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Townshend Acts

Townshend Acts

Parliament wasted little time in attempting to reassert its authority over the colonies. Between June 15 and July 2, 1767, it enacted four measures to raise revenue to pay the salaries of British governors and other officials in the colonies so that these officials would be independent of the colonial legislatures, which had been paying their salaries. The statutes came to be known as the Townshend Acts after Charles Townshend, the chancellor of the exchequer, who sponsored them.

The Townshend Acts accomplished four things. One act suspended the New York legislature until it complied with the Quartering Act of 1765, which required legislatures to house and provide supplies to British troops stationed in the colonies. Another act imposed import duties on tea, lead, paper, paint, and glass, while a third act allowed tea to be imported to the colonies free of the taxes that were levied in Great Britain. The fourth act restructured the customs service in the colonies, placing its headquarters in Boston.

As with the STAMP ACT, the colonies met the new legislation with widespread opposition. The colonists saw the acts as a threat to their rights to govern themselves and levy taxes through colonial legislatures. Angry colonists threatened customs collectors and evaded the duties, while colonial merchants refused to import British goods. The situation in Boston escalated, culminating in the BOSTON MASSACRE on March 5, 1770, in which five men were killed.

On the same day as the massacre, Parliament repealed all the import duties except that on tea, lifted the requirements of the Quartering Act, and ordered the removal of troops from Boston. Nevertheless, the Townshend Acts had had devastating effects on relations between the British government and the colonies. Colonists continued to argue that taxation without representation was not legitimate and began to discuss the necessity of political independence.

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