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Navigation Acts
Digital History ID 4102


Date:1660

Annotation: The Navigation Acts were laws designed to support English shipbuilding and restrict trade competition from England's commercial adversaries, especially the Dutch. The acts eventually contributed to growing colonial resentment with the imposition of additional duties on sugar, tobacco, and molasses.


Document: Excerpts from the Navigation Act

British Parliament

Navigation Act of September 13, 1660

For the increase of shipping and encouragement of the navigation of this nation wherein, under the good providence and protection of God, the wealth, safety, and strength of this kingdom is so much concerned; (2) be it enacted by the king’s most excellent Majesty, and by the Lords and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority thereof, that from and after the first day of December, one thousand six hundred and sixty, and from thence forward, no goods or commodities whatsoever shall be imported into or exported out of any lands, islands, plantations, or territories to his Majesty belonging or in his possession, or which may hereafter belong unto or be in the possession of his Majesty, his heirs, and successors, in Asia, Africa, or America, in any other ship or ships, vessel or vessels whatsoever, but in such ships or vessels as do truly and without fraud belong only to the people of England or Ireland, dominion of Wales or town of Berwick upon Tweed, or are of the built of and belonging to any the said lands, islands, plantations, or territories, as the proprietors and right owners thereof, and whereof the master and three fourths of the mariners at least are English; (3) under the penalty of the forfeiture and loss of all the goods and commodities which shall be imported into or exported out of any the aforesaid places in any other ship or vessel, as also of the ship or vessel, with all its guns, furniture, tackle, ammunition, and apparel; one third part thereof to his Majesty, his heirs and successors; one third part to the governor of such land, plantation, island, or territory where such default shall be committed, in case the said ship or goods be there seized, or otherwise that third part also to his Majesty, his heirs and successors; and the other third part to him or them who shall seize, inform, or sue for the same in any court of record, by bill, information, plaint, or other action, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law shall be allowed; (4) and all admirals and other commanders at sea of any the ships of war or other ship having commission from his Majesty or from his heirs or successors, are hereby authorized and strictly required to seize and bring in as prize all such ships or vessels as shall have offended contrary hereunto, and deliver them to the court of admiralty, there to be proceeded against; and in case of condemnation, one moiety of such forfeitures shall be to the use of such admirals or commanders and their companies, to be divided and proportioned amongst them according to the rules and orders of the sea in case of ships taken prize; and the other moiety to the use of his Majesty, his heirs and successors.

II. And be it enacted, that no alien or person not born within the allegiance of our sovereign lord the king, his heirs and successors, or naturalized, or made a free denizen, shall from and after the first day of February, which will be in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred sixty-one, exercise the trade or occupation of a merchant or factor in any the said places; (2) upon pain of the forfeiture and loss of all his goods and chattels, or which are in his possession; one third to his Majesty, his heirs and successors; one third to the governor of the plantation where such person shall so offend; and the other third to him or them that shall inform or sue for the same in any of his Majesty’s courts in the plantation where such offence shall be committed; (3) and all governors of the said lands, islands, plantations, or territories, and every of them, are hereby strictly required and commanded, and all who hereafter shall be made governors of any such islands, plantations, or territories, by his Majesty, his heirs or successors, shall before their entrance into their government take a solemn oath to do their utmost, that every the afore-mentioned clauses, and all the matters and things therein contained, shall be punctually and bona fide observed according to the true intent and meaning thereof; (4) and upon complaint and proof made before his Majesty, his heirs or successors, or such as shall be by him or them thereunto authorized and appointed, that any the said governors have been willingly and wittingly negligent in doing their duty accordingly, that the said governor so offending shall be removed from his government.

