Up until the 1750’s Britain governed the American colonies with an undocumented policy know as salutary neglect. The undocumented policy of Salutary Neglect stated that the British Government would avoid strict enforcement of parliamentary laws to keep the American colonies at peace with the British. This policy was established by the British Prime Minister Robert Walpole. He stated that “If no restrictions were placed on the colonies, they would flourish.” The British Parliament obediently followed this policy until the 1750’s. Even though Parliament passed several laws to control the colonies, salutaryneglect allowed the colonies to not obey them because Parliament was overlooking America’s law-breaking activities.Furthermore, turmoil from the Glorious Revolution back in Britainkept Parliament focused on the problems in Britain. Because the Glorious Revolution diverted Parliaments focus to Great Britain, salutary neglect was strengthened even more because the British were too busy to focus on what was happening in the American colonies. It also allowed the American Colonies to govern/rule themselves and have little involvement from the British. Salutary neglect allowed America to successfully develop independent government councils and assemblies, strong and profitable economies, and a large, diverse colonial religious community. Robert Walpole’s policy had a tremendous, positive influence on the American colonies.
First, salutary neglect allowed the colonies to develop their own government systems. Due to William and Mary continuing the policy of salutary neglect, the establishment of colonial legislatures and assemblies rose. These assemblies viewed themselves as mini House of Commons that represented and defended the colonists’ liberty. Places such as the Virginia and Pennsylvania had bi-cameral legislatures which meant that they were ruled by assemblies and government councils. In Virginia, a House of Burgesses and a Governor’s Council were the two governing bodies. Also, the justices of peace in Virginia had the power to set tax rates and pay the county officials. Justices of peace were also in charge of overseeing the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges and public buildings. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, a governor, a governor’s council, and elected assemblies were established by William Penn to aid him in governing the colonies. The governments of the colonies were also allowed to set their own voting requirements and had the power to pass laws that crown didn’t like. In relation to Britain, the colonies established lenient voting requirements. In the colonies on forty-percent of the men couldn’t vote where is in Britain two-thirds of the men weren’t able to vote. America’s lenient requirements allowed for the colonies to have strong legislative bodies. Additionally, the British Government installed a Board of Trade in 1696 to control the powers of the assemblies. The Board of Trade could have weakened the assemblies by persuading Parliament to object colonial laws that they did not approve of. However, the British Government still followed salutary neglect; therefore, the assemblies were able to pass laws that even the crown objected. Salutary Neglect allowed the American colonies to establish their own democracy and govern themselves without much British interjection.
Additionally, salutary neglect made it possible for the colonies to develop a prosperous economy that wasn’t completely controlled by the British. Under the British, the economy of America wasintended to follow mercantilist policies. Mercantilism is an idea where a nation strives to be economically self-sufficient by reducing dependence on foreign supplies and competition. As a result, the British Parliament passed a series of Navigation Acts to prevent other foreign countries such as Spain and France from benefitting as a result of trade with the British colonies in America. The Navigation acts of 1660 and 1663 stated that colonies are not to export or import their products to countries other than England. As another way to promote mercantilism, Parliament also passed the Molasses Act of 1773 which taxed all foreign molasses. Even though the Molasses Act brought Britain good profits, the goal it was to prevent foreign imports. However, salutary neglect made Parliament only put restrictions on several goods such as tobacco and sugar. Exports in grain, livestock, fish, lumber, and rum were not restricted, and the colonies were free to export those products. The Navigation Acts also benefited the economy of the colonies, because many British ships were American owned and made the colonial economy more commercial. Colonies such as Virginia and Carolina produced demanding products such as tobacco and rice. Regardless of the Navigation Acts banning foreign exports and imports, many goods were imported from and exported to foreign countries. Due to salutary neglect, smuggling was ignored by Parliament and American colonies were able to obtain more revenue. As a result of salutary neglect, the American colonies prospered from smuggling products and were able to obtain significant controlof America’s exports and imports.
In addition to the government and economy of the colonies, salutary neglect also allowed for great religious development and freedom to occur in the colonies. Due to religious tensions between Protestants and Catholics, Puritans received a charter from Parliament and moved to America. Because the Puritans experienced religious difficulties in Britain, there was diverse religion in the colonies. American colonies such as Pennsylvania had a mixture of religions such as Presbyterianism, Catholicism, Lutheranism, Islam, and Quakerism. Parliament never interfered with the colonies regarding religion due to salutary neglect. Salutary neglect allowed colonists to practice religion freely. It also made it possible for the colonies to be influenced by Enlightenment ideas. Since the sciences and education were strong aspects of the enlightenment, a new belief, Deism, developed in America. Deism is the belief that God left the world to operate according the natural laws in science. Since Britain didn’t involve itself in America’s affairs, the Great Awakening was able to revive Protestantism in North American and spread it throughout the colonies. During the Great Awakening religious fervor increase, and people such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were also able to spread their opinions about religion. Whitefield was able to inspire many people to seek salvation and convert. Salutary neglect was the reason why the colonies in America were free to develop their own diverse religious community.
In conclusion, British Prime Minister Robert Walpole’s idea of salutary neglect allowed America to form its own society free from Parliament control. The policy allowed the Americans to develop their own democracy and governments. It also allowed the governors in the New World to pass laws at the opposition of the crown and rule the way the wanted to. Likewise, colonists were given a lot of leniency as many laws such as the Navigation and Molasses Acts were not followed by the colonists. Subsequently, the colonists were free to promote whatever religions they followed. As a result, many beliefs such as Quakerism and Deism were able to form. Salutary neglect is also important because it was also one of the primary reasons that led to the Revolutionary War between America and Great Britain. The colonists were used to the idea of self-governing and were not please when Parliament stopped following salutary neglect in the period after the 1750s. To sum it all up, without salutary neglect America might still be controlled by the British and many of America’s ideas such as a bi-cameral legislature and religious freedommight not have been able to develop.
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