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As ACT for preventing Frauds and regulating Abuses in the Plantation Trade.
[Recital that notwithstanding I2 Car. II., c. I8, I5 Car. 7, 22 & 23 Car. II., C. 26, and 25 Car. 7, great abuses are committed:] For Remedy thereof for the future bee itt enacted . That after . [March 25, I698,] . noe Goods or Merchandises whatsoever shall bee imported into or exported out of any Colony or Plantation to His Majesty in Asia Africa or America belonging or in his Possession or which may hereafter belong unto or bee in the Possession of His Majesty . or shall bee 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 Kingdome of England Dominion of Wales or Towne of Berwick upon Tweed in any Shipp or Bottome but what is or shall bee 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 onely (except such Shipps onely as are or shall bee taken Prize . And alsoe except for the space of Three Yeares such Foreigne built Shipps as shall bee employed by the Commissioners of His Majesties Navy for the tyme being or upon Contract with them in bringing onely Masts Timber and other Navall Stores for the Kings Service from His Majesties Colonies or Plantations to this Kingdome to bee navigated as aforesaid and whereof the Property doth belong to English Men) under paine of Forfeiture of Shipp and Goods....
V. AND for the more effectuall preventing of Frauds and regulating Abuses in the Plantation Trade in America Bee itt further enacted . That all Shipps comeing into or goeing out of any of the said Plantations and ladeing or unladeing any Goods or Commodities whether the same bee His Majesties Shipps of Warr or Merchants Shipps and the Masters and Commanders thereof and their Ladings shall bee subject and Iyable to the same Rules Visitations Searches Penalties and Forfeitures as to the entring lading or dischargeing theire respective Shipps and Ladings as Shipps and their Ladings and the Commanders and Masters of Shipps are subject and Iyable unto in this Kingdome . [by virtue of the act I4 Chas. II., ch. II].... And that the Officers for collecting and manageing His Majesties Revenue and inspecting the Plantation Trade in any of the said Plantations shall have the same Powers and Authorities for visiting and searching of Shipps and takeing their Entries and for seizing and securing or bringing on Shoare any of the Goods prohibited to bee imported or exported into or out of any the said Plantations or for which any Duties are payable or ought to have beene paid by any of the before mentioned Acts as are provided for the Officers of the Customes in England by the said last mentioned Act . [of I4 Chas. II,] . and alsoe to enter Houses or Warehouses to search for and seize any such Goods....
XV. [(AND ) bee itt further enacted . That all Persons and theire Assignees claymeing any Right or (Property ) in any Islands or Tracts of Land upon the Continent of America by Charter or Letters Patents shall not att any tyme hereafter alien sell or dispose of any of the said Islands Tracts of Land or Proprieties other than to the Naturall Borne Subjects of England Ireland Dominion of Virales or Towne of Berwick upon Tweed without the License and Consent of His Majesty . signifyed by His or Their Order in Councill first had and obteyned. .]
XVI. [And for a more effectuall prevention of Frauds which may bee used to elude the Intention of this Act by colouring Foreigne Shipps under English Names Bee itt further enacted . That from and after . noe Shipp or Vessell whatsoever shall bee deemed or passe as a Shipp of the Built of England Ireland Wales Berwick Guernsey Jersey or of any of His Majesties Plantations in America soe as to bee qualifyed to trade to from or in any of the said Plantations untill the Person or Persons claymeing Property in such Shipp or Vessell shall register the same as followeth (that is to say) If the Shipp att the tyme of such Register doth belong to any Port in England Ireland Wales or to the Towne of Berwick upon Tweed then Proofe shall bee made upon Oath of One or more of the Owners of such Shipp or Vessell before the Collector and Comptroller of His Majesties Customes in such Port or if att the tyme of such Register the Shipp belong to any of His Majesties Plantations in America or to the Islands of Guernsey or Jersey then the like Proofe to bee made before the Governour together with the Principall Officer of His Majesties Revenue resideing on such Plantation or Island . .] .
Navigation Act [April l0/20, 1696] - History
Early Colonial Era
Beginnings to 1700
1000 A.D. - Leif Ericson, a Viking seaman, explores the east coast of North America and sights Newfoundland, establishing a short-lived settlement there.
1215 - The Magna Carta document is adopted in England, guaranteeing liberties to the English people, and proclaiming basic rights and procedures which later become the foundation stone of modern democracy.
1492 - Christopher Columbus makes the first of four voyages to the New World, funded by the Spanish Crown, seeking a western sea route to Asia. On October 12, sailing the Santa Maria, he lands in the Bahamas, thinking it is an outlying Japanese island.
1497 - John Cabot of England explores the Atlantic coast of Canada, claiming the area for the English King, Henry VII. Cabot is the first of many European explorers to seek a Northwest Passage (northern water route) to Asia.
1499 - Italian navigator, Amerigo Vespucci, sights the coast of South America during a voyage of discovery for Spain.
1507 - The name "America" is first used in a geography book referring to the New World with Amerigo Vespucci getting credit for the discovery of the continent.
1513 - Ponce de León of Spain lands in Florida.
1517 - Martin Luther launches the Protestant Reformation in Europe, bringing an end to the sole authority of the Catholic Church, resulting in the growth of numerous Protestant religious sects.
1519 - Hernando Cortés conquers the Aztec empire.
1519-1522 - Ferdinand Magellan is the first person to sail around the world.
1524 - Giovanni da Verrazano, sponsored by France, lands in the area around the Carolinas, then sails north and discovers the Hudson River, and continues northward into Narragansett Bay and Nova Scotia.
1541 - Hernando de Soto of Spain discovers the Mississippi River.
1565 - The first permanent European colony in North America is founded at St. Augustine (Florida) by the Spanish.
1587 - The first English child, Virginia Dare, is born in Roanoke, August 18.
1588 - In Europe, the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the English results in Great Britain replacing Spain as the dominant world power and leads to a gradual decline of Spanish influence in the New World and the widening of English imperial interests.
1606 - The London Company sponsors a colonizing expedition to Virginia.
1607 - Jamestown is founded in Virginia by the colonists of the London Company. By the end of the year, starvation and disease reduce the original 105 settlers to just 32 survivors. Capt. John Smith is captured by Native American Chief Powhatan and saved from death by the chief's daughter, Pocahontas.
1608 - In January, 110 additional colonists arrive at Jamestown. In December, the first items of export trade are sent from Jamestown back to England and include lumber and iron ore.
1609 - The Dutch East India Company sponsors a seven month voyage of exploration to North America by Henry Hudson. In September he sails up the Hudson River to Albany.
1609 - Native tobacco is first planted and harvested in Virginia by colonists.
1613 - A Dutch trading post is set up on lower Manhattan island.
1616 - Tobacco becomes an export staple for Virginia.
1616 - A smallpox epidemic decimates the Native American population in New England.
1619 - The first session of the first legislative assembly in America occurs as the Virginia House of Burgesses convenes in Jamestown. It consists of 22 burgesses representing 11 plantations.
1619 - Twenty Africans are brought by a Dutch ship to Jamestown for sale as indentured servants, marking the beginning of slavery in Colonial America.
1620 - November 9, the Mayflower ship lands at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with 101 colonists. On November 11, the Mayflower Compact is signed by the 41 men, establishing a form of local government in which the colonists agree to abide by majority rule and to cooperate for the general good of the colony. The Compact sets the precedent for other colonies as they set up governments.
1620 - The first public library in the colonies is organized in Virginia with books donated by English landowners.
1621 - One of the first treaties between colonists and Native Americans is signed as the Plymouth Pilgrims enact a peace pact with the Wampanoag Tribe, with the aid of Squanto, an English speaking Native American.
1624 - Thirty families of Dutch colonists, sponsored by the Dutch West India Company arrive in New York.
1624 - The Virginia Company charter is revoked in London and Virginia is declared a Royal colony.
1626 - Peter Minuit, a Dutch colonist, buys Manhattan island from Native Americans for 60 guilders (about $24) and names the island New Amsterdam.
1629 - In England, King Charles I dissolves parliament and attempts to rule as absolute monarch, spurring many to leave for the American colonies.
