Britain reacted quickly. The following spring, Parliament passed four acts that the British collectively called coercive laws. But the settlers called them unbearable acts. First, the Boston Harbor Act closed the port and interrupted all trade to and from the city. The Massachusetts Government Act completely placed the colonial government under British control, dissolved the assembly and restricted municipal assemblies. The Administration of Justice Act allowed any royal official accused of committing a crime to appear in Britain and not by Massachusetts courts and jurors before the courts and jurors. Finally, the Quartering Act, passed for all colonies, allowed the British army to house newly arrived soldiers in settler homes. Boston had been seen as an open insurrection, and the king, his advisers and Parliament were acting decisively to end the rebellion. The Stamp Act Congress issued a „Declaration of Rights and Abuses“ which, as Virginia Resolves said, declared to the king his loyalty and „subordination“ to Parliament, but also reaffirmed the idea that settlers had the same rights as the British. These rights included the court, which had been shortened by the sugar law, and the right to be imposed only by their own elected representatives. Daniel Dulany wrote in 1765: „It is an essential principle of the English Constitution that the subject should not be taxed without his consent.“ 10 Benjamin Franklin called him the „Maxim prim of all free government.“ 11 Since the colonies did not elect members to Parliament, they believed that they were not represented and could not be taxed by that body.

In response, Parliament and the Crown argued that settlers were „practically represented,“ as were residents of English districts or counties who did not elect members of Parliament. However, the settlers rejected the notion of virtual representation, with one of them calling it a „monstrous idea.“ 12 The Tea Act provided that the tax was due when the ship was unloaded. Newspaper articles and letters from the summer of 1773 in major port cities discussed what to do when the ships arrived. In November, the Boston Sons of Liberty, led by Samuel Adams and John Hancock, decided to prevent „the landing and sale of [tea] and payment of any obligation“ and to do so „in the conduct of their lives and property.“ 25 The assembly appointed men to guard the docks and ensure that the tea remained on the ships until they returned to London. It worked and the tea did not reach shore, but until December 16, the ships were still there. Another meeting of the town was held at the Old South Meeting House, at which dozens of men disguised as Mohawks found their way to the wharf.