The Sons of Liberty held a certain tea party, in Boston Harbor, on December 16, 1773. The British parliament responded by passing four “intolerable acts”, also referred to as the “Coercive Acts. These acts quickly became rallying points for protests and instigated the creation of the First Continental Congress.
The first of these acts was passed in 1774, the Boston Port Act was straight forward. The port of Boston was closed until the colonists paid for the tea that had been destroyed in the Boston Tea Party. Additionally, the port would stay closed until the King was satisfied that law and order had been restored.
The second act may have been the most influential and heavy handed. Until May of 1774, the people of Massachusetts’s were governed under the Massachusetts Charter of 1691. Under the charter, Massachusetts had been able to elect members of an executive council, and other civil officials. Parliament, in one act, voided this charter. The Massachusetts Government Act empowered the royal governor thereafter to appoint these officials. The act went on further to outlaw town meetings that did not have the approval of the governor.
The Administration of Justice Act was so inflammatory that George Washington would later describe it as the “Murder Act”. This act empowered the royal governor to order that royal officers could be tried in Great Britain for acts committed in the colonies. Witnesses who traveled to testify could be reimbursed, however, the expense of travel and the time away from business and family effectively meant that royal officers were free from any colonial constraint or liability.
The last of these acts and one of the most familiar was the Quartering Act. This act simply put allowed the royal governor to house troops in buildings other than barracks if they had not been provided by the colonials.
Our Constitution directly addresses some of these acts and indirectly others. The third amendment to the United States addressed the quartering act, “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house”.
U.S. Const. art. 9, § 6 and the 7th amendment can be argued to have been influenced by the Boston Port Act. Parliament’s Massachusetts Government Act was resoundingly answered by U.S. Const. art. 1, 2 and 3.
These actions taken by parliament were pivotal in the creation of the United States. These acts quickly became rallying points for protests and instigated the creation of the First Continental Congress. The declaration of independence and the birth of a new nation were soon to follow.
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