committee of Correspondence consisted of a group of leading patriots providing leadership and communication networks amongst the colonists at town and colony level.
    • Their objectives were to warn each other about British actions and future plans that were detrimental to colonial America and to plan colonial resistance and counter measures.
    • The Committees of Correspondence were at first temporary but they evolved into permanent features of colonial America.
    • The first type were temporary Committees of Correspondence appointed by These were invented by Samuel Adams when a committee was first appointed in Boston Massachusetts.
    • A total of about 7000 to 8000 Patriots served on “Committees of Correspondence” at the colonial and local levels— Loyalists of Britain were excluded.
    • In early 1773 Virginia, the largest colony, set up permanent Committee of Correspondence, on which Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson served.
    • By 1774, all colonies (except Pennsylvania and North Carolina) had such committees.
    • The committees became the leaders of the American resistance to British actions, and largely determined the war effort at the state and local level. When the First Continental Congress decided to boycott British products, the colonial and local Committees took charge, examining merchant records.

Burning of the Gaspee (10 June, 1772)

  • The HMS Gaspee, a British customs ship, ran aground in Rhode Island and a Sons of Liberty group attacked and set fire to the ship.
  • The British Government threatened to send the American perpetrators for trial in British government appointed a special commission to investigate but no body gave clue or evidence and so the commission proved a failure and no arrests were made.
  • However, their threat to send Americans to trial in England sparked alarmed protests in the colonies who were informed of the affair via the Committees of Correspondence.

Publication of Thomas Hutchinson letters (July, 1773)

  • In these letters, Hutchinson, the Massachusetts governor, advocated a ‘great restraint of natural liberty‘, which convinced many colonists of a planned British clamp-down on their freedoms.
  • The letters, whose contents were used as evidence of a systematic plot against American rights, discredited Hutchinson and the Assembly petitioned for his recall.
  • Benjamin Franklin, post-master general for the colonies, acknowledged that he leaked the letters which led to him fired from his job.

Tea Act (10 May, 1773)

