What were the various acts and measures passed in England attempting to administer and control the Colonies?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The diverse acts and measures the British passed against the colonists were unified in their intent to increase control.

There were many British initiatives designed to intimidate the colonists. An entire list cannot be presented in this space. What is featured is more of a guide to examine the most critical acts and measures that made the case for revolution so strong in the colonists' minds.

One of the very first acts England passed against the colonists was the Proclamation of 1763. This law enforced a boundary against colonial settlement in the new frontier. It limited the colonists' freedom of mobility. It inspired colonial resentment for a couple of reasons. The colonists perceived the Proclamation of 1763 as ingratitude for supporting the British in the French and Indian War. The colonists believed the only reason Britain won against their French nemesis was because of their sacrifice for the English cause. To have such a law passed in the face of that sacrifice triggered resentment. Another reason why the colonists were angry was because they felt their rights were being curtailed. The colonists did not appreciate being told where they could and could not go.  

The colonial chorus that sang about the need to protect the violation of rights grew louder in 1764 when British Parliament passed the Sugar Act. This law was one of many taxes passed against the colonists. The preamble that explained the law's passage was direct:

It is expedient that new provisions and regulations should be established for improving the revenue of this Kingdom... and... it is just and necessary that a revenue should be raised... for defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the same.

It was clear the colonists were being viewed as a source of revenue without any consent or representation, something that angered colonists quite a bit.

A year later, the British passed a pair of acts designed to increase control over the colonists. The Quartering Act forced colonists to house and feed British soldiers, while the Stamp Act was another tax. This particular required colonial publications to obtain a "stamp" of approval from the British. Both acts fueled colonial anger. Colonists felt their political and economic rights were being wantonly violated. Colonial protests began to emerge. While such resistance resulted in the repeal of the Stamp Act, the British passed the more expansive Declaratory Act, which affirmed British power over the colonists “in all cases whatsoever.”

The Tea Act was one of the most important laws passed because of the response it generated. The act was designed to prop up the British East India tea company, allowing its tea to flood the colonial marketplace by imposing taxes on any other tea consumed. As a response, the colonists organized the Boston Tea Party, where colonial protesters boarded British sea vessels with tea and then dumped all the tea onboard into the Boston Harbor. The protestors proceeded to burn down British ships.  

The British response to the Boston Tea Party resulted in another series of laws and actions designed to control the colonists. Describing the Boston Tea Party and colonial resistance as "intolerable," the Intolerable Acts were passed. One of these acts closed Boston Harbor, preventing Boston merchants from seeing any trade profits go in or out. Additionally, Massachusetts colony was placed under British administrative control, reducing the its colonial government's power. The Intolerable Acts reinforced the Quartering Act as a means of increasing British military presence in the colonies. The repression of colonial rights in the Intolerable Acts led to greater organized resistance. The creation of the First Continental Congress resulted in the colonies acting like an organized nation, united in their belief that British authority had to be challenged.  

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