Lesson title: Colonial Boycotts and She-merchants
Overview: This lesson will include a brief analysis as to the causes and effects of colonists' boycotts of British goods in response to taxes, particularly the Townshend duties. After the class discussion, students will write a persuasive essay to family members, trying to persuade them to participate in boycotts of popular imported goods like tea. Allow about 15 minutes for class reading and discussion of the introductory essay on boycotts. The rough draft of the persuasive essay may take approximately 35 minutes.
Historical background: As political and economic ties with Great Britain became strained, colonial women -- both consumers and she-merchants, or traders -- reacted in various ways. In 1767, the Townshend duties imposed new taxes on colonial imports of paper, glass, lead and tea. For shopkeepers like Jane Eustis or the sisters Ame and Elizabeth Cumings (whom you can read about on this site--use the search function or go to the archive), running a business was hard enough without the added challenge of additional taxes on the merchandise. The Townshend Acts were designed to raise revenue to be used in part to support colonial governors, judges, customs officers, and the British army in America. Both men and women traders and consumers resorted to non-importation and non-consumption agreements, and many people made do with local products, such as herbal teas and homespun cloth. After a period of colonial protests and political actions, Parliament in 1770 opted for a strategic retreat and repealed all the Townshend duties except that on tea. Some colonists felt they had won in their battle against Parliament, while others felt there was still more to protest.
See the students’ version of the “Boycotting British Goods” essay included in materials section.
Guiding questions: How did the colonists begin organized resistance to British policies? What were the causes and effects of colonial women’s involvement in boycotts? How did women shopkeepers participate in and affect the political events in the colonies before the Revolution? How did these women try to influence their customers?
Learning objective: After a class discussion and the reading of “Boycotting British Goods” essay, students will be able write a persuasive essay dealing with an individual’s decision whether to boycott British goods, in particular tea, providing evidence and arguments to support their views.
Activities: Begin the lesson by having the class read and discuss the introductory essay on “Boycotting British Goods.” Find causes and effects of colonial women’s involvement in boycotts.
Assessment: Direct the students to assume they are patriotic shopkeepers. Have them write a letter in which they try to persuade their family members to boycott the use of British imports like tea. (See the persuasive writing task prompt in the materials section at right.) The rough draft should take approximately 35 minutes.
Extending the lesson:
Have the students work in pairs to write and re-enact a dialogue between a Loyalist and Patriot concerning the boycotts. Have them pick particular goods, like tea or cloth, to discuss. They could be pairs of men, women, or a combination.