Administration of Justice Act

May 20, 1774

The Administration of Justice Act

The Administration of Justice Act was one of five laws enacted by the British Parliament in 1774 in response to the Boston Tea Party. The Administration of Justice Act, passed on May 20, 1774, authorized the governor of Massachusetts to move trials of royal officials accused of committing capital offenses, while performing their official duties, to another colony or to Great Britain, if he believed the accused would not receive a fair trial in Massachusetts. It also provided further ammunition for a growing radical element in the colonies and prompted the calling of the First Continental Congress on September 5, 1774.
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Causes

The events leading up to the The Administration of Justice Act were primarily the The Boston Massacre which occurred on March 5, 1770, The Tea Tax of 1773, and The Boston Tea Party. The Sons of Liberty, a secret, underground organization formed following the 1765 Stamp Act, were Patriots who agitated and protested against British rule in the colonies. The Administration of Justice Act was one of the series of reprisals for the actions taken by the patriots.

Effects

The Administration of Justice Act intentionally passed to punish all the residents of Massachusetts rather than those responsible for the destruction and economic loss during the Tea Party Protest. The British King George and parliament believed that the people of Massachusetts could be punished without the other colonies objecting. They believed that the harsh punishment of the whole Massachusetts colony would panic the other American colonies into conceding the authority of Parliament over their elected assemblies.

Response

The other colonies sympathized with the people of Massachusetts and many deplored all of the Intolerable Acts including the Administration of Justice Act. The British had revoked the colony's 1691 charter, had appointed a Military Governor (General Thomas Gage) and had effectively imposed martial law, in which a military government suspended civil law. They saw the Intolerable Acts, including the Administration of Justice Act, as:
  • A violation of their constitutional rights, natural rights and and their colonial charters
  • Abolishing Colonial Laws
  • Fundamentally altering the forms of Governments and suspending Legislatures
  • Suspending Trade