1630 - In March, John Winthrop leads a Puritan migration of 900 colonists to Massachusetts Bay, where he will serve as the first governor. In September, Boston is officially established and serves as the site of Winthrop's government.
1633 - The first town government in the colonies is organized in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
1634 - First settlement in Maryland as 200 settlers, many of them Catholic, arrive in the lands granted to Roman Catholic Lord Baltimore by King Charles I.
1635 - Boston Latin School is established as the first public school in America.
1636 - In June, Roger Williams founds Providence and Rhode Island. Williams had been banished from Massachusetts for "new and dangerous opinions" calling for religious and political freedoms, including separation of church and state, not granted under the Puritan rules. Providence then becomes a haven for many other colonists fleeing religious intolerance.
1636 - Harvard College founded.
1638 - Anne Hutchinson is banished from Massachusetts for nonconformist religious views that advocate personal revelation over the role of the clergy. She then travels with her family to Rhode Island.
1638 - The first colonial printing press is set up in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
1640-1659 - English Civil War erupts between the Royalists of King Charles I and the Parliamentary army, eventually resulting in defeat for the Royalists and the downfall of the monarchy. On January 30, 1649, Kings Charles I is beheaded. England then becomes a Commonwealth and Protectorate ruled by Oliver Cromwell.
1646 - In Massachusetts, the general court approves a law that makes religious heresy punishable by death.
1652 - Rhode Island enacts the first law in the colonies declaring slavery illegal.
1660 - The English monarchy is restored under King Charles II.
1660 - The English Crown approves a Navigation Act requiring the exclusive use of English ships for trade in the English Colonies and limits exports of tobacco and sugar and other commodities to England or its colonies.
1663 - King Charles II establishes the colony of Carolina and grants the territory to eight loyal supporters.
1663 - Navigation Act of 1663 requires that most imports to the colonies must be transported via England on English ships.
1664 - The Dutch New Netherland colony becomes English New York after Gov. Peter Stuyvesant surrenders to the British following a naval blockade.
1664 - Maryland passes a law making lifelong servitude for black slaves mandatory to prevent them from taking advantage of legal precedents established in England which grant freedom under certain conditions, such as conversion to Christianity. Similar laws are later passed in New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas and Virginia.
1672 - The Royal Africa Company is given a monopoly in the English slave trade.
1673 - Dutch military forces retake New York from the British.
1673 - The British Navigation Act of 1673 sets up the office of customs commissioner in the colonies to collect duties on goods that pass between plantations.
1674 - The Treaty of Westminster ends hostilities between the English and Dutch and returns Dutch colonies in America to the English.
1675-1676 - King Philip's War erupts in New England between colonists and Native Americans as a result of tensions over colonist's expansionist activities. The bloody war rages up and down the Connecticut River valley in Massachusetts and in the Plymouth and Rhode Island colonies, eventually resulting in 600 English colonials being killed and 3,000 Native Americans, including women and children on both sides. King Philip (the colonist's nickname for Metacomet, chief of the Wampanoags) is hunted down and killed on August 12, 1676, in a swamp in Rhode Island, ending the war in southern New England and ending the independent power of Native Americans there. In New Hampshire and Maine, the Saco Indians continue to raid settlements for another year and a half.
1681 - Pennsylvania is founded as William Penn, a Quaker, receives a Royal charter with a large land grant from King Charles II.
1682 - French explorer La Salle explores the lower Mississippi Valley region and claims it for France, naming the area Louisiana for King Louis XIV.
1682 - A large wave of immigrants, including many Quakers, arrives in Pennsylvania from Germany and the British Isles.
1685 - The Duke of York ascends the British throne as King James II.
1685 - Protestants in France lose their guarantee of religious freedom as King Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes, spurring many to leave for America.
1686 - King James II begins consolidating the colonies of New England into a single Dominion depriving colonists of their local political rights and independence. Legislatures are dissolved and the King's representatives assume all of the judicial and legislative power.
1687 - In March, New England Royal Governor, Sir Edmund Andros, orders Boston's Old South Meeting House to be converted into an Anglican Church. In August, the Massachusetts towns of Ipswich and Topsfield resist assessments imposed by Gov. Andros in protest of taxation without representation.
1688 - In March, Gov. Andros imposes a limit of one annual town meeting for New England towns. The Governor then orders all militias to be placed under his control.
1688 - Quakers in Pennsylvania issue a formal protest against slavery in America.
1688 - In December, King James II of England flees to France after being deposed by influential English leaders.
1689 - In February, William and Mary of Orange become King and Queen of England. In April, New England Governor Andros is jailed by rebellious colonists in Boston. In July, the English government orders Andros to be returned to England to stand trial.
1690 - The beginning of King William's War as hostilities in Europe between the French and English spill over to the colonies. In February, Schenectady, New York is burned by the French with the aid of their Native American allies.
1691 - In New York, the newly appointed Governor of New England, Henry Sloughter, arrives from England and institutes royally sanctioned representative government. In October, Massachusetts gets a new royal charter which includes government by a royal governor and a governor's council.
1692 - In May, hysteria grips the village of Salem, Massachusetts, as witchcraft suspects are arrested and imprisoned. A special court is then set up by the governor of Massachusetts. Between June and September, 150 persons are accused, with 20 persons, including 14 women, being executed. By October, the hysteria subsides, remaining prisoners are released and the special court is dissolved.
1693 - The College of William and Mary is founded in Williamsburg, Virginia.
1696 - The Royal African Trade Company loses its slave trade monopoly, spurring colonists in New England to engage in slave trading for profit. In April, the Navigation Act of 1696 is passed by the English Parliament requiring colonial trade to be done exclusively via English built ships. The Act also expands the powers of colonial custom commissioners, including rights of forcible entry, and requires the posting of bonds on certain goods.
1697 - The Massachusetts general court expresses official repentance regarding the actions of its judges during the witch hysteria of 1692. Jurors sign a statement of regret and compensation is offered to families of those wrongly accused. In September, King William's War ends as the French and English sign the Treaty of Ryswick.
1699 - The English Parliament passes the Wool Act , protecting its own wool industry by limiting wool production in Ireland and forbidding the export of wool from the American colonies.
1700 - The Anglo population in the English colonies in America reaches 250,000.
Copyright © 1998 The History Place All Rights Reserved
BRITISH EMPIRE, CONCEPT OF
BRITISH EMPIRE, CONCEPT OF. The concept of the British Empire holds more coherence for historians than it did for eighteenth-century Americans. The idea of empire was not clearly thought out by Americans or Britons until the intensification of British-colonial relations between 1763 and 1776 and the subsequent onset of the revolutionary war. The idea of empire initially connoted mercantilism, a nexus of political, military, and economic considerations directed toward the creation of a self-sufficient imperium where the colony would supply the mother country with raw materials, and the mother country would provide for the military defense of the colony. This relationship was codified through the various Navigation Acts passed between 1651 and 1696, as well as by numerous laws passed in the eighteenth century that tied the thirteen colonies to Britain as a dependent economic market. The concomitant political implication was that the thirteen colonies were subordinate to the imperial Parliament in London, a parliament in which they were not represented.
In practice, though, the imperial relationship was not always so rigorous. The colonial assemblies were granted a great degree of autonomy, and London often did not support its royal governors in disputes with local bodies. Two serious tremors destroyed the imperial relationship: the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), and the passage of the so-called Intolerable, or Townshend, Acts (1767). The Seven Years' War (the French and Indian War as it was known to the colonists) was a contest between France and Britain for supremacy in North America and set off conflict around the globe. Colonists fought the French and their Indian allies along side their British cousins, and indeed the imperial relationship remained a strong bond after the Treaty of Paris (implemented 10 February 1763). Nevertheless, the spirit of autonomy that had developed throughout the century led many colonists to conceive of empire as pluralistic, rather than a British imperium. As colonial desire for autonomy increased, the British Parliament exacerbated tensions by trying to reassert its hegemony through a series of acts, including the Stamp Act (1765), the Declaratory Act (1766), the Tea Act (1773), and finally the Quebec Act (1774). These measures were viewed by the colonists as punitive and provoked sporadic
violence, including the infamous Boston Massacre in 1770. Pontiac's War in 1763 further destabilized British rule in North America. Many colonial subjects, though, still wished to maintain the imperial tie, with their protests reflecting a desire to redefine the parameters of power rather than a call for independence.
