What Did The Townshend Acts Do?

In a simple sentence, the Townshend Acts of 1767 passed to impose heavy taxes on the American colonists and keep proving the British Parliament’s authority over the 13 colonies of America.

These taxes mainly imposed on some very necessary goods; such as tea, paper, glass, lead, paint, etc.

Some other intentions of the Townshend Acts were:

  • To suspend the power of New York’s legislature. They suspend it to punish New York for failing to execute properly 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 authorities to search any building, vessel, and home of the colonies, without any search warrant. This power came into action to prevent smuggling.

What Did The Townshend Act Do

The act was basically a series of acts 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 Act.

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How Did The Colonists React To The Townshend Act?

When the news of this new act reached the colonists then a wave of protest widespread against the British government.

However, Charles Townshend was not alive to see the protest, because he died in 1767’s 4th September.

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 took place in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and, Virginia. Leaders like George Washington, George Mason leaded this boycott movement.
  2. In 1769, the House of Burgesses, Virginia passed a resolution that the Parliament of Great Britain had 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 of 1770 on March 5th, British soldiers killed five American civilians in Boston. The incident is infamous as the ‘Boston Massacre’ in its history.

So, these were the reactions that came out from the colonists’ side over the Townshend act.

How Many Townshend Acts Were There
Image Credit: Wikimedia.com

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 rights of the New York assembly and Governor 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, 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’ market at different segments.

The English government did it mostly through reducing taxes.

One of the main companies who enjoyed the special privilege among them were the‘British East India Company’.

At that time, utilizing this opportunity, the East India Company exported tea at a very low cost to the 13 colonies.

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)

Via this act, a new custom board was created 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 the Indemnity Act passed (29 June 1767).

5. The Vice-Admiralty Court Act (1768)

Though, many experts don’t want to include it in the group of Townshend Acts; but it dealt with the same issues.

Experts don’t call it a Townshend Act because the British Chancellor Charles Townshend already died before the act got passed.

This law’s main purpose was to aid the prosecution of colonists’ smugglers.


Did The Parliament Repeal It?

Due to the increasing number of protests and threats to the English goods’ import, 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’.

The incident took place on 5th March 1770, when some British red coats shot and killed 5 protestors, other 6 protestors also injured. 


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