Colonists Respond to Townshend Acts With Boycott-1767

The most tangible colonial protest to the Townshend Act was the revival of an agreement not to import British goods, especially luxury products. The Non-importation agreement slowly grew to include merchants in all of the colonies, with the exception of New Hampshire. Within a year importation from Britain dropped almost in half.


If the British expected the Townshend Acts to be accepted by the Americans, they were sorely disappointed. The Townshend Acts further exacerbated the relations between the Americans and the British. American newspapers immediately began to criticize The Acts. The most influential opponent of the Acts was a Pennsylvanian farmer by the name of John Dickinson. Dickinson wrote a series of letters that were published by the Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advertiser. These letters became known as "The 12 letters from a farmer in Pennsylvania". The first letter appeared on December 2nd 1767. These letters were reproduced in 19 of the 23 colonial newspapers.

The overriding theme of Dickinson's letters was that the English had the right to regulate trade. However, Dickinson maintained the English had no right to impose taxes on the colonies, since the colonies were not represented in the parliament. Dickinson suggested in his letters that the colonist petition directly to the King. Dickinson advised that until their grievances were met the colonists should boycott all English goods.

The Massachusetts Assembly was called into session on December 30, 1767. It met for 16 days, during which time, it debated a resolution attacking the Townshend Acts. At the end of the meeting the Assembly approved a letter written primarily by Samuel Adams that was to be circulated to the other colonies. The letter called on all the colonies to resist the Townshend Acts The letter stated that the parliament had no right to tax the colonies for the sole purpose of raising revenues, since the Americans were not represented in the parliament.

The British government responded with outrage to actions of the assembly. The British demanded that the assembly either rescind the letter or the assembly would be disbanded. The British government knew this was a dangerous path to take, but went ahead anyway. The governor requested the presence of British troops in the colony of Massachusetts, which only further inflamed that colony. When the Massachusetts Assembly met again, it was even more-anti British. The only business the Assembly wished to conduct were protests against the Townshend Acts.

Massachusetts was not the only colony to object to the Townshend Acts. The part of the Acts entitled, "The New York Restraining Act:, attracted the most resentment from the New York Assembly, who over the objections of the governor passed a resolution stating that the parliament had no right to suspend a state assembly. The New York legislator further affirmed that the Assembly had the right to correspond with representatives of any other colony, if it wished. 

South Carolina joined the ranks of legislatures protesting the Acts, and was soon the most vociferous of its opponents. Ultimately, it was not the political protest that had the most effect on the British, but it was the boycotts by the colonists. All of the colonies organized boycott committees. With the encouragement of the Sons of Liberty colonial merchants began boycotting British goods. This effectively cut the American purchases from England by half, seriously effecting British merchants. Between the economic and political boycotts the colonists had become united, as never before, in opposition to the British actions.

Massachusetts Circular Letter