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Exchequer Charles Townshend


Tea Act of 1773
Stamp Act

In 1767 a new ministry led by chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend addressed the North American situation. Townshend drew up new taxes on imports (tea, lead, paper, glass, paint) that Americans could receive only from Britain. More ominously, he earmarked the revenue from these duties for the salaries of colonial governors and judges, thus making them independent of the colonial assemblies. He also strengthened the organization responsible for enforcing customs duties and located its headquarters in Boston, the center of opposition to the Stamp Act. Finally, he moved many units of the British army away from the frontier and nearer the centers of white population.

Clearly, the Townshend Acts were meant not only to tax the colonies but also to exert British authority. When colonial assemblies protested the duties, Townshend dissolved the assemblies. Americans rioted. They also agreed to boycott all imported British goods—particularly tea. The British responded by landing troops at Boston (the center of resistance) in October 1768. Tensions between townspeople and soldiers were constant for the next year and a half. On March 5, 1770, tensions exploded into the Boston Massacre, when British soldiers fired into a mob of Americans, killing five men. In Britain on the day of the Boston Massacre, Parliament repealed all of the Townshend Duties except the one on tea—a powerful reminder that it would never relinquish its right to tax and govern Americans. The Americans, in turn, resumed imports of other goods, but continued to boycott tea.

Other British Measures


The Tea Act of 1773 maintained the tax on tea and gave the English East India Company a monopoly on the export of that commodity. The company’s tea ships ran into trouble in American ports, most notably in Boston, where on December 16, 1773, colonials dressed as Native Americans dumped a shipload of tea into the harbor.

Britain responded to this Boston Tea Party with the Intolerable Acts of 1774, which closed the port of Boston until Bostonians paid for the tea. The acts also permitted the British army to quarter its troops in civilian households, allowed British soldiers accused of crimes while on duty in America to be tried in Britain or in another colony, and revised the Massachusetts Charter to abolish its elected legislature. At the same time, the Québec Act organized a British government in Canada that frightened many Protestant, libertarian Americans: It allowed the Catholic Church to remain established in French Canada, and it established a government with fewer liberties than Americans enjoyed. Some Americans saw the act as a model for what the British had in mind for them. Along with the Intolerable Acts and the Québec Act came clear signs that Britain would use whatever military force it needed to subdue the Americans. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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