Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Navigation Acts



[This text was written in 1948. For the full citation, see the end of the text.]

Navigation Acts, a series of laws passed by the British parliament restricting the privileges of foreign ships in the carrying trade in Great Britain and her colonies. These Acts were based on the idea that the colonies existed for the benefit of the mother country, and were a part of what was known as the Mercantile or Old Colonial System. The Navigation Act of 1651 forbade the importation of goods into Great Britain save in British ships or in the ships of the country producing the goods; the Acts of 1660 and 1663 reserved the carrying trade of the British colonies exclusively for British ships, and provided that certain "enumerated articles" of colonial produce could only be exported to Great Britain and her dependencies; and the Act of 1672 still further tightened these regu­lations. When Canada came under British rule in 1763, it came under the operation of the Navigation Acts, and so continued until after the War of 1812. After the American Revolution, the United States was placed in the category of a foreign country; and Canada was almost wholly excluded from trade with her, until in 1794 Jay's Treaty permitted trade between Canada and the United States by road, river, lake or canal, though not by sea. With the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, a process of piecemeal encroachment on the Navigation Laws began, which was accelerated by a series of Acts sponsored by William Huskisson between 1821 and 1826, and which culminated in the repeal of the last vestige of Navigation Laws in 1849. Since that date the trade of Canadian ports has been open to the ships of all nations in times of peace. See H. E. Egerton, A Short History of British Colonial Policy ( London , 1906); A. P. Newton, The Old Empire and the New ( London , 1917); and A. Brady, William Huskisson and Liberal reform ( London , 1928).


Source: W. Stewart WALLACE, "Navigation Laws", in The Encyclopedia of Canada , Vol. 4, 1948, 400p., p. 386.

© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College