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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