Townshend Duties - Dylan van RijsbergenIn 1767 the English parliament cut the British land tax, and, to balance the budget, Charles Townshend promised that he would tax the Americans to make up the difference. Taking advantage of the distinction the Americans had drawn between internal and external taxes, he put through a series of acts laying import duties at American ports on paper, lead, glass and tea shipped from England. These duties, however, didn't have an economic but a political purpose. The money that was collected was used to pay the salaries of British colonial officials. By doing this the British tried to make these officials independent of colonial legislatures and better able to enforce British orders and laws.
The use of writs of assistance (general warrants) was authorized, and admiralty courts were established at Halifax, Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston. These had to perform the functions of federal courts, since the only other royal courts in America could be harmstrung by provincial legislatures. These courts could sit without juries drawn from the population, therefore it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they were set up. In addition a board of customs commissioners was established in America. Up to this time the American customs had yielded about 2000 pounds a year at a cost of 9000; thereafter they yielded 30,000 pounds at a cost of 13,000.
Colonial opposition to the Townshend Revenue Act was powerful and effective. Colonial nonimportation agreements sharply cut British exports to America, and British merchants complained. British political leaders soon realized that the Act was foolish, for what it really did was to establish protective tariffs against the shipment of British manufactures to the colonies. Furthermore, very little money was collected because of the nonimportation agreements. In 1770, Parliament, led by a new ministry headed by Lord North, repealed all the Townshend Revenue Act except for the tax on tea, which was kept in order to maintain the principle of the right of parliament to tax the colonies.