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During the late 1700s and early 1800s, Colonial America and Europe were in conflict over who would control North America, which resulted in a time of warfare. An important war during this time was the French and Indian War. This war was from 1754-1763 and was between France and Britain. The war started in the boundaries of what is today Pennsylvania. The war eventually spread to Europe and other countries. Although the global war was the Seven Years’ War, the French and Indian War refers to the war in North America. (Locks, 2013) The war was a result of Virginians going into the Ohio River Valley, which was claimed both by the French and British. As a result, the French built forts in Pennsylvania. George Washington was sent by Royal Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie to inform the French that they were trespassing on Virginia territory. In 1761 the war expanded in India, Prussia, Austria and the Caribbean but subsided in 1761. In 1762, Spain and France gave up, which resulted in the Treaty of Paris in 1763. (Locks, 2013) The Treaty of Paris gave England control of Canada and Spain territory west of the Mississippi River.
In 1765, First Lord of the Treasury, George Grenville, started the Stamp Act. This act created a tax on all papers documents for colonists from Britain including pamphlets, newspapers, and court documents. It also required a stamp to be placed on the document as proof that the tax was paid. (Department of State, 2019) According to the Department of State, “ the American Revolution was precipitated” by the various laws passed to regulate taxes and trade like the Stamp Act. The British government repealed the Stamp Act but it “temporarily stopped colonial protest.” (Department of State, 2019) The protests were prompted again after Townshend Acts were passed in 1767. The Townshend Acts was passed by Parliament to raise money from colonists, as a result, colonists began protesting resulting in a repeal to the Townshend Act.
In 1767, Charles Townshend, Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed a new set of taxes in regard to internal and external taxes. The taxes would be paid by consumers for paper, tea, glass and lead. There were three Townshend Acts, the Restraining Act, Commissioners of Customs Act and the Ed Court Act. The Restraining Act was for New York, which nullified all legislation of the New York colonial assembly since New York didn’t want to provide support for the British troops. (Locks, 2013) The Ed Court Act tightened British control of colonial trade. The Commissioners of Customs act set up a Board of Customs Commissioners in Boston to ensure collection of taxes for colonial imports of tea, paint, lead, glass and paper. There was also the creation of Vice-Admiralty courts in the colonies to try anyone who tried to smuggle goods in order to not pay the taxes. (Locks ,2013) All the Townshend Acts did was upset the colonists once again because they felt the British government were violating their rights.
The colonists responded to the Townshend Acts by protests, making their own goods and creating non-importation agreements. The colonists were upset because the taxes would be used to pay the British government officials living in the colonies. They believed that Parliament did not have the power to charge them for external and internal taxes. The Daughters of Liberty group was formed to boycott drinking tea and buying of English products. They also started making their own clothing instead of buying from Britain. (Locks, 2013) The colonists also created non-importation agreements, one being the Boston Non-Importation Agreement created in August 1768 by Boston’s merchants and traders in response to the Townshend Acts. The Boston merchants and traders believed Great Britain were charging the taxes to cover the debt they accumulated during the French and Indian War. ( Colonial Society of Massachusetts Publications,1768) The colonists were upset because they needed the goods from Britain because they were having a hard time catching fish and whale, which was the primary source of their income. They agreement came about because the merchants and traders were upset by the “embarrassments and restrictions laid on the trade” by the Townshend Acts. (Colonial Society of Massachusetts Publications, 1768) The non-importation agreement stated that the merchants would not send or import from Great Britain that fall season, with the exception of salt, coals, hemp, fish-hooks, duck, bar lead, card wire and wool-cards. They also agreed not to import any tea, glass or painters’ colors and paper until the Townshend Acts were repealed. (Colonial Society of Massachusetts Publications, 1768)
The colonist continued to boycott and protests. This led up to the Boston Massacre in 1770. The governor of Massachusetts sent British soldiers to Boston to try and stop the Sons of Liberty from intimidating merchants and boycotting. (Locks, 2013) This only made the colonists in Boston matter and led to some boys throwing snowballs and rocks at British soldiers. British soldiers were prompted to shoot in the crowd and killed five people. As a result, Boston went up in total chaos. Thomas Hutchinson was forced to remove the troops from Boston. Also, all the Townshend duties were repealed except the taxes on tea. (Locks ,2013) In conclusion the colonists response to the Townshend Acts with protests and boycotts was successful because they forced Parliament to repeal the Townshend Act.
- Colonial Society of Massachusetts Publications, Boston Non‐Importation Act, (1768), The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, & Diplomacy, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale University, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/boston_non_importation_1768.asp
- Department of State-Office of the Historian. (2019) Parliamentary taxation of colonies, international trade, and the American Revolution, 1763–1775. Retrieved from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1750-1775/parliamentary-taxation
- Locks, Catherine; Mergel, Sarah; Roseman, Pamela; and Spike, Tamara. (2013). History in the Making: A History of the People of the United States of America to 1877. University Press of North Georgia.
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