The Navigation Act 1663

The Navigation Act 1663 was passed on the 27th of July, 1663 (the earlier Navigation Act of 1660 replaced the Navigation Act of 1651 which was abrogated on the grounds of having been illegally enacted by Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth).

The acts were designed to protect England’s interests in the West Indies and North America (from, primarily the Dutch, who were supreme marine traders): Commodities like cotton, sugar and tobacco could only be shipped to England or its colonies and ships’ crews were required to be at least three-quarters English. Further, as guarantee of compliance, ships’ captains were obliged to pay a bond for each shipment.

The Navigation Act 1663 further stipulated that European merchandise en route to the colonies first had to be shipped to England where the cargo was unloaded and assessed for tariffs before being reloaded in English bottoms (ships built in England or its colonies) to complete its voyage.

Many acts were imposed to protect the supply of timber necessary for the maintenance and renewal of England’s voracious Navy and merchant fleets. However, the Naval Stores Act 1721 abolished all import duties on timber from the West Indies and North America which, though of little effect on Naval stores, was of immense significance to Britain’s furniture-makers as it allowed the unimpeded importation of mahogany from the West Indies along with pine and walnut from North America.

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
This entry was posted in Distractions, Furniture Timbers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Navigation Act 1663

  1. Tico Vogt says:

    No wonder self-respecting colonists in my neck of the woods put down their plows and picked up their muskets.


    • Jack Plane says:

      England’s/Britain’s protectionism during the late seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century certainly flew in the face of the burgeoning American colony’s desire for fair trade and conflict was inevitable.



  2. dzj says:

    Britain was top-heavy back then and had to come up with ways to support its aristocracy and other dependents. Would’ve gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for the French.


  3. Sylvain says:

    It is probably the fault of Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette ;-)

    I would not bet on its historical accuracy, but if you like a good laugh, read: “1000 years of annoying the French” by Stephen Clarke



  4. Robert Norton says:

    I have always admired the old pine in the old English furniture I have worked on, wishing I had access to that kind of Pine. I never dreamed it came from North America. Was that pine from Virginia or further North. Was it called white pine or somothing else back then?


    • Jack Plane says:

      The majority of pine (deal) used in eighteenth-century English furniture came from the Baltics. It was slow-grown, dense wood which was easily worked and ideal for carcases and drawer linings. I wrote a bit about it here.

      The Navy imported huge numbers of long, straight Eastern White Pines (Pinus strobes) from Eastern North America for their ships’ masts and yards from the seventeenth-century, but tariffs meant that White Pine didn’t become a viable alternative to Baltic pine (for furniture) until the 1760s. Even then, the imports were only a fraction of what was imported from the Baltics.



  5. LD says:

    A note for those residing outside of New England:

    The Eastern White Pine of the 1600s and 1700s was an astounding specimen: 150 to 240 feet tall, with a trunk free of branches up to at least 80 feet, 5 feet in diameter at the base, and weighing 10 tons or more.

    It also grew plentifully, and because of this, the New England colonists used them for every imaginable purpose– homes, bridges, furniture. By 1640, they also exported them for use as ships masts.

    As the Royal Navy began to realize the strategic importance of the White Pine for masts, the King banned the logging of any tree 24 inches in diameter at the base (later decreased in size by British Parliament Acts of 1711, 1722 and 1772 to a final diameter of 12 inches ). This infuriated the colonists, who literally had the trees growing on their property, but were forbidden to touch them.

    Denial of the use of these trees was probably at least as important in bringing about the American Revolution as the taxation of tea,. As an indication of the importance of the tree to the Cause, it was emblazoned on the first colonial army’s battle flags.


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