By 1760, the American colonies were costing the British Parliament a small fortune. Parliament needed to find a way to raise revenue to help offset the cost of maintaining their tyrannical and military rule over the colonies.
In 1764, Parliament passed the Sugar Act as a way to help raise needed revenue by taxing imported goods such as sugar, wine, coffee, textiles and other goods. They mandated that all shippers fill out forms detailing all cargo being carried, where the cargo came from and what their destinations were.
Many colonists tried smuggling goods in, but the British tasked the navy with patrols along the entire American coast to stop all attempts at smuggling. Any smugglers caught would be tried by specially appointed judges who would rule without the aid of a jury.
In addition to the Sugar Act, Parliament also passed the Currency Act in 1764 that banned the colonies from printing their own paper money. Since the British tried to keep a tight control on gold and silver and they banned paper colonial money, bartering became a necessary way of purchasing goods and services.
The Sugar and Currency Acts caused widespread rebellion among the colonists, causing the British to back off somewhat on the Sugar Act, but they still needed funds.
In March 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act followed two days later by the Quartering Act. The Stamp Act required the American colonists to purchase a stamp or pay a tax for all items using paper. This included newspapers, playing cards, stationary, diplomas, wills, marriage licenses, and all other legal documents.
The Quartering Act required the colonists to provide free room and board for all British troops. Housing the troops entailed barracks, inns, livery stables, victualling houses (victualling houses were places where food and other supplies were stored) and stores that sold wine. Basically, any public building, if needed, would be opened up to house the British soldiers. If there were insufficient places to house them, the colonists were required to do whatever necessary to provide quartering including constructing buildings or opening up their private homes.
In 1767, Parliament passed the Townsend Revenue Acts, forcing colonists to pay taxes on paint, paper, oil, lead, glass and tea. Once again the colonists protested and boycotted the British goods that required them to pay a tax. By 1770, all aspects of the Townsend Revenue Acts were repealed except for the tax on tea.
One way for the colonists to get around the tax on tea was to purchase tea being smuggled into the colonies by the Dutch. Between the illegal Dutch tea, colonial boycotts against English tea, political problems with France and the huge contractual payments made to the British crown, the British East India Tea Company was on the verge of bankruptcy.
On this day, April 27, 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act. It didn’t impose any new taxes on English tea, but it did give the British East India Tea Company exclusive rights to the importation and selling of tea in the colonies.
The British government didn’t expect the Tea Act to anger the American colonists since it didn’t impose any new taxes, but they were wrong. The colonists were angered by the Tea Act because of the monopoly given to the British East India Tea Company. Colonial anger boiled for the next 8 months until it erupted on December 16, 1773 when a group of colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians raided several ships belonging to the British East India Tea Company. They boarded the three ships and proceeded to destroy 92,000 pounds of tea, throwing much of it into Boston harbor.
Sources for the above includes: Today, March 24, 1765: British Parliament Passes Quartering Act; Today, March 22, 1765: British Actions Set Path Towards American Rebellion and Independence [VIDEO]; Parliament passes the Tea Act; The Tea Act: The Catalyst of the Boston Tea Party; Significance of the Tea Act, 1773; 1772-73: Crisis Renewed; Tea Act of 1773; Facts about the Tea Act of 1773;