Early Colonial Grievances

Commerce Restricted

The policy of the British government before the Revolution was to control the commerce of the colonies for the benefit of the mother country. Various acts of Parliament, such as the Navigation Acts first enacted in the 1600's, placed restrictions on colonial trade and injured colonial commerce. Respected merchants in Massachusetts and other colonies more or less openly avoided paying the duties, and little was done for many years to stop smuggling.

In 1761 British officials planned to act drastically against smuggling. They applied for writs of assistance (general search warrants) to make it easier for them to locate smuggled goods. This move was denounced as a violation of the right of English subjects to be protected from invasion of privacy.

Western Lands Closed

In 1763 the British under Prime Minister George Grenville decided that new policies for administering the American colonies were required. A first step concerned the vast area, west of the 13 colonies, that Great Britain had acquired from France by the French and Indian War. Several of the colonies claimed this area and planned to develop it. However, by proclamation of George III, the western lands were closed to settlement by the colonists. The stated reason was that ways had to be found to cope with hostile Indians (such as those led by Pontiac). Americans who wanted to expand westward felt cheated.

Colonial Currency Restricted

In 1764 the British government forbade the payment of debts in England in colonial currency. The issuance of such money for use in the colonies was also curtailed. This policy was a hard blow to debtors. It had the effect of increasing their burden of debt.

Quartering and Stamp Acts

Parliament in 1765 passed two acts that produced even greater resentment in the colonies. The Quartering Act required the colonies to house 10,000 British troops in public and even private buildings. The Stamp Act was a form of direct taxation of the colonists.

In Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and other cities mass meetings were held in protest. It was argued that Parliament had no right to tax the colonists because they were not represented in that body. Taxation without representation is tyranny!" became the cry.