Year
1774

British Parliament adopts the Coercive Acts

Upset by the Boston Tea Party and other blatant acts of destruction of British property by American colonists, the British Parliament enacts the Coercive Acts, to the outrage of American Patriots, on this day in 1774.

The Coercive Acts were a series of four acts established by the British government. The aim of the legislation was to restore order in Massachusetts and punish Bostonians for their Tea Party, in which members of the revolutionary-minded Sons of Liberty boarded three British tea ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 crates of tea—nearly $1 million worth in today’s money—into the water to protest the Tea Act.

Passed in response to the Americans’ disobedience, the Coercive Acts included:

The Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until damages from the Boston Tea Party were paid.

The Massachusetts Government Act, which restricted Massachusetts; democratic town meetings and turned the governor’s council into an appointed body.

The Administration of Justice Act, which made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in Massachusetts.

The Quartering Act, which required colonists to house and quarter British troops on demand, including in their private homes as a last resort.

A fifth act, the Quebec Act, which extended freedom of worship to Catholics in Canada, as well as granting Canadians the continuation of their judicial system, was joined with the Coercive Acts in colonial parlance as one of the Intolerable Acts, as the mainly Protestant colonists did not look kindly on the ability of Catholics to worship freely on their borders.

More important than the acts themselves was the colonists’ response to the legislation. Parliament hoped that the acts would cut Boston and New England off from the rest of the colonies and prevent unified resistance to British rule. They expected the rest of the colonies to abandon Bostonians to British martial law. Instead, other colonies rushed to the city’s defense, sending supplies and forming their own Provincial Congresses to discuss British misrule and mobilize resistance to the crown. In September 1774, the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and began orchestrating a united resistance to British rule in America.

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