- The Seven Years' War: background and combatants
- The Seven Years' War: battles and legacy
- Seven Years' War: lesson overview
- Seven Years' War
- Pontiac's uprising
- Uproar over the Stamp Act
- The Townshend Acts and the committees of correspondence
- The Boston Massacre
- Prelude to revolution
- The Boston Tea Party
- The Intolerable Acts and the First Continental Congress
- Lexington and Concord
- The Second Continental Congress
- The Declaration of Independence
- Women in the American Revolution
- The American Revolution
The Townshend Acts and the committees of correspondence
In 1767, a new wave of taxes on the American colonists led to renewed protest, and the formation of committees of correspondence to rally opposition to British policies.
- The Townshend Acts, passed in 1767 and 1768, were designed to raise revenue for the British Empire by taxing its North American colonies. They were met with widespread protest in the colonies, especially among merchants in Boston.
- The Townshend Acts renewed a fierce debate over the British Parliament’s right to tax the colonies.
- In 1772, Boston revolutionary Samuel Adams urged the creation of a committee of correspondence to communicate with other colonial assemblies, educate townspeople about their political rights, and rally opposition to British rule.
Colonial opposition to the Townshend Acts
After a century and a half of salutary neglect of its North American colonies, Britain sought to impose tighter control over them.
After the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, leaving the British Empire in financial distress, the British Parliament sought to fill its coffers by taxing the colonies. The Stamp Act, which levied taxes on all printed material in the North American colonies, had provoked so much unrest that Britain was ultimately forced to repeal it. At the same time, however, the British Parliament passed the Declaratory Act, which asserted Britain’s ultimate right of control over the colonies. The repeal of the Stamp Act stopped the protests and rioting, and the colonists did not at first oppose the Declaratory Act—until the British began to enforce it.
In 1767, Charles Townshend, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, imposed a series of new taxes designed to raise revenue. All imports of glass, lead, paint, and tea were to be taxed, new customs officials were to be sent to the colonies to collect, and courts of admiralty were created to prosecute violators and smugglers. These actions became known as the Townshend Acts, and they unleashed another wave of protest in the colonies.
The acts renewed a fierce debate over whether the British Parliament had the right to tax the North American colonies solely for the purpose of raising revenue. The colonists protested, “no taxation without representation,” arguing that the British Parliament did not have the right to tax them because they lacked representation in the legislative body. They asserted that only colonial assemblies elected by themselves should have the power to impose taxes.
The British responded with the theory of virtual representation, which held that the members of British Parliament were duty-bound to protect the interests of British citizens and subjects alike, including the colonists. When the colonial assemblies of New York and Massachusetts denied Parliament’s right of taxation and urged the other colonies to resist, the Crown-appointed governors of the colonies dissolved the assemblies, touching off a struggle between executive authorities and the representatives of the people.
Colonists organized boycotts of British goods to pressure Parliament to repeal the Townshend Acts. As British customs officials arrived to collect taxes and prosecute smugglers, colonial opposition intensified, resulting in street demonstrations and protests that sometimes turned violent.
The Townshend Acts were especially reviled in Boston, where the Customs Board was headquartered. Merchants in Boston signed a nonimportation agreement, which suspended all imports of British goods. Merchants in New York and Philadelphia followed with their own nonimportation pledges. The British responded by sending naval and military officials to Boston to enforce the Acts, setting the stage for the Boston Massacre in 1770.
A signed nonimportation agreement.
Committees of correspondence
Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson, who had been appointed by the Crown, sought to compose a faction of pro-British Loyalist officials and thereby widen support for Britain’s mercantilist taxation policies. In 1772, Boston revolutionary Samuel Adams responded by urging Massachusetts to employ a committee of correspondence to contact townspeople and stay apprised of events occurring at town meetings throughout the area. The purpose of such a committee was to rally opposition to British policies, to educate the townspeople of Massachusetts about their constitutional rights and the British threats to those rights, and to encourage townspeople to become more politically active. By 1774, every colonial assembly had created a committee of correspondence.
Portrait of Samuel Adams.
