Townshend Acts, a series of laws enacted in 1767 by the British Parliament. Three of the four acts dealt with the American colonies; they expanded British control, causing an immediate and bitter reaction in America and thus hastening the American Revolution. The measures were sponsored by Charles Townshend, chancellor of the exchequer.
The most bitterly opposed act, the Townshend Duty Act, placed a tax on glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea imported into the colonies. The revenue derived from the new tax was to be used to pay British colonial officials. This act was passed to gain revenue lost through the repeal of the Stamp Act and to demonstrate Parliament's right to tax the colonies. A second measure established a board of customs commissioners to collect the revenue. A third act suspended the lawmaking powers of the New York legislature because it had failed to comply fully with the Quartering Act of 1765, which required each colony to supply British troops in its territory with food and shelter.
The colonists were incensed by what they considered to be unconstitutional measures. Many merchants and planters entered into nonimportation agreements, refusing to buy any of the taxed items. The tensions created by the presence of British troops in Boston, sent there to protect customs commissioners who enforced the laws, led to the Boston Massacre in 1770. That year all import duties, except the tax on tea, were repealed. Objections to the tea tax eventually resulted in the Boston Tea Party, 1773.