What Were the Intolerable Acts?

Quck answer

The Intolerable Acts were a series of laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 in response to the Boston Tea Party. These acts were aimed at punishing the colonists in Massachusetts for their resistance to British rule. The acts included the Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until the colonists paid for the destroyed tea, and the Massachusetts Government Act, which significantly reduced the self-governing powers of the Massachusetts colonial government. The Intolerable Acts further fueled the tensions between the colonists and the British government, ultimately leading to the American Revolution.

Have you ever encountered something that you couldn’t tolerate? Maybe your sibling did something you didn’t approve of. Perhaps you felt that an event at school or home was unfair. How did you react? When faced with an intolerable situation, many individuals seek ways to bring about change.

In 1774, residents of the North American colonies faced such a situation. Tensions with England had been escalating for years. This led to the Boston Massacre in 1770 and the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Following these events, the British Parliament aimed to tighten its control over the colonies.

To accomplish this, Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts of 1774. These consisted of four new laws designed to punish the colonies for their actions. The laws were particularly harsh on Boston, where many anti-British activities had taken place. In the colonies, these laws became known as the Intolerable Acts.

What were the four laws that comprised the Intolerable Acts? Firstly, there was the Boston Port Bill. This law closed Boston Harbor as a direct response to the Boston Tea Party. It served as a punishment for the destroyed tea by halting trade, fishing, and all other activities involving the harbor.

Secondly, Parliament passed the Massachusetts Government Act. This act altered the Massachusetts charter, making town meetings illegal. It abolished the elected local council and established a new one. Additionally, it expanded the authority of the colony’s military governor.

The third element of the Intolerable Acts was the Administration of Justice Act. This act allowed individuals accused of a crime to be tried in other colonies or in London. It effectively protected British officials facing charges for crimes committed in the colonies.

Lastly, Britain also enacted the Quartering Act. This act permitted British soldiers to be housed in private buildings. This meant that governors could take possession of colonists’ property and allow British soldiers to reside there.

Parliament hoped that these new laws would bring the colonies under control. However, they had the opposite effect. Resistance to the acts led to the convening of the First Continental Congress.

The First Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia, bringing together leaders from across the colonies. In October 1774, it issued the Declaration of Colonial Rights and Grievances. This document argued against Parliament’s authority to tax the colonies and criticized the Intolerable Acts as an infringement on liberty. It also called upon the colonies to strengthen their militias.

The Intolerable Acts and the First Continental Congress were significant milestones on the path to the American Revolution. How would you have reacted to the Intolerable Acts? Would you have accepted the new laws? Perhaps you would have participated in the First Continental Congress instead. Either way, these laws hold a crucial place in history. Without the subsequent events that unfolded, the United States as we know it may never have come into existence.

Try It Out

Ready to continue learning? Ask an adult to assist you with one or more of the activities listed below:

  • Put yourself in the shoes of someone living in the American colonies in 1774. How do you feel about the Intolerable Acts? What actions do you believe the colonies should take? Write a letter to be published in your town’s newspaper expressing your viewpoint and persuading others to agree with you. Make sure to provide clear reasons for your opinion and use examples from today’s Wonder.
  • Who were the attendees of the First Continental Congress? Read more about this event. Then, select one of the delegates to delve deeper into. Seek assistance from an adult to research the person you have chosen. Summarize what you have learned for a friend or family member.
  • Let your creativity flow! Based on your knowledge of the First Continental Congress or any other event during the American Revolution, create a diorama that brings history to life. Once you are done, make sure to showcase your project. If you share it on social media, remember to tag us @wonderopolis.

Wonder Sources

  • https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/road-to-revolution/the-american-revolution/a/the-intolerable-acts-and-the-first-continental-congress (accessed 22 July 2020)
  • https://www.britannica.com/event/Intolerable-Acts (accessed 22 July 2020)

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