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Documents in Early American History

 

Coercive Acts (1774) (Excerpts)

Boston Port Act (March 31, 1774)

Whereas dangerous commotions and insurrections have been fomented and raised in the town of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay, in New England, by divers ill-affected persons, to the subversion of his majesty's government, and to the utter destruction of the public peace, and good order of the said town; in which commotions and insurrections certain valuable cargoes of teas, being the property of the East India Company, and on board certain vessels lying within the bay or harbor of Boston, were seized and destroyed: And whereas, in the present condition of the said town and harbor, the commerce of his majesty's subjects cannot be safely carried on there, nor the customs payable to his majesty duly collected; and it is therefore expedient that the officers of his majesty's customs should be forthwith removed from the said town ...
That it shall not be lawful for any person or persons whatsoever to lade put, or cause or procure to be laden or put, off or from any quay, wharf, or other place, within the said town of Boston, or in or upon any part of the shore of the bay, commonly called The Harbor of Boston . . . into any ship, vessel, lighter, boat, or bottom, any goods, wares, or merchandise whatsoever, to be transported or carried into any other country, province, or place whatsoever, or into any other part of the said province of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England;
or to take up, discharge, or lay on land, or cause or procure to be taken up, discharged, or laid on land, within the said town, or in or upon any of the places aforesaid, out of any boat, lighter, ship, vessel, or bottom, any goods, wares, or merchandise whatsoever, to be brought from any other country, province, or place, or any other part of the said province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, upon pain of the forfeiture of the said goods, wares, and merchandise, and of the said boat, lighter, ship, vessel, or other bottom into which the same shall be put, or out of which the same shall be taken, and of the guns, ammunition, tackle, furniture, and stores, in or belonging to the same ...

Provided always, That nothing in this act contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to any military or other stores for his majesty's use, or to the ships or vessels whereon the same shall be laden, which shall be commissioned by, and in the immediate pay of, his majesty, his heirs or successors; nor to any fuel or victual brought coastwise from any part of the continent of America, for the necessary use and sustenance of the inhabitants of the said town of Boston ...

Provided also, and it is hereby declared and enacted, That nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed, to enable his majesty to appoint such port, harbor, creeks, quays, wharfs, places, or officers, in the said town of Boston, or in the said bay or islands, until it shall sufficiently appear to his majesty that full satisfaction hath been made by or on behalf of the inhabitants of the said town of Boston to the united company of merchants of England trading to the East Indies, for the damage sustained by the said company by the destruction of their goods sent to the said town of Boston, on board certain ships or vessels as aforesaid; and until it shall be certified to his majesty, in council, by the governor, or lieutenant governor, of the said province, that reasonable satisfaction hath been made to the officers of his majesty's revenue, and others, who suffered by the riots and insurrections above mentioned….

 [From Danby Pickering, ed, Statutes at Large 30:336-40]

 

The Massachusetts Government Act (May 20, 1774)

Whereas … [the Massachusetts Bay charter] hath been so far from contributing to the attainment of the good ends and purposes thereby intended, and to the promoting of the internal welfare, peace, and good government, of the said province, or to the maintenance of the just subordination to, and conformity with, the laws of Great Britain, that the manner of exercising the powers, authorities, and privileges aforesaid by the persons so annually elected, hath, for some time past, been such as had the most manifest tendency to obstruct, and in great measure, defeat, the execution of the laws; to weaken the attachment of his majesty's well-disposed subjects in the said province to his majesty's government, and to encourage the ill-disposed among them to proceed even to acts of direct resistance to, and defiance of, his majesty's authority: And it hath accordingly happened, that an open resistance to the execution of the laws hath actually taken place in the town of Boston, and the neighborhood thereof, within the said province: And whereas it is, under these circumstances, become absolutely necessary, in order to the preservation of the peace and good order of the said province, the protection of his majesty’s well-disposed subjects therein resident, the continuance of the mutual benefits arising from the commerce and correspondence between this kingdom and the said province, and the maintaining of the just dependence of the said province upon the crown and parliament of Great Britain, that the said method of annually electing the counselors or assistants of the said province should no longer be suffered to continue, but that the appointment of the said counselors or assistants should henceforth be put upon the like footing as is established in such other of his majesty's colonies or plantations in America, the governors whereof are appointed by his majesty's commission, under the great seal of Great Britain:

Be it therefore enacted that … so much of the charter … which relates to the time and manner of electing the assistants or counselors for the said province, be revoked and … that the offices of all counselors and assistants … shall be thereunto nominated and appointed by his majesty, his heirs and successors, from time to time, by warrant under his or their signet or sign manual, and with the advice of the privy council, agreeable to the practice now used in respect to the appointment of counselors in such of his majesty's other colonies in America, the governors whereof are appointed by commission under the great seal of Great Britain….

And it is hereby further enacted, That the said assistants or counselors, so to be appointed as aforesaid, shall hold their offices respectively, for and during the pleasure of his majesty, his heirs or successors….

And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for his majesty's governor . . . to nominate and appoint, under the seal of the province, from time to time, and also to remove, without the consent of the council, all judges of the inferior courts of common pleas, the attorney general, provosts, marshals, justices of the peace, and other officers to the council or courts of justice….

And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for his majesty's governor . . . for the time being of the said province, from time to time, to nominate and appoint the sheriffs without the consent of the council, and to remove such sheriffs with such consent, and not otherwise....

