Coercive Acts


The Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, were five laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774, which prompted the calling of the First Continental Congress.

King George III, Painting

Coercive Acts Summary

The Coercive Acts were five laws governing the American Colonies and the Province of Quebec that were passed by Parliament in the Spring of 1774. 

The first four laws punished the city of Boston and the colony of Massachusetts for their ongoing opposition to laws like the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, and Townshend Acts, and for the blatant destruction of property that took place at the Boston Tea Party at the hands of the Sons of Liberty.

The last law gave significant legal and religious benefits to French Catholics living in Quebec and extended the borders of the province in a way that restricted the westward expansion of larger colonies like Virginia.

In England, the laws were referred to as the Coercive Acts or the Restraining Acts. In the late nineteenth century, American historians introduced the term “Intolerable Acts.”

When news of the first law, the Boston Port Act, reached the colonies, there was outrage, especially in Massachusetts. The act closed the Port of Boston so shipments of food, supplies, and products could not be delivered.

In response, the Boston Committee of Correspondence asked the other colonies to join Massachusetts in a trade boycott against Britain. Although many of the other colonies supported Boston by sending food and supplies, they were hesitant to implement a full-scale, intercolonial boycott.

Leaders in New York and Virginia called for a meeting of the colonies, which resulted in the First Continental Congress. Congress met in Philadelphia and agreed to a trade boycott, known as the Continental Association, and sent documents to King George III that outlined the grievances the colonies had with the laws passed by Parliament.

Ultimately, the colonial reaction to the Coercive Acts led to the establishment of the independent government of the American Colonies, which would reconvene again in 1775 as the Second Continental Congress.

Thomas Gage, Portrait, Copley
General Thomas Gage was sent to Massachusetts to help enforce the Coercive Acts that were intended to punish Boston and Massachusetts. Image Source: Wikipedia. 

Facts About the Coercive Acts

Interesting Facts About the Coercive Acts

  • The Coercive Acts are also known as the Intolerable Acts and the Restraining Acts.
  • The Coercive Acts consisted of four new laws and revised a fifth law.

Purpose of the Coercive Acts

  • At the urging of King George III, Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts in response to the Boston Tea Party.
  • The intent of the Coercive Acts was to reaffirm British authority over the American colonies.

The First Coercive Act

The Boston Port Act, passed on March 25, 1774, closed the port of Boston, with few exceptions, on June 1, until the tea that was destroyed during the Boston Tea Party was paid for, and British officials were reimbursed for their losses.

The Second Coercive Act

Massachusetts Government Act (May 20, 1774), revised the governing structure of Massachusetts, consolidating royal authority and severely limiting self-government.

The Third Coercive Act

The Administration of Justice Act, passed on May 20, 1774, authorized the governor of Massachusetts to move trials of royal officials accused of committing capital offenses, while performing their official duties, to another colony or to Great Britain, if he believed the accused would not receive a fair trial in Massachusetts.

The Fourth Coercive Act

Quartering Act (June 2, 1774), revised the Quartering Act of 1765 by expanding the types of buildings in which soldiers could be housed and removing the requirement that they needed to be provided with provisions.

The Fifth Coercive Act

The Quebec Act (June 22, 1774) rewarded the loyal colony of Quebec by reestablishing its borders and greatly expanding its size by transferring land in the Ohio Country that had been promised to other colonies.

Effect of the Coercive Acts

The Coercive Acts provided further ammunition for a growing radical element in the colonies and prompted the calling of the First Continental Congress on September 5, 1774.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Coercive Acts
  • Date 1774
  • Author
  • Keywords Coercive Acts, Intolerable Acts
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 13, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update September 28, 2023