Nonimportation Act


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Non-importation Acts. In 1687 an excise duty on tobacco was laid in England, which alarmed the Virginia planters, and they attempted to retaliate by procuring acts of the Assembly for the encouragement of domestic manufactures, that they might import less from the mother-country. King James disallowed these acts as hostile to English interests. A similar attempt failed in Maryland. By 1765 the commerce between Great Britain and her American colonies had become very important, and any measure which might interrupt its course would be felt by a large and powerful class in England, whose influence would in turn be felt in Parliament. Few dared to think of positive rebellion. A bright thought occurred to some one at a meeting of merchants in New York on Oct. 31, 1765, the day before the Stamp Act was to go into operation. It was proposed at that meeting that the merchants should enter into an agreement not to import from England certain enumerated articles after Jan. 1 next ensuing. At another meeting (Nov. 6) a committee of correspondence was appointed, who soon set the ball in motion. The merchants of Philadelphia readily responded to the measure, and on Dec. 9 those of Boston entered into a similar agreement. These pledges were not confined to the merchants alone, but the people in general ceased using foreign luxuries; and at the same time, as a part of the same plan, a combination was entered into for the support of American manufactures, the wearing of American clothes, and the increase of sheep by ceasing to eat lamb or mutton. This was the beginning of that system of non-importation agreements resorted to by the Americans which hurled back upon England with great force the commercial miseries she had inflicted upon her colonies, and established there a large and powerful class who sympathized with the Americans. In the case in question, petitions for the repeal of the Stamp Act poured into the House of Commons from the merchants and traders of London, whose interests were severely smitten, so that Parliament felt compelled to listen; and a few months after the Non-importation League in New York was formed the obnoxious act was repealed.

When, in May, 1769, the House of Burgesses in Virginia passed a series of resolutions maintaining the right of the colonists to self-taxation, to petition and remonstrance, and to be tried in all cases by a jury of the vicinity, Governor Botetourt, as in duty bound, dissolved the House. The members met the next day in the Raleigh Tavern, in Williamsburg, formed themselves into a voluntary convention, with Peyton Randolph as chair-man, drew up and signed an agreement against the importation of merchandise from Great Britain, and recommended such a course to the people, and then repaired to their several counties. All who participated affirmatively in the proceedings of the convention were re-elected to the next General Assembly. Towards the close of 1770, however, the merchants began to be lax in the observance of non-importation agreements, and at a meeting in Boston in October it was resolved to import everything but tea. Merchants in other cities followed their example. These associations, while having a powerful political effect, brought about many salutary social reforms among the people of the colonies, by causing the discontinuance of many extravagant customs which involved large expenditures of money, and needed lessons of strict economy were learned.

An act of Congress became a law April 18, 1806, prohibiting the importation from Great Britain or her dependencies, or from any other country, of the following articles of British manufacture: all articles of which leather, silk, hemp, or flax, and tin and brass (except in sheets), were of chief value; woollen cloths, where the in-voice prices should exceed 5s. sterling a yard; woollen hosiery of all kinds; window-glass, and all the manufactures of glass; silver and plated ware ; paper of every description ; nails and spikes; mats and clothing ready made; millinery of all kinds; playing-cards; beer, ale, and porter; and pictures and prints. To give time for intermediate negotiations, the commencement of the prohibition was postponed until the middle of November next ensuing. In December the act was further suspended until July following.



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