British Policies in the Colonies
Salutary Neglect

Even though England believed in a system of Mercantilism where the colonies existed for the benefit of the Mother Country, Sir Robert Walpole decided to try something different to stimulate commerce. Walpole, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain, espoused a view of salutary necglect whereby the actual enforcement of external trade relations was lax. In other words, the British did not strictly enforce commerce laws with the colonies. As Walpole said, "If no restrictions were placed on the colonies, they would flourish." This unofficial policy was in effect from 1607-1763.

British Colonial Policies, 1763-1776

The new colonies in present-day America began with little help from the parent country, Great Britain. However, the colonists created a prosperous economy based on agriculture and trade, and they eventually started to govern themselves. With the French and Indian War came the loss of colonial need for British protection, but with it also came a new set of policies that eventually drove​ the colonies towards their separation. These policies emerged soon after the war, and carried on until 1776 with the Declaration of Independence. Starting from 1763 the British started a set of sensible policies aimed at alleviating the debt incurred during the French and Indian War, and later added necessary imperialistic policies of control designed to exert their sovereignty over the rebellious American colonies.
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The British victory in the French and Indian War brought forth the American land west of the Appalachian Mountains.To avoid any potential conflicts between the colonists and the Native Americans, Britain issued it's first policy:

external image 00034911.gifThe Proclamation Act of 1763: To end all settlements past the mountains, enforcing it by stationing troops along the frontier to ensure that the two rival groups were separated. This showed Britain’s concern and sacrifice for the sake of peace—valuable soldiers were sent to tend to a border instead of preparing for armed battle.

Britain was considerably fair in terms of responsibility and judgment. This is evident by the war debt of -130 000 000, for Britain was in extreme deficit but managed to stay together and still govern the colonies. However, that wasn't enough—Britain needed some sort of income, some money coming into the country. Part of this was due to the massive competition that was still ongoing between the European nations for control of the colonies. And so Britain turned to its resources—the colonies. Instead of directly taking money from them, Britain imposed a tax which would relieve the burdens on both sides by a considerable measure. Thus came the Sugar Act of 1764: which simply taxed foreign imports of sugar and molasses.

external image stamp.jpgHowever, there was one fault of the Sugar Act—enforcement. Smuggling was still widespread in the colonies, and the act proved not at all beneficial. The solution was the Stamp Act of 1765: which was a direct tax on documents and articles such as newspapers and diplomas. This time, the act affected not only merchants and shippers but all colonists, which proved its effectiveness. Nevertheless, the resulting boycott was so harsh on Britain that the act was repealed in 1766.

The Declaratory Act of 1766: Apparently Britain did not state the reason why it kept the colonies so in response the enacted this law, which stated that colonial America was subordinate and existed to serve the mercantilist policies of the parent country .


Now that Britain declared its true purpose of colonization, it started to take bolder decisions and changes to the colonies. The colonists had little excuse to oppose Parliament’s decisions, and their claims of injustice and exploitation lost any existing strength. One of the bold decisions Britain made was:

The Quartering Act of 1765: which declared that British soldiers had the right to shelter and supplies anywhere in the colonies. Although the colonies saw this as exploitation, concealed taxation, and interruption of privacy, this was merely a way of economizing the costs of maintaining the sovereignty over the colonies.
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Even at this point, Britain was still running short of funds. As a final solution, Parliament passed:

The Townshend Acts of 1767: This placed an import duty on items such as tea, paper, glass, and paint. However, poor collection of taxes drove Britain to repeal the Townshend Acts in 1770, keeping the tea tax.

external image 00036072.jpgThe Tea Act of 1773: gave the British East India Company a trade monopoly for tea and, at the same time, offered tea for a price lower than those of Dutch and French tea. The act seemed to benefit both parties. The colonists were not faced with a dreadful increases in price, and Britain improved its income via the monopoly. And yet, the colonies suspected that the act was a concealed bribe to acknowledge Parliament’s right to taxation, and they held the Boston Tea Party as a revolt and a boycott.



Coercive Acts of 1774: The punishment for the Boston Tea Party which became known among the colonists as the Intolerable Acts. The port of Boston was closed, and the regular town meetings in Massachusetts were banned. British troops could be quartered anywhere in Massachusetts, including private homes. Moreover, the Coercive Acts stipulated that British officials in the colonies were to be tried in British courts with British laws instead of those of the colonies. The acts also greatly reduced the colonies’ rights to self-government.

Britain continued to get what they could out of the colonies, and it did so by:

The Quebec Act of 1774: This act extended rights to loyalist Canada by firstly fixing Quebec’s boundaries to the Ohio River. It also recognized the religious freedom of Canada’s Catholic population and allowed them use of their own legal system. The colonies opposed, claiming that the British were attempting to disregard the colonies’ western land claims and to surround them with their Catholic allies.
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Sources:
http://www.answers.com/topic/colonial-policy-british
http://www.history.org/history/teaching/tchcrsta.cfm
http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h648.html
http://americanrevwar.homestead.com/files/intoler.htm
http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/revolution/rev-prel.htm

United States History (AMSCO)