The Colonial Economy

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What were the colonists' reaction to the Navigation Acts?

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The Navigations Acts were a series of legislative acts restricting colonists' trade with England, passed by British Parliament beginning in 1650. The Navigation Acts attempted to outline the colonies as the chief suppliers of raw materials for England, which would convert these raw materials to commercial goods. The Navigation Acts outlined a list of "enumerated goods," which were (especially) those used for shipbuilding but also included crops popular in the south, such as cotton and sugar.

These Acts gave the colonies a natural market for their goods; however, they also were not necessarily earning a maximum profit. Unsurprisingly, the colonists resented this restriction on free trade, so their policy was simply to ignore the acts. Britain in turn ignored their behavior of rejecting the acts—a policy known as "salutary neglect." However, Britain's initiative to crack down on the colonies can be seen in the Molasses and Sugar Acts (in 1733 and 1764, respectively), which placed high import taxes on these named products when imported from anywhere but British Colonies. The Navigation Acts collectively proved too hard for Britain to enforce over a long distance across the Atlantic Ocean and eventually inspired the American independence movement in the eighteenth century.

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How did loyalists react to the Navigation Acts?

The Navigation Acts refers to many different laws regarding trade with foreign merchants.  These laws were made by the British to prevent trade by nearby countries and to promote exclusivity.  The Navigation Acts were passed in the middle of the 17th century, and they were not reversed until the 19th century.  Those living in the Thirteen British Colonies were prohibited from trading with Dutch, French, or Spanish merchants according to the laws.

In 1764, the Sugar Act was passed.  It was passed to enforce a tax on molasses.  It also required that some goods could only be sold to Britain.  The economy was weak in the Thirteen Colonies at the time, and the Sugar Act caused feelings of unrest.  Many colonists disagreed with the law.  Colonists who would later become Patriots were vocal protestors of the Sugar Act.  

The Sugar Act most directly impacted merchants and those who were traders on ships.  Many loyalists who worked in these industries disagreed with the Sugar Act.  Though they were loyal to the King, they did not agree with the law.  The loyalists, however, were less vocal protestors.

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