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Scottish circumvention of the English Navigation Acts in the American colonies 1660-1707

MacInnes, Allan I. (2008) Scottish circumvention of the English Navigation Acts in the American colonies 1660-1707. In: Making, Using and Resisting the Law in European History. Pisa University Press, pp. 109-30. ISBN 978-88-8492-549-7

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Abstract

From its insular location, its limited indigenous resources and its subordinate political standing as one of three kingdoms ruled by the Stuart dynasty, Scotland was dependent on overseas trade, commercial networks and an entrepreneurial willingness to set aside international regulations for its very survival as a distinctive European nation in the later 17th century. Scotland was manifestly not a major European power, nor a significant imperial presence in the Americas. By the later 17th century, however, colonial endeavours were offering Scots the opportunity not just to break out from the mercantilist dominance of the great European powers, but also to sustain regal union under a common monarchy without recourse to political incorporation with England. By the 1690s, the clannish cohesion of their landed and commercial elite, their diligence in securing positions of influence and their collusive disregard for the Navigation Acts were perceived by English merchants, colonial officials, diplomats and ruling ministries as highly threatening. The Scots challenged the English state through their Darien Scheme to create an international entrepôt for the Pacific as well as the Atlantic on the Panama Isthmus, as through their expansion into Ireland and the Delaware Basin. If the Scots made a success of Darien, there seemed a real prospect to vested English interests that their domestic market would grow to include Ireland and that their entrepreneurial endeavours in the Delaware would lead to the secession of three counties to form a Scottish colony on the American mainland. Only political incorporation, through the Treaty of Union in 1707, seemingly put an end to Scottish flouting of English state power.