American Revolution: Townshend duties

Exam task

Section A Question 1/2 – American Revolution


“How did the British Revenue Acts (also known as the Townshend Acts) contribute to the development of the American Revolution between 1767 and 1776?”

Student response

“The 1767 Townshend Duties were part of a series of British revenue raising acts which sparked colonial discontent throughout the colonies, shown by rebellion, boycotts and propaganda, which contributed to the development of a revolutionary situation by 1776. The implementation of the Townshend Duties by Charles Townshend, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain, placed a tax on numerous popular items of trade such as paint, dice, lead and tea, this meant it, unlike previous revenue raising acts, affected a majority of colonists thus there was wide-spread discontent. The Sons of Liberty organised boycotts of British goods and non-importation agreements in defiance of the Townshend duties. An event displaying colonial dissatisfaction with the duties was the Boston Massacre (5th March 1770) which involved a crowd of inebriated colonists protesting outside the Customs house. This event, organised by Sam Adams, characterised by the death of five colonists, was recorded by a propagandist engraving by Paul Revere, and was sent to King George III as a record of the events to influence repeal of the act. The repeal of the acts(due to pressure from British merchants) left only the duty on Tea (Tea Act 1773) and this act also sparked protest (as it restricted colonial merchants), most famously the Boston Tea Party (16th December 1773 and 342 crates of tea tipped by colonists into Boston Harbour). In response, the British then implemented the Coercive Acts in 1774 (or the ‘Intolerable Acts’ as the colonies named them) which closed Boston Harbour and later lead to dissolution of Massachusetts assembly then Virginian House of Burgesses and for revolutionary activity. A Continental Congress convened In September 1774 with the aim of countering the coercive acts, and boycotts again were adopted under the Suffolk Resolves. Revolutionary war began with the Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 1775), and Bunker Hill (June 1775) followed by the 2nd Continental congress which aimed to coordinate war effort, later resulting in the July 1776 Declaration of Independence.”

Teacher feedback

This is a reasonably strong answer, though there is room for improvement. It begins by defining and discussing the question focus (the Townshend duties). It then explains how the colonial revolutionaries responded to the Townshend policy, describing the actions of the Sons of Liberty and the various non-importation groups. However the answer then resorts to a narrative timeline that includes some irrelevant information, such as mention of the Boston Massacre. It would have been better to provide some context for the Townshend duties: why were they introduced and exactly why did the Americans oppose them? Writers who opposed the duties, such as Samuel Adams and John Dickinson, might have been mentioned. Also some explanation of why the British were trying to generate revenue from the Townshend Acts in the first place. In short, this answer needs to be more focused on the question and provide a fuller discussion of the Townshend duties and how they contributed to revolutionary sentiment. It would likely score in the region of 7/10.

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