The Coercive Acts and Their Opponents: A Study in Futility
In August 1773, Arthur Lee wrote to Sam Adams about a "scheme" to help the East India Company out of its financial difficulties by allowing it to sell tea directly to America. Even if the colonists paid the tea tax (the one unrepealed Townshend duty), he pointed out that it would still come "cheaper to the consumer" than the smuggled Dutch tea common in the colonies. But, as he continued, paying the tax "may lead to a thousand other ways of enslaving us." 1 Lee was referring to the Tea Act passed by Parliament in May. Although, during the debate, some members of Parliament requested that the tea duty be repealed, Lord North optimistically (and, as it turned out, unrealistically) replied that the tea would be "cheap enough to find a market in America, and preserve the duty." 2
The consequences are well known. Reports of the Boston Tea Party reached Great Britain in January 1774. The news could not have come at a worse time. Copies of letters from Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts and his deputy, Andrew Oliver, to Lord Grenville's secretary, which contained statements critical of the colony's leaders, were obtained by Benjamin Franklin and made public in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts assembly petitioned for the removal of the governor and his deputy. The committee of the Privy Council for plantation affairs considered the petition on January 29, 1774. The committee rejected the petition; exonerated Hutchinson (though he was replaced shortly after, at his own request, by General Thomas Gage); and humiliated Franklin, who was immediately removed from his position as deputy postmaster of America.
Not surprisingly, then, the royal message to Parliament on March 7 instructed it to do whatever "may be necessary . . . for better securing the Execution of the Laws, and the just dependence of the Colonies upon the