III. And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no goods or commodities whatsoever, of the growth, production or manufacture of Africa, Asia, or America, or of any part thereof, or which are described or laid down in the usual maps or cards of those places, be imported into England, Ireland, or Wales, islands of Guernsey and Jersey, or town of Berwick upon Tweed, in any other ship or ships, vessel or vessels whatsoever, but in such as do truly and without fraud belong only to the people of England or Ireland, dominion of Wales, or town of Berwick upon Tweed, or of the lands, islands, plantations or territories in Asia, Africa, or America, to his Majesty belonging, as the proprietors and right owners thereof, and whereof the master, and three fourths at least of the mariners are English; (2) under the penalty of the forfeiture of all such goods and commodities, and of the ship or vessel in which they were imported, with all her guns, tackle, furniture, ammunition, and apparel; one moiety to his Majesty, his heirs and successors; and the other moiety to him or them who shall seize, inform or sue for the same in any court of record, by bill, information, plaint or other action wherein no essoin, protection or wager of law shall be allowed.

XVIII. And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the first day of April, which shall be in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred sixty-one, no sugars, tobacco, cotton-wool, indigoes, ginger, fustic, or other dyeing wood, of the growth, production, or manufacture of any English plantations in America, Asia, or Africa, shall be shipped, carried, conveyed, or transported from any of the said English plantations to any land, island, territory, dominion, port, or place whatsoever, other than to such other English plantations as do belong to his Majesty, his heirs and successors, or to the kingdom of England or Ireland, or principality of Wales, or town of Berwick upon Tweed, there to be laid on shore; (2) under the penalty of the forfeiture of the said goods, or the full value thereof, as also of the ship, with all her guns, tackle, apparel, ammunition, and furniture; the one moiety to the king’s Majesty, his heirs and successors, and the other to moiety to him or them that shall seize, inform, or sue for the same in any court of record, by bill, plaint, or information, wherein no ession, protection, or wager of law shall be allowed.

XIX. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that for every ship or vessel, which from and after the five and twentieth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and sixty shall set sail out of or from England, Ireland, Wales, or town of Berwick upon Tweed, for any English plantation in America, Asia, or Africa, sufficient bond shall be given with one surety to the chief officers of the custom-house and such port of place from whence the said ship shall set sail, to the value of one thousand pounds, if the ship be of less burden that one hundred tons; and of the sum of two thousand pounds, if the ship shall be of greater burden; that in case the said ship or vessel shall load any of the said commodities at any of the said English plantations, that the same commodities shall be by the said ship brought to some port of England, Ireland, Wales, or to the port or town of Berwick upon Tweed, and shall there unload and put on shore the same, the danger of the seas only expected; (2) and for all ships coming from any other port or place to any of the aforesaid plantations, who by this act are permitted to trade there, that the governor of such English plantations shall before the said ship or vessel be permitted to load on board any of the said commodities, take bond in manner and to the value aforesaid, for each respective ship or vessel, that such ship or vessel shall carry all the aforesaid goods that shall be laden on board in the said ship to some other of his Majesty’s English plantations, or to England, Ireland, Wales, or town of Berwick upon Tweed; (3) and that every ship or vessel which shall load or take on board any of the aforesaid goods, until such bond given to the said governor, or certificate produced from the officers of any custom-house of England, Ireland, Wales, or of the town of Berwick, that such bonds have been there duly given, shall be forfeited with all her guns, tackle, apparel, and furniture, to be employed and recovered in manner as aforesaid; and the said governors and every of them shall twice in every year after the first day of January one thousand six hundred and sixty, return true copies of all such bonds by him so taken, to the chief officers of the custom in London. Qualification of the Navigation Act of 1660 At Whitehall the 13th of February 1660. Present the King’s most excellent Majesty. Upon reading a narrative from the officers and commissioners of his Majesty’s customs setting forth that some merchants trading for New England find themselves much grieved in respect of the strictness of the Act for Navigation, lately passed in Parliament, requiring bond to be given here for such commodities as shall be there laden, that the same shall be brought to some part of England, Ireland, or Wales, etc. And the commodities of that country being generally clove-boards, pipe-staves, and other timber, fish, and such other rough commodities do better vend in other parts than here in England, and by proceed thereof commodities of greater value from Spain and other parts have been usually imported into England, and his Majesty thereby much advantaged in his revenue. Upon due consideration whereof, and at the humble suit of some merchants now outward bound upon that trade, it is thought fit, and accordingly this day ordered by this board, his Majesty present in council, that the right honorable lord high treasurer of England do give power and authority to the officers and commissioners of his Majesty’s customs in this port of London that they take bond of the merchants trading to those ports only to return the proceeds of those commodities that they shall there lade and not bind them up to return the commodities in specie, the said clause in the said Act of Navigation notwithstanding. And further, that the lord high treasurer be, and accordingly he is, hereby desired to write his effectual letters to the governor of that plantation giving him the same liberty to take the like bond there, as being most conducible to the benefit and advantage of trade and improvement of his Majesty’s revenue.

