The Intolerable Acts (the Coercive Acts)

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What were the Intolerable (Coercive) Acts?

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The Coercive Acts, known as the Intolerable Acts in the colonies, were a series of enactments by Parliament in response to the Boston Tea Party. They were designed to punish and also bring to heel the people of Boston. Among the acts:

  • The Boston Port Act: closed the Port of Boston as of July 1, 1774 until the tea destroyed in the raid was paid for.
  • Act for Imperial Administration of Justice: provided that the Royal Governor could transfer the trial of any British official or soldier to England for disposal. It was believed that colonial juries might easily convict such persons on a technicality.
  • Second Quartering Act: Provided that if no suitable quartering could be provided, British soldiers should be housed in private homes.

Massachusetts Government Act: Provided that all colonial offices in the colony would no longer be elective; but rather appointed by the Royal Governor. It also provided that juries would be chosen by the Sheriff, and that town meetings could be held only with the consent of the Royal Governor.  Shortly after the Act was passed, General Thomas Gage was appointed governor, which in essence placed Massachusetts under military rule.  

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What were the Coercive (Intolerable) Acts, with supporting details?

The Coercive Acts, called the "Intolerable Acts" in the colonies, were a series of acts passed by Parliament in response to the Boston Tea Party. They were intended to punish the city of Boston and isolate Massachusetts; but only had the effect of bringing formerly distrustful colonies closer together.

Among the acts:

  • The Boston Port Act: Closed the port of Boston effective JUly 1, 1774 until the tea destroyed during the Tea Party was paid for.
  • Act for Impartial Administration of Justice: Provided that the Royal Governor could transfer the case against any official charged with a crime while in the conduct of his official duty to England. Parliament had taken note that colonial juries uniformly refused to convict suspected smugglers even in the face of overwhelming evidence. The purpose of the act was to prevent British soldiers from being tried and convicted for technical offenses.
  • Second Quartering Act: Provided for quartering of British soldiers in private homes if other lodging was not available.
  • Massachusetts Government Act: Made all governmental offices in Massachusetts appointive rather than elective. Juries would be selected by the local sheriff, and there would be no town meetings without the Royal Governor's consent. General Thomas Gage was appointed to replace the then sitting governor, Thomas Hutchinson. The end result was that Massachusetts was now under military rule.

Rather than induce cooperation, the Acts actually brought the colonies closer together. Colonies which had previously been suspicious of each other collected food and other provisions to be shipped to Boston. On the day the Boston Port Act was to take effect, Thomas Jefferson called for a day of prayer and fasting in Virginia. The response by the Virginia Royal Governor was to dissolve the Assembly. The assemblymen reassembled in a tavern and passed a resolution calling for a "Continental Congress" to represent all the colonies. This was the first serious attempt to unite the colonies that had any chance of success. George Washington was chosen as a delegate from Virginia to the Continental Congress. Before leaving, he wrote to a friend:

The crisis is arrived when we must assert our rights, or submit to every imposition that can be heaped upon us, till custom and use shall make us tame and abject slaves, as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway.

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