Laws, Taxes, and Acts! Oh, my!

Those three horrific things may as well have been the most hated actions of the English Parliament in the American colonies in the 18th century before the American Revolution. Moreover, many historians today argue that taxes and laws were a one of the biggest reasons why the colonies revolted.

During 1760-1780, Parliament passed several acts. Some were as straightforward as the Declaratory Act, that just declared England’s supreme power to minister its colonies. Others were a bit more complicated, such as the Coercive Acts, which carried out many similar yet different steps to punish the colonies. In the end, all Parliament was attempting to accomplish was to raise some revenue for England.

Imagine yourself in the colonies in that time period, and the French and Indian War had recently ended. Wouldn’t you be relieved that war had just ended, and you could focus on your life? Well the English Parliament had other things in mind. England just gained a huge national debt and decided to tax the colonies. Parliament decided to tax the colonies for a war they fought themselves as well… which is not cool. Many colonials lost their lives fighting in the war, and in the end, England failed to recognize any soldier in the Continental army above the rank of the Captain. This included Colonel George Washington, the future first president of the United States.

Before the French and Indian War, the Navigation Acts and Molasses Act already existed, which pretty much were trade barriers. These acts were loosely enforced, and smuggling occurred often.

After the War, there were many acts that taxed and wrecked chaos in the colonies. Just kidding, there was any chaos in the colonies caused by the acts, but there was much oppression and anger.

Some acts seem not too bad, but some acts were “Intolerable.” Below are all the acts passed by parliament on the colonies.

1651 – Navigation Acts

1733 – Molasses Act

1764 – Sugar Act

1764 – Currency Act

1765 – Stamp Act

1765 – Quartering Act

1766 – Declaratory Act

1767 – Townshend Revenue Act

1773 – Tea Act

1774 – Coercive Acts or “Intolerable” Acts

Note that the French and Indian War was between 1754 and 1763, and the Revolutionary War was between 1775 and 1783. Also, Note how the Sugar, Currency, Stamp, Quartering, Declaratory, and Townshend Acts are all within a three year period. That pretty much shows how desperate England was in raising revenue. Hey, look at the Townshend Revenue Act, revenue is in the name!

In the end, not much revenue was gained with any of the acts. So most acts were repealed, but not all were. As for the acts that did not involve raising revenue (the Currency, Quartering, and Declaratory Acts), they were always in effect. Truthfully, they did not have much of an effect, except for the Quartering Act that made the colonists pay for keeping soldiers in the colonies for their own defense.

So in 1773, British East India Company had a lot of tea. They had nowhere to export this tea too and was facing bankruptcy. Parliament came into the picture and sent the tea to the colonies, but lowering the prices. This angered the colonists, who therefore threw many tea parties! Yay that sounds fun, right? Wrong. Tea parties meant dumping lots of tea in local harbors and ports. A famous tea party was the Boston Tea Party, where 342 chests full of tea was dumped into the Boston port. Hey, this ‘outta make Parliament quite happy.

As punishment, Parliament wrote the Coercive Acts, or the “Intolerable” Acts. These were a series of acts punishing the colonies for their misbehavior, and probably was a last spark to the fuse. A year after the Coercive Acts, when British troops attempted to seize stores of local gunpowder a battle broke out. That battle was the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

That’s how a series of acts meant to raise revenue lead to the Revolutionary War, and the wonderful nation of the United States.

Works Cited

Bailey, Thomas A. The American Pageant. 11th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Print.

“British Acts on Colonial America” Stamp Act. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.

http://www.stamp-act-history.com/british-taxation-colonial-america/list-of-british-acts/

“Parliament Stamp Act 1765.” Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2013. [Picture]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Parliament_Stamp_Act1765.jpg

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