  • The Tea Act of 1773 was passed by the British Parliament on May 10, 1773, that was designed to bail out the British East India Company and expand the company’s monopoly on the tea trade to all British Colonies, selling excess tea at a reduced price.
  • Townshend Acts which had set new import duties on British goods including paint, paper, lead, glass and tea. But due to protests from British merchants, whose trade was seriously effected by the American colonists refusing to buy the goods, Parliament repealed all of the duties – except the tax on tea.
    • Since of all the Townshend duties only the import duty on tea was left, the American colonists had continued to boycott tea.
    • As a result of the boycotts, the East India Company had literally tons of tea in its warehouses and was on the verge of bankruptcy.
  • By 1772 the East India Company had 18 million pounds of unsold tea in warehouses and 1.3 million pounds of debt. So Tea Act was passed to bail them out.
  • Tea Act had following major provisions:
    • Tea Act gave a tea monopoly in the American colonies to the British East India Company.
    • The Tea Act allowed the East India company to sell its large tea surplus below the prices charged by colonial competitors.
    • The provisions in the Tea Act allowed tea to be shipped in East India Company ships directly from China to the American colonies.
    • This new import tax of 3 pence was considerably less than the previous one in which 12 pence per pound on tea sent via Britain. The American colonists would therefore get their tea cheaper than the people of Britain.
  • The Tea Act would allow the British to undercut the price of tea smuggled into Britain’s North American colonies via the illegal Dutch tea trade.
  • The British government led by the Prime Minister, Lord North, hoped to reassert Parliament’s right to impose direct revenue taxes on the American Colonies with the cheap tea.
  • British anticipated a good reception to the Tea Act in America, after all, the colonists would get their tea at a cost lower than ever Tea would be cheaper in America than Britain.
  • Effect of the Tea Act on the American colonists:
    • Merchants who had been acting as the middlemen in legally importing tea stood to lose their business to the the East India Company agents.
    • Merchants dealing with the illegal Dutch tea trade would be undercut by the Company’s lowered prices and also stood to lose their business.
    • The Tea Act directly impacted shopkeepers who would only be allowed to purchase tea from merchants selected by the East India Company and their monopoly.
    • Only ships owned by the East India Company could carry tea, the American ships engaging in the tea trade would be redundant.
    • Favoritism:
      • Consignees who were to receive the tea and arrange for its local resale were generally favorites of the local governor.
      • The Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, was a part-owner of the business hired by the East India Company to receive tea shipped to Boston. He was disliked by the Boston patriots with whom he had clashed during the Boston Massacre of 1770.
  • The reaction of the American colonists to the Tea Act:
    • The reaction of the American colonists to the Tea Act came as a shock to the Buying the tea would mean that the colonists had accepted paying the British import tax. The American colonists had not forgotten their outrage at the Stamp Act of 1765 and the efforts made to gain the political victory in having the hated act repealed.
    • Since the Colonies were not represented in Parliament, they saw the Tea Act as unconstitutional.
    • Their cry of “No taxation without representation!” had not been forgotten.
    • The seeds of revolution had been sewn in the minds of many of the American colonists. The Sons of Liberty, and the Daughters of Liberty, had experienced a relatively calm period since the repeal of the Stamp Act and the Boston Massacre of 1770. The Tea Act stirred up all of the old feelings of resentment towards the British.
  • Actions by Colonists:
    • The American colonists in the ports of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston had time to consider the implications and impact of the Tea Act before the ships laden with tea arrived in their harbors. They had time to plan their responses and what action they could take against the Tea Act:
      • The press became more active in its political discussions.
      • Circulars and handbills were printed and distributed.
      • The Sons of Liberty organised public demonstration against the British government.
      • Public meetings were held – everyone got to hear about the Tea Act resulting in strong Anti-British attitude.
      • Americans decided they would continue to boycott tea from the British to enforce the Non-importation Agreements by merchants not to purchase British goods.
      • A public meeting was held in Philadelphia and there was agreement that anyone who aided in “unloading, receiving, or vending” the tea was an enemy to his country.
      • The colonists agreed that the Consignees, who were supposed to receive the tea, should “resign their appointment”.
      • The Sons of Liberty reorganized and owners and occupants of stores were warned against harboring the tea, and all who bought, sold or handled it, were threatened as enemies to the country.
      • Colonists resolved to prevent the landing and sale of the teas – they wanted the tea to be sent back to England.
    • The scene was set for confrontations when the ships laden with tea arrived at the ports of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston. When the first tea consignment reached New York and Philadelphia, the ships were compelled to sail back to England.
    • In Massachusetts, ships entered Boston Harbour. The consignees were 2 sons and one nephew of the Governor of Massachusetts. The Governor was determined that ship be unloaded in spite of protest. The scene was set for the Boston Tea Party.
  • Boston Tea Party (16 December, 1773):
    • The Boston Tea Party was a direct protest by colonists in Boston against the Tea Tax.
    • As the Governor of Massachusetts was determined that ship be unloaded in spite of protest, more than 180 Boston patriots, dressed as Mohawk Indians, raided three British ships coming from China in Boston harbor and dumped 342 containers of tea (£10,000 worth of tea) into the harbor.
    • The organizer of the Boston Tea Party was The Sons of Liberty led by Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere. They had dressed like Mohawk Indian to hide their identity as destroying the tea at the Boston Tea Party was a risky business and would be viewed as an act of treason that was punishable by death.
    • What were the Effects of the Boston Tea Party? What happened after the Boston Tea Party?
      • Many of the Boston Tea Party participants fled Boston immediately after the event to avoid arrest. Only one participant and patriot of the Sons of Liberty called Francis Akeley, was caught and imprisoned for his participation in the Boston Tea Party. He was the only person ever to be arrested for the Boston Tea Party and he was released because of a lack of evidence.
      • Hundreds of people had watched the events of the Boston Tea Party, yet no eyewitnesses would cooperate with the authorities.
      • Ministers decided to punish the town of Boston as a whole.
      • The British Parliament ordered the Royal Navy to blockade Boston Harbor.
      • British army regiments were sent to enforce the closure of the harbor.
      • The blockade prevented supplies from entering the Harbor and prevented Massachusetts merchants from selling their goods.
      • These measures that followed the Boston Tea Party were implemented under the 1774 Intolerable Acts which consisted of the Boston Port Act, the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act, the Quartering Act and the Quebec Act.
    • American colonists responded with protests and coordinated resistance by convening the First Continental Congress in September and October of 1774 to petition Britain to repeal the Intolerable Acts.
    • Significance of Boston Tea Party:
      • The constant stream of new laws and taxes demanded by the British parliament was like a slow burning fuse to a keg of dynamite that would explode into the American Revolutionary War.
      • The Battles of Lexington and Concord followed the Boston Tea Party and were fought on April 19, 1775. They were the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.
      • In January of 1776, Thomas Paine anonymously published the 50 page pamphlet entitled Common Sense which supported America’s independence from Great Britain and its monarchy.
      • The National government emerged from the Continental Congress. The Continental Army was created and George Washington was appointed as its commander in chief.