Navigation Act of July 27, 1663

V. And in regard his Majesty’s plantations beyond the seas are inhabited and peopled by his subjects of this his kingdom of England; for the maintaining a greater correspondence and kindness between them, and keeping them in a firmer dependence upon it, and rendering them yet more beneficial and advantageous unto it in the further employment and increase of English shipping and seamen, vent of English woollen and other manufactures and commodities, rendering the navigation to and from the same more safe and cheap, and making this kingdom a staple, not only of the commodities of those plantations, but also of the commodities of other countries and places, for the supplying of them; and it being the usage of other nations to keep their plantations trade to themselves. VI. Be it enacted, and it is hereby enacted, that from and after the five and twentieth day of March one thousand six hundred sixty-four, no commodity of the growth, production, or manufacture of Europe shall be imported into any land, island, plantation, colony, territory, or place to his Majesty belonging, or which shall hereafter belong unto or be in the possession of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, in Asia, Africa, or America (Tangier only expected) but what shall be bona fide, and without fraud, laden and shipped in England, Wales, or the town of Berwick upon Tweed, and in English built shipping . . .; and whereof the master and three fourths of the mariners at least are English, and which shall be carried directly thence to the said lands, islands, plantations, colonies, territories, or places, and from no other place or places whatsoever; any law, statute, or usage to the contrary notwithstanding; (2) under the penalty of the loss of all such commodities of the growth, production, or manufacture of Europe, as shall be imported into any of them from any other place whatsoever, by land or water; and if by water, of the ship or vessel also in which they were imported, with all her guns, tackle, furniture, ammunition, and apparel; one third part to his Majesty, his heirs and successors; one third part to the governor of such land, island, plantation, colony, territory, or place, into which such goods were imported, if the said ship, vessel, or goods be there seized or informed against and sued for; or otherwise that third part also to his Majesty, his heirs and successors; and the other third part to him or them who shall seize, inform, or sue for the same in any of his Majesty’s courts in such of the said lands, islands, colonies, plantations, territories, or places where the offence was committed, or in any court of record in England, by bill, information, plaint, or other action, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law shall be allowed.

VII. Provided always, and be it hereby enacted by the authority aforesaid, that it shall and may be lawful to ship and lade in such ships, and so navigated, as in the foregoing clause is set down and expressed, in any part of Europe, salt for the fisheries of New England and Newfoundland, and to ship and lade in the Madeira’s wines of the growth thereof, and to ship and lade in the Western islands of Azores wines of the growth of the said islands, and to ship and take in servants or horses in Scotland or Ireland, and to ship or lade in Scotland all sorts of victual of the growth or production of Scotland, and to ship or lade in Ireland all sorts of victual of the growth or production of Ireland, and the same to transport into any of the said lands, islands, plantations, colonies, territories, or places; anything in the foregoing clause to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.

VIII. And for the better prevention of frauds, be it enacted and it is hereby enacted, that from and after the five and twentieth day of March one thousand six hundred sixty and four, every person or persons importing by land any goods or commodities whatsoever into any the said lands, islands, plantations, colonies, territories, or places, shall deliver to the governor of such land, island, plantation, colony, territory, or place, or to such person or officer as shall be by him thereunto authorized and appointed, within four and twenty hours after such importation, his and their names and surnames, and a true inventory and particular of all such goods or commodities, (2) and no ship or vessel coming to any such land, island, plantation, colony, territory, or place, shall lade or unlade any goods or commodities whatsoever, until the master or commander of such ship or vessel shall first have made known to the governor of such land, island, plantation, colony, territory, or place, or such other person or officer as shall be by him thereunto authorized and appointed, the arrival of the said ship or vessel, with her name, and the name and surname of her master or commander, and have shown to him that she is an English built ship, or made good by producing such certificate, as abovesaid, that she is a ship or vessel bona fide belonging to England, Wales, or the town of Berwick, and navigated with an English master, and three fourth parts of the mariners at least Englishmen, and have delivered to such governor or other person or officer a true and perfect inventory or invoice of her lading, together with the place or places in which the said goods were laden or taken into the said ship or vessel. . .

