Boston was an obvious target for unscrupulous customs agents, as the colonies' largest port and largest center of smuggling. John Hancock was also a major target, as a wealthy merchant and an influential advocate for colonial rights. Customs agents claimed falsely that the Liberty had avoided paying 700 pounds on Madeira wine worth 3,000 pounds and demanded triple payment on the wine, 9,000 pounds, about thirteen times the amount of the alleged tax evasion. Hancock refused to pay and the agents towed the Liberty. For many Americans, this was the last straw, proving that British authorities were out to cause suffering in the colonies and nothing more.

During the enforcement of the Townshend duties, many colonists began to question Parliament's ability to legislate for them, to an even greater extent than before. Previously, they had almost unanimously accepted the principle that Parliament could pass some laws pertaining to the colonies, but the infringement on liberty that accompanied the enforcement of the Townshend duties had convinced many, by 1770, that Parliament should not be permitted to legislate for the colonies in any case. The cry of "no taxation without representation" was gradually being expanded to "no legislation without representation." Though the reforms instituted by the British government largely ended the abuses of the customs agents, the enmities created could not be so easily bridged; the Townshend duties were a major step in the progressive alienation of the colonies from Britain.

The Repeal of the Townshend duties presented a dilemma for colonial leaders, who had to decide whether to continue all non-importation policies in protest of the continued tax on tea, the most profitable item, or to selectively boycott tea. Eventually, they decided on informal non-consumption agreements, which proved fairly effective. However, the tax on tea remained a visible reminder of Parliament's insistence on the broadest possible interpretation of the Declaratory Act. Tea would prove a divisive issue in the coming years as the colonies neared rebellion.

Popular pages: America: 1763-1776