More significantly for the dissolution of the imperial relationship, colonial voices such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams propagated the position that colonial assemblies enjoyed the same sovereignty as their British counterparts. This view was put to the Continental Congress, convened at Philadelphia in September 1774, and marked the ideological end of British imperialism in what was to become the United States. The outbreak of open hostilities at Lexington, Massachusetts, on 19 April 1775 permanently severed America from the British Empire. The concept of the British Empire was thus consciously rejected in America after the revolutionary war, with the United States assuming in the main an isolationist stance in world affairs.
History in Focus
Workhouses have long assumed a central place in studies on the poor laws. While we know that the majority of relief claimants were actually given outdoor relief in money or in kind from the parish pay-table, welfare historians have shown that many individuals entered workhouses during moments of both short and long-term need. This dynamic has a long history. The Elizabethan poor laws permitted parishes to find accommodation for &lsquopoor impotent people&rsquo in addition to the requirement to &lsquoset to work&rsquo their poor. By the end of the 17th-century, however, some cities had obtained their own &lsquoLocal Acts&rsquo which contained specific legislation designed for the specific welfare needs of that locale. Central to these Acts was the workhouse. The first Local Act was passed in 1696 for the Civic Incorporation of Bristol. Throughout the next couple of centuries both rural and civic incorporations were formed, usually consisting of a group of parishes sharing the same workhouse. These workhouses were run according to the specification of their Local Act, though in practice subsequent local decisions were just as important in determining relief policies.
Subsequent &lsquoenabling&rsquo legislation allowed individual parishes to implement a workhouse system without recourse to parliament. Knatchbull&rsquos Act of 1723 allowed parishes to stipulate that those who required relief had to go into the workhouse and work for the parish in return. (1) Passed at a time when both the number of paupers and the cost of poor relief had started to increase, the Act effectively made claimants contribute directly towards their own maintenance costs. According to Anthony Brundage, the Act contained &lsquoone of the two linchpins&rsquo of the later infamous Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, namely the workhouse test. (2) Both Knatchbull&rsquos Act and the Amendment Act of 1834 engineered a welfare system whereby the workhouse acted as a deterrent: the poor would only enter the house &ndash and thereby receive relief &ndash as a last resort. While the Act of 1834 did not make the creation of workhouse-centred unions compulsory, in practice the zealous activities of the Poor Law Commission - the London-based welfare authority responsible for the central administration of the New Poor Law - meant that very few places fell outside of their control by the late 1830s. The Commission instructed that parishes formed into unions, ideally around a market town or city, with the bulk of welfare provided to the poor within a central workhouse. Thus within 300 years, maintaining the poor within a workhouse went from being a policy which was adopted at a parish&rsquos own will to a legal requirement.
In the history of the workhouse, however, one piece of legislation has received little attention: Gilbert&rsquos Act of 1782 (22 Geo. III, c.83). The private Act, drafted and promoted by Thomas Gilbert, empowered parishes to provide a workhouse exclusively for children, &lsquothe Aged, Infirm, and Impotent&rsquo, i.e. those individuals who were &lsquonot able to maintain themselves by their Labour&rsquo. (3) Parishes could also unite for the provision of relief under this legislation, as long as each parish was within ten miles of the workhouse. Much of the voluminous literature on the poor laws mentions Gilbert&rsquos Act, but such references are only tacit acknowledgements of its impact upon the lives of the poor. (4) In comparison, other types of workhouse have received more systematic treatment. In particular, a significant number of studies have examined the set-up of New Poor Law unions and the conditions experienced by such workhouse inmates. (5) Such studies cannot be meaningfully made to illuminate the welfare provided in pre-1834 workhouses because of the differing principles which underpinned the operation of early workhouses in comparison to those established under the New Poor Law. The role of the workhouse in Gilbert&rsquos unions &ndash or parishes &ndash was premised on diametrically opposed principles to that of post-1834 workhouses: a Gilbert&rsquos workhouse was intended to be &lsquoa source of care, not deterrence&rsquo. (6)
Anne Digby&rsquos study of Norfolk is the only work which has thus far examined the adoption of Gilbert&rsquos Act. The focus of Digby&rsquos research though was the assessment of the impact of the 1834 Act on the operation of the poor laws in the county rather than an analysis of Gilbert&rsquos Act per se. (7) Consequently the few comments on the Act are not well grounded in observed histories. Dorothy Marshall, for example, claimed that Gilbert&rsquos Act marked the start of &lsquoa new wave of humanitarian feeling&rsquo in England. (8) Others, conversely, have argued that this period is characterised by quite the opposite feeling, supposedly due to the hostile attitudes of the landed elite towards the poor and the &lsquogreediness&rsquo of farmers. (9) Such contradictory statements graphically demonstrate the need for further work to better place Gilbert&rsquos Act within the longue durée of &lsquomodern&rsquo welfare history.
The lack of research on Gilbert&rsquos Act is even more surprising considering that workhouses disproportionately affected the welfare of the &lsquovulnerable&rsquo poor in the 18th and 19th-centuries. Due to the semi-autonomous powers of the vestry, a wide spectrum of locally-determined policies could have been linked to early parish workhouses. Many of these impacted on particular groups of the poor such as children and the elderly. For instance, in west Kent between 1700 and 1750 many vestries ordered that the elderly in particular should enter a workhouse rather than receive a parish pension. (10) At the same time, the parish of Puddletown, Dorset, decided to have a child-only workhouse. (11) In addition, during the New Poor Law the largest proportion of workhouse residents were those typically from vulnerable groups. (12) Notwithstanding the fact that being young, old, unwell, disabled or a parent while in poverty has received much recent attention &ndash for instance Pat Thane&rsquos and Susannah Ottaway&rsquos histories of old age have highlighted how the elderly got by with and without the aid of the statutory welfare system &ndash Gilbert&rsquos Act is only ever mentioned in passing. (13)
In view of this lacuna, this short paper presents a brief case study of one Gilbert&rsquos Act workhouse, that of Alverstoke in Hampshire. While it is difficult to make universalising statements from one case alone, an examination of Alverstoke&rsquos experience demonstrates that a wealth of information can be obtained about the operation of Gilbert&rsquos Act and how it impacted upon the lives of the poor. Before analysing the Alverstoke evidence however, it is necessary to understand the motivations of Gilbert and the policy stipulations of his Act. I then explain why welfare under the Act has thus far been neglected and how it has gained the reputation, in a few studies which do exist, as a contested welfare setting. This paper then suggests that where Gilbert&rsquos Act was adopted and implemented it had a significant impact on the welfare provision of the vulnerable. The conclusion will outline further research questions.
