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Intolerable Acts

Intolerable Acts

Overview
The Intolerable Acts or the Coercive Acts are names used to describe a series of laws passed by the British Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 in 1774 relating to Britain's colonies in North America
British America
For American people of British descent, see British American.British America is the anachronistic term used to refer to the territories under the control of the Crown or Parliament in present day North America , Central America, the Caribbean, and Guyana...

. The acts triggered outrage and resistance in the Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 that later became the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and were important developments in the growth of the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

.

Four of the acts were issued in direct response to the Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government and the monopolistic East India Company that controlled all the tea imported into the colonies...

 of December 1773; the British Parliament hoped these punitive measures would, by making an example of Massachusetts
Province of Massachusetts Bay
The Province of Massachusetts Bay was a crown colony in North America. It was chartered on October 7, 1691 by William and Mary, the joint monarchs of the kingdoms of England and Scotland...

, reverse the trend of colonial resistance to parliamentary authority that had begun with the 1765 Stamp Act
Stamp Act 1765
The Stamp Act 1765 was a direct tax imposed by the British Parliament specifically on the colonies of British America. The act required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London, carrying an embossed revenue stamp...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Intolerable Acts or the Coercive Acts are names used to describe a series of laws passed by the British Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 in 1774 relating to Britain's colonies in North America
British America
For American people of British descent, see British American.British America is the anachronistic term used to refer to the territories under the control of the Crown or Parliament in present day North America , Central America, the Caribbean, and Guyana...

. The acts triggered outrage and resistance in the Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 that later became the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and were important developments in the growth of the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

.

Four of the acts were issued in direct response to the Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government and the monopolistic East India Company that controlled all the tea imported into the colonies...

 of December 1773; the British Parliament hoped these punitive measures would, by making an example of Massachusetts
Province of Massachusetts Bay
The Province of Massachusetts Bay was a crown colony in North America. It was chartered on October 7, 1691 by William and Mary, the joint monarchs of the kingdoms of England and Scotland...

, reverse the trend of colonial resistance to parliamentary authority that had begun with the 1765 Stamp Act
Stamp Act 1765
The Stamp Act 1765 was a direct tax imposed by the British Parliament specifically on the colonies of British America. The act required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London, carrying an embossed revenue stamp...

. A fifth act, the Quebec Act
Quebec Act
The Quebec Act of 1774 was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain setting procedures of governance in the Province of Quebec...

, enlarged the boundaries of what was then the Province of Quebec and instituted reforms generally favorable to the French Catholic inhabitants of the region.

Many colonists viewed the acts as an arbitrary violation of their rights, and in 1774 they organized the First Continental Congress
First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen North American colonies that met on September 5, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to the passage of the Coercive Acts by the...

 to coordinate a protest. As tensions escalated, the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 broke out the following year, eventually leading to the creation of an independent United States of America.

Background


Relations between the Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 and the Kingdom of Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 slowly but steadily worsened after the end of the Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

 in 1763. The war had plunged the British government deep into debt, and so the British Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 enacted a series of measures to increase tax revenue from the colonies. Parliament believed that these acts, such as the Stamp Act
Stamp Act 1765
The Stamp Act 1765 was a direct tax imposed by the British Parliament specifically on the colonies of British America. The act required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London, carrying an embossed revenue stamp...

 of 1765 and the Townshend Acts
Townshend Acts
The Townshend Acts were a series of laws passed beginning in 1767 by the Parliament of Great Britain relating to the British colonies in North America. The acts are named after Charles Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who proposed the program...

 of 1767, were a legitimate means of having the colonies pay their fair share of the costs of maintaining the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

. Although protests led to the repeal of the Stamp and Townshend Acts, Parliament adhered to the position that it had the right to legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever " in the Declaratory Act
Declaratory Act
The Declaratory Act was a declaration by the British Parliament in 1766 which accompanied the repeal of the Stamp Act 1765. The government repealed the Stamp Act because boycotts were hurting British trade and used the declaration to justify the repeal and save face...

 of 1766.

