Another Look at the Navigation Acts and the Coming of the American Revolution
In the eighteenth century, the Navigation Acts were chiefly valued for their role in promoting naval power. Commentators recognised that the system created by the Acts was economically useful for Britain, providing valuable colonial staples and securing a colonial market closed (in theory) to foreign competition. But naval considerations were of paramount importance. This chapter provides fresh insight into the importance that British politicians attached to the naval aspects of the Navigation system in the dispute with the American colonies between 1764 and 1775, investigating the subject by tracing references to the Navigation Acts in parliamentary debates, pamphlet literature and newspapers. British ministers’ decision to use force to compel the American colonists to obey parliamentary authority owed a great deal to their perception that if the colonies broke free of the Navigation Acts, then British naval power would inevitably decline, along with Britain’s European standing.