British Colonial Trade Regulations, 1651-1764

Boston Harbor in the 18th century

 Act/Regulation Date Significance/Features
Navigation Act
  • Required all crews to be at least 1/2 English in nationality
  • Most goods must be carried on English or colonial ships
  • Goal: eliminate Dutch competition from colonial trading routes
Navigation Act
  • Required all colonial trade to be on English ships
  • Master and 3/4 of crew must be English
  • Long list of "enumerated goods" developed, including tobacco, sugar, rice, that could only be shipped to England or an English colony
Staple Act
  • Required goods bound for the colonies shipped from Africa, Asia, or Europe to first be landed in England before shipping to America.
Plantation Duty Act
  • Required colonial ship captains to guarantee that they would deliver enumerated goods to England or suffer financial penalties.
  • Colonial arm of English customs offices established
Navigation Act
  • Further tightened earlier Navigation Acts
  • Created system of admiralty courts to enforce trade regulations and punish smugglers
  • Customs officials given power to issue writs of assistance to board ships and search for smuggled goods
Woolens Act
  • To prevent competition with English producers, prohibited colonial export of woolen cloth.
Hat Act
  • Prohibited export of colonial-produced hats.
Molasses Act
  • All non-English imported molasses taxed heavily to encourage importation of British West Indian molasses.
American Revenue Act (Sugar Act)
  • Lord Grenville institutes new policies to generate revenue by combining new duties on imported goods with strict collectiion provisions. Tax on French West Indies molasses was actually lowered, but enforcement attempted to end bribes and smuggling.

Based on American Journey by Goldfied, et al., in addition to other sources.

Please cite this source when appropriate:

Feldmeth, Greg D. "Early British Colonial Trade Regulations," U.S. History Resources (Revised 24 June 2004).