Massachusetts Historical Society
America's oldest historical society, founded 1791.

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The following extraordinary Bills now pending in Parliament ...

The following extraordinary Bills now pending in Parliament ... Broadside

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Intolerable Acts
Closing Boston harbor is only one of the punishments meted out by Parliament after the events of December 1773. News of the Administration of Justice Act and the Massachusetts Government Act arrives in Boston in June 1774 days after the Boston Port Bill takes effect. Allegedly designed to bring the colony's government more in line with other royal colonies, the Government Act proposes radical changes to the sacred traditions of town meetings and popular participation. The Administration of Justice Act, referred to as the "murder act" by its critics, will change the way in which trials proceed in the colony. New England leaders are quick to point out the ways in which these bills will damage the integrity of American colonial governments.

Questions to Consider

1. To whom does the Administration of Justice Act apply? (What crime must be committed and under what circumstances?)

2. Where will trials be held if the crimes are committed in Massachusetts? What is the process for trial?

3. List at least two reasons, according to the Bill for Better Regulating the Government of Massachusetts, why the process for selecting government officials in that colony will change.

4. According to this act, which government positions will be appointed by the king? Which positions can be appointed by the governor or lieutenant governor?

5. What affect will the act have on town meetings? How does the act justify this change to town meeting procedures?

6. Who will be selecting Jurors? Why are the colonists in Massachusetts losing that privilege?

Further Exploration

7. Why would critics of the Administration of Justice Act refer to it as the "murder act?" Identify specific phrases or sections of the legislation that might have inspired this dubious nickname.

8. Review the section of the Administration of Justice Act that pertains to trials. Why might another colony request that a trial take place in Great Britain? Can you think of specific events that have taken place in Boston in the years 1764–1774 that might have prompted these trial provisions?

9. Imagine that you are a citizen of Massachusetts when these acts were enforced. Without Town Meeting and the ability to elect your own officials, what methods would you use to voice your discontent? Explain.