Thomas Gilbert and the Act of 1782
Born in Staffordshire, Gilbert was a chief land agent to Lord Gower and a keen poor law reformer. Through his work, he developed an immense political, legal, commercial and industrial knowledge which enabled the Gower estate to become one of the most prosperous in England. Gilbert&rsquos concern for the poor may have stemmed out of his role as agent, which had allowed him to take onboard the role of paymaster for a charity of naval officers&rsquo widows. In November 1763 he was elected to Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme and subsequently represented Lichfield until his retirement in 1794. (14) According to Coats, Gilbert&rsquos enthusiasm for poor law reform and especially his desire to improve the welfare of the poor was immediately apparent on his arrival at Westminster and within a month he threw his energies into better understanding the workings of the poor laws. Between January and March 1764 he sat on a committee which sought to &lsquoresolve&rsquo the debt of the Gloucester workhouse. This seemingly self-contained examination soon unfurled into a &lsquolengthy dispute in which the merits of indoor and outdoor relief were vigorously debated&rsquo. (15) It is thought that in these early years Gilbert had developed his preliminary ideas for the later Act. Indeed, the first bill he issued &ndash for the &lsquoEmployment and better relief of the poor&rsquo &ndash was debated in Parliament in 1765. (16) This early bill proposed that commissioners be appointed to draw up relief districts for which local-level committees would be elected and charged with establishing workhouses for the reception of their poor. The bill failed to gain support though. Gilbert revised these plans in 1775, but, again, this amended bill was rejected in the House of Lords by a majority of seven votes. (17)
There was then something of a turning point in Gilbert&rsquos thinking about relief strategies. (18) In his next pamphlet, published in 1781, he wrote that the &lsquovulnerable&rsquo poor &ndash the aged, infirm and young &ndash should be accommodated in the workhouse. The able-bodied would not, however, be permitted to reside in the house. This policy idea was based on the information he gleaned from the 1771 Parliamentary Returns on Houses of Industry. Gilbert noted that while some workhouses had &lsquosucceeded very well, in Places where they have been duly attended by Gentlemen respectable in their Neighbourhood&rsquo, others were much &lsquoless beneficial&rsquo. Their overall success was &lsquoprecarious&rsquo. (19) Gilbert thought that such old parish workhouses:
are generally inhabited by all Sorts of Persons &hellip Hence arise Confusion, Disorder, and Distresses, not easily to be described. I have long thought it a great Defect in the Management of the common Workhouses, that all Descriptions of poor Persons should be sent thither where, for the most Part, they are very ill accommodated. (20)
As Marshall noted, Gilbert thought old parish workhouses were &lsquodens of horror&rsquo. (21) Such workhouses were too uncomfortable for those who were in poverty due to no fault of their own and places where the young were susceptible to &lsquoHabits of Virtue and Vice&rsquo learnt from &lsquobad characters&rsquo. For the sake of both the poor and the rates, Gilbert thought that workhouses should be reformed to promote industrious behaviour. (22)
These ideas culminated in a new bill and the subsequent Act of 1782 which enabled parishes to provide a workhouse solely for the accommodation of the vulnerable. (23) Although such residents were, as Gilbert put it, &lsquonot able to maintain themselves by their Labour&rsquo outside of the workhouse they were still to &lsquobe employed in doing as much Work as they can&rsquo within the workhouse. (24) Work was therefore a part of everyday life within a Gilbert&rsquos Act workhouse. The able-bodied were only to be offered temporary shelter and instead were to be found employment and provided with outdoor relief. (25) Those who refused such work (the &lsquoidle&rsquo) were to endure &lsquohard Labour in the Houses of Correction&rsquo. (26)
How was such a workhouse to be established and managed? Gilbert wanted to allow parishes to unite together so that they could combine their resources and provide a well built and maintained workhouse. According to Steve King, Gilbert&rsquos Act was the first real breach of the Old Poor Law principle &lsquolocal problem - local treatment&rsquo. (27) Yet, any &lsquoParish, Town, or Township&rsquo was also permitted to implement the law alone, and hence concerns over poverty did not always transcend parish boundaries. (28) Gilbert&rsquos Act workhouses were to be managed in a different way compared to the older parish workhouses. Gilbert believed that the poor laws had been &lsquounhappily&rsquo executed &lsquothrough the misconduct of overseers&rsquo. (29) Such officers, he claimed &lsquogratify themselves and their Favourites, and to neglect the more deserving Objects&rsquo. (30) This dim view of overseers was shared by many others at the time. (31) In correction, Gilbert&rsquos Act proposed two new roles which essentially bypassed the overseers&rsquo role in issuing relief: the visitor and guardians. Each Gilbert&rsquos union or parish was to appoint one visitor whose role, similar to that of a Chairman under the New Poor Law, was to bring strategies to the board table, make policy decisions and to give direction to the guardians, parish vestries and workhouse staff. (32) One guardian was to be elected for every parish in a union, or in the case of single parish adoptees multiple guardians were permitted. The visitor and guardians met once a month to organise and administer welfare. Within these meetings they could establish year-long contracts with third parties &lsquofor the Diet or Cloathing of such poor Persons &hellip and for the Work and Labour of such poor Persons&rsquo. (33) Magistrates were also given further powers concerning the establishment and management of workhouses under Gilbert&rsquos Act compared to previous workhouse acts. (34) Where the Act was adopted, therefore, the role of overseers was reduced to that of little but poor rate collectors. (35)
A neglected and contested welfare setting
Minimal attention has been paid to the welfare provided under Gilbert&rsquos Act primarily because it was it was a &lsquonon-compulsory&rsquo &ndash or &lsquoenabling&rsquo &ndash piece of legislation. The majority of a parish&rsquos ratepayers had to decide to adopt the legislation before they were able to provide welfare under the Act. This automatically places the Act in the shadow of what came later: the effectively compulsory Poor Law Amendment Act. Consequently, the Act is always purported to have had a limited uptake. Initially this may have been true. The MP Arthur Young, some 14 years after the Act had passed, claimed that &lsquovery few&rsquo unions had formed. (36) As a more recent study suggests, &lsquothere was a slow and steady increase in the number of Gilbert&rsquos unions formed during the early nineteenth century&rsquo. (37) Roger Wells has also recently stated that many areas adopted the Act in the late 1820s. (38)
There are several estimates as to the number of parishes which adopted Gilbert&rsquos Act. According to the Select Committee on Poor Relief of 1844, there were apparently 68 Gilbert&rsquos unions and 3 Gilbert&rsquos parishes (a total of 1,000 parishes), although a separate return of Gilbert&rsquos unions (1844) lists 76 adoptions (1,075 parishes). (39) The Webbs, however, stressed that there was only a total of 67 unions (total of 924 parishes), while ignoring the fact single parishes could, and did, adopt the Act unilaterally. The overall impact of the Act was, according to the Webbs, &lsquorelatively trifling&rsquo. (40) This statement goes a long way in helping us to understand our lack of knowledge about Gilbert&rsquos Act. As the Webbs together created the discipline of poor law studies, and subsequently influenced many later social histories of social welfare, their interpretations of Gilbert&rsquos importance went unchallenged for many years. For instance, Felix Driver (working on the 1,000 parishes estimate) states that only &lsquoone thousand parishes containing half a million people&rsquo had welfare administered according to the Act, (41) while Longmate suggests that only about &lsquo1 in 16&rsquo parishes implemented the Act. (42) Further interpretative problems have arisen from these estimates, most notably concerning the geography of adoption. The Webbs argued that unions were &lsquopractically all rural in character the great majority in south-eastern England, East Anglia and the Midlands, with a few in Westmoreland and Yorkshire none at all in Wales, in the west or south-west of England, or north of the Tees&rsquo. (43) Mandler states that the Act &lsquowas taken up almost exclusively in urban and industrial areas, apart from a unique cluster in East Anglia&rsquo. (44) While the geography of the adoption has been interpreted in diverse ways, vast patches of England were, according to these interpretations, untouched by the Act.
The Act, in conclusion, was of local importance at best and was insignificant at worst. Yet, parliamentary returns are a problematic source on which to base entire understandings as to the importance of individual pieces of social legislation. They can be partial, incomplete and offer a mere snapshot of reality. First, doubt surrounds whether those asking the questions knew that Gilbert&rsquos parishes could exist as well as Gilbert&rsquos unions. Second, places which were under the Act may not have returned these details to Parliament. In addition, even though a parish might not have explicitly adopted Gilbert&rsquos Act they may have wittingly or unwittingly adopted the principles of the Act. Finally, returns only capture a process at a specific moment in time. Many Gilbert&rsquos unions and parishes may well have been established, functional and then disbanded before the returns of 1844 were made. Indeed, the Poor Law Amendment Act had been already in operation for nearly a decade when the returns were made.
