The Path to the American Revolution
The Townshend Act

June 1767
Repealed: March 1770

In June 1767 the English Parliament decided to cut British land taxes. In order to make up for the difference and to continue to finance their troops in the Colonies, Charles Townshend, the British Treasurer, promised he would tax the colonists.

Unlike the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts created a tax on goods the colonists imported, such as paper, red and white lead, glass, paints, and tea shipped from England.

The Act also established a board of customs collectors in Boston. The money collected from these import taxes was used to pay the salaries of these British colonial officials. This made them more independent of the colonial legislatures and better able to enforce British orders and laws.

The Townshend Acts were very unpopular with the colonists, who criticized the Acts and demonstrated in protest. In October, the colonists in Boston decided to restart the boycott of English items.

In February 1768, Samuel Adams of Massachusetts wrote a letter to oppose the taxation without representation. This letter became known as the "circular" letter. He asked the colonists to rise up against the British government. He told what the Massachusetts general court was doing to oppose the Townshend Acts and sent his letter to all the colony legislatures.

In April 1768, Lord Hillsborough, Secretary of State for the Colonies, ordered the governors of all the colonies to stop their assemblies from hearing Adam's circular letter. Lord Hillsborough ordered the Massachusetts governor to revoke the letter or he would stop their general court from meeting. By the end of April, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New Jersey had all agreed to approve Samuel Adam's method of opposition.

In July 1768, the Massachusetts governor shut down the general court because the legislature had refused to repeal their approval of Adams' circular letter.

In August, merchants in Boston and New York begin their boycott of most British goods until the Townshend Acts are repealed.

In September, a town meeting is held in Boston, Massachusetts and the residents were told to bear arms in case they were needed to fight the British soldiers who were increasing all the time.

British warships arrived in Boston Harbor in September and two regiments of infantry moved permanently into Boston neighborhoods.

In March 1769, merchants in Philadelphia joined the boycott of British goods.

In May George Mason wrote a set of resolutions that were presented to the Virginia House of Burgesses by George Washington. The resolutions opposed taxation without representation, opposed British reaction to the colonists acceptance of Samuel Adams' circular letter, and opposed British plans to try colonists in England.

Ten days later, Virginia's royal governor stopped the House of Burgesses from meeting again. But the members met the next day and decided to join the boycott of British goods.

In October 1769 the merchant boycott spread to New Jersey, Rhode Island and North Carolina.

The colonists united in their opposition to the Townshend Acts. King George III had to send more troops to the colonies to keep his control.

The Townshend Acts except for the taxes on tea were finally repealed in March of 1770.


England sent more troops to keep
control of the colonies. The increase of
British soldiers made the colonists angry.
The Boston Massacre started because
colonists were harassing the British soldiers.