Many colonists, however, had developed a different conception of the British Empire. Under the British Constitution, they argued, a British subject's property (in the form of taxes) could not be taken from him without his consent (in the form of representation in government). Therefore, because the colonies were not directly represented in Parliament, some colonists insisted that Parliament had no right to levy taxes upon them, a view expressed by the slogan "No taxation without representation
No taxation without representation
"No taxation without representation" is a slogan originating during the 1750s and 1760s that summarized a primary grievance of the British colonists in the Thirteen Colonies, which was one of the major causes of the American Revolution...

". After the Townshend Acts, some colonial essayists took this line of thinking even further, and began to question whether Parliament had any legitimate jurisdiction in the colonies at all. This question of the extent of Parliament's sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty is a concept in the constitutional law of some parliamentary democracies. In the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, a legislative body has absolute sovereignty, meaning it is supreme to all other government institutions—including any executive or judicial bodies...

 in the colonies was the issue underlying what became the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. [Paul Revere]

Passage


In December 1773, a group of colonists destroyed several tons of tea in Boston, Massachusetts, an act that came to be known as the Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government and the monopolistic East India Company that controlled all the tea imported into the colonies...

. The colonists partook in this action because Parliament had taken away the taxes of tea distributed by the British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 in order to save the company from bankruptcy, which made British tea less expensive than the colonial tea and thus gave them a sort of monopoly, and this angered the colonists. News of the event reached England in January 1774. Parliament responded with a series of acts that were intended to punish Boston for this destruction of private property, restore British authority in Massachusetts, and otherwise reform colonial government in America.

On April 22, 1774, Prime Minister Lord North
Frederick North, Lord North
Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford, KG, PC , more often known by his courtesy title, Lord North, which he used from 1752 until 1790, was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1770 to 1782. He led Great Britain through most of the American War of Independence...

 defended the program in the House of Commons
House of Commons of Great Britain
The House of Commons of Great Britain was the lower house of the Parliament of Great Britain between 1707 and 1801. In 1707, as a result of the Acts of Union of that year, it replaced the House of Commons of England and the third estate of the Parliament of Scotland, as one of the most significant...

, saying:

The Americans have tarred and feathered your subjects, plundered your merchants, burnt your ships, denied all obedience to your laws and authority; yet so clement and so long forbearing has our conduct been that it is incumbent on us now to take a different course. Whatever may be the consequences, we must risk something; if we do not, all is over.


The Boston Port Act
Boston Port Act
The Boston Port Act is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain which became law on March 30, 1774, and is one of the measures that were designed to secure Great Britain's jurisdictions over her American dominions.A response to the Boston Tea Party, it outlawed the use...

, the first of the acts passed in response to the Boston Tea Party, closed the port of Boston until the East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 had been repaid for the destroyed tea and until the king was satisfied that order had been restored. Colonists objected that the Port Act punished all of Boston rather than just the individuals who had destroyed the tea, and that they were being punished without having been given an opportunity to testify in their own defense.

The Massachusetts Government Act
Massachusetts Government Act
The Massachusetts Government Act was passed by the Parliament of Great Britain and became a law on May 20, 1774. The act is one of the Intolerable Acts , designed to suppress dissent and restore order in the Province of Massachusetts Bay...

provoked even more outrage than the Port Act because it unilaterally altered the government of Massachusetts to bring it under control of the British government. Under the terms of the Government Act, almost all positions in the colonial government were to be appointed by the governor or the king. The act also severely limited the activities of town meeting
Town meeting
A town meeting is a form of direct democratic rule, used primarily in portions of the United States since the 17th century, in which most or all the members of a community come together to legislate policy and budgets for local government....

s in Massachusetts to one meeting a year, unless the Governor calls for one. Colonists outside Massachusetts feared that their governments could now also be changed by the legislative fiat of Parliament.