Records which were created at the local level, therefore, offer a potentially less distorted &ndash and more comprehensive &ndash picture of Gilbert&rsquos adoption. Where they survive, vestry minute books are an important source of this information. Within these books are usually some details of welfare administration and their decisions to implement enabling acts. Workhouse account or Board minute books may also contain notes of an agreement to implement acts. Other sources such as overseers&rsquo account books and magistrates&rsquo agreements can also provide potentially useful information. Evidence as to the adoption of Gilbert&rsquos Act can also be found in newspapers, not least in the form of adverts for staff, the contracting of provisions and reports of Board meetings. Some adoptions can also be discovered in correspondence between the Poor Law Commission, their assistants and the newly formed New Poor Law unions. (45) Through the use of such a wide range of documents, historians have added to those adoptions listed on the returns and continue to discover further Gilbert&rsquos unions and parishes. (46)
As well as the under-estimation of adoptions, much of what we currently know about Gilbert&rsquos Act has been influenced by the Commission. Although the Commission was allowed to form new unions, it had no powers to force parishes acting under Gilbert&rsquos Act to dissolve. In 1835 the Commission asked the Attorney-General what they were able to do regarding those parishes that were providing welfare under Gilbert&rsquos Act. In response, the Attorney-General stated that as the able-bodied under Gilbert&rsquos Act were employed outside of the workhouse rather than within, thus running counter to the ethos of the Amendment Act, the only way of universally abolishing the practice was to seek the repeal of 22. Geo. III c. 83. (47) Yet Gilbert&rsquos Act was not officially repealed until 1869. Consequently, much of what we know about Gilbert&rsquos Act rests upon what happened to Gilbert&rsquos unions and parishes in the struggle to seek their dissolution post 1834.
Roger Wells has highlighted the resistance some Gilbert&rsquos unions and parishes made in the face of overtures from the Poor Law Commission. In his recent paper about parish housing Wells notes that many areas which continued to administer relief under Gilbert&rsquos Act were dominated by &lsquoanti-Poor Law Amendment grandees&rsquo. Significant numbers of parishes under the Act remained in West Sussex, and around the Staffordshire/Derbyshire borders were the Earl of Egremont and Sir Henry Fitzherbert. Both respectively exerted their influence. (48) Egremont was particularly insulted by the actions of the Assistant Poor Law Commissioner Henry Pilkington. The Assistant had &lsquoformed his unions with a pair of compasses he knew nothing whatever of the localities of the neighbourhood&rsquo. Apparently the Lord &lsquowas very much annoyed at the manner in which it was done&rsquo and decided to battle with the Commission for the Sutton Gilbert&rsquos union to stay put. (49) It had operated for 78 years before it was compulsorily dissolved on the abolition of Gilbert&rsquos Act. But it was not always the case that Gilbert&rsquos Act parishes and unions stood in the way of the Commissioner&rsquos wishes. The Westhampnett Union was formed in March 1835 from parishes which were previously under Gilbert&rsquos Act. It even became one of the Commission&rsquos &lsquomodel&rsquo unions. (50) This miraculous transformation has been equated to the overwhelming influence of the Duke of Richmond who, as a cabinet minister and large landowner, appointed his stewards and tenants to the Union&rsquos Board of Guardians. (51) Due to the actions of a persistent few landowners, however, the Poor Law Commission was not able to implement the universal welfare system they desired.
The Poor Law Commission frequently complained about the management of those residual parishes under Gilbert&rsquos Act, many such objections being detailed in the Minutes of Evidence of the 1844 Report of the Select Committee on Gilbert&rsquos Act. (52) These contain the interviews of Poor Law Commissioner George Cornewall Lewis, who was appointed as a Commissioner in 1839, in addition to a number of the Assistant Poor Law Commissioners. Lewis thought that the &lsquovoluntary&rsquo nature of policy adoption had caused &lsquoextremely irregular combination[s] of the parishes&rsquo. In the West Riding of Yorkshire he stated that Gilbert&rsquos unions were formed in a non-contiguous fashion. Distant parishes were within the same union and yet &lsquointervening parishes&rsquo had been left &lsquoununited&rsquo. (53) Post-establishment enlargement of unions led Lewis to doubt the very legality of some Gilbert&rsquos unions. (54) These included the East Preston Union (West Sussex) which was initially formed of five parishes but eventually expanded to nineteen. Another charge made by Lewis was that the magistrates were &lsquoextremely lax&rsquo in the auditing of Gilbert&rsquos unions and parishes accounts. As such, Lewis contended that the &lsquointerests of the ratepayers are not sufficiently guarded&rsquo. (55) Interesting though the Poor Law Commissioners&rsquo opinions of management of Gilbert&rsquos unions and parishes are, further research is required to examine whether such views represented any observable reality.
Evidently, our current understandings about the adoption of, and practices under, Gilbert&rsquos Act largely derive from the information collected &ndash and subsequent analyses undertaken &ndash by the Poor Law Commission. The next section offers a case study of the operation of Gilbert&rsquos Act in Alverstoke between its establishment and the start of the New Poor Law era. It is worth noting that it continued to administer relief under Gilbert&rsquos Act until 1852. This case suggests that where Gilbert&rsquos Act had been adopted it had a significant impact on the lives of the vulnerable poor &ndash especially children and the elderly.
Example: the Gilbert&rsquos Parish of Alverstoke, Hampshire, 1799-1834.
The parish of Alverstoke, containing the growing naval town of Gosport, in Hampshire adopted Gilbert&rsquos Act several weeks before the turn of the 19th century. Alverstoke was one of a long line of parishes near the south coast which adopted the Act unilaterally. In Hampshire such parishes included, from west to east, Milton, Milford-on-Sea, Hordle, Boldre, Lymington, Southampton and Bishopstoke. On 9 November 1799, the parish rector, churchwardens, overseers and the inhabitants gathered to consider &lsquothe propriety of removing the present workhouse of the said parish to a more convenient situation and to find proper employment for the poor&rsquo. They all agreed that a workhouse with &lsquoa new factory to employ them in some Manufacture&rsquo would be beneficial as &lsquothe profits of which may lessen the expenses of their maintenance and to change the situation of the present poor house to a more convenient one&rsquo. Gilbert&rsquos Act, they believed, was &lsquosufficient for this purpose&rsquo. (56) A committee of gentlemen was then formed to immediately investigate new locations for their new workhouse. (57) A week later they reported that Ever Common would be a suitable location, and applied to the proprietors and owners with shares in the Common for some land. Their application was successful. (58)
The workhouse was designed with considerable attention to detail. The committee made some preliminary enquires into the general management and successes of other manufactories established within the counties of Hampshire and Surrey. They were furnished with information from the Alton workhouse regarding &lsquothe manner of employing the poor there &ndash the sort of manufactory carried on &ndash the mode of feeding the Paupers &ndash the Cost of building the House of Industry &ndash the earnings of the people and other information.&rsquo Similarly, the board of the united parishes of Winchester offered some similar details as to how they employed and maintained their poor. It was, however, the information received from the Gilbert&rsquos parish of Farnham which had the biggest impact on the subsequent decisions made by Alverstoke. Farnham had rebuilt their workhouse in 1791, since which date it had received many positive reviews by poor law commentators. The social investigator Sir Fredrick Morton Eden noted in 1797 how their house was built &lsquoon a good plan, and stands in an excellent situation&rsquo and how mortality rates among the poor had &lsquomuch decreased&rsquo since its construction. (59) Farnham furnished Alverstoke with details of the &lsquoCost of the Buildings ground and Workshops with the dimensions&rsquo. Thereafter, the Alverstoke committee noted that it was expedient to compose &lsquoa plan formed on the principles of the Farnham Workhouse together with such improvements as may be thought advantageous&rsquo. (60) By July 1800 a final plan of the Alverstoke workhouse was created (see figure 1) and by the following summer it was built &ndash at a cost of £12,000 &ndash and ready to receive its first residents. The workhouse was designed to hold 300 individuals comfortably and had an early panoptical design. (61)
It appears that vulnerable groups were well treated within the workhouse. While it is hard to exactly define &lsquocare&rsquo or &lsquocomfort&rsquo, there are some indications that the treatment of the elderly and infirm was different to that provided to other workhouse inmates. Indeed, in 1800, the Guardians claimed the elderly and infirm would be &lsquocomfortably lodged&rsquo. (62) When designing the workhouse, for instance, the Alverstoke Guardians planned to build a separate ward for the aged and infirm as well as a detached hospital ward for their further care. (63) The Alverstoke Guardians were determined that these residents should always be provided separate accommodation. The Alverstoke Board first contracted out the maintenance of the poor in 1822. Within the contract between the Board and the contractor(s) was the stipulation that the contractor(s) must &lsquoreserve as many other rooms as the Visitor and Guardians may consider necessary for the comfort of the aged and infirm&rsquo. This suggests that the Board were worried that the rooms they had initially reserved for the elderly and infirm would be converted into work rooms. (64)
