Life in the Navigation Acts

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January 6, 1660

Dear Diary,
My name is Albert Johnson. I moved to America just a few weeks ago. I heard the streets were paved with gold, but that’s not true; gossip spreads fast around here. Yet, I find this place to be a dream come true! In England, my ancestors had to work as peasants, and our social class was fixed at the bottom. No matter how hard my grandparents worked, they couldn’t move up. All they acquired for their labor was a miniature shack with a muddy floor to support my entire family. Revolting didn’t work. The peasants collaborated and attempted it once, but they were shortly massacred by the army. Thankfully, my grandparents were able to escape. I, myself, was pretty much treated like a slave in Britain. But all that’s past! Now, I’ve got a nice house of my own. We’ve even got two rooms, which is something not all farmers have! There’s a large fire that’s kept burning forever (relighting a fire was painstaking) which gives us light, warmth, and a place for my wife to cook. Also, I’ve got a small farm up and running! My wheat, barley, oats, rye, and corn are flourishing while the amount of milk my cow provided each day was ostensibly insurmountable! There was enough to supply the whole colony! We have great technology here; we have hoes, shovels, rakes, plows, and more! Still, its hard work running a farm, but hey, that’s why I have a wife and seven children. I have never purchased anything from shops; my farm supplies me with everything I need. I just hope everything continues to be as great.

January 7, 1660
Dear Diary,
Bad news. Today, my wife passed away. I just returned from her funeral. I was really grievous and distressed, but the past is past. You can’t do anything about it. Anyway, I decided to go to the city for the first time (I’ve only been here for a few weeks). Boy, it was bustling with activity. Blacksmiths, shoemakers, clockmakers, tailors, craftspeople, and barbers were scattered about like chicken in a coop, screaming for customers. They had no sense of dignity; not like us country folk. In the distance, I saw a colossal harbor with massive ships docking in. I remembered my friend telling me that those ships imported goods and news from England. To my left, I spotted houses with pine torches and candles for lighting. That’s another thing I detest about cities. If one of those torches fell over, the whole house could catch on fire! Then, the whole city would have to come lugging buckets of water to put it out. I mean, I have a life to live and family to feed without having to worry about the misdeeds of others. Nevertheless, after a great deal of searching and conversing, I finally located what I was looking for; a wife. After chatting with her, I found out that we had similar lives; her husband had breathed his last the previous day, too, and she was also scanning the crowd for a new husband. Ultimately, we decided that we would get married the next day. I sighed with relief; we colonists needed to remarry quickly so there would be someone to abet us with our incessant farm work and take care of the children.

January 8, 1660

Dear Diary,
I remarried and brought my new wife and her children to my home, and introduced her to my children (who didn’t really care). There was nothing special about the marriage, but I sure was pleased to have a helper. Unfortunately, my happiness didn’t last. While I was sitting back, relaxing after a long, stressful day, my neighbor, Roger Williams, dashed into our yard, screaming and babbling. His face was scrunched up in fear. He handed me a scroll and dashed back to his own abode. Baffled by this mysterious behavior, I opened the scroll. It read:
Loyal Colonists,
Recently, we have added a clause to the Navigation Acts. By law, you must now send all of your goods straight to England or English colonies. You may not, by any means, attempt to barter with any nation other than England without paying duties. If you try by any means to disobey the Navigation Acts, dire consequences will follow. Thank you for your cooperation.
Approved by,
King of England

I yelled in frustration! My new bride looked awestruck, so I handed the scroll to her. Instantly, her eyes became large and round. I slumped back in my chair, massaging my forehead. This meant trouble for me, as well as the rest of the Northern Colonies. The goods we produced were the same goods produced in England. Thus, no one in England would buy our products, as they were cheaper in England. This meant a massive diminution in my income. At that point, I sure envied the Southern Colonies. They sold tobacco and rice, which was not found in England, so they would prosper more than ever before. Finally, I decided to obtain some rest and ponder upon the crisis tomorrow.

January 9, 1660

Dear Diary,
YES! A great day! An idea finally popped into my mind; smuggling. When I had woken up, I considered the matter that I had vowed to think about. Since England was such a great distance away, there would be no way they could capture and prosecute me illegally exporting goods. It would be a huge loss for them, as they would have to send and pay an enormous army to stand across the coast of the colonies. There were the British tax collectors, of course, but they don’t get paid enough. The tax collectors don’t really care about anything except their salary. If absolutely necessary, a small bribe would do the trick. Thinking so, I beckoned to my devastated neighbor, and shared my brilliance. Spontaneously, his eyes lit up. We stood up straight as we walked to the harbor, so we wouldn’t attract suspicion. At the harbor, we hired a highly trusted crew to load the ship with our goods, trade with the Caribbean (no England involved!), and bring back our profit. Of course, our fee was slightly greater than usual, as the crew was apprehensive about bending the law. At the end, we settled on a decent amount. Not a big loss at all; better than losing all that money by bartering with Britain. Just as the ship was about to depart the harbor, a tax collector stared at us, eyes squinted. He seemed to be aware that we were smuggling, or at least committing a crime. As I was cogitating about possible bribes, astonishingly, the British tax collector just shook his head and sauntered away! I was a genius! I knew they weren’t paid enough! My neighbor and I waved until our ship and its crew was out of sight before proceeding back home. We would have to wait until tomorrow for results. I could feel the tension and pressure building up.

January 10, 1660

Dear Diary,
I could hardly acclaim some sleep last night. Anxiety got the better of me, and I remained awake for a majority of the night! At the crack of dawn, I scribbled a note to my wife on a scrap of old newspaper explaining where I went, and swiftly darted out of the house. Before long, Roger had accompanied me, and we hurriedly forced our way through the large city, taking long strides. Anxiously, we strolled about, glancing at the dock every now and then. The ship hadn’t arrived yet. After hours of impatient waiting, we could make out a speck in the distance. Gradually, the speck grew larger and larger. Ultimately, the crew docked at the city’s harbor. Inside, we spotted mounds of gold and silver! Instantaneously, we supplemented the crew with their share of the profit, and unloaded the rest of the crates. Staggering under the weight, Roger and I sluggishly made our way home. My heart ruthlessly pounded against my chest; we obviously looked odd, and were bound to attract distrust. What was more, at the rate we were travelling, and at the rate eyes were darting towards our crates, for a moment, I was about to forfeit the challenging task. That moment passed, though, and we dumped the crates into Roger’s house. After splitting the loot into two, I bid my farewells, and shunted the crates home, visualizing my wife’s expression when she first laid her eyes on the gold. For the first time in two days, I felt serene. My mission had finally been completed. I must admit that this was the most eventful week in my entire life.





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