After the defeat of the French during the Seven Years War, British leaders felt the need to tighten their control over their empire. Laws regulating imperial trade and navigation had already been placed on the colonies, but American colonists were notorious for evading these regulations. They were even known to have traded with the French during the recently ended war. From the British point of view, it was only fitting that American colonists should pay their fair share of the costs for their own defense. Thus the British began their attempts to reform the imperial system, much to the dismay of the colonists.
The Stamp Act, which placed taxes on paper, playing cards, and every legal document created in the colonies, was the first serious attempt of the British to assert government control over the colonies. Since this tax affected virtually everyone and extended British taxes to all domestically produced goods, the reaction in the colonies was less than courteous.
The colonists began their initial opposition by the creation of the Stamp Act Congress that established a boycott of English goods. Their refusal to use the stamps on business papers became common, and the local courts would not enforce their use on legal documents. Colonial businessmen contributed their part by agreeing to stop importing British goods until the act was repealed, substantially diminishing trade. The Sons and Daughters of Liberty would tar and feather the stamp sellers, and by the time that the act officially went into place there were no longer any stamp sellers left in the colony and the act was eventually repealed. The cooperation of the American colonists in their resistance of the Stamp Act contributed substantially to the rise of colonial unity.
The next British attempt at colonial control was with the Townshend Act, a tax on goods the colonists imported, such as paper, red and white lead, glass, paints, and most importantly, tea shipped from England. Once again the colonists protested vigorously. The Continental Congress was created and organized the creation of the Association, a strict organization that enforced nonimportation agreements and the nonconsumption of products taxed by the Townshend Acts. In March 1770 a riot occurred between British troops and Boston citizens, who jeered and taunted the soldiers. The troops fired, killing five people. The so-called “Boston Massacre” aroused great colonial resentment. Giving into colonial economic boycotts, Parliament repealed the Townshend Acts in 1770 but retained the tax on tea to assert its right to tax the colonies.
The colonists viewed Tea Act as being one of the most offensive taxes placed on them. It was designed to help the East India Company which was floundering financially and burdened with eighteen million pounds of unsold tea as a result of colonial boycotts. This tea was to be shipped to the colonies, and sold at a bargain price. However, the radical leaders in America believed that this act was a maneuver to buy popular support for the taxes already in force. Colonists in Philadelphia and New York forced the tea ships to return to Britain. In Charleston the tea was left to rot on the docks. In Boston the governor was stubborn and held the ships in port, despite the fact that colonists would not allow them to unload. Eventually the colonist decided to take action and dressed themselves as natives throwing all the tea into the harbor. This incident was later named the Boston Tea Party.
Outraged by this rebellious and wasteful act, British officials implemented the Intolerable Acts. Ignorant of the other reactions by the colonist to the other acts, English Parliament placed controls over the colonies until the dam that held back the anger and tensions of the past decades was released resulting in the American Revolution.
British Mercantilism had always worked before with their past empirical expansions. Unfortunately, the English government did not realize that the situation in America required adaptation from their usual proceedings in order to maintain peaceful ties. Had they done this, it is plausible that America would still be a royal territory such as Canada and Australia.