The Boston Port Bill was the first in a series of legislative measures known as the Coercive Acts or Intolerable Acts. Passed in 1774 by the British Parliament in response to the 1773 Boston Tea Party, the Boston Port Bill closed the port at Boston, Massachusetts. This bill was specifically designed to punish Boston, as well as the entire colony, by depriving the colonists of their main source of revenue, maritime commerce. The port of Boston was closed, the bill stated, because of the hostile atmosphere and the consequent inability to safely conduct commerce or collect custom duties.
All royal customs officers were required to leave Boston. No commercial ships were allowed entry, and any contract entered into while the act was in force was declared null and void. Royal and military ships were allowed to dock at the port, as were ships carrying the bare necessities of survival for the colony.
Ships in the latter group, however, were required to have the proper paperwork. Any ship that violated the terms of the act was to be confiscated along with its cargo. Furthermore, the Royal Navy was authorized to force ships from the port; any ship that did not leave after sufficient warning also became royal property.
In addition, under the provisions of the act, those who assisted violators forfeited a sum equal to what the profits from the goods would have been had they been sold, and all the items used to violate the act would be confiscated. The Boston Port Bill authorized that upon a warrant from either the lord high treasurer or commissioners of the Royal Treasury, any admiral, chief commander, commissioned officer of the Royal Navy, customs officer, or other specially designated person would be allowed to enforce the act. If those charged with enforcing the act were caught allowing any prohibited ship to enter the port because of bribes or other influences, they would have to pay a fine of 500 pounds per offense and would never again be allowed to serve in any civil or military position.
Those who offered the bribe or other influence were to be fined 50 pounds per incident. The Boston Port Bill was to be in effect until the fulfillment of two conditions. First, it had to appear to King George III and the Privy Council that law and order had been restored to Boston.
Second, the East India Company had to be duly compensated for its losses resulting from the Boston Tea Party. Once both conditions had been satisfied, either a proclamation or an order-in-council could declare the entire port or certain parts of it reopened. Until those conditions were met, the port would remain closed.
The Boston Port Bill was passed in March 1774 and was signed by King George III on March 31, 1774. The act was to go into effect on June 1, 1774. News of the act was met with widespread shock and condemnation throughout the colonies.
The act prompted Josiah Quincy to write and publish Observations on the Boston Port Bill with Thoughts on Civil Society and Standing Armies, one of the most famous prerevolutionary tracts. On June 1, 1774, when the port of Boston was closed, the town of Williamsburg, Virginia, condemned the Boston Port Bill and declared a day of prayer and religious exercises in a display of colonial solidarity. Philadelphia also acted in favor of Boston by condemning the act and closing its houses; its citizens met in public to voice their grievances against Parliament and held religious services.
The remaining colonies followed a similar pattern, condemning the act and holding religious services in support of Boston. The port of Boston remained officially closed until the end of the American War for Independence. Aaron N.
Coleman See also: Boston; Coercive Acts (1774); Navy, British; Trade; Document: The Boston Port Act (1774). Bibliography Ammerman, David. In the Common Cause: American Response to the Coercive Acts of 1774.
Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974. Quincy, Josiah, Jr. “Observations on the Act of Parliament Commonly Called the Boston Port Bill: With Thoughts on Civil Society and Standing Armies. ” In Memoir of the Life of Josiah Quincy.
New York: Da Capo, 1971. Reid, John Phillip. Constitutional History of the American Revolution.
Abridged edition. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995. The Road to War Of Rebellion: Observations on the Boston Port-Bill by John Q … Presentation “Toward Revolution: What eventually led to the …