The Administration of Justice Act
Administration of Justice Act 1774
The Administration of Justice Act, or Act for the Impartial Administration of Justice, also popularly called the Murdering Act or Murder Act, an Act passed by the Parliament of Great Britain and becoming law on May 20, 1774, is one of the measures The Administration of Justice Act, or Act for the...

allowed the governor to move trials of accused royal officials to another colony or even to Great Britain if he believed the official could not get a fair trial in Massachusetts. Although the act stipulated that witnesses would be paid for their travel expenses, in practice few colonists could afford to leave their work and cross the ocean to testify in a trial. George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 called this the "Murder Act" because he believed that it allowed British officials to harass Americans and then escape justice. Many colonists believed the act was unnecessary because British soldiers had been given a fair trial following the Boston Massacre
Boston Massacre
The Boston Massacre, called the Boston Riot by the British, was an incident on March 5, 1770, in which British Army soldiers killed five civilian men. British troops had been stationed in Boston, capital of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, since 1768 in order to protect and support...

 in 1770.

The Quartering Act
Quartering Act
The Quartering Act is the name of at least two 18th-century acts of the Parliament of Great Britain. These Quartering Acts ordered the local governments of the American colonies to provide housing and provisions for British soldiers. They were amendments to the Mutiny Act, which had to be renewed...

applied to all of the colonies, and sought to create a more effective method of housing British troops in America. In a previous act, the colonies had been required to provide housing for soldiers, but colonial legislatures had been uncooperative in doing so. The new Quartering Act allowed a governor to house soldiers in other buildings if suitable quarters were not provided. While many sources claim that the Quartering Act allowed troops to be billeted in occupied private homes, historian David Ammerman's 1974 study claimed that this is a myth, and that the act only permitted troops to be quartered in unoccupied buildings. Although many colonists found the Quartering Act objectionable, it generated the least protest of the Coercive Acts.

The Quebec Act
Quebec Act
The Quebec Act of 1774 was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain setting procedures of governance in the Province of Quebec...

was a piece of legislation unrelated to the events in Boston, and so is not always regarded as one of the Coercive Acts. The timing of its passage led colonists to believe that it was part of the program to punish them. The act enlarged the boundaries of what was then the Province of Quebec and instituted reforms generally favorable to the French Catholic inhabitants of the region, although denying them an elected legislative assembly. The act removed references to the Protestant faith in the oath of allegiance
Oath of allegiance
An oath of allegiance is an oath whereby a subject or citizen acknowledges a duty of allegiance and swears loyalty to monarch or country. In republics, modern oaths specify allegiance to the country's constitution. For example, officials in the United States, a republic, take an oath of office that...

, and guaranteed free practice of the Roman Catholic faith. The Quebec Act offended a variety of interest groups in the British colonies. Land speculators and settlers objected to the transfer of western lands previously claimed by the colonies to a non-representative government. Many feared the establishment of Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 in Quebec, and that the French Canadians were being courted to help oppress British Americans.

Effects


Many colonists saw the Coercive Acts as a violation of their constitutional rights, their natural rights
Natural rights
Natural and legal rights are two types of rights theoretically distinct according to philosophers and political scientists. Natural rights are rights not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable...

, and their colonial charters. They therefore viewed the acts as a threat to the liberties of all of British America, not just Massachusetts. Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee was an American statesman from Virginia best known for the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation and his famous resolution of June 1776 led to the United States...

 of Virginia, for example, described the acts as "a most wicked System for destroying the liberty of America".

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.

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 acts unintentionally promoted sympathy for Massachusetts and encouraged colonists from the otherwise diverse colonies to form the First Continental Congress
First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen North American colonies that met on September 5, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to the passage of the Coercive Acts by the...

. The Continental Congress created the Continental Association, an agreement to boycott British goods and, if that did not get the Coercive Acts reversed after a year, to stop exporting goods to Great Britain as well. The Congress also pledged to support Massachusetts in case of attack, which meant that all of the colonies would become involved when the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 began at Lexington and Concord
Battles of Lexington and Concord
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy , and Cambridge, near Boston...

.

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