The special treatment of the elderly and infirm extended beyond accommodation. During the &lsquosevere and long&rsquo winter of 1808, the Board decided &lsquothat the old people were obliged to have fires in their rooms which has caused a greater expenditure of Coals than usual, as this was an unforeseen circumstance the Guardians have been obliged to buy Coals at a high price&rsquo. (65) The minutes do not relate that extra coal was provided to other residents, thus the elderly were kept warm regardless of the expense to the parish. The old were also provided with better amounts of, or additional types of, food. The workhouse dietary gave an allowance of tea to all men and women in the house, but the elderly and infirm were allowed extra tea and some sugar. (66) Such a policy was explicitly advocated by Thomas Gilbert. (67) These treats &ndash also called &lsquoextras&rsquo &ndash were closely monitored in Gilbert&rsquos parishes and unions due to the costs involved. In 1819, an Alverstoke committee examined the possibility of reducing these extras, but it was decided that &lsquothe indulgence of Tea & Sugar to all such infirm & old Persons shall remain at the discretion of the Visitor and Guardians&rsquo. In addition the Medical Officer of the workhouse was to inform the Committee of &lsquosuch Cases as in his Opinion may require the indulgence medicinally&rsquo. (68)
Thomas Gilbert expected children, unlike their elderly and infirm counterparts, to eventually leave the workhouse. Educating the young was thought to be a way of preventing them from being a future burden on the poor rates. In Alverstoke a local school was established according to the &lsquoNational system&rsquo, and both workhouse girls and boys attended. Here the children were taught reading and writing, and practised sewing and serving. All these activities would, the Board believed, increase the children&rsquos chances of gaining employment in the future. (69) Gilbert&rsquos Act stipulated that the workhouse should only house children until they were &lsquoof sufficient Age to be put into Service, or bound Apprentice to Husbandry, or some Trade or occupation&rsquo. (70) This was adhered to, albeit in an ad hoc manner. Indeed, in 1821 the Board had to remind themselves that they needed to apprentice the boys and arrange situations in service for the girls. (71)
It was thought that religious teaching would reform and maintain good morals among the inmates. The rector would read prayers to the inmates in the house once a week. (72) In other Gilbert&rsquos parishes and unions, for instance, in the parish of Boldre, on the edge of the New Forest, religious instruction was paid particular credence. After the ring of a bell every morning, the inmates gathered to be taught &lsquoeasy and practical&rsquo sections of the New Testament before prayer. Sundays were, perhaps unsurprisingly, almost entirely given over to devotional activities. All inmates sang hymns twice a day. Children, alongside some of the elderly, also attended a Sunday School. (73) Yet such religious instruction did not always result in well-behaved inmates. In Alverstoke in 1820 a few children and several men were accused of breaking into the carpentry shed and stealing the tools. As a consequence, the children were placed in solitary working rooms. (74)
Another major feature of the Gilbert&rsquos Act workhouse was work itself. Many of the inmates at Alverstoke were engaged in domestic employment around the workhouse and in the adjoining garden. (75) Money could only be made, and hence cause a reduction in the costs of welfare provision, through the manufacturing of goods. By 1804 children knitted stockings, made mops and picked oakum. Other residents were &lsquoemployd in a Manufactory of Blankets, Coverlids, flannel, Spinning Mop yarn &c&rsquo. Many of these woollen and linen items were actually sold to the house itself, with the rest sold in local markets. (76) While such employment may have fostered habits of industry among the children, the guardians treated inmate&rsquos labour as a source of income which would, at least in theory, reduce the cost of the poor rates. When the Alverstoke guardians assessed the employment of the children in 1806, they noted that the oakum work was still gaining them a &lsquoprofit&rsquo. (77)
While the work the inmates undertook was arduous and monotonous, the Board realised some poor residents, and in particular the elderly, were &lsquopast labour&rsquo. (78) The Board seemed to be prepared for this. They had calculated that that roughly one third of the residents in the Farnham, Alton (Hampshire) and Winton (near Bournemouth) workhouses were unable to work and predicted that a larger proportion of their own poor would similarly be unemployable. (79) Even those who were apparently able to work did so inefficiently. In the Easeborne Gilbert&rsquos union it was the inmates&rsquo own &lsquounskilfullness&rsquo and &lsquowant of attention&rsquo that were blamed for the manufactory&rsquos insignificant profits. (80) In 1815 the Alverstoke gentlemen realised that the cause of the manufactory not working well was that no one was strictly superintending it. Furthermore, they thought more profit would come from &lsquoSacking and Bagging&rsquo manufacture rather than the making of clothes and bedclothes. (81)
The work regime of the inmates did not change until 1822 when the Alverstoke Board decided to obtain a contractor to take charge of the workhouse. By April 1823 they entered into an agreement with two gentlemen who jointly received 2s 9d for every pauper they maintained per week from the parish. The contractors were to be allowed to keep any profit from the labour of the residents. It was now also the responsibility of the contractor to continue the manufactory as it had stood or instead to implement a new system. (82) Every year the Board assessed the operation of the workhouse and then, if deemed satisfactory, renewed the contract, though sometimes a new contactor was appointed. The weekly rate negotiated between the Board and contractors varied year-on-year. By 1834, the poor were making sacking and picking oakum alongside the usual domestic employments (washing, cleaning, cooking and caring for the ill, elderly and young). (83) The contractors had even received some individuals into the house from nearby Hayling Island. (84) While the Board had to take a step back from decisions surrounding the manufactory and allowing non-settled paupers into the house, they were also anxious to keep their parishioners well maintained. The contracts between the contractor and the Board stipulated that inmates must only undertake tasks which were suited to their &lsquostrength and capacity&rsquo. The Board also laid down maximum working hours. (85) They even reassured the inmates face-to-face &lsquothat they shall not be oppressed but that they shall have every Comfort and attention their Situation may require&rsquo. (86)
Towards a re-examination of Gilbert's Act
This paper has highlighted that regardless of historians&rsquo interest in the workhouse and the welfare of the vulnerable, welfare provision under Gilbert&rsquos Act has been largely neglected. The legacy of the Poor Law Commission has left the impression that Gilbert&rsquos Act was unpopular and thus insignificant. In addition, what we do know about Gilbert&rsquos Act focuses on the politics of implementing the Poor Law Amendment Act and the reluctance of some Gilbert&rsquos unions to dissolution. As a consequence, how the Act impacted on the lives of the poor within Gilbert&rsquos workhouses is largely unknown. Thomas Gilbert created an Act with dual aims: to accommodate the vulnerable and to make the workhouse economically viable by working the poor as much as possible. The examination of Alverstoke shows how the operation of these aims had a significant impact on the lives of the vulnerable poor - they were evidently maintained with shelter, food and warmth and undertook domestic chores and manufactured a variety of products. The inmates appear to have been well cared for, but, in return, the Board expected them to work as much as they could. Education was also an important aspect of life within the workhouse, and was regarded as an investment for the future. The plan was to produce skilled and educated children and then set them up in situations which should, at least in theory, help reduce some future burdens on the poor rates. The inevitable difficulty in implementing a piece of legalisation such as Gilbert&rsquos Act on the ground was that although profits were desirable, there was a risk that the welfare of the inmates would be compromised in its pursuit. The Alverstoke Board managed to juggle these potentially conflicting aims, even showing what thought was compassion towards their poor.
Necessarily, so short a paper exposes as many questions about the legislation as it answers, not least regarding the typicality, or otherwise, of Alverstoke. Whether other Gilbert&rsquos Act boards managed as effectively as Alverstoke clearly needs further investigation. In addition, it remains unclear as to what happened to those groups not central to Gilbert&rsquos policy, namely able-bodied men and women. Were they temporarily lodged within workhouses, provided with outdoor relief or found employment? Alternatively, did boards of guardians lodge the able bodied in the workhouse and thereby seek to profit from their employment therein even though this was prohibited in the Act? When contractors took over the maintenance and employment of the poor in Alverstoke little appears to have changed for the residents. This may have been due to the meticulous planning of the Board to stipulate a number of rules within the contracts which safeguarded the interests of the poor. Whether the residents of other Gilbert&rsquos workhouses experienced such apparently seamless handovers also requires further investigation.
