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Charles Townshend would implement the new colonial policy in late 1766 in the form of the Townshend Duties.

In late 1766, William Pitt's illness would cause him to retire from active involvement in Parliamentary business. Townshend assumed leadership of Parliament and implemented a new colonial policy.

This policy was in the form of four measures; three measures passed within four days from June 29 to July 2, 1767. The fourth measure passed after Townshend died.


When Charles Townshend became the chancellor of the British Exchequer, he took over the mess that the previous administration had created, or at least had allowed it to take place.

In his attempt to straighten out the mess, he framed his famous Revenue Act of 1767. This was in line with the colonial view of taxing. However, these acts would cause further trouble for the British government and renew the strain on the relationship between the colonies and the mother country.

Townshend Acts

Duties were placed on colonial imports of lead, glass, paper, and tea. The money collected on these imports was used to support British officials in the American Service.

In effect, this would take the power of the purse from the colonial legislatures. They could no longer force the governors to implement their own acts. If you controlled the purse strings, you controlled the governmental policies affecting your colony.

The Townshend acts would also reorganize the American customs service. Parliament had set up an independent customs service based in Boston. Crown appointees would man this service. In turn, the crown, not the colonies, would pay these commissioners.

This board was there to enforce the Navigation Acts, the Sugar Act of 1764 and the new Townshend duties. In addition, as a part of this act suspended the New York Assembly until they obeyed the Mutiny act of 1765.

Incidental to the new duties, the majority of the British army on the colonial frontier was pulled back to the east. These troops would be housed in the cities and towns. The Quartering act provided for the troops. This move was mainly to save money.

Colonial Protests

The colonists, however, objected strenuously. Their spokesman this time was John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. In his, widely read 'Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania', he made a new distinction between taxes levied to regulate trade and those intended to raise revenue.

The Americans responded to this latest round of taxation in several ways.

  • New York did not like the suspension of their assembly, but in the end, they accepted the mutiny act. The assembly complied by subterfuge. They passed a resolution without preamble that "donated" the necessary funds to supply the British military quarters and other necessities.
  • In Boston, Sam Adams wrote the Massachusetts circular letter, which called for economic boycotts of all British goods, in a non-importation agreement to be passed by all of the colonies. This economic boycott took place in the form of the Boston Non-Importation agreement of 1768.
  • James Otis and other conservatives wanted to battle this taxation "tyranny" within the legal system.

The Boston Massacre took place on the same day that Parliament repealed the Townshend duties. This incident occurred because the protests over the Townshend duties came to ahead.

Lord North, the new minister of finance in 1770, would repeal the Townshend duties, except the tea tax. North had taken over the ministry when Townshend had died in September of 1767. The tax on tea remained because North wanted to let the colonist know that Parliament still had the right to impose taxes on them. This right was based on The Declaratory Act 1766.

Next time we will look at the Tea Act of 1773 and the Boston Tea Party.


For further reading and study of the Townshend Duties, look at the following sites.

  1. The Townshend Acts
    From; look at this essay on the duties and the problems it caused.
  2. Tar and Feathers in Revolutionary America
    This essay by Benjamin H. Irvin of Brandies University discusses the use of tar and feathers as a way of protesting the Acts of Parliament that were considered tyrannical in nature. The targets of this form of intimidation were the tax collectors and customs officials charged with enforcing these acts. You can also reply to this essay by following the link provided. This is American Revolution site at H-Net.
  3. The Townshend Papers
    The Clements Library has a collection of the Townshend Papers, this page describes the papers in the collection and gives a short background on the man.
  4. Captain Preston's Account
    This is Captain Preston's account of the Boston Massacre as found on the USA Project website.
  5. Anonymous Account of the Boston Massacre
    This is the opposing view of the Boston Massacre, given by an unknown person who was present.