Townshend Acts

Townshend Acts

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Townshend Acts




Townshend Acts
Originated by Charles Townshend and passed by parliament in 1767, the Townshend Acts were a series of laws that related to the British-American colonies in North America. The acts, named after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, enabled Parliament to raise revenues in the colonies through the implementation of new taxes and trade regulations. 
The Townshend Acts are an agglomeration of five laws: the Indemnity Act, the Revenue Act of 1767, the Vice Admiralty Court Act, the New York Restraining Act and the Commissioners of Customs Act. These acts all sought to raise revenue in the colonies in order to provide the salaries of judges and governors so they could be independent of colonial authority. Furthermore, the Townshend Acts of 1767 sought to create a more effective way to enforce compliance with trade regulations and implement punishments for the province of New York for failing to comply with previous legislation, most notably the Quartering Act. The Townshend Acts, in essence, established the precedent that Parliament had the right to implement new taxes on the colonies. 
Because the Townshend Acts of 1767 maintained Britain’s belief that they could continue to tax the colonies, the legislation was met with widespread resistance. The rejection of the Townshend Acts prompted the occupation of Boston by the British army in 1768—this security measure ultimately resulted in the Boston Massacre of 1770.
Background of the Townshend Acts:
After the Seven Years’ War ended, the British Empire was facing mounting debts. To help relieve the costs associated with war and their newfound expansion effort, the British Parliament decided to implement new taxes on the American colonies. Prior to the passing of the Townshend Acts, Parliament used taxation in the Trade and Navigation Acts to regulate Colonial commerce and the trade of the British Empire. However, through the passing of the Sugar Act in 1764, Parliament pursued, for the first time, a tax levy on the American colonies solely to raise revenue.
According to the British Constitution, subjects of the empire could not be taxed without the consent of Parliament. Since the colonies elected no members of the Parliament, the majority of colonists viewed the empire’s levies as a violation of the constitutional doctrine regarding the consent to taxation. In turn, British officials countered the colonial viewpoint by expressing the theory of “virtual representation” which maintained the colonist’s susceptibility to taxation even though no members of Parliament were elected. This issue ultimately became a major point of contention following the passing of the 1765 Stamp Act—a piece of legislation that was wildly hated by the Colonies. 
Implicit in the taxation dispute raised fundamental questions regarding Britain’s authoritative power in the colonies. The British Empire seemingly answered this question by passing the Declaratory Act, which stated that the British Parliament was free to tax and police the colonies in all matters.  

How did the Townshend Acts Raise Revenue for Parliament?
The first tax the Townshend Act implemented was codified by the Revenue Act of 1767. This tax was a new approach to the levy system and was implemented following the distasteful Stamp Act. Because of the vehement objection to the Stamp Act (a direct tax on a product), Parliament believed the colonists would not oppose an indirect or external model, such as a tax on imports. As a response to this belief, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Charles Townshend, devised a model that placed new tax duties on imported paint, lead, glass, tea and paper. These items, which were not produced in North America, were only to be bought from the British Empire.
The Townshend Acts were a misstep on the part of the Parliament. Parliament imposed a non-direct tax thinking it would satisfy colonists who despised the direct taxation model of the Stamp Act. The empire failed to realize that it wasn’t the model of taxation that had the colonists up in arms, but instead, the premise that Parliament was instituting taxes merely to raise revenues—a procedure that was deemed unconstitutional. This mistaken belief that colonists regarded internal taxation as unfair, and external models as “constitutional” was a spark plug that ultimately led to the revolution. 
The Revenue provision of the Townshend Acts was passed in conjunction with the Indemnity provision of 1767, which in essence, made the tea of the British East India Company more competitive with smuggled teas. The Indemnity Act repealed the levy on teas imported to England and allowed the goods to be re-exported at a cheaper price to the colonies.
The original goal of the Townshend Act was to raise revenues to help pay the costs of maintaining arms throughout the world. This goal ultimately shifted, as the tax increases and models were used to pay the salaries of officers, judges and colonial governors. In previous years, the colonies paid these salaries, but in hopes of restoring authoritative power, the empire decided to compensate these officials themselves. 
To collect the new taxes, the empire established the American Board of Customs Commissioners. This board, which was led by five commissioners, was essentially a state entity that threatened imprisonment and the institution of heavy fines if taxes went unpaid. 

