The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Boston Port Bill
BOSTON PORT BILL, of 31 March 1774, was Great Britain's retort to the destruction of the tea in Boston Harbor, 16 Dec. 1773. (See Boston Tea Party). The maintenance of English authority by force, or abdication in favor of a party which would maintain it, were the only alternatives left to the government. The King's Speech of 7 March 1774 charged the colonists with attempting to injure British commerce and subvert the Constitution, and on the 18th Lord North brought in the Port Bill, providing that there should be no further “landing or discharging, lading or shipping of goods, wares and merchandise at the town and within the harbor of Boston” till the town paid for the tea and promised submission to the laws; that the colony's seat of government should be removed to Salem and Marblehead made a port of entry, the act to take effect 1 June. Even some of the best friends of America in Parliament at first approved it as moderate and reasonable, as the town could end the punishment at any moment by paying for legitimate merchandise destroyed by riot and allowing law and order to have their course; but the Whig opposition soon collected itself and the bill was fought in its various stages by Burke, Barre, Pownall and others. In spite of them it became a law 31 March, without a division in the Commons and by unanimous vote in the Lords. The fleet and army were, of course, to join in enforcing the blockade; Boston was filled with troops and Gage made commander-in-chief. The immediate results were a flood of contributions from the other New England towns, of grain and provisions, so great that the Boston leaders boasted that it would become the chief grain port of America if the act were not repealed; and finally a general congress, the first Continental Congress, was called to discuss this and other obnoxious acts passed in the same year and to devise measures of relief. Consult Frothingham, ‘Rise of the Republic’ (Boston 1872); Pickering, ‘Statutes at Large’ (Vol. XXX, London 1842); Halsey, ‘Boston Port Bill’ (New York 1904).