The British Taxation Acts

The British Taxation Acts or the Navigation Acts were a series of laws that restricted the ability of the colonists to trade with any other nation except for Great Britain itself.The acts began in the year 1651, and gradually over the years became more and more strict, which annoyed and angered the colonists, this was one of the reasons of the cause of the American Revolution.

The Acts

The very first act of taxation was issued under the reign of Oliver Cromwell, this act was known as the Navigation Act bill, this act reinforced the standard that English trade should be carried in English ships. But the act was repealed soon after in the same year by King Charles the 2nd, after he was restored to the English throne. In 1660 this navigation act was reissued.

The navigation act of 1660 stated, that the crew aboard a ship had to be ¾ Englishmen, and that the colonists could only trade to England or other English colonies. In 1663 that act got even more strict, by restricting trade access even more; this time the act demanded that all goods and products from Europe headed to the colonies had to pass through England and be carried on English ships. These acts increased the amount of time it took to ship goods to the colonists, and the cost.

In 1773 another act was issued, this one was called the Molasses Act, this was another variation to the navigation act. This act required a high import tax on any sugar from the French West Indies. This benefited the English sugar growers, since they could charge a higher price for the sugar they were selling to the colonists. The colonists heavily ignored the act though. They turned to smuggling, bribery, and intimidation of the customs officers, to get their sugar.

The Currency Act was issued in 1751. This act was designed to favor the best interests of the British merchants, who were being repaid with the depreciated currency of the colonies.

The currency in the colonies was heavily inflated, this was because they still had to pay off the costs from the Seven Years War. The merchants wanted to be paid more to compensate for inflation.

The act was extended further in 1764, this time the act allowed the colonies to have their own form of currency, but any newly issued money could not be used to pay off public or private debts. The colonies were very short on gold and silver, which caused a very tight money supply.


These acts were lessoned in 1774, but the damage was still done. The colonists realized that Parliament was not acting in the colonists’ best interests. This was one of the reasons for the cause of the American Revolution.

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