In 1767 Great Britain passed a series of acts which imposed taxation on the British colonies located in North America. These acts which imposed duties (taxes) on numerous items, such as paper, glass and tea, enraged the colonist and were one of the major events leading to the American Revolutionary War. On this page is a list of interesting facts about the Townshend Acts including why Great Britain passed them, how the colonist reacted, and when they were repealed. Below you will also find a list of the 5 specific acts usually included as part of the Townshend Acts with a short description of each. This information is written for both kids and adults to obtain a better understanding of this important event.
List of Acts Included in the Townshend Acts
The Revenue Act of 1767 - this act, by itself, is often referred to as the Townshend Act. This law taxed tea, paper, paint, glass, and lead imported into the colonies.
Indemnity Act - this act lowered the tax on Great Britain's largest trading company, the East India Company. This resulted in the tax on tea of the American colonist found in the Revenue Act of 1767 (part of the Townshend Acts); the purpose of which was to help Great Britain make up for the lost revenue from the East India Company.
Commissioners of Customs Act- created a new customs board located in the colonies for the purpose of enforcing shipping regulations. Although a customs board was in place prior to this act regulations were not strictly enforced due to the board not being located in the colonies but rather in England. Stricter enforcement meant the colonist would no longer be able to avoid many duties and taxes.
Vice Admiralty Court Act - this act gave British naval courts, with judges appointed by the King of England, jurisdiction over cases involving smuggling and other customs violations. These cases were previously tried by colonial courts. The unfairness of these naval courts angered the colonist.
New York Restraining Act - The first of the Townshend Acts passed in June of 1767 forbid the New York Assembly and the Governor of the New York colony from passing any laws until New York complied with the Quartering Act.
Interesting Facts about the Townshend Acts
Prior to the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 Great Britain basically had a hands-off policy with their American colonies. Due to the debt the British Empire found itself in after the Seven Years War it sought ways to raise revenue; therefore its parliament decided to levy taxes on the colonist. This enraged the colonist causing many protest, notably the Boston Tea Party, and eventually led to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.
The Townshend Acts were not the first taxes levied on the American colonist by the British. The Sugar Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act of 1765 came first. The Stamp Act was especially unpopular and was repealed in March of 1766.
The colonist's main problem with the passing of the Townshend Acts was the belief that taxation required representation and that they were not represented in the British Parliament. Great Britain argued that the colonist had "virtual representation" which meant the members of Parliament looked out for the interests of all the British people no matter where in the empire they lived and not just for the interest of the people from the district they represented.
The Townshend Acts are named after Charles Townshend who was the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Great Britain in 1767.
In 1770, due to increasing pressure and protest from the colonist, the British repealed all of the Townshend Acts except for the tax on imported tea. It maintained this tax to show the colonist that it kept the right to tax them.