Someone was going to pay.
Parliament was utterly fed up with colonial antics. The British could tolerate strongly worded letters or trade boycotts. They could put up with defiant legislatures and harassed customs officials to an extent.
But they saw the destruction of 342 chests of tea belonging to the British East India Company as wanton destruction of property by Boston thugs who did not even have the courage to admit responsibility.
Someone was going to pay.
The British called their responsive measures to the Boston Tea Party the Coercive Acts. Boston Harbor was closed to trade until the owners of the tea were compensated. Only food and firewood were permitted into the port. Town meetings were banned, and the authority of the royal governor was increased.
To add insult to injury, General Gage, the British commander of North American forces, was appointed governor of Massachusetts. British troops and officials would now be tried outside Massachusetts for crimes of murder. Greater freedom was granted to British officers who wished to house their soldiers in private dwellings.
This Town has received the Copy of an Act of the British Parliament, wherein it appears that we have been tried and condemned, and are to be punished, by the shutting up of the harbor and other marks of revenge, until we shall disgrace ourselves by servilely yielding up, in effect, the just and righteous claims of America....The people receive this cruel edict with abhorrence and indignation. They consider themselves as suffering the stroke ministerial...I hope they will sustain the blow with a becoming fortitude, and that the cursed design of intimidating and subduing the spirits of all America, will, by the joint efforts of all, be frustrated.
– Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren (May 14, 1774)
Parliament seemed to have a penchant for bad timing in these years. Right after passing the Coercive Acts, it passed the Quebec Act, a law that recognized the Roman Catholic Church as the established church in Quebec. An appointed council, rather than an elected body, would make the major decisions for the colony. The boundary of Quebec was extended into the Ohio Valley.
In the wake of the passage of the Quebec Act, rage spread through the 13 colonies. With this one act, the British Crown granted land to the French in Quebec that was clearly desired by the American colonists. The extension of tolerance to Catholics was viewed as a hostile act by predominantly Protestant America.
Democracy took another blow with the establishment of direct rule in Quebec. Although the British made no connection between the Coercive Acts and the Quebec Act, they were seen on the American mainland as malicious deed and collectively called the Intolerable Acts.
|Boston Port Act||An act to discontinue, in such manner, and for or such time as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading or shipping, of goods, wares, and merchandise, at the town, and within the harbour, of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay, in North America.|
|Massachusetts Government Act||An Act for the better regulating the government of the province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.|
|Administration of Justice Act||An act for the impartial administration of justice in the case of persons questioned for any acts done by them in the execution of the law, or for the suppression of riots and tumults, in the province of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England.|
|Quebec Act||An Act for making effectual Provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec in North America.|
Throughout the colonies, the message was clear: what could happen in Massachusetts could happen anywhere. The British had gone too far. Supplies were sent to the beleaguered colony from the other twelve. For the first time since the Stamp Act Crisis, an intercolonial conference was called.
It was under these tense circumstances that the First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774.