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Mistreatment of the American Colonists: The Coercive Acts


Colonialism is a very significant but also terrifying period of time that still has numerous positive and negative consequences. Colonial American History describes many unpleasant events and challenges faced by both the Native tribes and colonists. For example, not allowing the latter to live peacefully, happily, and freely, the British government mistreated the colonists, deprived them of their rights and equality, and forced them to obey and do what they did not want. Colonists had to face injustice, higher taxation, and unethical attitudes, and many of their attempts to resist were followed by severe punishment. Although some people may disagree, the way American colonists were mistreated by the British government had a severe impact on further development and current societies.

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Mistreatment of The American Colonists

To begin with, it is essential to notice that the British rule stratified the colonial society, did not allow people to unite, and imposed various regulations and laws that often were too severe or unfair. For instance, the British restricted the colonists’ ability to spend money in order to control their economy (Stanton 5). Further, they also managed the trading affairs of the residents of the colonies, deciding whether they could use their ships or produce and buy specific items (Sarson and Greene 517). What is more, the British continued imposing higher taxes. All these rules upset the colonists and made them think of ways to resist the British government. However, most riots were local, and the particular colony was then punished by the British.

Coercive Laws Against the Colonists

As mentioned above, the American colonists were deprived of liberty and some rights, but from time to time, they tried to protest, and their riots were generally followed by even more severe restrictions. Thus, at the end of 1773, there was an American mercantile and political protest known as the Boston Tea Party and organized by a group of Massachusetts colonists (Atkinson 8). Considering this act of defiance, the British government decided to punish the colonies, and in 1774, the British Parliament passed a series of laws named the Coercive Acts (Breen 34). Soon, the colonists started referring to them as the Intolerable Acts (Atkinson 8). Overall, these laws are the Boston Port Act, the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act, and the Quartering Act (Atkinson 8). The Quebec Act was not the result of the Boston Tea Party, but it is also sometimes included in the list of the Intolerable Laws. They are discussed in detail in the following paragraphs.

The Boston Port Act

This law was the first and probably easiest to enforce. At those times, the Port of Boston was of extreme importance as the citizens of Massachusetts used it to receive supplies and support from other colonies (Breen 34). Therefore, it was perfect revenge from the Parliament to close the port and make the residents pay for more than forty tons of tea that they threw into the harbor in December 1773.

The Massachusetts Government Act

This was the second intolerable law that the British government implemented against the colonies. Its main idea was to reduce the power of the settlement by abrogating its charter of 1691 (Breen 35). In other words, the military governor’s powers were enhanced, the elective local council was replaced with an appointive one, and all town meetings had to receive special approval (Breen 35). Consequently, Massachusetts Bay was again reduced to the crown colony level.

The Administration of Justice Act

This law was passed on the same day as the Massachusetts one and received an additional name – the Murder Act. Its core idea was to expand the governor’s power by allowing him to determine whether it was possible to have an indifferent trial within the Massachusetts province and move it to Great Britain or another colony if necessary (Conway 96). Therefore, a previously established judicial principle was removed, and the residents of the colony were deprived of the right to a fair trial.

The Quartering Act

Apart from the three acts discussed above, this one applied to all colonies, not only the Massachusetts one. According to this law, not the authorities of the settlements but the royal governors were required to find buildings for housing British soldiers (King and Case 161). Additionally, the housing of the soldiers had to be at the colonists’ expense. Though this act was not too strict, the residents considered it an infringement upon their local authorities.

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The Quebec Act

This law is not always included in the series of the Coercive Acts, but it is still essential to review it. Overall, it was enacted soon after the Massachusetts Government Act. Its purpose was not to punish the colonists but to gain the loyalty of the Quebec Province’s French-speaking residents by allowing them to practice Roman Catholicism (Atkinson 10). Nevertheless, colonists considered this act one of the Intolerable ones because they did not want to tolerate Catholicism in North America.

Connection With the Present Times

It is hard to disagree that such severe rules and unfair acts had an impact on the further development of America and the creation of more modern laws. Overall, it is possible to say that human rights violations have never been stopped. Although discrimination and inequality are decreased significantly, modern societies still have to live under the rule of authorities that abuse their powers and create unfair laws.

Addressing Opposing Views

Some people may argue that the way colonists were treated by the British government was justified and normal, and there is no connection with modern times. Although this point of view is acceptable, there are some facts that may prove it wrong. First of all, the acts mentioned above cannot be considered ethical. Even though some of them were enacted as a punishment for the colonists’ defiance, this is still inappropriate. The settlers merely wanted to live freely and happily, use their human rights, and begin a new life. However, the British government made sure that it had all operations and actions of the colonists under their control, which is why the residents had to oppress. Consequently, this scheme of unfair governmental rules, citizens’ defiance, and further punishment was adopted by modern societies.


To draw a conclusion, one may say that the colonial era in America was indeed a difficult but very important period. Unfortunately, colonists were mostly deprived of their rights and freedom, and their actions were monitored by the British government. Attempts to rebel like the Boston Tea Party protest were followed by stricter laws and rules. Higher taxation and the Coercive Acts are examples of how unethically and unequally colonists were treated by the British. Further, though not all people recognize this connection, the way colonists were mistreated by the British government affects how modern societies are treated by their authorities.

Works Cited

Atkinson, Rick. The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777. Henry Holt and Company, 2019.

Breen, Timothy Hall. The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America. Harvard University Press, 2019.

Conway, Stephen. “John Gilbert McCurdy, Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution.” Journal of Early American History, vol. 11, no. 1, 2021, pp. 95-97.

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King, Darwin L., and Carl J. Case. “A Brief History of Taxation of the American Colonies Prior to the Revolutionary War.” Journal of Business and Accounting, vol. 13, no. 1, 2020, pp. 154-175.

Sarson, Steven, and Jack P. Greene. The American Colonies and the British Empire, 1607–1783. Routledge, 2020.

Stanton, Thomas H. American Race Relations and the Legacy of British Colonialism. Routledge, 2020.

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