What Was the Purpose of the Townshend Program?

The purpose of the Townshend program, also known as the Townshend Acts of 1767, was to ensure that judges and governors in the American colonies used their judicial and executive power to further the interests of Great Britain. The Acts sought to raise money in the colonies to support the program, but instead inspired deep resentment among the colonists.

The Townshend Acts were named for Charles Townshend, Great Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer. He devised the acts as a way to tax the colonists indirectly by charging duties on tea, lead, glass, paper, paint and other imports. Additionally, Townshend reasoned that if the British government, rather than colonial legislatures, paid governors' salaries, the governors would no longer be answerable to the American colonists.

Passage of the Townshend Acts led to outrage in the colonies and a partial boycott on the importation of British goods. Tensions became especially high in Boston, leading to the Boston Massacre of March 1770, when British soldiers shot and killed five colonial civilians. Shortly after, in April 1770, most of the Townshend Acts were repealed. Only the tax on tea was retained. A period of relative peace followed, but the renewal of the tea tax in 1773 led to renewed anger in the colonies and ultimately inspired the rebellious act known as the Boston Tea Party. The American Revolution began not long after.