While some research has revealed how stubborn Gilbert&rsquos parishes and unions were in not dissolving in the early years of the New Poor Law, additional questions still need to be asked about how welfare was provided before they were finally abolished. Did the Commission manage to interfere in their welfare regimes, making them adopt principles and policies akin to those implemented in New Poor Law unions? Perhaps hybrid welfare systems developed whereby some aspects of both Gilbert&rsquos Act and the Amendment Act were adopted simultaneously. What made some parishes, such as Alverstoke, finally dissolve before the abolition of the Act is also potentially interesting. Not only will such investigations highlight the bargaining powers of the Commission but they will also reveal the decision-making processes of Gilbert&rsquos Act boards. We know that Alverstoke initially thought Gilbert&rsquos Act met their needs because it permitted them to have an efficient workhouse system. Perhaps a more fundamental question to pose is why other parishes adopted and united under Gilbert&rsquos Act in the first instance. Also, did these intentions differ with those parishes which adopted the Act in different earlier and later years? The exploration of the circumstances surrounding the adoption of Gilbert&rsquos Act will reveal the dynamics of local social policy innovation. Indeed, it could even highlight what ratepayers thought were the best policies to adopt and administer during particular moments, and reveal the personal flourishes they added to policies when they were applied on the ground. Such research will necessarily therefore further our understanding of the treatment, as well as the perceptions, of the vulnerable in the past.
Navigation Act [April l0/20, 1696] - History
The Navigation Acts, otherwise known as the British Acts Of Trade were designed to:
1. Expand the English carrying trade
2. Provide England with raw materials
3. Develop Colonial markets for British manufactures
These acts were:
1. Navigation Act 1651, to counter the Dutch threat to British shipping
2. Navigation Act 1660, Reenactment of the 1651 Act, gave England monopolies of certain colonial produce.
3. Navigation Act 1663, required foriegn shipments to America to originate from English ports.
4. The Molasses Act of 1733 forced colonists to buy more expensive British West Indian sugar and led to an increase in smuggling.
All of these Navigation Acts were repealed in 1849.
The First Act enumerated such colonial articles as sugar, tobacco, cotton, and indigo these were to be supplied only to England. This act was expanded and altered by the succeeding Navigation Acts of 1662, 1663, 1670, 1673, and by the Act to Prevent Frauds and Abuses of 1696.
Tag Archives: navigation acts
In the East London neighborhood of Wapping behind the Town of Ramsgate Pub lies a replica of a noose and hanging scaffold. This commemorates Execution Dock, most famous as the spot where pirates were hung for their crimes in early modern London. Execution Dock was a place of execution for over four hundred years: the last execution to take place there was 1830. Execution Dock served as the site for all fatally condemned maritime criminals, but the cruelest treatment was reserved for those to be hung for piracy.
‘A Perspective View of the River Thames’, 1780 (Photo courtesy of National Maritime Museum, PAD1370)
During the early modern period, the vast majority of criminals who awaited a fatal punishment were jailed in Newgate (now the location of the Old Bailey Central Criminal Court) and carted to Tyburn for a public hanging (now the location of Marble Arch). Pirates and other maritime criminals, however, were instead often housed at Marshalsea Prison and carted southeast to Wapping for a public execution at Execution Dock. Traditionally in English history, people were often executed at the place in which their crime occurred. This was especially true with highwaymen, but over time the majority of criminal executions happened locally at Tyburn after incarceration in Newgate. Pirates and other maritime criminals, however, still received traditional execution treatment by being carted down to the banks of the Thames. The Admiralty used Execution Dock as the symbolic location of the sea in which pirates committed their crimes.
The High Court of Admiralty carried out the processes of pirates’ executions. Initially established in the fourteenth century for early maritime legalities such as trade and funding overseas expeditions, the Admiralty Court had complete jurisdiction over maritime crimes by the mid-seventeenth centuries. Once a pirate was captured, he was taken prisoner and shipped back to London to await trial and condemnation. Known as hostis humanis generis (enemies of all mankind), a pirate was immediately considered to be guilty before facing his trial.
The process of pirates’ executions had similarities to those hung at Tyburn, but there were key differences that set them apart from other criminals. As pirates were carted through the streets of London, they were led by a silver oar to symbolize the strength and authority of the Admiralty so all of London could see where the condemned were headed. Once at the scaffold, the condemned pirate was expected to give the traditional ‘last dying speech,’ in which he would confess and atone for his crimes and warn others away from falling into his wicked way of life. Pirates, notorious for their rebellious behaviour, sometimes used their speech as an opportunity to admonish cruel superiors.
When this ritual was completed, the pirate would be hung by the neck until dead. However, his punishment was not a quick death. Nooses reserved for pirates were shorter than usual, causing a shorter drop and thus death by strangulation rather than a broken neck. This ritual became known as the ‘Marshal’s Dance’ because of the way the body would thrash around due to asphyxiation. Generally, after a person’s execution, they were cut down from the scaffold immediately, but this was not so for pirates. The bodies of condemned pirates continued to hang at Execution Dock for a total of three tides to serve as a warning. The most extreme case of this was of Captain William Kidd, executed for murder and piracy on the high seas, whose body remained strung up in the gibbets for three years to serve as a warning to other pirates.
‘A Pirate Hanged at Execution Dock’, c. 1795 (Photo courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, PAJ 0887)
Pirates were unperturbed by these gruesome warnings. By the turn of the eighteenth century, pirates had grown so numerous that it became nearly impossible to transport captured pirates back to London because of the lack of an organized navy and the economic drain of transportation. After the British secured their Caribbean colonies from the 1670 Treaty of Madrid, which stipulated that the British would rid the seas of piracy, they decided to establish Admiralty Courts in Port Royal, Jamaica and colonial North America (Boston, Providence and Charleston). This allowed British legal jurisdiction to grab a firm foothold in their overseas colonies whilst regaining maritime order. It is no coincidence that Admiralty Courts were established in Jamaica right after the 1692 earthquake that nearly leveled the island. The complete rebuilding of Jamaica transformed the island from pirate haven to a ‘civil’ society.
The establishment of Admiralty Courts in North America had a large impact because for decades, local governors enjoyed amicable relationships with pirates until 1698. The Navigation Acts of 1660, which required all goods traded with British colonies in the Caribbean and North America to sail through England whilst barring North America from trading with other nations, encouraged smuggling and acts of piracy. Pirates would plunder ships, sell goods along the eastern seaboard and thus enjoy a bit of autonomy. These happy privileges would end in 1698 when the Act for the More Effectual Suppression of Piracy was passed. This Act created official legal definitions of piracy and allowed for them to be lawfully ‘examined, inquired of, tried, heard and determined, and adjudged in any place at sea, or upon the land, in any of his Majesty’s islands, plantations, colonies, dominions, forts, or factories.’ This law expanded the Admiralty’s jurisdiction to the Caribbean and North American colonies. These new laws along with the establishment of overseas Admiralty Courts caused a rapid decline of piracy until it was virtually eradicated from the Atlantic World by 1730.
Rebecca Simon, PhD Researcher, King’s College London, Department of History
Rebecca is based at King’s College London, researching the link between pirate executions and British sovereignty in the early modern Atlantic world. Prior to coming to Kings she earned an MA at California State University Northridge where she researched perceptions of piracy through the novel Treasure Island.
Navigation Act 1651
The English Navigation Acts were a series of laws which, beginning in 1651, restricted foreign shipping. Resentment against the Navigation Acts was a cause of the Anglo-Dutch Wars and the American Revolutionary War. Warning: template has been deprecated. — Excerpted from Navigation Acts on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The following is the text of the 1651 ordinance.
