How did English policy toward the colonies change from 1650-1720?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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During the time period that you are asking about, English policy towards the colonies first became more intrusive and coherent and then fell back towards an era of “salutary neglect.”

1650 can be selected as a starting point in part because this was the year after Oliver Cromwell took power in England after the English Civil War.  With regard to the colonies, Cromwell’s main desire was that they should be economically useful.  Therefore, he had Parliament adopt the first Navigation Act to force the colonies to ship their goods on English ships.  Later Parliaments enacted further Navigation Acts that increased the degree to which colonial trade was regulated. 
After the Glorious Revolution in 1688, the English government tried hard to have a coherent system of enforcing these acts.

However, things started to change in the 1720s.  This was largely because of a change in leadership in England.  Queen Anne died and the Hanoverian kings took the throne.  They were much less interested in the American colonies and enforcement of laws having to do with the colonies lapsed.  The English started to treat the colonies with “salutary neglect.”  This would be very important because it would lead the colonists to get used to ruling themselves. 

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