What Were the Causes of the Townshend Acts?


Quick Answer

In 1767, Parliament introduced the Townshend Acts in the American colonies to cover the expenses of running the colonial government. From 1756 to 1763, the British government had incurred major financial debts during the Seven Years' War, and earlier efforts to regain those funds failed when the Stamp Act caused colonial revolt and was repealed. British legislators also believed an indirect tax would be better received than another direct tax.

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Full Answer

Many American colonists, such as Benjamin Franklin, resisted unfair taxation because they had no representation or vote in Parliamentary matters. Colonists had previously set a precedent of rejecting direct taxes imposed on internal goods by the authority of Parliament, instead of the colonies' own representative assemblies. For example, the Stamp Act was considered unconstitutional because it taxed paper goods in the colonies for the sole purpose of raising money for the British government.

In contrast, the Townshend Acts were envisioned as an indirect tax, placing duties on popular imported goods, such as tea, glass, paint, lead and paper. The British government aimed to use the Townshend Acts and future legislation to reassert dominance over the colonies. Yet, the colonists still viewed these new taxes as an abuse of power and circulated a letter encouraging their representative assemblies to take action against the Townshend Acts. By April 1770, all of the Townshend Acts were repealed, except the tea tax.

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