Government and Politics

American Democracy


The so-called Intolerable Acts, also known as the Coercive Acts, were five laws passed by the British parliament early in 1774. Intended to assert British authority in the Massachusetts colony, the measures were seen as punishment for the Boston Tea Party (December 1773). In brief, the laws enacted the following: closure of the port of Boston; an English trial for any British officer or soldier who was charged with murder in the colonies; the change of the charter of Massachusetts such that the council had to be appointed by the British and that town meetings could not be held without the (British-appointed) governor’s permission; the requirement that the colonists house and feed British soldiers; and the extension of the province of Quebec southward to the Ohio River.

While the British intention was to bring the Massachusetts colony under control (and actually the fifth act was not intended to have any punitive effect on the colony), the result was instead to unite all the colonies in opposition to British rule. In this regard, the acts are seen as a precursor to the American Revolution (1775–83).


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