The American Revolution began as the result of a culmination of rights violations and taxes over the course of a 14-year span of time. All of those violations and taxes just fueled the American colonist’s fire of hatred for the British Government.
There was one final straw that put the Americans over the edge — the Coercive Acts.
In the early spring of 1774, British Parliament passed a series of laws aimed at just one colony – Massachusetts. For decades, the American colonies governed themselves with little interference from England. Then the French and Indian War broke out, and France and England were at odds again, this time for possession of the North American continent.
As with prior wars between the two superpowers of the 18th century, England won, but racked up a huge debt in paying for the war. Since most of the war took place in the Northern American colonies and Canada, England was going to have the Americans pay. Taxes and trade restrictions were placed on the colonies. And throughout the 1760s, the Americans protested, sometimes violently. One tax collector had his home destroyed, and a few others were tarred and feathered.
By late 1773, Bostonians had enough. A new law, the Tea Act, gave the East India Company a monopoly on sales of tea to the colonies, and with the sale of tea came another tax. While the other American colonies protested somewhat peacefully, the people of Boston, enticed by the Sons of Liberty, took their protest a big step further. Anonymous citizens disguised as Native Americans boarded British ships and destroyed over 340 chests of tea. This we all know as the Boston Tea Party.
Parliament was going to make the Massachusetts colony pay for turning Boston Harbor into a tepid cup of tea. Not just in cash, but also in forced compliance. In March, 1774, parliament passed the Coercive Acts, which were nicknamed the Intolerable Acts in the colonies.
The Coercive Acts, meant to do just what the name implies, were four different laws imposed on Massachusetts: the Boston Port Act closed Boston Harbor to any trade until the tea was paid for; the Massachusetts Government Act revoked the colony’s charter, putting Massachusetts under direct control of the British Government; the Administration of Justice Act transferred all court cases against royal authorities from Massachusetts to England; and the Quartering Act forced colonists to house British soldiers, sometimes in private homes if adequate housing was not available.
Each of the acts was a civil rights violation: the Boston Port Act took away economic freedom, the Massachusetts Government Act took away the right to self-government, the Administration of Justice Act stole the right to a fair trial, and the Quartering Act would have taken away the right to privacy had it been rigorously enforced.
Parliament’s reasoning was that by enforcing these acts the Massachusetts colony would straighten itself into good behavior, and the other 12 colonies would never become as brazen. But that never materialized. The Coercive Acts only hardened the colonists of Massachusetts, making them more defiant. And the rest of the American colonies became sympathetic to Massachusetts and resentful toward British Government. Leaders in other colonies believed that if Massachusetts can lose its economic and civil rights, England would do the same to them for lesser acts of defiance.
The Coercive Acts actually helped more in bonding the American colonies than making them fear Parliament. Other colonies sent supplies to Massachusetts, and all 13 colonies agreed to meet for the First Continental Congress in September, 1774. This first meeting was where separation from England and war were initially discussed.
The first battles of the American Revolution – Lexington and Concord – took place a year later, making England’s attempt to force Massachusetts into compliance a failure.