Adams’s effort was successful. The committee forged unity among the towns and intensified their resistance to British rule. This burgeoning republican spirit would flower as the revolutionary crisis unfolded. Although pro-British Loyalists like Governor Hutchinson claimed that the committees deceived naïve country dwellers into fomenting rebellion, in reality, the people of Massachusetts were engaging with political ideals and debating the proper form, function, and scope of government. The ideology of republicanism was taking root in the critical colony of Massachusetts, which would prove a leader in the American Revolution.
What do you think?
In your own words, explain the role and function of the committees of correspondence.
Why do you think Massachusetts became a leader in the American Revolution?
What was the most consequential outcome of the Townshend Acts?
Want to join the conversation?
- Which Act was passed first? Can someone give me a timeline of the Acts that were passed? Please and thank you.(2 votes)
- Stamp Acts, then Townshend Acts, then Tea Acts, then Coercive Acts/Intolerable Acts.(22 votes)
- The author states that "The purpose of such a committee was to rally opposition to British policies, to educate the townspeople of Massachusetts about their constitutional rights..." Which constitution is the author referring to?(6 votes)
- It's probably referring to the British constitution.(3 votes)
- ''After a century and a half of salutary neglect of its North American colonies, Britain sought to impose tighter control over them.'' When the pilgrims originally got permission from the king to settle in America the king
also promised that they would be able to rule themselves forever. They had been ruling themselves for 100 years because the king said they could forever. Does the term “salutary neglect” by KA's definition really apply here?(3 votes)
- I doubt the king promised permanent self-rule, equivalent to sovereignty. According to Wikipedia page about the pilgrims of Plymoth, they arrived without a charter in hand.
"Robert Cushman and John Carver were sent to England to solicit a land patent. Their negotiations were delayed because of conflicts internal to the London Company, but ultimately a patent was secured in the name of John Wincob on June 9 (Old Style)/June 19 (New Style), 1619. The charter was granted with the king's condition that the Leiden group's religion would not receive official recognition."
"The charter was incomplete for the Plymouth Council for New England when the colonists departed England (it was granted while they were in transit on November 3/November 13). They arrived without a patent; the older Wincob patent was from their abandoned dealings with the London Company. Some of the passengers, aware of the situation, suggested that they were free to do as they chose upon landing, without a patent in place, and to ignore the contract with the investors."
The Mayflower Compact was then drawn up and approved by majority vote.
As far as "salutary neglect", I don't think it applies here. In 1691, Plymouth colony was merged with the Massachusetts Bay Colony and no longer recognized as a separate colony.(6 votes)
- why did Townshend choose these items to tax(3 votes)
- Massachusetts became a leader in the American Revolution because ideology of republicanism was taking root in the critical colony of Massachusetts, which would prove a leader.(3 votes)
- what was the most consequential outcome?(3 votes)
- Britain gained almost all of North America but Spain got New Orleans, and lost Florida, but still owned the west side of the Continent. And the colonists were upset because of the proclamation of 1763(1 vote)
- what is the main things that happened in the seven years war?(3 votes)
- Britain got killed, but William Pitt clutched up believing that the colonies were at the forefront of British colonialism. he sent his best generals to deal with France and with the Iroquis and the Mohawk battle with the French with the Huron and the Algonquins. His General Wolfe then won Quebec by scaling a cliff considered too steep to climb by the French who therefore under guarded it, and stopped many supply routes that had to run through Quebec. Then the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 ending the War. But then the Pontiacś war happened and brought the Proclamation of 1763 that made the colonist upset because they had to leave their land past the Appalachians so they just disregarded it.(1 vote)
- when did nonimportation act started?(2 votes)
- The Nonimportation Act occurred in a different period than the Nonimportation Agreements. The Nonimportation Agreements, mentioned in the article, started on August 1, 1768. The Nonimportation Act was later in 1806.(2 votes)
- What are all the signatures at the end of that document? Also, why is the script do unreadable? The only signature that i can read is Paul Revere(0 votes)
- They’re signatures of merchants who agreed to not import British goods(5 votes)
- What does 'salutary neglect' mean?(2 votes)
- It means "neglect that is actually good for the one who is being neglected".(1 vote)