Intolerable Acts / Coercive Acts (1774)

  • The British government responded to the Boston Tea Party by passing several Acts which came to be known as the Intolerable Acts, which further darkened colonial opinion towards the British.
  • They consisted of five laws enacted by the British parliament:
    • The Massachusetts Government Act:
      • It altered the Massachusetts Royal charter.
      • The members of council were to be appointed by the Crown.
      • The powers to make other appointments were vested in Governor.
      • The town meeting were forbidden without prior permission from Governor.
    • The Administration of Justice Act:
      • It ordered that all British soldiers to be tried in Britain, not in the colonies.
    • The Boston Port Act:
      • It closed the port of Boston until the British had been compensated for the tea lost in the Boston Tea Party.
    • The Quartering Act:
      • Quartering Act was resumed which allowed royal governors to house British troops in the homes of citizens without requiring permission of the owner.
    • Quebec Act:
      • The Quebec Act was designed to extend the boundaries of Quebec and guaranteed religious freedom to Catholic Canadians.
      • The purpose of the Quebec Act was to:
        • Extend the Province of Quebec to include territory west to the Mississippi, north to Hudson’s Bay territory, and the islands in the mouth of the St. Lawrence.
        • The law provided for a permanent Civil Government for Canada. But it did not allow them to elect a legislative assembly as Quebec was to be governed by a Royal appointed governor and council.
        • Passed religious reforms that were highly favorable to the Catholic majority in Quebec and allowed Catholics to hold public offices
        • The religious reforms were designed to boost the loyalty of the king’s Canadian subjects in the face of growing resistance in the American colonies
        • The Quebec Act was perceived as a new model for British colonial administration. As a result of the Quebec Act, the American revolutionaries failed to gain the support of the Canadians during the American Revolution.
      • Much of this land was claimed by Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and other colonial land speculators were furious because the Quebec Act limited opportunities for colonies to expand on their western frontiers and deprived them of their rights to land in that region.
      • The recognition of the Roman Catholic religion, was seen to threaten the unity, security, and, not least, the territorial ambitions of British America. Many American colonists viewed the act as a measure of coercion. The act was thus a major cause of the American Revolution and helped provoke an invasion of Quebec by the armies of the revolting colonies in the winter of 1775–76.

First Continental Congress (September, 1774)

  • First Continental Congress (established September 5, 1774 and disbanded May 10, 1775) convened, consisting of elected representatives from all 13 colonies, to serve as a vehicle for deliberation and collective action and to provide unity, delegates gave one vote to each state regardless of its size.
    • Prior to the Continental Congress some representatives met with delegates from different colonies, but not all 13 colonies were involved.
  • The First Continental Congress included Patrick Henry, George Washington, John and Samuel Adams, John Jay, and John Dickinson.
  • Virginians Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and Peyton Randolph invited delegations from all of the other colonies to meet in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774 to debate the course of action in response to grievances of colonies against Great Britain.
    • The grievances related to the laws passed by the British Parliament, the ‘last straw’ being their passing of the Intolerable Acts that had punished Boston for the Boston Tea Party.
  • Meeting in secret session, the body rejected a plan for reconciling British authority with colonial freedom.
    • Instead, it adopted a declaration of personal rights, including life, liberty, property, assembly, and trial by jury.
    • The declaration also denounced taxation without representation and the maintenance of the British army in the colonies without their consent.
    • This congress appealed to the British King to remove restrictions on industries.
    • Parliamentary regulation of American commerce, however, was willingly accepted.
  • The King declared their action a mutiny and ordered troops to be sent to suppress it. The colonies then planned for military defence with local troops and militia. In 1775, the first battle of the Revolution was fought when a thousand British soldiers met the colonial militia in Lexington, Massachusetts.

The Articles of Continental Association (October 20, 1774):

  • The Articles of Continental Association was adopted on October 20, 1774 by the First Continental Congress of the American Colonies.
  • The creation of the Continental Association was in response to the Intolerable Acts that had been passed by the British Parliament to restore order in Massachusetts following the Boston Tea Party.
  • The Association made a universal prohibition of trade with Great Britain. Though it made a handful of exceptions, it prohibited import, consumption, and export of goods with England.
  • Unlike most of the individual associations, it established citizen committees to enforce the act throughout the colonies.

Galloway’s Plan, 1774:

  • In September 1774, as the First Continental Congress debated various means of coercing Parliament toward accepting colonial sovereignty, Joseph Galloway, a Pennsylvania delegate and prominent supporter of reconciliation with Britain, devised a plan to avert the escalating crisis.
  • Galloway presented his plan to the Congress on 28 September 1774.
    • He rejected claims against Parliament, or independence. He looked instead to written and common law and sought a new imperial constitution to protect the colonies’ best interests.
    • He called for the establishment of an American legislature which would function as a branch of the British Parliament, and legislation passed by the American house would require Parliament’s approval.
  • But the plan failed to address the crux of colonial grievances: excessive parliamentary power.
    • Opponents of the plan, led by Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, assailed it as a ruse to secure England’s dominance over colonial affairs.
    • Delegates rejected the plan by a margin of one vote.
    • Following his defeat, Galloway became an outspoken critic of the Continental Congress and eventually became a Loyalist during the Revolution.

Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech (23 March, 1775):

  • “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech was delivered by Patrick Henry in the Virginia Convention in 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia.
  • He is credited with having swung the balance in convincing the convention to pass a resolution delivering Virginian troops for the Revolutionary War.
  • Among the delegates to the convention were future U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

2 thoughts on “American Revolution: Part III”

Leave a Reply