The “Intolerable” Acts (1774)

In response to the tea party, Parliament passed a series of laws designed to teach the upstarts a thing or two. They were called the Repressive Acts in England, but to Americans, they were Intolerable. The new laws closed Boston Harbor until the colonists paid back the damage they had wrought, thus cutting the city off from sources of food, medical supplies, and other goods.

The laws also installed a British general as governor of Massachusetts and repealed such liberties as the right to hold town meetings.

At the same time, the Brits passed the Quebec Act, a law that gave more freedom to conquered French subjects in Canada, including the right to continue customs such as nonjury trials in civil cases.

Though a sensible thing to do from a British perspective, the Quebec Act incensed Americans, especially at a time when they felt their own freedoms were being messed with. The act also pushed the borders of the Quebec province well into the Ohio River valley, which infuriated colonials who had fought several wars to keep the French out of that same valley.

The acts galvanized the colonies into a show of unity that had only occasionally been shown before. Food and supplies poured in by land to Boston from all over America. And in Virginia, the colonial legislature decided to try to get representatives from all the colonies together for a meeting.

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