What was the British policy of salutary neglect? Why did the British follow this policy? What consequences did it have to the British colonies in North America?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Salutary neglect refers to Britain's unofficial policy of not strictly enforcing Parliamentary laws in the colonies. Britain practised salutary neglect throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and for practical reasons: America's distance from Britain made it impossible for the government to keep a constant eye on the colonists. They knew, for example, that the colonists bought goods from France and Spain and did nothing to stop it - even though it was technically against British law. Quite simply, it was too expensive for Britain to maintain a full and constant presence in America when it had so many other affairs to tend to. 

As a result of salutary neglect, the colonists enjoyed a degree of self-government which, over time, they cherished and would fiercely protect. They were not accustomed to Britain enforcing trade laws in the colonies so, when this began to happen in the 1763 with the passing of the Navigation Act, they felt that Britain's actions were a direct threat to their liberties and freedoms. Britain continued to pass and enforce restrictive trade laws throughout the 1760s, like the Intolerable Acts, which set many Americans thinking strongly about independence.