The Massachusetts Government Act was one of five laws enacted by the British Parliament in 1774 in response to the Boston Tea Party. Collectively, the acts are known as the Coercive Acts, or the Intolerable Acts.
Definition of the Massachusetts Government Act
The Massachusetts Government Act is defined as the second of four laws that were passed by Parliament in 1774 to punish Boston and Massachusetts for resistance to British policies and the destruction of property that took place during the Boston Tea Party.
The Massachusetts Government Act — Quick Facts
- Also Known As: The Massachusetts Government Act is also called the Massachusetts Regulating Act.
- Date Passed: The British Parliament passed the Massachusetts Government Act on May 20, 1774.
- Royal Assent: King George III pronounced Royal Assent of the Massachusetts Government Act on May 20, 1774.
- Purpose: The purpose of the Massachusetts Government Act was to punish the people of Massachusetts for their rebellious behavior and actions, including the Boston Tea Party.
- Part Of: The Massachusetts Government Act was the second of the Coercive Acts.
- When did Enforcement of the Act Start: The Massachusetts Government Act went into effect on July 1, 1774.
The Massachusetts Government Act — Interesting Facts
Official Name of the Massachusetts Government Act
The official name of the Massachusetts Government Act was:
“An Act for the Better Regulating the Government of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England.”
The Massachusetts Government Act was the Second Coercive Act
One other law was passed that is often included in the Coercive Acts because it gave favor to the Province of Quebec and restricted the westward expansion of the American Colonies was the Quebec Act.
Cause of the Massachusetts Government Act — The Tea Act and the Boston Tea Party
The strongest opposition to British legislation in colonial America was from the town of Boston, Massachusetts, and the British government saw Boston as the source of the unrest throughout the colonies.
After the French and Indian War, Parliament started to pass laws that levied taxes on the colonies. Men like James Otis and Samuel Adams, who lived in Boston, were openly critical of the laws and believed Parliament did not have the right to levy taxes on the colonies. Their main argument was Parliament was levying taxes against the colonies, but the colonies had no representatives in Parliament. Their rallying cry was “no taxation without representation.”
In 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which led to organized riots in Boston. The Sons of Liberty were partially responsible for the riots in Boston and the organization spread from Boston to other towns throughout the colonies. Riots occurred in places like New York City and Charleston, South Carolina. Later that year, Massachusetts called for an organized, unified response to the Stamp Act, which led to the Stamp Act Congress.
In 1767 and 1768, Parliament passed more laws that levied taxes on the colonies. The new laws were called the Townshend Acts. In Boston, resistance to British policies continued. In the Liberty Affair, John Hancock refused to allow British authorities to inspect one of his ships. The incident led to a riot and the destruction of the property and homes of British officials. British troops were sent to Boston in October 1768 to occupy the city and keep order. This led to the Boston Massacre in 1770 and eventually to the Boston Tea Party.
By 1774, the British government had had enough of the troublemakers in Boston and decided to crack down on the unrest. The solution was the Coercive Acts, including the Massachusetts Government Act.
Punishments the Massachusetts Government Act Gave to the Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Massachusetts Government Act revised the structure of the government in Massachusetts and completely changed the way Massachusetts was governed.
It revoked the Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter, which had been granted by King Charles I on March 4, 1629.
It gave more control of the government to the Royal Governor, Thomas Gage.
It changed the makeup of the upper house of the Massachusetts legislature, the Massachusetts Executive Council, so the members were appointed by the Governor and not elected by the legislature. The appointments were done via a royal “Writ of Mandamus,” and the 36 men appointed by Gage were known as Mandamus Councillors.
It said that local officials could no longer be elected, and would be appointed by the Governor. This included judges, commissioners, and justices of the peace.
Restrictions the Massachusetts Government Act Put on People of Massachusetts
It placed severe restrictions on Town Meetings. Towns were restricted to holding political meetings once a year and the meetings had to be approved by the Governor.
Facts About the Impact and Reaction to the Massachusetts Government Act
Effect of the Massachusetts Government Act
The Massachusetts Government Act had a negative effect on colonists in Massachusetts by taking away their democratic rights to elect their local officials and to hold Town Meetings. By taking away the ability to elect officials, the colonists had no political means to make changes. People throughout Massachusetts began to think the only way they could change things was to take military action.
Social Impact of the Massachusetts Government Act?
The Massachusetts Government Act increased the distrust of the people in the government. The people in Massachusetts thought that if the government was willing to strip their democratic rights then it was possible the government would be willing to take military action against them.
Many of the towns started moving weapons and ammunition to secret, secure locations, and rumors of dissent spread throughout the colony.
Thomas Gage began to fear there would be an uprising. When he had weapons and ammunition removed from the storehouse in Charlestown, Massachusetts, thousands of people from all over the colony responded and marched on Boston in an incident known as the Massachusetts Powder Alarm of 1774. The mob forced some of the Mandamus Councillors to resign before it dispersed.
The response led Gage to reinforce Boston and he started to send spies out into the countryside to map the roads and try to find out where the colonists were hiding weapons.
Political Impact of the Massachusetts Government Act
Although it made significant changes to the government of Massachusetts, the political impact went well beyond the borders of the colony. The Massachusetts Government Act made it clear to other towns and colonies that the British government could punish them in the same way, at any time, for any reason.
Economic Impact of the Massachusetts Government Act
The first Coercive Act, the Boston Port Act, closed the Port of Boston to most imports, which had a significant impact on the economy of the entire colony. Merchants were not able to stock their shelves with goods and people lost their jobs.
The Massachusetts Government Act contributed to the economic damage caused by the Boston Port Act by taking away the right of the people to elect officials that could help them reverse the legislation.
Massachusetts Reaction to the Massachusetts Government Act — Massachusetts Provincial Congress
The Massachusetts Government Act punished the entire population of Boston and Massachusetts for the actions of a few troublemakers. It was simply unfair to all the people to enact legislation that harmed farmers and merchants in towns like Falmouth or Worcester that were far away from Boston, which is where most of the resistance, rhetoric, and propaganda about British policy came from.
The colonists in Massachusetts responded by hoarding weapons and ammunition in secret locations, which led to the Massachusetts Powder Alarm in September 1774.
Less than a month later, in October 1774, Gage invoked the Massachusetts Government Act. The men leading the opposition to British policies, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Joseph Warren, and John Adams, responded by setting up the Massachusetts Provincial Congress.
Colonial Reaction to the Massachusetts Government Act — The First Continental Congress
The Committee of Correspondence in Massachusetts responded to the Boston Port Act by sending a circular letter to the other colonies, asking for their support and for a boycott of British goods. While the other colonies were sympathetic to Boston and sent goods and supplies overland to help the people there, they would not able to come to an agreement on a boycott. Some of the colonies called for a Continental Congress where delegates could discuss a unified response to the Boston Port Act and the other Coercive Acts. The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774.
Rights Violated by the Massachusetts Government Act
There was a concern throughout the colonies, especially in Boston and Massachusetts, that the rights of the colonists were violated by the Massachusetts Government Act and the Coercive Acts.
- The right to hold peaceful assemblies.
- The right to elect public officials.