British Empire
The rise of the British empire - North America
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Extract from British laws called the Townshend Acts, passed in 1767
(House of Lords Record Office: HL/PO/PU/1/1766/7G3n172)
  • Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer was Charles Townshend. This extract comes from a series of Acts, which were passed in the 1760s.
  • From 1756-63 Britain fought the Seven Years War against France in Europe, India and America. Although Britain won, the cost of the war was enormous.
  • Townshend's main concern was how to reduce Britain's national debt. He believed that the American colonists should contribute towards the costs of their defence. The Acts were intended to raise 40,000 by imposing duties on such items as glass, tea and lead.
  • The Acts were deeply unpopular in America. They were repealed (abolished) in 1770.
  • The first paragraph of this source explains that these Acts of Parliament would enable certain duties to be collected in the American colonies. These duties would be imposed on glass, red and white lead, painters' colours, paper and tea. The money collected would go straight to the British Treasury.
  • The last part of this paragraph explains that the Acts were also intended to prevent smuggling. Each year the Treasury received £500,000 less in duties than it should have due to smuggling. The goods that were smuggled into America most frequently were tea, spices, chintzes, gunpowder, linen, hemp and yarn.
  • The second paragraph makes it clear that the British government believed that the Americans should contribute not only towards the cost of government and justice in the colonies, but also to the cost of their defence.
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