What was salutary neglect and how was it used on the colonists?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Salutary neglect was the policy where the British government did not really enforce (neglected) its laws that governed the commerce of the colonies in the Americas.  It was called “salutary neglect” because the neglect helped the colonial economy.

The British government of that time believed in the idea of mercantilism.  That is, they believed that a country’s economy could only be strong if it reduced its imports and increased its exports.  One way that Britain tried to do this was by making sure that all colonial goods were shipped through Britain (rather than allowing them to trade directly with other countries or other countries’ colonies).  These and other regulations on colonial trade annoyed many Americans.

However, the British government did not really enforce these laws for a long time.  Some historians say this was an intentional policy while others think that it came about accidentally because the British government was sloppy and inefficient.  Whichever way it happened, it continued for a decades, making the Americans feel that it was the normal state of affairs.  When the British ended the policy after the French and Indian War, many colonists were outraged.  This helped lead to the American Revolution.