Definitions

acts

Townshend Acts

[toun-zuhnd]

(1767) British parliamentary measures to tax the American colonists. The series of four acts imposed duties on imports of lead, paint, glass, paper, and tea and established a board of customs commissioners to enforce collection. Colonial quartering of British troops was also revived. The colonists protested the new measures as taxation without representation and resisted compliance. Nonimportation agreements among colonial merchants cut British imports in half by 1769. In 1770 all the duties except the tax on tea were repealed.

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English laws in the 17th–18th centuries that required the use of English or colonial ships to carry English trade. The laws were designed to encourage English shipbuilding and restrict trade competition from England's commercial rivals, especially the Dutch. The acts of the 18th century gradually restricted trade by the American colonies and contributed to growing colonial resentment with the imposition of additional duties on sugar, tobacco, and molasses.

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or Coercive Acts

(1774) Four punitive measures enacted by the British Parliament against the American colonies. Boston's harbour was closed until restitution was made for the tea destroyed in the Boston Tea Party; the Massachusetts colony's charter was annulled and a military governor installed; British officials charged with capital offenses could go to England for trial; and arrangement for housing British troops in American houses was revived. The Quebec Act added to these oppressive measures. The acts, called “intolerable” by the colonists, led to a convening of the Continental Congress.

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Four laws passed by the U.S. Congress in 1798, in anticipation of war with France. The acts, precipitated by the XYZ Affair, restricted aliens and curtailed press criticism of the government. Aimed at French and Irish immigrants (who were mostly pro-France), they increased the waiting period for naturalization and authorized expulsion of aliens considered dangerous. The Alien and Sedition Acts were opposed by Thomas Jefferson and others and helped propel Jefferson to the presidency. They were repealed or had expired by 1802.

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