Restraining Acts 1775

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The Restraining Acts were two Acts passed in 1775 by the Parliament of Great Britain in response to the unrest in Massachusetts and overall colonial boycott on British goods conducted by the Continental Congress early in the American Revolution.

Rebellion proclaimed[edit]

The province of Massachusetts Bay was in a state of crisis following the passage of the Coercive Acts in 1774. When colonists formed the extra-legal Massachusetts Provincial Congress and began organizing militia units independent of British control, Parliament responded on February 9, 1775, by declaring that Massachusetts was in a state of rebellion.[1]

The joint resolution of Parliament read, in part:

[W]e find, that a part of your Majesty's subjects in the province of the Massachusetts Bay have proceeded so far to resist the authority of the supreme legislature, that a rebellion at this time actually exists within the said province; and we see, with the utmost concern, that they have been countenanced and encouraged by unlawful combinations and engagements, entered into by your Majesty's subjects in several of the other colonies, to the injury and oppression of many of their innocent fellow-subjects resident within the kingdom of Great Britain, and the rest of your Majesty's dominions[2]

One of the Coercive Acts, the Boston Port Act, had cut off Boston's trade; this blockade was now extended to all of Massachusetts.[3]

New England Restraining Act[edit]

The North ministry next turned its attention to New England in general. The New England Restraining Act (short title: New England Trade And Fisheries Act, 15 Geo. III c. 31) was the ministry's response to the American colonies' decision to boycott British goods, as embodied in the Continental Association of 1774. It was given royal assent by George III on March 30, 1775. The Act provided that New England's trade be limited to Britain and the British West Indies (trade with other nations was prohibited, effective July 1, 1775). Moreover, New England ships were barred from the North Atlantic fisheries (a measure that pleased British Canadians, but threatened considerable harm to New England's economy), effective July 20, 1775.

Restraining Act extended[edit]

In April 1775, after news was received in London that colonies outside of New England had joined the Continental Association, a second restraining Act was passed to include the colonies of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and South Carolina. New York, Delaware, North Carolina, and Georgia were not included because the North ministry mistakenly believed that those colonies were opposed to the colonial boycott.


  1. ^ Cogliano, Revolutionary America, 47.
  2. ^ The Parliamentary History of England from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803, Volume 18 (London, 1813), 297.
  3. ^ Cogliano, Revolutionary America, 47–48.


  • Cogliano, Francis D. Revolutionary America, 1763-1815: A Political History. Routledge, 1999.
  • Jensen, Merrill. The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution, 1763–1776. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.

External links[edit]