How did salutary neglect work in favor of the colonists?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Salutary neglect refers to a period of time when a government doesn’t strictly enforce some of the laws that had been passed. The colonists benefitted from this at times because the British didn’t always strictly enforce some of the laws that applied to the colonies.

A good example of this can be seen with the Navigation Acts. One purpose of establishing colonies was for the colonizing country to benefit economically. The Navigation Acts were designed to help the British economically. The Navigation Acts required that products be transported on British ships. There were certain items, like molasses, that could only be purchased from Great Britain. However, the British often didn’t enforce these laws. This allowed the colonists to get products cheaper from other countries. When the British tried to crack down on some of the acts of smuggling in the 1760s, the colonists weren’t happy and resisted these attempts. The colonists had become used to the lax enforcement of the laws and weren’t happy when that changed in the 1760s.