The Battles of Lexington and Concord, 1775
The colony of Massachusetts was not the only site of insurrection and hard feelings toward the British government in America, but for ten years Boston had served as the center for protest against nearly every action taken by England. Following the Boston Tea Party in 1773, England had saddled the colony with a series of punishments by passing acts that placed burdens upon all Massachusetts citizens.
The Boston Port Act, which closed the harbor to all shipping, was joined by parliamentary actions that forced Bostonians to house troops, changed the basic charter of the colony, and usurped much of the colony's control over its judicial system. Parliament even passed the Quebec Act, which essentially gave Canada control of lands from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River. Not only did the Quebec Act remove control of western territories from the colonies, it granted the thousands of French living in America's western territories the right to practice Roman Catholicism. Even though many Americans in the 1770s supported freedom of religion, few if any believed that such freedoms applied to Catholics (see Chapter 22). Catholicism was equated with intolerance, oppression, and warfare.
Taken together, Britain's actions against Massachusetts in particular and America in general in 1774 were viewed as intolerable, and Americans labeled all of these British laws as the Intolerable Acts. From Britain's point of view, the purpose of the acts was to punish Boston for such hostile actions as the Boston Tea Party and to coerce Americans into being obedient Britons.