Navigation Act of April 10, 1696

Whereas notwithstanding divers acts made for the encouragement of the navigation of this kingdom, . . . great abuses are daily committed to the prejudice of the English navigation, and the loss of a great part of the plantation trade to this kingdom, by the artifice and cunning of ill-disposed persons; for remedy whereof for the future. . . .

II. Be it enacted, . . . that after the five and twentieth day of March, one thousand six hundred and ninety-eight, no goods or merchandises whatsoever shall be imported into, or exported out of, any colony or plantation . . . or shall be laden in, or carried from any one port or place in the said colonies or plantations to any other port or place in the same, the kingdom of England, dominion of Wales, or towns of Berwick upon Tweed, in any ship or bottom but what is or shall be of the built of England, or of the built of Ireland, or the said colonies or plantations, and wholly owned by the people thereof, or any of them, and navigated with the masters and three fourths of the mariners of the said places only (except such ships only as are or shall be taken as prize, and condemnation thereof made in one of the courts of admiralty in England, Ireland, or the said colonies or plantations, to be navigated by the master and three-fourths of the mariners English, or of the said plantations as aforesaid, and whereof the property doth belong to Englishmen; and also except for the space of three years, such foreign built ships as shall be employed by the commissioners of his Majesty’s navy for the time being, or upon contract with them, in bringing only masts, timber, and other naval stores for the king’s service from his Majesty’s colonies or plantations to this kingdom, to be navigated as aforesaid, and whereof the property doth belong to Englishmen), under pain of forfeiture of ship and goods; one third part whereof to be to the use of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, one third part to the governor of the said colonies or plantations, and the other third part to the person who shall inform and sue for the same, by bill, plaint or information, in any of his Majesty’s courts of record at Westminster, or in any court in his Majesty’s plantations, where such offence shall be committed.

IV. Colonial governors were required to take an oath by the Navigation Act of 1660 to enforce the clauses of the Act preceding the oath, but were not "strictly obliged by that oath to put in execution the subsequent clauses of the said act, although some of the clauses following are of great importance, and tend greatly to the security of the plantation trade" and since other laws have been passed since then for regulating and securing the plantation trade, all present and future governors and commanders-in-chief in the colonies must take an oath to do their utmost to enforce all the acts of Parliament relating to the colonies and plantations. If any governor or commander-in-chief neglects to take the oath or is "wittingly or willingly negligent" he shall be removed from office and forfeit one thousand pounds sterling.

V. Whereas by the Navigation Act of 1663 colonial governors were empowered to appoint an officer to carry out provisions of the Act, which officer "is there commonly known by the name of the naval officer" and whereas through connivance or negligence, frauds and abuses have been committed, all such officers must give security to the Commissioner of Customs in England for the faithful performance of their duty. Colonial governors are to be answerable for "offenses, neglects or misdemeanours" of persons appointed by them.

