The Intolerable Acts

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The Five "Intolerable Acts"  

Parliament replied to the "Boston Tea Party" with the five Coercive Acts of 1774. The colonists dubbed them the "Intolerable Acts."

They were an important factor contributing to the American Revolution. Colonists felt that this legislation violated their rights as Englishmen and their Natural Rights as human beings.

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The Boston Port Act: The first of these closed the port of Boston until the East India Company was paid for the lost tea.  This created a great hardship for the people of Boston whose livlihood depended on trade.

Massachusetts Government Act: The second modified the Massachusetts Charter of 1691, taking away many of its  rights of self-government. It was aimed at punishing Boston and forcing it out of resistance. Almost all positions in the colonial government wer to be appointment by the governor or directly by the King. Activities of town meetings were limited. Massachusetts was very proud of its independence and was angry at this infringement on its rights. 

Administration of Justice Act: The third measure provided that British officials accused of committing crimes in a colony might be taken to England for trial. 
Because it wold mean witnesses would be forced to travel, the practical effect was thought to be that the British officials would escape justice.

The Quartering Act: The fourth measure allowed the British to quarter British soldiers in colonial buildings at the expense of the colonists, including colonists' homes, if there were insufficient space in other buildings.

The Quebec Act: The fifth act extended the boundaries of the province of Quebec. Because Quebec did not have representative assemblies, many colonists thought this transfer of land from the colonies to unrepresented Quebec was another attempt to punish the colonies and solidify British control. 


John Hancock
John Hancock

New York refused to provide supplies for the soldiers under the Quartering Act. They complained that General Thomas Gage was headquartered in the colony, and New York would unfairly asked to shoulder a large cost. Britain passed the New York Restraining Act. This act suspended the New York Assembly until it complied. A new assembly was elected but was also dissolved when it would not comply. A third assembly was elected in 1769 which did finally comply with the law, but its compliance was considered a cowardly betrayal by many colonists. Townshend modified the Quartering Act allowing colonists to house soldiers in barracks or unoccupied buildings instead of in their homes, but the Act still was resisted.

The new British laws also brought new corruption to the colonies. Some of the customs officials accused shipowners and merchants of smuggling and then confiscated their ships and cargoes. One of these ship owners was John Hancock. In June 1768 customs officials seized a ship owned by Hancock, a prosperous merchant. The commissioners escaped to an island in Boston and begged for military protection. In response, the British government sent to regiments, further inflaming the situation.


John Hancock's Letter of Protest

Cartoon Protesting the Intolerable Acts

The Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress petitioning for repeal of the Intolerable Acts

Part of These United Colonies: The American War of Independence exhibit

The American Revolution

American Revolution Primary Sources

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