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Coercive Acts (Intolerable Acts)

The Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, were a series of Acts passed by the British Parliament following the Boston Tea Party.

"The Americans have tarred and feathered your subjects, plundered your merchants, burnt your ships, denied all obedience to your laws and authority; yet so clement and so long forbearing has our conduct been that it is incumbent on us now to take a different course. Whatever may be the consequences, we must risk something; if we do not, all is over."
  -Prime Minister Lord North, defending the Coercive Acts in Britain

After the Boston Tea Party, the British felt they needed to punish the people of Boston  to demonstrate their power to legislate on the  colonies, as asserted by the Declaratory Act. When  Lord North assumed office in Britain, he proposed the idea  of imposing these Acts on the colonies, which  the king approved. Prime Minister North feared that something serious was in order,declaring,"We must risk something; if we do not, all is over."

What were the provisions of the Coercive Acts?

Also known as the  Intolerable Acts, the Coercive Acts were a series of Acts meant to punish  the colonies by restricting trade,  and in turn,making an example out of Boston so the rebellion of the rest of the colonies would be subdued. The Acts included:

  • Boston Port Act: This sealed off the Boston Port from conducting any trade, until the East India Company had been repaid the damage from the Boston Tea Party  and the king endorsed the resumption of trade.

  • Massachusetts Government Act: This act ordained that  government officials would be appointed by the governor or the king. The Act also restricted  town meetings,so further rebellions could not easily be planned.

  • Administration of Justice Act: This Act allowed accused royals to be tried in Britain if the governor had concerns about fair trials.This served as an escape-hatch for the British being tried in American courts.

  • Quartering Act:This gave the governor authority to provide accommodations to the soldiers as the colonial government had refused to help with this. This Act applied to all the colonies,not only Massachusetts. The Coercive Acts were specially drafted to punish and contain the growing disobedience among the colonies, particularly Massachusetts.

What were the results of Coercive Acts?

These Acts were seen as infringement of the colonist's fundamental rights. For instance, George Washington called the Administration of Justice Act, "Murder Act" because it provided the British an easy way to escape justice on American soil. Similarly, Henry Lee from Virginia pronounced them "a most wicked System for destroying the liberty of America."

In total, the Acts had the opposite effect on the colonies than was intended, and served to increase the support for Massachusetts and its rebellions.