What Did The Townshend Acts Do?
The Townshend Acts of 1767 was passed to impose heavy taxes on the American colonists and keep proving the British Parliament’s authority over the 13 colonies of North America.
Those taxes were imposed on some necessary goods; such as tea, paper, glass, lead, paint, etc.
Some other intentions of the Townshend Acts:
- To suspend the power of the New York legislature. They suspended the power to punish New York for failing to implement the Quartering act of 1765.
- To show the authority of the British Parliament over the 13 North American colonies.
- Make the British mercantilism rules more effective.
- To provide the power to the British officials to search buildings, vessels, and homes of the colonies, without any search warrant. This power came into action to prevent smuggling.
Townshend acts were basically a series of laws passed between the years 1767 to 1768.
This was named after the British Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister), named Charles Townshend.
Many historians also believe that this new law was a response from the British side to the failure of the previous Stamp Act (1765).
Now, let’s see how American colonists reacted to the Townshend Acts.
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How Did The Colonists React To The Townshend Act?
When the news of this new act reached the colonists, a wave of protest was widespread against the British government.
However, Charles Townshend was not alive to see the protest. He died in 1767, on September 4th.
Here is the list of reactions that came from the colonists’ side:
1. Merchants of the colonies came to an agreement that they would boycott importing British goods from January 1, 1768. This boycott agreement came into effect in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Virginia. Leaders like George Washington and George Mason led this boycott movement.
2. In 1769 the House of Burgesses, Virginia passed a resolution that the Parliament of Great Britain has no right to pass any laws to impose a tax on Virginians without their assent.
3. People went out for massive protesting. As a result, in 1770, on March 5th, British soldiers killed five American civilians in Boston. In history, this incident is infamous as the ‘Boston Massacre’.
So, these were the reactions that came out from the colonists’ side over the Townshend Acts.
How Many Townshend Acts Were There?
The Townshend Acts covered a total of five laws. They were:
1. The New York Restraining Act (1767)
This act was passed on 5th June 1767, mainly to punish the New York assembly for not applying the Quartering Act of 1765.
The act arrogated the New York assembly and governor’s rights to pass any bills until they agree to apply the Quartering Act.
2. The Revenue Act (1767)
Parliament passed it on 26th June 1767.
This law increased taxes on some necessary goods, such as tea, glass, colors, lead, and paper.
Also, it provided power to the British officials to punish hard smuggler merchants.
3. The Indemnity Act (1767)
This act provided special privileges to some giant English companies to monopolize the 13 colonies’ markets in different segments.
The English government did it mostly by reducing taxes for those companies.
One of the main companies that enjoyed the special privilege among them was the British East India Company.
At that time, utilizing this opportunity, the East India Company exported tea to the 13 colonies at a low cost.
The purpose of this law was primarily to fulfill English mercantilism policies.
They passed it on 29th June 1767.
4. The Commissioners of Customs Act (1767)
This act created a new custom board for the 13 colonies.
The act’s main goal was to tighten the custom laws previously created by the parliament.
This was passed on the same day, they passed the Indemnity Act (29 June 1767).
5. The Vice-Admiralty Court Act (1768)
Many experts don’t want to include it in the group of Townshend Acts. Although, it dealt with the same issues.
Experts don’t call it a Townshend Act because the British Chancellor Charles Townshend already died, and the parliament passed it later.
This law’s main purpose was to aid the prosecution of colonists’ smugglers.
Did The Parliament Repeal It?
Due to the increasing protests and threats to the import of English goods, the Parliament partially repealed the acts on 12th April 1770.
The immediate incident which led to the repeal of these acts was the Boston Massacre.
On 5th March 1770, the incident took place when some British red coats shot and killed 5 protestors, other 6 protestors were also injured.