The townshend duties

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The Revenue Act - June 1767

  • Britain still needed to raise money from the colonies to help pay their debts and Townshend believed that he'd be able to get money from the colonists with minimal problems. He planned on using the distinction between internal and external taxation to justify taking as much money as possible from the colonies.
  • The Act meant that import duties (taxes) were placed on paper, paint, glass, lead and tea. According to the Navigation Acts these were all enumerated items which the colonists had to import from Britain. Some of the money made from the duties was used to pay the salaries of governors, judges, and other colonial officials.
  • Although these duties were external they were still clearly aimed at making money for Britain. The decision to use some of the money made through the duties was used as a method to control the government officials with money.
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The Commissioners of Customs Act - June 1767

  • Before the Act was introduced, the collection of customs was incredibly corrupt. The collection of customs was supervised from England (rather silly). Many of the customs officers were poorly paid meaning that they were easily bribed by the colonists.
  • The Act meant that an American Board of Customs Commissioners was set up with its headquarters in Boston. Five new commissioners were appointed by the British Government and these commissioners were placed in America to keep a closer eye on things.
  • This was a much higher level of surveillance on American customs and many of the commissioners were sneaky characters who were determined to extract as much money as possible, even by deceitful means.
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Secretary of State for the American Colonies - Feb

  • Before 1768 the responsibility for the colonies was shared between the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State and this system wasn't working effectively. The growing importance and value of American trade and Britains interest in the economy of the colonies meant that this ineffective method of governing the colonies was no longer acceptable.
  • In Febuary 1768, all of the responsibility for governing the American colonies was given to a new Secretary of State.
  • The first Secretary of State was Lord Hillsborough. One of his first actiond involved withdrawing the troops that were protecting the colonists from the Native Americans, leaving most of the western forts scarce of soldiers. This was an economic decision as he moved the troops to the more costal towns, were the expenses of their upkeep could be met by the colonists through the Quartering Act. His decision caused some drama as the whole point of taxing the colonies was based on the idea that they had to contribute to their protection, but they were no longer doing that if troops were in the costal towns. It lead the colonists to question whether the troops were actually there for their protection, or if they were there to destroy the liberties of the colonists.
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The Vice-Admiralty Courts Act - 1768

  • The prosections for smuggling were barely successful. The Sugar Act of 1764 meant that smuggling cases were carried out in Vice-Admiralty courts in Nova Scotia (courts without juries to prevent the juries from freeing smugglers). This court was too far away from the colonies to be convenient.
  • The Act meant that three new Vice-Admiralty courts were set up in Philadelphia, Boston, and Charleston so prosecutions could be dealt with faster.
  • Many felt that the lack of jury in the courts was a huge injustice. The courts could seize the ships and cargo of suspected smugglers and sell them, dividing the proceeds between the treasury, the governor of the colony and the customs officer that was responsible for the seizure. This gave customs officers incentive to find as many smugglers as possible. If the suspected smuggler was found not guilty they could only get back their ship and cargo after paying the court costs which were so high that it wasn't worthwhile.
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