What Was the Cause of the Townshend Act, and What Were Its Effects?

The cause of the Townshend Acts, a series of measures imposed upon the American colonists, was the British desire to raise revenue, punish the colonists and assert the authority of the British Parliament. The effects of the acts were widespread dissatisfaction, protests, a boycott of British goods and other civil unrest leading up to the Boston Massacre, at which five American civilians were killed by British soldiers.

Charles Townshend, the chancellor of the Eschequer, proposed the series of measures in 1767. The Revenue Act imposed duties on paint, paper, lead, glass and tea imported into the American colonies. It also allowed customs officials to enter private houses and businesses to search for smuggled goods. The Indemnity Act allowed tea from other colonies to be re-exported cheaply from England to America. The Suspending Act effectively dissolved the New York Assembly for failing to finance the quartering of British troops. The Commissioners of Customs Act strengthened the power of the customs offices to collect revenue and enforce customs laws.

These acts contradicted the colonial principle of self-government and provoked so much opposition that in the end, most of the acts were repealed. An uneasy truce and suspension of hostilities ensued. However, the duty on tea was retained, which eventually led to the Boston Tea Party and the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.