VI. And for the more effectual preventing of frauds, and regulating abuses in the plantation trade in America, be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that all ships coming into, or going out of, any of the said plantations, and lading or unlading any goods or commodities, whether the same be his Majesty’s ships of war, or merchant ships, and the masters and commanders thereof, and their ladings, shall be subject and liable to the same rules, visitations, searches, penalties, and forfeitures, as to the entering, lading or discharging their respective ships and ladings, as ships and their ladings, and the commanders and masters of ships, are subject and liable unto in this kingdom, by virtue of an act of Parliament made in the fourteenth year of the reign of King Charles the second, entitled, An Act for preventing frauds, and regulating abuses in his Majesty’s customs; and that the officers for collecting and managing his Majesty’s revenue, and inspecting the plantation trade, in any of the said plantations, shall have the same powers and authorities, for visiting and searching of ships, and taking their entries, and for seizing and securing or bringing on shore any of the goods prohibited to be imported or exported into or out of any the said plantations, or for which any duties are payable, or ought to have been paid, by any of the before mentioned acts, as are provided for the officers of the customs in England by the said last mentioned act made in the fourteenth year of the reign of King Charles the second, and also to enter houses or warehouses, to search for and seize any such goods; and that all the wharfingers, and owners of quays and wharfs, or any lightermen, bargemen, watermen, porters, or other persons assisting in the conveyance, concealment or rescue of any of the said goods, or in the hindering or resistance of any of the said officers in the performance of their duty, and the boats, barges, lighters, or other vessels, employed in the conveyance of such goods, shall be subject to the like pains and penalties as are provided by the same act made in the fourteenth year of the reign of King Charles the second, in relation to prohibited or uncustomed goods in this kingdom; and that the like assistance shall be given to the said officers in the execution of their office, as by the said last mentioned act is provided for the officers in England; and also that the said officers shall be subject to the same penalties and forfeitures, for any corruptions, frauds, connivances, or concealments, in violation of any the before mentioned laws, as any officers of the customs in England are liable to, by virtue of the said last mentioned act; and also that in case any officer or officers in the plantations shall be sued or molested for any thing done in the execution of their office, the said officer shall and may plead the general issue, and shall give this or other custom acts in evidence, and the judge to allow thereof, have and enjoy the like privileges and advantages, as are allowed by law to the officers of his Majesty’s customs in England.

VII. And it is hereby further enacted, that all the penalties and forfeitures before mentioned, not in this act particularly disposed of, shall be one third part to the use of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, and one third part to the governor of the colony or plantation where the offence shall be committed, and the other third part to such person or persons as shall sue for the same, to be recovered in any of his Majesty’s courts at Westminster, or in the kingdom of Ireland, or in the court of admiralty held in his Majesty’s plantations respectively, where such offence shall be committed, at the pleasure of the officer of informer, or in any other plantation belonging to any subject of England, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law, shall be allowed; and that where any question shall arise concerning the importation or exportation of any goods into or out of the said plantations, in such case the proof shall lie upon the owner or claimer, and the claimer shall be reputed the importer or owner thereof.

VIII. And whereas in some of his Majesty’s American plantations, a doubt or misconstruction has arisen upon the before mentioned act, made in the five and twentieth year of the reign of King Charles the second, whereby certain duties are laid upon the commodities therein enumerated (which by law may be transported from one plantation to another for the supply of each others wants), as if the same were by the payment of those duties in one plantation, discharged from giving the securities intended by the aforesaid acts, made in the twelfth, two and twentieth, and three and twentieth years of the reign of King Charles the second, and consequently be at liberty to go to any foreign market in Europe, without coming to England, Wales, or Berwick; it is hereby further enacted and declared, that notwithstanding the payment of the aforesaid duties in any of the said plantations, none of the said goods shall be shipped or laden on board, until such security shall be given as is required by the said acts, made in the twelfth, two and twentieth and three and twentieth years of the reign of King Charles the second, to carry the same to England, Wales or Berwick, or to some other of his Majesty’s plantations, and so toties quoties, as any of the said goods shall be brought to be reshipped or laden in any of the said plantations, under the penalty and forfeiture of ship and goods, to be divided and disposed of as aforesaid.

IX. And it is further enacted and declared by the authority aforesaid, that all laws, by-laws, usages or customs, at this time, or which hereafter shall be in practice, or endeavoured or pretended to be in force or practice, in any of the said plantations, which are in any wise repugnant to the before mentioned laws, or any of them, so far as they do relate to the said plantations, or any of them, or which are any ways repugnant to this present act, or to any other law hereafter to be made in this kingdom, so far as such law shall relate to and mention the said plantations, are illegal, null and void, to all intents and purposes whatsoever.

