In 1651, the
Parliament of England sought to regulate trade in America by passing the
Navigation Acts, ensuring that trade
only enriched Britain.
 The economic effects were minimal,
 but they triggered serious political friction.
 The American colonists had fought
King Philip's War without significant assistance from the Crown, and this contributed to a growing sense of American identity separate from that of
 Britain continued to assert control into the 1680s,
 culminating in the abrogation of colonial charters
 and the establishment of the
Dominion of New England in 1686. Colonists, however, felt that the Dominion was undermining their democratic liberty
 and they
overthrew it in 1689;
 the Crown made no attempt to restore it.
The British government continued to pursue trade control, however, passing acts that taxed
 The Molasses Act of 1733 was especially egregious to the colonists, as a significant part of colonial trade relied on the product. The taxes severely damaged the local economy, and consequently they were rarely paid. Smuggling, bribery, piracy, and intimidation of customs officials became commonplace.
 Colonial wars were also a contributing factor. The return of
Louisbourg to France in 1748 following the
War of the Austrian Succession caused considerable resentment in New England, the colonists having expended great effort in subduing the fortress only to have it returned to their erstwhile enemy.
Britain triumphed over France and Spain in the
Seven Years' War, but this led to a financial crisis, as the national debt had doubled to £130 million, and the annual cost of the British civil and military establishment in America had quintupled when compared to 1749.
 Smuggling had been tacitly accepted, but now the British began to consider that it blunted their revenue, so Whitehall decided to ensure that customs duties were unavoidable
 by passing the
Stamp Act in 1765. Colonists condemned the tax because their
rights as Englishmen protected them from being taxed by a Parliament in which they had
no elected representatives.
 Parliament argued that the colonies were "
represented virtually", an idea that was criticized throughout the Empire.
 Parliament did repeal the act in 1766; however, it also
affirmed its right to pass laws that were binding on the colonies.
 From 1767, Parliament began passing
legislation to raise revenue for the salaries of civil officials, ensuring their loyalty while inadvertently increasing resentment among the colonists, and opposition soon became widespread.
Enforcing the acts proved difficult; the seizure of the sloop
Liberty on suspicions of smuggling triggered a riot. In response, British troops occupied Boston, and Parliament threatened to
extradite colonists to face trial in England.
 Tensions rose after the murder of a
teen by a customs official in 1770 and escalated into outrage after British troops fired on civilians in the
 In 1772, colonists in
Rhode Island boarded and burned a
customs schooner. Parliament then repealed all taxes except the one on tea, passing the
Tea Act in 1773, attempting to force colonists to buy
East India Company tea on which the Townshend duties were paid, thus implicitly agreeing to Parliamentary supremacy. The landing of the tea was resisted in all colonies, but the
governor of Massachusetts permitted British tea ships to remain in
Boston Harbor—so the
Sons of Liberty
destroyed the tea chests.
This iconic 1846 lithograph by
was entitled "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor"; the phrase "Boston Tea Party" had not yet become standard. Contrary to Currier's depiction, few of the men dumping the tea were actually disguised as Indians.
Parliament then passed punitive legislation. It
closed Boston Harbor until the tea was paid for and
Massachusetts Charter, taking upon themselves the right to directly appoint the
Massachusetts Governor's Council. Additionally, the royal governor was granted powers to undermine local democracy.
Further measures allowed the extradition of officials for trial elsewhere in the Empire, if the governor felt that a fair trial could not be secured locally. The act's vague reimbursement policy for travel expenses left few with the ability to testify, and colonists argued that it would allow officials to harass them with impunity.
Further laws allowed the governor to
billet troops in private property without permission.
 The colonists referred to the measures as the "
Intolerable Acts", and they argued that both their constitutional rights and their
natural rights were being violated, viewing the acts as a threat to all of America.
 The acts were widely opposed, driving neutral parties into support of the
Patriots and curtailing
The colonists responded by establishing the
Massachusetts Provincial Congress, effectively removing Crown control of the colony outside Boston. Meanwhile, representatives from twelve colonies
 convened the
First Continental Congress to respond to the crisis. The Congress narrowly rejected a proposal which would have created an
American parliament to act in concert with the British Parliament; instead, they passed
a compact declaring a
trade boycott against Britain.
 Congress also affirmed that Parliament had no authority over internal American matters, but they were willing to consent to trade regulations for the benefit of the empire,
 and they authorized committees and conventions to enforce the boycott. The boycott was effective, as imports from Britain dropped by 97% in 1775 compared to 1774.
Parliament refused to yield. In 1775, it declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion and enforced a blockade of the colony.
 It then passed
legislation to limit colonial trade to the British West Indies and the British Isles. Colonial ships were barred from the Newfoundland cod fisheries, a measure which pleased
Canadiens but damaged New England's economy. These increasing tensions led to a
mutual scramble for ordnance and pushed the colonies toward open war.
Thomas Gage was the British
Commander-in-Chief and military governor of Massachusetts, and he received orders on April 14, 1775 to disarm the local militias.