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PinkMonkey Study Guide - American History

2. 4 The Colonies versus Britain

When Charles II ascended the throne in England, in 1651, the British crown under Charles II enacted the navigation act. It was formulated to convert the scattered American settlements into a world Empire. Through this act, England wanted to make its overseas colonies, a huge trading area well protected by her powerful navy. Thus, the colonies would produce goods which could not grow or be produced in England - like lumber, fur, tobacco, indigo, sugar etc. These products could be sold or sent only to Britain, where they would enjoy complete monopoly. And as far as possible, the colonies would buy their finished products from the English. In other words, even if the products were originally manufactured in Europe, they had to go through England, to reach the colonies. Besides, merchants had to pay custom duties on all the traded goods coming from England. The goods could be carried only in British or colonial ships.

The Navigation Act was followed by the Staple Act of 1663. This Act made it necessary for all goods imported by the colonies from any part of Europe to be shipped from British ports. These acts helped the crown to increase their revenue to fill her war-drained coffers. Many colonies in America, especially Massachusetts resented and resisted these Acts. The reasons were religious well as economic.

Since the population of Massachusetts comprised mainly of Puritans, they resented the restoration of the Tudor dynasty in England. The colony secretly gave refuge to a Puritan man, an escaped convict who was condemned to death by the king for the execution of Charles I. Further, the merchants perceived the Navigation Act as restrictive to trade. Most merchants from Massachusetts ignored the Act. Moreover, it insisted on following its own set of laws, particularly those concerning religion - which were opposed to the church in England. All attempts by the king to make the colony conform to the laws and Acts of the mother country, were of no avail. In many instances the laws were fiercely resisted.

The Navigation Acts were particularly resented when the price of tobacco fell in the British market. This was in 1667, when they fell to about half a penny per pound. Almost half the tobacco shipped from the colony, to Britain, was then exported to the other parts of Europe. Due to the fall in the prices, the merchants in Massachusetts did not find it profitable to send tobacco to Britain. Instead they began turning a blind eye to the laws under the Navigation Act by sending tobacco directly to Europe via Holland.

Moreover, even Virginia whose inhabitants were loyal supporters of the British king, got disgruntled due to the Navigation and Staple Acts.

Table of Contents

2.0 - Chronology of Major Events in this Period
2.1 - Colonies in America
2.2 - The First English settlement
2.3 - Puritan Influence on the early American Society
2.4 - Colonies Versus Britain
2.5 - Points to Remember

Chapter 3


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