The Navigation Act of 1660 |
Empire is both a political and economic construct. The first British empire was built upon the concept of mercantilismthat the economic interests of the nation have priority over those of all other groups and areas and thus the periphery, or provinces, must profit the mother country. Acting upon such a doctrine, the British government enacted a series of Navigation Acts over the course of the second half of the seventeenth century. The first was passed by the Parliament of Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth in 1651. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, the new Parliament, to ensure the legality as well as continuation of the mercantile system that had been established, renewed the earlier legislation and added to it. The Navigation Act of 1660 further defined how trade among the mother country, colonies, and foreign lands was to be conducted.
For the increase of shipping and encouragement of the navigation of this nation, wherein, under the good providence and protection of God, the wealth, safety, and strength of this kingdom is so much concerned; be it enacted by the King's most excellent majesty, and by the lords and commons in this present parliament assembled, and by the authority thereof, That from and after the first day of December 1660, and from thenceforward, no goods or commodities whatsoever shall be imported into or exported out of any lands, islands, plantations or territories to his Majesty belonging or in his possession . . . in Asia, Africa, or America, in any other ship or ships, vessel or vessels whatsoever, but in such ships or vessels as do truly and without fraud belong only to the people of England or Ireland . . . and whereof the master and three fourths of the mariners at least are English; under the penalty of the forfeiture and loss of all the goods and commodities which shall be imported into or exported out of any of the aforesaid places in any other ship or vessel. . . .
II. And be it enacted, That no alien or person not born within the allegiance of our sovereign lord the King, his heirs and successors . . . shall from and after the first day of February, 1661, exercise the trade of a merchant or factor in any of the said places; upon the pain of forfeiture and loss of all his goods and chattels. . . .
III. And it is further enacted, That no goods or commodities whatsoever, of the growth, production or manufacture of Africa, Asia, or America, or any part thereof . . . be imported into England, Ireland, or Wales . . . in any other ship or ships, vessel or vessels whatsoever, but in such as do truly and without fraud belong only to the people of England, Ireland or Wales. . . .
XVIII. And be it further enacted, That from and after the first day of April, 1661, no sugars, tobacco, cotton-wool, indigos, ginger, fustick, or other dying wood, of the growth, production or manufacture of any English plantations in America, Asia, or Africa, shall be shipped, carried, conveyed or transported from any of the said English plantations to any land . . . other than to such English plantations as do belong to his Majesty. . . .
[From Danby Pickering, ed., The Statutes at Large from the Magna Charta, 46 vols. (Cambridge: J. Bertham, 17621807), 7:452ff.]