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1651 Navigation Act

The Navigation Act of 1651 was one of a series of Navigation Acts passed by the English parliament. it was passed in October of 1651 as a reaction to the failure of a diplomatic mission seeking recognition of the Commonwealth of England by the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.

The Act stated that

  • Only English ships could transport trade goods to England from outside Europe.
  • Trade goods from inside Europe could be shipped by English ships and ships from the originating country.

Both measures hindered the Dutch, who had, due to low tariffs, better ships, and a near monopoly on the Baltic trade, been the foremost sea merchant nation for many years and had grown very dependent on their sea trade. Dutch unhappiness with the Act lead to the First Anglo-Dutch War, which was fought from 1652 to 1654.

It is noteworthy that only shortly before the Navigation Act was passed Dutch lawyer Hugo de Groot (1583-1645) had devised a draft for a written international sea law, in which he advocated unrestricted sea trade. His views fitted very well in with Dutch interests. Nothing was to come of it in those days. However, the modern concept of territorial waters[?], limiting a countries jurisdiction to a narrow strip of sea close to land, is derived from his ideas.


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