Townshend Acts Essay
King George III of England replaced Prime Minister Rockingham with William Pitt. Pitt was popular in colonies having opposed the stamp Act that oppressed the colonists as he believed that the colonists also needed to be entitled to the rights as the English citizens. But when Pitt became sick, he was replaced by Charles Townshend at the helm of the government. Townshend was however not very concerned with the plight of the colonists as his predecessor, but he was rather interested in strengthening the power of the British parliament, and simultaneously would have strengthened the power of the royal officials. He thus convinced the parliament to pass a series of laws that imposed new taxes to the colonists. The laws included special taxes on lead, paint, paper, glass and tea that were imported by the colonists (http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761569964_3/American_Revolution.html).
Effects of the Townshend Act
The passing of the Acts was due to the fact that the mother country had to show the colonists that they had to pay the mother country had the right to tax them, rise revenue to pay the governors, and as well as maintaining justice. The Act was also aimed at punishing the New York for failing to abide by the Mutiny Act (Quartering Act). These led to the deterioration of the relationship between the British and its provinces (Greene & Pole 2003 pp 135).
There was increased chaos in the Boston city that forced the British troops to be called in to maintain peace and order, as the Townshend customs commissioners were at risk as they were the target of the public anger. The anger was sometimes directed at the redcoats who were perceived to be the British arm of encroachment. This restless in Boston led to the pelting of the soldiers in March 5th, 1770 with ice and stones.
The soldiers on the other hand opened fire to the people killing five, hence the commonly known Boston massacre (Aptheker 1960 pp 40). For about three years that followed, the parliament was very quiet. There was a complete change of the mood in the American cities that reflected the tension and imminent confrontation that had been experienced. This was later spread to the countryside, where the mood was also became the same.
In 1773, there were additional changes in the Tea tax that also led to the formation of the Tea Party, setting a stage for the two sides to clash (Mulcrone 2001 pp 378). The alterations that were made to the Tea Acts changed the way tea was sold and taxed, to prop up the failing Indian company. The effect of this action was the reduction of the price of tea to the colonists.
But since the colonists had been now been conditioned to the British involvement in the acts, they took actions as an issue to raise the American taxation, despite the fact that the general price had been reduced. The colonists thus reacted by turning away the British ship at the port. The governor of Boston however insisted that the ship should be allowed to dock and allow for the tea luggage to be unloaded. This made the sons of liberty who were disguised to enter the ship and dump the cargo (Galambos 1987 pp 87).
The parliament reacted by passing the coercive Acts that temporarily closed the Boston port. The Act also cracked down on the democratic bodies and clipped the powers of the new governor, General Gage and his troops. The parliament undertook this act as a means of restoring authority rather than clarifying the constitutional arrangements.
Throughout the American resistance on the tax policies, the ministry maintained that it was the legitimate and sovereign body which the colonists had to acquiesce. The American resistance turned to a rebellion, and later to a revolution when it was apparent that the redress claims were falling unto deaf ears, especially having gone parliament, the royal officials, and the King himself (Greene & Pole 2003 pp 157).
Therefore, with the increased petitions, the King’s administrators were being now questioned of their integrity, especially with how they acted contrary to the constitution. There were also increased cases of corruption in parliament that the petitions started to be taken directly to the King himself. The petitions directed to the King were a last test to see if the king could finally act on the grievances of colonists and address them or not. But the king also did not seem also to address the grievances of the colonists at all.
The King’s avoidance to take action about the colonists’ matter saw the years that followed characterized by a lot of lull activities. At this point, the colonists and the British government had reached a point that was completely irreconcilable. The colonists broke ranks with their mother country when they realized that their petitions to bring about sustained parliamentary changes were futile. The King was also not ready to uphold the fundamental liberty that the colonists were yearning for so long. These thus made the American people to revolt and seek for their own independent, and broke complete ranks with the British government.
American Revolution, an Encyclopedia article, retrieved on 10th Dec, 2007 from
Aptheker H. The American Revolution, 1763-1783, ISBN 0717800059, International Publishers Co. 1960.
Galambos L. The New American State: Bureaucracies and Policies since World War II, ISBN 0801834902, JHU Press 1987.
Greene J.P & Pole J.R. A Companion to the American Revolution, ISBN 1405116749, Blackwell Publishing, 2003
Mulcrone, P. McGraw-Hill’s GED: The Most Complete and Reliable Study Program for GED Tests, ISBN 0071381791, McGraw-Hill Professional, 2001.
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