The Coercive Acts – A Heavy Hand Has the Opposite Effect

Today in History, March 28, 1774:

The British Parliament enacts the Coercive Acts, or what were called the Intolerable Acts in the colonies.

Since the end of the 7-years war, part of which was fought on the North American continent between Britain and France, the British Government was cash strapped. Part of their solution was to tax the American colonists, who did not have representation in Parliament. Taxation without representation led to increasing discontent in the colonies.

After the Boston Tea party in December of 1773, parliament decided to punish the Massachusetts colony, in hopes that the recalcitrant colony would back down, and the other colonies would calm themselves and pressure Massachusetts to behave.

The Boston Port Act closed the port of Boston until the colonials paid back the cost of the tea destroyed during the Tea Party to the East India Company, and until the King was satisfied that peace had been restored.

The Massachusetts Government Act took governance of the colony out of American hands. All administrators would be appointed by the British Governor, or the King. Citizens would only be allowed to have one town meeting per year.

The Administration of Justice Act allowed the Governor to move trials for royal officials accused of crimes to other colonies or Britain, effectively preventing witnesses from testifying in the trials.

The Quartering Act ordered that American colonists provide housing for British troops. Many believe that this forced colonists to house troops in their homes, but that is not correct; they were to house them in public buildings or vacant buildings.

Finally the Quebec Act drastically enlarged the territory of Quebec into lands previously considered to be part of the colonies. Aside from the obvious, the Protestant colonists believed the Roman Catholic French of Quebec were being primed for use against them.

The Intolerable Acts had the opposite of the effect Parliament intended. They had underestimated the Americans. Rather than turn on Massachusetts, the other colonies shipped in supplies that Boston could no longer get by sea and agreed to defend Massachusetts should she be attacked.

By September, the first Continental Congress had convened to organize a unified response.

Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death!

Today in History, March 23: 1775 – “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, GIVE ME LIBERTY, OR GIVE ME DEATH!” Patrick Henry implores his fellow legislators at the Virginia Convention for separation from England. Henry, the son of Scottish immigrant, had failed at business twice before becoming a successful lawyer. He became part of the Virginia legislature and soon became a talented politician. Considered one of the Founding Fathers, he risked his life to see America free. After freedom was won, he was an ardent opponent to the federalist system, believing any affront to states rights would destroy individual rights.