X. Great frauds have been committed by Scotchmen and others by counterfeiting certificates of security to bring plantation goods to England or Wales; and certificates of having discharged plantation goods in England or Wales or of having loaded European goods in England or Wales, thereby evading transshipment through England. Therefore it is further enacted that when governors or customs officers in the colonies have reasonable suspicion that certificates of having given security in England are false, they shall require sufficient security for discharge in England or Wales. Where there is cause to suspect that the certificate of having loaded plantation goods in Britain is false, such officers shall not vacate the security given in the plantation until they are informed by the customs commissioners in England that the certificate is true. Persons counterfeiting or altering any such certificate or permit or knowingly use such shall forfeit five hundred pounds and the certificate or permit shall be invalid.

XI. And for the better executing the several acts of Parliament relating to the plantation trade, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the Lord Treasurer, Commissioners of the Treasury, and the Commissioners of the Customs in England for the time being, shall and may constitute and appoint such and so many officers of the customs in any city, town, river, port, harbour or creek, of or belonging to any of the islands, tracts of land and proprieties, when and as often as to them shall seem needful; be it further also enacted, that upon any actions, suits, and informations that shall be brought, commenced, or entered in the said plantations, upon any law or statute concerning his Majesty’s duties, or ships or goods to be forfeited by reason of any unlawful importations or exportations, there shall not be any jury, but of such only as are natives of England or Ireland, or are born in his Majesty’s said plantations; and also that upon all such actions, suits, and informations, the offences may be laid or alleged in any colony, province, county, precinct, or division of any of the said plantations where such offences are alleged to be committed, at the pleasure of the officer or informer.

XII. Provided always, that all places of trust in the courts of law, or what relates to the treasury of the said islands, shall, from the making of this act, be in the hands of the native-born subjects of England or Ireland, or of the said islands.

XIII. By the act of 1670-71, Ireland is left out of the condition of the bonds therein required; that same Act required that prior to loading enumerated goods in the plantation, ships should give bond that all such goods would be carried to another English plantation or to Great Britain. No time limit had been set for returning certificates of proof that goods were discharged as required by the bond, and the sureties for said bonds had often been persons of uncertain and unknown residence, rendering the bonds ineffectual to the intended purposes: it is therefore enacted that in all such bonds hereafter given in the plantations, the sureties are to be persons of known residence and of known ability for the value of the bond. And the condition of the bonds shall be that within 18 months of their date (the danger of the seas expected) certificate be procured that the goods mentioned have been discharged in a proper port.

XIV. Ships carrying American produce have been unloaded in Scotland and Ireland, contrary to existing law, under the pretence they were driven there by weather, lack of provisions, or other cause. After December 1, 1696, it shall be unlawful under any pretext to unload in Scotland or Ireland any goods or merchandise the growth or product of the American plantations unless they have first been landed in England or Wales and the proper duties paid. Penalty to be forfeiture of the ship and goods, with three-fourths to the crown and the other fourth to him or them bringing the action.

XVI. Persons claiming any right or propriety in any islands or tracts of land upon the continent of America, by charter or letters patent, shall not sell them to any other than natural-born subjects of England, Ireland, Wales, or Berwick without prior consent of the Crown by order in council. Governors nominated or appointed by such proprietors to be approved of by the king and take the oaths required of governors in the king’s other colonies, before entering upon the government.

XVII. And for a more effectual prevention of frauds which may be used to elude the intention of this act, by colouring foreign ships under English names; be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the five and twentieth day of March, which shall be in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred ninety-eight, no ship or vessel whatsoever shall be deemed or pass as a ship of the built of England, Ireland, Wales, Berwick, Guernsey, Jersey, or any of his Majesty’s plantations in America, so as to be qualified to trade to, from, or in any of the plantations, until the person or persons claiming property in such ship or vessel shall register the same . . . with proper proof and oath of ownership as herein prescribed.

XVIII. This oath, attested by the governor or custom officer administering it, shall be registered and delivered to the master of the ship, with a duplicate of the register transmitted for entry in the general register of the customs commissioners in London. After March 25, 1698, any ship engaging in trade with the American colonies wi

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