On May 17, 1769, George Washington launched a legislative salvo during Britain’s fiscal and judicial attempts to maintain control over the American colonies. With the objective of protesting against the British policy of “taxation without representation”, Washington presented a set of non-import resolutions to the Virginia House of Burgesses.
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The resolutions, largely drafted by George Mason in response to England’s adoption of the Townshend Acts of 1767, decried Parliament’s plan to send colonial political protesters to England for trial. Although the royal governor of Virginia quickly responded by dissolving the Chamber of Burgesses, dissident lawmakers were not discouraged. At a makeshift meeting at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, delegates from Virginia supported the non-import resolutions. Maryland and South Carolina quickly followed suit with the adoption of their own non-import measures.
The no-import resolutions had no means of enforcement, and Scottish Chesapeake tobacco merchants tended to be loyal to their Glasgow businesses. However, tobacco growers supported the measure, and the mere existence of non-importation agreements demonstrated that the southern colonies were willing to defend Massachusetts, the real target of British repression, where violent protests against the Townshend Acts had led to a military occupation of Boston, from October 2, 1768.
When the British House of Lords learned that the Sons of Liberty, a revolutionary group from Boston, had assembled an extra-legal convention from the cities of Massachusetts when the British fleet approached in 1768, they demanded the right to try these men in England. This step did not frighten New England in silence, but managed to rally the Southerners to their cause. By attacking the colonial courts and restricting colonial rights, this British action has backfired: it has created an American identity that never existed before.