Reaction to the Townshend Acts of 1767:
The Townshend Acts of 1767 were, to no surprise, hated by the colonists; merchants in the colonies organized economic boycotts of British goods and put pressure on their counterparts to repeal the acts. In response to the acts provisions, particularly to the indirect taxation on imports, a number of prominent colonists as well as merchants, organized a non-importation agreement, which effectively called for suppliers to suspend importation of various British goods. The non-importation agreement, which started in Boston, spread to industrial hubs throughout the colonies. 
Headquartered in Boston, the newly formed American Customs Board concentrated on enforcing the Townshend Acts. As a result, Boston became a hotbed for protest. The acts were so popular in the Massachusetts city that the Customs board demanded naval and military assistance.
In June of 1768, customs officials seized the vessel Liberty, owned by a leading Boston merchant, by the name of John Hancock. The influential Bostonian’s ship was seized on allegations that Hancock had been involved in smuggling. In response to this faulty allegation and the subsequent tyrannical action, Bostonians began to riot. 
After a series of lawsuits, the British Empire employed troops to intervene in September of 1768. Samuel Adams, in response to the deployment, organized the community to stake their claim and obstruct the empire from enforcing their disingenuous taxes. The ensuing years were filled with resentment and refusal; five civilians were murdered two years later on March 5th of 1770, in an event that will forever be known as the Boston Massacre. 
Repeal of the Townshend Acts:
Hours after the Boston Massacre, Lord North, the newly appointed Prime Minister, presented a claim in the House of Commons that demanded a partial repeal of the Townshend Acts. Although many in Parliament, asked for a complete repeal of the Townshend Acts to quell the disputes, North disagreed by arguing that the tea tax must be retained to assert the right to tax the colonies. Ultimately, the Townshend Acts were repealed, while the Tea Tax was retained through the passing of the 1773 Tea Act. This tax, allowed the East India Company to import tea directly to the colonies. Of course, this lead to the Boston Tea Party and set the stage for the American Revolution. 
Text of the Townshend Acts:
AN ACT for granting certain duties in the British colonies and plantations in America; for allowing a drawback of the duties of customs upon the exportation from this kingdom, of coffee and cocoa nuts of the produce of the said colonies or plantations; for discontinuing the drawbacks payable on china earthen ware exported to America; and for more effectually preventing the clandestine running of goods in the said colonies and plantations.
WHEREAS it is expedient that a revenue should be raised, in your Majesty’s dominions in America, for making a more certain and adequate provision for defraying the charge of the administration of justice, and the support of civil government, in such provinces as it shall be found necessary; and towards further defraying the expenses of defending, protecting and securing the said dominions; … be it enacted…. That from and after the twentieth day of November, one thousand seven hundred and sixty seven, there shall be raised, levied, collected, and paid, unto his Majesty, his heirs, and successors, for upon and the respective Goods here in after mentioned, which shall be imported from Great Britain into any colony or plantation inAmerica which now is or hereafter may be, under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs, or successors, the several Rates and Duties following; that is to say,
For every hundredweight avoirdupois of crown, plate, flint, and white glass, four shillings and eight pence.
For every hundred weight avoirdupois of red lead, two shillings.
For every hundred weight avoirdupois of green glass, one shilling and two pence.
For every hundred weight avoirdupois of white lead, two shillings.
For every hundred weight avoirdupois of painters colours, two shillings.
For every pound weight avoirdupois of tea, three pence.
For every ream of paper, usually called or known by the name of Atlas fine, twelve shillings. …
IV
…and that all the monies that shall arise by the said duties (except the necessary charges of raising, collecting, levying, recovering, answering, paying, and accounting for the same) shall be applied, in the first place, in such manner as is herein after mentioned, in making a more certain and adequate provision for the charge of the administration of justice, and the support of civil government in such of the said colonies and plantations where it shall be found necessary; and that the residue of such duties shall be payed into the receipt of his Majesty’s exchequer, and shall be entered separate and apart from all other monies paid or payable to his Majesty …; and shall be there reserved, to be from time to time disposed of by parliament towards defraying the necessary expense of defending, protecting, and securing, the British colonies and plantations in America.
V
And be it further enacted …, That his Majesty and his successors shall be, and are hereby, impowered, from time to time, by any warrant or warrants under his or their royal sign manual or sign manuals, countersigned by the high treasurer, or any three or more of the commissioners of the treasury for the time being, to cause such monies to be applied, out of the produce of the duties granted by this act, as his Majesty, or his successors, shall think proper or necessary, for defraying the charges of the administration of justice, and the support of the civil government, within all or any of the said colonies or plantations….
X
And whereas by an act of parliament made in the fourteenth year of the reign of King Charles the Second, intituled, An act for preventing frauds, and regulating abuses, in his Majesty’s customs, and several other acts now in force, it is lawful for any officer of his Majesty’s customs, authorized by writ of assistance under the seal of his Majesty’s court of exchequer, to take a constable, headborough, or other public officer inhabiting near unto the place, and in the daytime to enter and go into any house, shop cellar, warehouse, or room or other place and, in case of resistance, to break open doors, chests, trunks, and other pakage there, to seize, and from thence to bring, any kind of goods or merchandise whatsoever prohibited or uncustomed, and to put and secure the same in his Majesty’s storehouse next to the place where such seizure shall be made; and whereas by an act made in the seventh and eighth years of the reign of King William the Third, intituledAn act for preventing frauds, and regulating abuses, in the plantation trade, it is, amongst otherthings, enacted, that the officers for collecting and managing his Majesty’s revenue, and inspecting the plantation trade, in America, shall have the same powers and authorities to enter houses or warehouses, to search or seize goods prohibited to be imported or exported into or out of any of the said plantations, or for which any duties are payable, or ought to have been paid; and that the like assistance shall be given to the said officers in the execution of their office, as, by the said recited act of the fourteenth year of King Charles the Second, is provided for the officers of England: but, no authority being expressly given by the said act, made in the seventh and eighth years of the reign of King William the Third, to any particular court to grant such writs of assistance for the officers of the customs in the said plantations, it is doubted whether such officers can legally enter houses and other places on land, to search for and seize goods, in the manner directed by the said recited acts: To obviate which doubts for the future, and in order to carry the intention of the said recited acts into effectual execution, be it enacted …, That from and after the said twentieth day of November, one thousand seven hundred and sixty seven, such writs of assistance, to authorize and impower the officers of his Majesty’s customs to enter and go into any house, warehouse, shop, cellar, or other place, in the Britishcolonies or plantations in America, to search for and seize prohibited and uncustomed goods, in the manner directed by the said recited acts, shall and may be granted by the said superior or supreme court of justice having jurisdiction within such colony or plantation respectively…

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