The Massachusetts Government Act – Background of the Act
After the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, the relationship between the colonists of Massachusetts and the British government fundamentally changed. Until this act of rebellion, the colonists in Massachusetts had had relative freedom in regards to being self-governing. However, the Tea Party showed the British that American colonists were no longer fully subservient, and as such, needed to be tightly controlled. The British response to the Boston Tea Party was the creation of the Intolerable Acts.
A series of five laws (called acts) were created to reestablish the authority of the British over the rebellious colonists. These five acts, called either the Coercive or Intolerable Acts, were designed to remove a great deal of the autonomy of the colonists. The Massachusetts Government Act, which was one of the five, dealt specifically with the issue of representative government.
The Massachusetts Government Act – The Details
The Massachusetts Government Act removed the ability of the colonists to elect their own executive council, a right that had been unique to Massachusetts since its inception in 1691. The power to choose an executive for the colony shifted from the hands of the people directly to the hand of the king. By removing the right of election, the British government weakened the position of the people, and strengthened the position of the British governor. This act, working in concert with the Administration of Justice Act (which meant British officials would not be tried in American courts), ensured that the governor of Massachusetts could take any steps he deemed appropriate in returning the colony to full submission to the king. In addition, the act forbade town meetings unless approved by the governor in advance. This provision attempted to ensure that the colonists could not meet in great enough numbers to ever again pose a threat to British control of the colony. Finally, the act provided for the appointment of government officials by the governor, without the consent of the colonists. This meant that the governor could appoint men who would support him in his repression of the colonists, and to do so quickly, and without question.
The Massachusetts Government Act – Driving Force behind American Revolution
As a reaction to the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts were created to reign in the rebellious impulses of the colonists in Massachusetts. Even though the British believed that these acts would force compliance from the colonists, history has demonstrated that the Acts were a failure, as they were a driving force behind the American Revolution.
By: John Will