Lord North's Coercive Policy
The intolerable acts.—The revolutionary acts which were taking place in America, especially those in Massachusetts, caused deep concern in England. Pitt and Burke favored conciliation as the only means of preserving the empire, but the king insisted upon repression. The ministry speedily adopted a legislative program to punish Massachusetts, and parliament legalized the ministerial policy by passing the so-called intolerable acts.
Boston Port Act.—The first of these acts closed the port of Boston from June 1, 1774, until such time as "it shall be made to appear to his Majesty, in his privy council, that peace and obedience to the laws shall be so far restored in the said town of Boston, that the trade of Great Britain may safely be carried on there, and his Majesty's customs duly collected." The king was not to open the port until the inhabitants of Boston had given full satisfaction to the East India Company and to the revenue officers and others who had suffered by the recent outbreaks.
Massachusetts Government Act.—By the "regulating act" the people of Massachusetts were deprived of most of their chartered rights. After July 1, 1774, the council was to be appointed by the king instead of by the assembly. The governor was to appoint and remove, without the consent of the council, all judges of the inferior courts, the attorney general, provosts, marshals, and other officers belonging to the council or courts of justice. Sheriffs were also appointed by the governor but could not be removed without the consent of the council. The chief justice and judges of the superior court were to be appointed by the governor, but were to hold their commissions during the king's pleasure, and they could not be removed unless by order of the crown. Grand and petit juries were to be summoned by the sheriffs instead of being chosen in town meetings. Except for elections, town meetings were to be called only by consent of the governor and discussion was to be limited to subjects stated in the leave. The people were still allowed to elect the assembly.
Administration of Justice Act—The third act provided, "That if any inquisition or indictment shall be found, or if any appeal shall be sued or preferred against any person, for murther, or other capital offence, in the province of the Massachusetts Bay, and it shall appear, by information given upon oath to the governor.., that the fact was committed by the person against whom such inquisition or indictment shall be found, or against whom such appeal shall be sued or preferred..., either in the execution of his duty as a magistrate, for the suppression of riots, or in the support of the laws of revenue, or in acting in his duty as an officer of revenue, or in acting under the direction and order of any magistrate, for the suppression of riots, or for the carrying into effect the laws of revenue, or in aiding and assisting in any of the cases aforesaid; and if it shall also appear, to the satisfaction of the said governor ... that an indifferent trial cannot be had within the said province, in that case, it shall and may be lawful for the governor ... to direct, with the advice and consent of the council, that the inquisition, indictment, or appeal, shall be tried in some other of his Majesty's colonies, or in Great Britain." The act also made it possible to transport witnesses to the scene of the trial.
Quartering Act, June 2, 1774.—The fourth law was entitled "An act for the better providing suitable quarters for officers and soldiers in his Majesty's service in North America." It provided that, if any officers or soldiers should be without quarters for twenty-four hours after a proper demand had been made, the governor might order that uninhabited houses, outhouses, barns, or other buildings be made fit for quarters. The law was to remain in force until March 24, 1776. Though the act was general in its terms, in reality it was intended "to facilitate the establishment of a temporary military government in Massachusetts." Of ominous import was the appointment of General Gage as governor of Massachusetts.
The Quebec Act.—The Quebec Act which extended the province of Quebec to the Ohio River also aroused the anger of Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Virginia, as it deprived those colonies of large tracts of western lands which they claimed under their ancient charters. It was not intended as a coercive act, but was so considered in the colonies.
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