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The economic system prevailing in Europe in the 1500s and 1600s which favored a balance of exports over imports, national wealth being measured by the amount of gold and silver possessed.
Wool Act of 1699. By this act all exports of wool products from any American colony to any other colony or to Europe were banned.
Hat Act of 1732, which halted the export of beaver hats to Europe or to other colonies.
Molasses Act in 1733 to protect British West Indies planters from competition with the foreign West Indies. The act required the colonists to pay a high tax on foreign molasses. The colonists avoided paying the tax by bribing customs officials and smuggling French and Dutch molasses into the colonies to make rum.
The Molasses Act was replaced in 1764 by the Sugar Act. This was an attempt by England to raise revenues in the colonies. The Sugar Act reduced the tax on foreign molasses, and strict enforcement measures were put in place to reduce smuggling and to make sure the tax was collected. The Sugar Act imposed taxes on other items. It also stated that some colonial exports, such as lumber, could only be shipped to England. The colonists disliked these provisions. They blamed the Sugar Act and other acts of Parliament for the economic depression in the colonies.
Iron Act of 1759 prohibited the building of iron mills and steel furnaces, at the same time encouraged the production of raw iron by allowing it to enter England duty-free.
The amount of money in the colonies was never enough to meet the needs of the colonies. The shortage of actual currency led many colonists to adopt a system of barter. Under this system a raw material such as wool could be exchanged for shoes, rice, or wheat.
Beginning in 1660, England passed a series of laws called the Navigation Acts. These acts controlled all colonial trade. The first Navigation Act required that all ships carrying goods between England and America be English-built or owned. Certain articles, which included tobacco, sugar, indigo, and naval stores, could be sold only to England.
The Navigation Acts were later extended to include molasses and beaver skins and other furs. The English government intended that these laws reduce the growing strength of the colonies. Yet the Navigation Acts did not cause friction with the colonists because the acts were loosely enforced.
England decided to enforce the Navigation Acts after 1763. England's troubles at home were settled when a new king, George III, came to the throne. Since France had been pushed from the North American continent as a result of the French and Indian War, England could now pay more attention to the colonies. The English government had spent large sums of money in this war and, since the colonies had benefited from it, the English felt that the colonists should pay part of the cost.
Writs of Assistance
Before the French and Indian War ended, the government had decided on a new policy toward the colonies. In 1761 British officials were ordered to enforce the Navigation Acts more strictly and to seize all goods smuggled into the colonies. The officials were given the power to use legal papers, called writs of assistance, to enter the warehouses, shops, and homes of the colonists to look for smuggled goods.
- -These writs of assistance created a great deal of concern in the colonies since they gave British officials the right to enter at will and confiscate anything that the owner was unable to prove was not smuggled.
- --A Boston lawyer, James Otis, protested that the writs of assistance violated one of the basic liberties of Englishmen, freedom from unreasonable search. Otis charged that the writs did not specify any particular place to search but were so general in nature that no colonial home was safe. However, Otis lost the case and the writs continued to be used.