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Coming of the American Revolution: Document Viewer
Massachusetts Historical Society
America's oldest historical society, founded 1791.

Back to The Townshend Acts

"An Act for granting certain Duties in the British Colonies and Plantations in America ..."

An Act for granting certain Duties in the British Colonies and Plantations in America ...

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"defraying the expenses"
The Revenue Act is the part of the Townshend Acts passed by Parliament in 1767 to replace income from the colonies lost when the Stamp Act was repealed the previous year. Taxes or duties will be levied on specific imports into the colonies and this document sets out what those will be, how the duties will be collected and what they will pay for. The aim is to raise £40,000. As Benjamin Franklin has already informed Parliament that the American colonies will start manufacturing their own goods rather than pay duties on imports, the items chosen are those that would be particularly difficult for the colonists to produce on their own.

Questions to Consider

1. Why has the text of this Parliamentary legislation been printed up and distributed in the colonies?

2. What is the purpose of the sidebars on the margins beginning on page 538?

3. When will this act go into effect?

4. On what specific categories of items will duties be levied?

5. For what specific activities will the collected revenue be used? {page 539)

6. What must ship commanders now do before unloading their goods at any colonial port? What must they do before sailing from any colonial port? Why are the reins now tightening? (pp. 540-1)

7. What actions are customs officials authorized to take for "preventing frauds and regulating abuse"? Where are they allowed to go? For what purpose? (pp. 541-2)

Further Exploration

8. This document refers to the "clandestine running of goods in the said colonies". (p. 541). Research the history of these covert activities. What was happening, who was involved and how did they operate?

9. Why were the kinds of duties imposed by the Townshend Revenue Act considered "external taxes"? Why was the Stamp Act considered an "internal tax"? What is the difference between the two and why did British officials think that the colonists would be more likely to accept the former?

10. What were "writs of assistance"? What legal justification did they provide and for what actions? What arguments were made for their illegality?