Townshend Act Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Townshend Act interfered with colonial commerce and led to a change in colonists’ consumption habits and colonial merchants’ purchasing. It significantly contributed to the debate over indirect taxation that eventually led to the outbreak of the American Revolution.

Often called the Trade;coloniesColonies;tradeTownshend Duties, the Townshend Act of 1767 was part of a series of acts sponsored by Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend, CharlesTownshend designed to raise revenue of œ40,000 for the British treasury for the administration of the colonies. It placed direct revenue duties on glass, paper, lead, paint, and tea imported into the colonies. The result of the Townshend Act was a resurrection of the colonial hostilities that had been created by the earlier Stamp Act of 1765. The act was tremendously unpopular in the colonies and viewed as an immediate threat to the right of colonial self-government. Some merchants forged nonimportation agreements to fight the importation duties, and colonists used local products such as homespun clothing, homemade paper, and local substitutes for British tea.Townshend Act of 1767

This Townshend crisis, as it was commonly called, continued, and in 1768, the Massachusetts Assembly asked Samuel Adams to draft a circular letter to the other colonial legislatures denouncing the Townshend Acts as a whole. In response to this rebellious act and to pressure from British merchants who were losing money, the British government dispatched more customs agents to the colonies to enforce the acts. Tensions increased on both sides until violence erupted in the Boston Massacre of 1770. After this incident, Parliament retreated from its position by repealing all of the Townshend duties except that on tea.

During the time the Townshend Act of 1767 was in effect, colonial imports from Britain decreased by 40 percent. As a result, the duty raised only œ20,000, rather than the anticipated œ40,000, for the British coffers.

Colonial economic systems

Revolutionary War

Stamp Act of 1765

Tariffs

Taxation

Tea Act of 1773

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