Background: Part I
New England and Boston was the center of the most radical behavior by colonists against Britain. Because this area relied heavily on both legal and illegal exports, British efforts to enforce new taxes, or curtail smuggling angered New Englanders. They had grown used to being able to pay much lower taxes than those who still lived in Britain had to pay. They also profitted by illegally trading with the French and Dutch in the West Indies.
When the French and Indian War finally ended, the British government had significant expenses to pay. It was decided that the American colonists should help pay for a war that had largely been to their benefit. As a result the Sugar Act, Currency Act and Quartering Act were passed by Parliament between 1763 and 1765. In 1765, the Stamp Act was passed and received such criticism that Parliament repealed was repealed in 1766.
However, the Stamp Act was almost immediately replaced by the Townshend Act in 1767. The Massachusetts House of Representatives openly denounced the Townshend Act on February 11, 1768, and protests and riots began escalating. On October 1, 1768, British soldiers occupied Boston at the request of the Royal Governor Sir Francis Bernard. Finally, On April 12, 1770, the Townshend Act was repealed by Parliament, except for its tax on the importation of tea.
After the repeal of the Townshend Act, things quieted down until 1773, when Parliament passed the Tea Act, which was meant to bolster the failing East India Trading Company by imposing exclusive tea sales rights to the East India Company. It was sold at a bargain price, but the lack of allowed competition from other sources upset colonial merchants. In protest of the Tea Act, the Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773. Parliament reacted to the Boston Tea Party in 1774 by passing what have become known as the Intolerable Acts or the Coercive Acts.
The Intolerable Acts (or Coercive Acts) included the Boston Port Bill, which closed the port until restitution was made for the tea that had been dumped overboard. The Massachusetts Governing Act made adminstrative positions appointed posts, rather than elected. The Quartering Act decreed that private homes could again be seized and used for quartering British military troops. The Quebec Act granted religious freedom to Roman Catholics that lived in Quebec.
In May 1774, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in America, Lt. General Thomas Gage returned from England and had to enforce the Boston Port Bill (Port Act) on June 1, 1774. He soon became military Royal Governor of Massachusetts, declaring martial law. During the latter part of the year, Gage sensed that rebellion was building, so he began seizing powder stores. However, he took pains to keep the peace and did not allow the use of excesive force by his troops. He still believed that a peaceful end to tensions could be reached.
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