For the increase of the shipping and the encouragement of the navigation of this nation, which under the good providence and protection of God is so great a means of the welfare and safety of this Commonwealth: be it enacted by this present Parliament, and the authority thereof, that from and after the first day of December, one thousand six hundred fifty and one, and from thence forwards, no goods or commodities whatsoever of the growth, production or manufacture of Asia, Africa or America, or of any part thereof or of any islands belonging to them, or which are described or laid down in the usual maps or cards of those places, as well of the English plantations as others, shall be imported or brought into this Commonwealth of England, or into Ireland, or any other lands, islands, plantations, or territories to this Commonwealth belonging, or in their possession, in any other ship or ships, vessel or vessels whatsoever, but only in such as do truly and without fraud belong only to the people of this Commonwealth, or the plantations thereof, as the proprietors or right owners thereof and whereof the master and mariners are also for the most part of them of the people of this Commonwealth, under the penalty of the forfeiture and loss of all the goods that shall be imported contrary to this act as also of the ship (with all her tackle, guns and apparel) in which the said goods or commodities shall be so brought in and imported the one moiety to the use of the Commonwealth, and the other moiety to the use and behoof of any person or persons who shall seize the goods or commodities, and shall prosecute the same in any court of record within this Commonwealth.
And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no goods or commodities of the growth, production, or manufacture of Europe, or of any part thereof, shall after the first day of December, one thousand six hundred fifty and one, be imported or brought into this Commonwealth of England, or into Ireland, or any other lands, islands, plantations or territories to this Commonwealth belonging, or in their possession, in any ship or ships, vessel or vessels whatsoever, but in such as do truly and without fraud belong only to the people of this Commonwealth, as the true owners and proprietors thereof, and in no other, except only such foreign ships and vessels as do truly and properly belong to the people of that country or place, of which the said goods are the growth, production or manufacture or to such ports where the said goods can only be, or most usually are first shipped for transportation and that under the same penalty of forfeiture and loss expressed in the former branch of this Act, the said forfeitures to be recovered and employed as is therein expressed.
And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no goods or commodities that are of foreign growth, production or manufacture, and which are to be brought into this Commonwealth in shipping belonging to the people thereof, shall be by them shipped or brought from any other place or places, country or countries, but only from those of their said growth, production, or manufacture, or from those ports where the said goods and commodities can only, or are, or usually have been first shipped for transportation and from none other places or countries, under the same penalty of forfeiture and loss expressed in the first branch of this Act, the said forfeitures to be recovered and employed as is therein expressed.
And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no sort of cod-fish, ling, herring, pilchard, or any other kind of salted fish, usually fished for and caught by the people of this nation nor any oil made, or that shall be made of any kind of fish whatsoever, nor any whale-fins, or whale-bones, shall from henceforth be imported into this Commonwealth or into Ireland, or any other lands, islands, plantations, or territories thereto belonging, or in their possession, but only such as shall be caught in vessels that do or shall truly and properly belong to the people of this nation, as proprietors and right owners thereof and the said fish to be cured, and the oil aforesaid made by the people of this Commonwealth, under the penalty and loss expressed in the first branch of this present Act the said forfeit to be recovered and employed as is there expressed.
And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no sort of cod, ling, herring or pilchard, or any other kind of salted fish whatsoever, which shall bo caught and cured by the people of this Commonwealth, shall be from and after the first of February, one thousand six hundred fifty three, exported from any place or places belonging to this Commonwealth, in any other ship or ships, vessel or vessels, save only in such as do truly and properly appertain to the people of this Commonwealth, as right owners and whereof the master and mariners are for the most part of them English, under the penalty and loss expressed in the said first branch of this present Act the said forfeit to be recovered and employed as is there expressed.
Provided always, that this Act, nor anything therein contained, extend not, or be meant to restrain the importation of any of the commodities of the Straits or Levant seas, laden in the shipping of this nation as aforesaid, at the usual ports or places for lading of them heretofore, within the said Straits or Levant seas, though the said commodities be not of the very growth of the said places.
Provided also, that this Act nor anything therein contained, extend not, nor be meant to restrain the importing of any East India commodities laden in the shipping of this nation, at the usual port or places for lading of them heretofore in any part of those seas, to the southward and eastward of Cabo Bona Esperanza, although the said ports be not the very places of their growth.
Provided also, that it shall and may be lawful to and for any of the people of this Commonwealth, in vessels or ships to them belonging, and whereof the master and mariners are of this nation as aforesaid, to load and bring in from any of the ports of Spain and Portugal, all sorts of goods or commodities that have come from, or any way belonged unto the plantations or dominions of either of them respectively.
Be it also further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from henceforth it shall not be lawful to any person or persons whatsoever to load or cause to be laden and carried in any bottom or bottoms, ship or ships, vessel or vessels, whatsoever, whereof any stranger or strangers born (unless such be denizens or naturalized) be owners, or masters, any fish, victual, wares, or things of what kind or nature soever the same shall be, from one port or creek of this Commonwealth, to another port or creek of the same, under penalty to every one that shall offend contrary to the true meaning of this branch of this present Art, to forfeit all the goods that shall be so laden or carried, as also the ship upon which they shall be so laden or carried, the same forfeit to be recovered and employed as directed in the first branch of this present Act.
Lastly, that this Act nor anything therein contained, extend not to bullion, nor yet to any goods taken, or that shall be taken by way of reprisal by any ship or ships, having commission from this commonwealth.
Provided, that this Act, or anything therein contained, shall not extend, nor be construed to extend to any silk or silk wares which shall be brought by laud from any part of Italy, and there bought with the proceed of English commodities, sold either for money or in barter: but that it shall and may be lawful for any of the people of this Commonwealth to ship the same in English vessels from Ostend, Nieuport, Rotterdam, Middelburg, Amsterdam, or any ports thereabouts, the owners and proprietors first making oath by themselves, or other credible witnesses, before the Commissioners of the Customs for the time being or their deputies, or one of the Barons of the Exchequer, that the goods aforesaid were so bought for his or their own proper account in Italy.
This work is in the public domain worldwide because the work was created by a public body of the United Kingdom with Crown Status and commercially published before 1971.
A series of four acts, passed between 1662 and 1773, imposed further taxes and restrictions on trade with England's, and after 1707, Britain's colonies.
The 1733 Molasses Act levied heavy duties on the trade of sugar from the French West Indies to the American colonies, forcing the colonists to buy the more expensive sugar from the British West Indies instead. The law was widely flouted, but efforts by the British to prevent smuggling created hostility and contributed to the American Revolution.
The Navigation Acts were repealed in 1849 by which point Britain's utter domination of world shipping allowed them to pursue a more laissez-faire philosophy.
The Navigation Acts were passed under the economic theory of mercantilism under which wealth was to be increased by restricting trade to colonies rather than with free trade. Many scholars, including Adam Smith, have viewed the Navigation Acts as a very beneficial example of state intervention. The introduction of the legislation allowed Britain's shipping industry to develop in isolation and become the best in the world. The increase in merchant shipping also led to a rapid increase in the size and quality of the British Navy, which led to Britain becoming a global superpower.
Connection to the Revolution
In August 1764, just three months after Samuel Adams and James Otis had published their scathing reports listing the ills of the Sugar Act, several Boston merchants agreed to stop buying non-essential luxury products from Britain. At this time, however, protest to the Sugar Act by the general public had remained limited. That would change drastically a year later, when the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act of 1765.
The Stamp Act imposed a direct tax on the colonists by requiring that virtually all printed materials produced in the colonies, such as court papers, newspapers, pamphlets, almanacs, even playing cards and dice, be printed only on paper made in London and bearing an embossed British revenue stamp.
While the effects of the Sugar Act had been felt mainly in New England, the Stamp Act attacked the pockets of nearly every adult in all 13 colonies. Formed in the summer of 1765, the Sons of Liberty burned the stamps and raided the homes and warehouses of wealthy British stamp distributors and tax collectors. Amid the torrent of protests, riots, and stamp burnings that followed, colonists effectively nullified the Stamp Act.
These struggles against “taxation without representation” stirred the colonial passions that led to the firing of the “shot heard round the world” in the Battles of Lexington and Concord that marked start of the American Revolution on April 19, 1765.