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Restoration Navigation Acts

In 1660 the second Navigation Act was passed as an extension of the 1651 Navigation Act. During the Restoration area mercantilist economic and trade policy was widespread as it proved successful in undermining the Dutch.

In addition to the restriction of carriage of goods to and from the colonies in British owned vessels, a new provision was added by which the vessels should be manufactured in England or its colonies and the crew should consists of more than three quarters English or colonial men, but it excluded Scots. The 1660 Navigation Act added more protective measures; an enumerated list of goods such as tobacco, sugar, wool products, cotton, ginger, dying woods and a long list of commodities that could be shipped from the colony of origin only to England, Ireland,Wales, Berwick or other British colonies before being re-exported to foreign countries. Colonies were still free to export other unenumerated products as long as it was in English vessels.

The Tariff of 1661 imposed a series of duties on the importation of goods to Britain from foreign countries and colonies. The purpose was to give a price advantage to produce originated in British colonies. For example colonial sugar had to pay a tariff of 1s5d pwd while foreign sugar 3s10d.

 The Staple Act of 1663 restricted colonial imports from foreign countries. It specified that all imports except for salt and wine from Southern Europe and horses from Ireland and Scotland had to come from Britain before reaching its colonies. Heavy duties applied which were drawn back on re-export. This system benefited British manufacturers, shippers and middle men who received preferential treatment in colonial markets.

The Plantation Duty Act of 1773 required a bond security from captains of shipping vessels involved in inter colonial trade. They were responsible for paying duties on delivery and infractions involved the loss of both the vessel and cargo. To secure its effectiveness customs officials were sent for the first time to colonies to collect and enforce the collection of duties.

Within half a century of the enactment of the first Navigation Act Britain controlled the transatlantic trade and dethroned the Dutch. By 1790 Britain had the most powerful fleet in the world. Nearly all imported manufactured goods consumed in the colonies were made in Britain or passed through Britain first.

After the French and Indian war (1754-1763), Britain’s worsened financial situation forced it to use the provisions of Navigation Acts to burden American colonies with more taxes opening the door for deterioration of its economic policies in America. One positive consequence of England’s mercantilist policy in the colony was that shipbuilding became an important industry in New England.

British mercantilist trade policy and its commercial legislation slowly alienated its colonies. Conducting business under this law was made difficult because of bureaucracy, growing corruption of officials and high duties paid on trade, smuggling and a black market for goods became widespread. Disrespect for British law caused by the Navigation Acts and others that were to come eventually, such as the Sugar Act, Stamp ActTea Act and Townshend Acts, led to the uprising of the colonial population that culminated in their freedom from the British Empire in 1776.


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