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The Navigation and Molasses Acts

The colonists needed to cooperate to survive. The first colonial union was the New England Confederation (1643), a partnership of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth, and two Connecticut colonies for mutual defense and problem-solving.

About 40 years later, the royal government in London imposed a very different Dominion of New England (1686). The head of the new dominion was Sir Edmund Andros, whose job was to enforce the law, especially the Navigation Acts (1660), which made it illegal to send anything to the colonies that hadn't first passed through and been taxed by England. The Navigation Acts and the later Molasses Act of 1733 supported a policy of mercantilism, which forced colonies to buy and sell with England so that England could profit off the colonies.


Question: What did the Navigation Acts (1660) and the Molasses Act (1733) support?

Answer: These acts furthered the policy of mercantilism.

The colonists hated Sir Edmund, and he responded by closing down meetings, schools, the courts, and the press, and revoking land titles. He issued taxes without consulting the local assemblies. The colonists were on the verge of revolt when the English, in what was called the Glorious Revolution (1689), dethroned the unpopular James II and brought on the easier rule of William and Mary. Sir Edmund was caught trying to sneak out of town dressed as a woman, and he was sent back to England.

Disease and money

The Chesapeake area was a money-maker but not a very healthy place to be. Disease and death were a constant fear of even the well-to-do in 1600 and early 1700 Virginia and Maryland. Half the people born in the early years of these colonies didn't live to see their 20th birthdays. Few of those who lived past 20 made it to 50, and women were lucky to see 40. Most marriages ended in the death of a partner within 7 years. Without many parents or any grandparents for moral guidance, more than one-third of the girls were pregnant when they got married.

Still, the money kept rolling in to those who survived to spend it. In the 1630s, Chesapeake Bay shipped 1.5 million pounds of tobacco a year; by 1700, the colony shipped 40 million pounds a year. Both Virginia and Maryland employed the headright system (1670), which encouraged the importation of servant workers. Whoever paid to bring in a servant received the right to 50 acres of land. Hungry for land and labor, big planters brought some 100,000 indentured servants into the region by 1700; most of those servants didn't live long enough to serve out their contracts. In all, these indentured servants represented three-quarters of all newcomers to the region in the 1600s.

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