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Port Bill political cartoon

The Able Doctor, or America Swallowing the Bitter Draught. 1774. London Magazine. British Cartoon Collection.

The Intolerable Acts

Parliament Extends Its Control Over The Colonies

March to September 1774
Following the colonists’ defiant display at the Boston Tea Party, the majority of England was surprised, bewildered, and angered by the colonists’ actions. After much debate in the Parliament, King George III assumed an active role in deciding punishment for the rebellious and costly colonists by personally advising Lord North, the Prime Minister of Britain at the time. This resulted in the “Coercive Acts,” passed in March 1774, which were intended to quell the colonists and force them into submission.

“The die is now cast. The Colonies must either submit or triumph.”
~ King George III

There was some opposition in Parliament to these acts by American sympathizers, including concerns that the balance of governmental power in England would be disrupted by the King’s influence over Lord North. One of the more prominent American sympathizers was Edmund Burke, a statesman and leader in the conservative Whig party, who warned that such punishment would only invoke a “fierce spirit of liberty” in the colonies. Those members of Parliament who sided with Burke invoked many of the arguments employed by the Patriots, stating that it was morally wrong to tax America without representation in the Parliament.

Unfortunately for England and King George III, the plan backfired as Burke had suggested. Instead, the colonies became more united through their common hatred of the British, referring to the new acts as the “Intolerable Acts.” After years of acts designed to control the colonists who craved liberty and sovereignty, the Intolerable Acts continued to build the colonists’ fervor and eventually led to the “shot heard round the world.”

Read the Intolerable Acts as they were written in 1774:

Boston Port Bill

Date Passed: March 31, 1774
Description: Closed off the port of Boston, eliminating commerce and trade in the city.

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Administration of Justice Act

Date Passed: May 20, 1774
Description: Granted a change of location to Great Britain or a British colony in the event of a jury trial.

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Massachusetts Government Act

Date Passed: May 20, 1774
Description: Limited colonial power and reinstated royal governance, including outlawing freely called town meetings and elected positions.

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Quartering Act

Date Passed: June 2, 1774
Description: Allowed new governor General Thomas Gage to house British soldiers in private homes, inns, and other buildings without permission from colonists.

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Quebec Act

Date Passed: June 22, 1774
Description: Designated western region north of the Ohio River as part of Quebec and made Roman Catholicism the established religion of Quebec; this upset colonial Protestants.

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Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

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