And whereas, by several acts of the general court, which have been from time to time enacted and passed within the said province, the freeholders and inhabitants of the several townships, districts, and precincts, qualified, as is therein expressed, are authorized to assemble together, annually, or occasionally, upon notice given, in such manner as the said acts direct, for the choice of select men, constables, and other officers, and for the making and agreeing upon such necessary rules, orders, and bye-laws, for the directing, managing, and ordering, the prudential affairs of such townships, districts, and precincts, and for other purposes: and whereas a great abuse has been made of the power of calling such meetings, and the inhabitants have, contrary to the design of their institution, been misled to treat upon matters of the most general concern, and to pass many dangerous and unwarrantable resolves: for remedy whereof, be it enacted, That … no meeting shall be called by the select men, or at the request of any number of freeholders of any township, district, or precinct, without the leave of the governor, or, in his absence, of the lieutenant-governor, in writing, expressing the special business of the said meeting, first had and obtained, except the annual meeting … for the choice of select men, constables, and other officers, or except for the choice of persons to fill up the offices aforesaid, on the death or removal of any of the persons first elected to such offices, and also, except any meeting for the election of a representative or representatives in the general court; and that no other matter shall be treated of at such meetings, except the election of their aforesaid officers or representatives, nor at any other meeting, except the business expressed in the leave given by the governor, or, in his absence, by the lieutenant-governor.

And whereas the method at present used in the province of Massachusetts Bay, in America, of electing persons to serve on grand juries, and other juries, by the freeholders and inhabitants of the several towns, affords occasion for many evil practices, and tends to pervert the free and impartial administration of justice: for remedy whereof, be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That … the jurors to serve at the superior courts of judicature, courts of assize, general gaol delivery, general sessions of the peace, and inferior court of common pleas, in the several counties within the said province, shall not he elected, nominated, or appointed, by the freeholders and inhabitants of the several towns within the said respective counties, nor summoned or returned by the constables of the said towns; but that, from thenceforth, the jurors to serve at the superior courts of judicature, courts of assize, general gaol delivery, general sessions of the peace, an inferior court of common pleas within the said province, shall be summoned and returned by the sheriffs of the respective counties within the said province ...

 [From Danby Pickering, ed., Statutes at Large 30:381-84]

 

 Administration of Justice Act (May 20, 1774)

 Whereas in his majesty's province of Massachusetts Bay, in New England, an attempt hath lately been made to throw off the authority of the parliament of Great Britain over the said Provinces and an actual and avowed resistance, by open force, to the execution of certain acts of parliament, hath been suffered to take place, uncontrolled and unpunished, in defiance of his majesty's authority, and to the utter subversion of all lawful government: and whereas, in the present disordered state of the said province, it is of the utmost importance to the general welfare thereof, and to the re-establishment of lawful authority throughout the same, that neither the magistrates acting in support of the laws, nor any of his majesty's subjects aiding and assisting them therein, or in the suppression of riots and tumults, raised in opposition to the execution of the laws and statutes of this realm, should be discouraged from the proper discharge of their duty, by an apprehension, that in case of their being questioned for any acts done therein, they may be liable to be brought to trial for the same before persons who do not acknowledge the validity of the laws, in the execution thereof, or the authority of the magistrate in the support of whom, such acts had been done: in order therefore to remove every such discouragement from the minds of his majesty's subjects, and to induce them, upon all proper occasions, to exert themselves in support of the public peace of the province, and of the authority of the King and parliament of Great Britain over the same; be it enacted ... That if any inquisition or indictment shall be found, or if any appeal shall be sued or preferred against any person, for murder, or other capital offence, in the province of the Massachusetts Bay, and it shall appear, by information given upon oath to the governor, or, in his absence, to the lieutenant-governor of the said province, that the fact was committed by the person against whom such inquisition or indictment shall be found, or against whom such appeal shall be sued or preferred, as aforesaid, either in the execution of his duty as a magistrate, for the suppression of riots, or in the support of the laws of revenue, or in acting in his duty as an officer of revenue, or in acting under the direction and order of any magistrate, for the suppression of riots, or for the carrying into effect the laws of revenue, or in aiding and assisting in any of the cases aforesaid; and if it shall also appear, to the satisfaction of the said governor, or lieutenant-governor respectively, that an indifferent trial cannot be had within the said province, in that case, it shall and may be lawful for the governor, or lieutenant-governor, to direct, with the advice and consent of the council, that the inquisition, indictment, or appeal, shall be tried in some other of his majesty's colonies, or in Great Britain; and for that purpose, to order the person against whom such inquisition or indictment shall be found, or against whom such appeal shall be sued or preferred, as aforesaid, to be sent, under sufficient custody, to the place appointed for his trial, or to admit such person to bail, taking a recognizance, (which the said governor, or, in his absence, the lieutenant-governor, is hereby authorized to take), from such person, with sufficient sureties, to be approved of by the said governor, or, in his absence, the lieutenant-governor, in such sums of money as the said governor, or, in his absence, the lieutenant-governor, shall deem reasonable, for the personal appearance of such person, if the trial shall be appointed to be had in any other colony, before the governor, or lieutenant-governor, or commander in chief of such colony; and if the trial shall be appointed to be had in Great Britain, then before his majesty's court of King's Bench, at a time to be mentioned in such recognizances; and the governor, or lieutenant-governor, or commander in chief of the colony where such trial shall be appointed to be had, or court of King's Bench, where the trial is appointed to be had in Great Britain, upon the appearance of such person, according to such recognizance, or in custody, shall either commit such person, or admit him to bail, until such trial; and which the said governor, or lieutenant-governor, or commander in chief, and court of King's Bench, are hereby authorized and empowered to do....

 [From Danby Pickering, ed., Statutes at Large 30:367-69]

Documents in Early American History
Documents selected and edited, and web site created and maintained, by F. Thornton Miller