During the years prior to the American Revolution, the colonists found a lot to complain about. Uppermost were the laws the British Parliament seemed to delight in passing—laws that interfered with colonists’ business and made their everyday living less pleasant.
Usually these laws caused more discomfort in some colonies than others. For instance, the Quartering Act was enacted in 1765. It required that the colonies provide housing for troops in the settled parts of North America. For places where there were no British troops, this caused no trouble at all. But in New York, it was another story.
The British Army’s headquarters in North America was in New York City at that time, and this new law did not go over well there.
New Yorkers hadn’t minded providing housing and some supplies during the French and Indian war—the redcoats were there to do them a service and protect them from the French. But in the mid-1760s, it was a different matter.
Now the British requisitioned supplies from the colonists, but they were not protecting them from a foreign enemy. Parliament attempted to compel New York to build or maintain barracks. They requisitioned food, beverages, candles, and fuel for the troops. New York’s legislature refused to vote the funds in 1766. They said they would consider the crown’s requests, but would not pledge to honor them all.
This led to another law, forbidding the New York legislature to take any actions until it complied.
Later, when the British troops became more active, the Quartering Act reached out to annoy more people. If public barracks, vacant buildings, or taverns were not available where the soldiers went, the colonists were still required to house them. Sometimes this meant troops staying in private homes. The colonies were required to contribute cider or beer, firewood, candles, and other supplies for the British soldiers. They had to furnish wagons and carts for military transport at prices fixed by the British.
Many colonists felt these laws went too far, stripping them of their rights as Englishmen and requiring them to pay taxes they’d had no say in (“taxation without representation”).
After the Boston Tea Party in 1774, Parliament passed a series of laws that came to be known in the colonies as the Intolerable Acts. Some of these laws were clearly meant to punish the city of Boston.
Boston was singled out for several penalties. The colonists had dumped 342 chests of tea belonging to the British East India Company into the harbor. In response to this wanton destruction, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts. The Boston Port Bill took effect on June 1, 1774. Under this new law, the Boston harbor was closed to everything but British ships until the British East India Company was compensated for its loss. Nothing was allowed to be taken into the city but food and firewood.
In addition, the Massachusetts Government Act said the British governor would now be in charge of all town meetings in Boston, which effectively did away with town meetings. The authority of the royal governor was increased—and General Gage, the British commander of the troops in North America, was appointed governor. There was no more self-government in Boston.
Samuel Adams wrote in a letter, “…it appears that we have been tried and condemned, and are to be punished…”
Also part of the Intolerable Acts was the Administration of Justice Act, which said British officials could not be tried for crimes in colonial courts. They would be taken back to Britain for trial. This stripped the colonists of power over the officials sent to them by Britian. Even if the officials murdered colonists, the Americans couldn’t take them to trial.
The Quebec Act was also passed during this time, extending the boundary of Quebec into the Ohio Valley, and thus shutting off expansion by the 13 colonies south of Quebec. It recognized the Roman Catholic Church as the established church in Quebec, which many of the predominantly Protestant colonists took as an affront. Direct rule for Quebec was a further insult to the other colonies, to which it was denied.
Up and down the Atlantic coast, British colonists in America were fighting mad.
Thanks for stopping by! Today I’m giving away three copies of my new novella, Revolution at Barncastle Inn. Modern day folks get a glimpse of what the Quartering Act meant to the colonists when “redcoats” are quartered at their hotel. Add a little romance, faith, and fun. Comment below with your email contact info to enter. This e-book can be downloaded to your Kindle, Nook, computer, or other reading device.