Our Georgia History

The Townshend Acts:

Rebellion to the North

By Randy Golden
Exclusively for Our Georgia History

At the end of the Stamp Act crisis things seemed to quiet down in the American colonies, and Georgia in particular. Ministers, like John J. Zubly, repeatedly spoke on political subjects and an active, well-organized Sons of Liberty group in Savannah bore watching. Further north, the New York Commons House had refused to comply with the Quartering Act (Mutiny Act of 1765), which made the colonies pay for "barracks necessities." New York City was the headquarters for the English Army in America, so the impact to New Yorkers would be greater than others. When Georgia requested troops, General Gage informed the state that no troops would be sent until the state agreed to pay for the troops in agreement with the act. The House finally gave in and appropriated money for the troops as a payment in lieu of barracks necessities.

As the rebellion to the North fermented, lawmakers in Georgia worked feverishly to deal with their most pressing internal problems. One of the more important things to be dealt with was allowing postmen free rides on ferries. The Upper House refused to pass a bill creating two ferries until the Common House permitted postmen to ride free. The lower house finally relented and passed the bill desired by the upper house.

Benjamin Franklin, who represented the state of Georgia in EnglandRelative calm was broken in Georgia with the Townshend Acts. On October 14, 1767 the duties imposed by the Townshend Acts were published in Georgia. The reaction was quick and predictably negative. Charles Townshend, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer (similar to our Secretary of the Treasury), felt that while the colonies would always oppose an internal tax, they would not oppose an external tax. Georgia's Lower House immediately voted to order its agent in London, Benjamin Franklin, to work for the repeal of these oppressive acts.

The Spring of 1768 brought new elections, and the Lower House once again elected Alexander Wylly as its leader. Governor James Wright had been ordered not to allow the House of Commons to consider the letters ("circulars") that had been issued by the legislatures further north. When it came time to end the session, however, the Lower House considered these letters, finding them "a proper exercise of the right to petition the throne." Wright dissolved the assembly.

John Hancock's sloop Liberty was seized in Boston Harbor in June, 1768.

Savannah businessmen and some nearby planters decided to act. On September 12, 1769 a group known as the Amicable Society, which was headed by Jonathan Bryan (Bryan County) met at Liberty Hall. They appointed a committee to consider their options. On September 19 the committee announced their proposals to a second meeting. These included:

  1. Encourage local manufacturing
  2. Raise sheep and discourage killing lambs
  3. Raise and "manufacture" cotton and flax
  4. Don't import English or European goods, with the exception of:
    • Cheap textiles, clothing, shoes and hose
    • Hardware and plantation tools
    • Hats
    • Paper
    • Firearms and ammunition
    • Mill and grindstones
    • Wool and cotton cards and wire
    • Items for the Indian trade
  5. Discontinue the custom of giving gifts at funerals
  6. Curtail slave trade
  7. Do not buy wine
  8. Do not buy from merchants who do not sign this pledge

The agreement was similar to one published in South Carolina, but Georgia exempted more goods. Jonathan Bryan, a member of the governor's council, lost his job for his involvement in this group.


To paint a picture of a Radical Georgia joining the colonies to her north is wrong. Georgia was not radical and the meeting of the Savannah businessmen and planters represented a small minority of the state. In fact, outside of Savannah there was little enthusiasm for what was happening in the city or the Lower House. Even many of the Savannah businessmen were supporting the measure because South Carolina was threatening to curtail trade the colony. This would have been a disaster for the Georgia businessmen.

Next:The House Dissolved

Acts Of War
Georgia in 1763
Sugar Act; Stamp Act
Townshend Acts
The House dissolved
Radicals Gain Power
Georgia joins the Continental Congress
A Colony at War
A State and Union Formed
The First Florida Expedition
A Leader Dies
The Second Florida Expedition
The Third Florida Expedition
Britain Attacks Georgia
Georgia Fight Backs
The Siege and Battle of Savannah
There Comes a Reaper
The Liberation of Georgia

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