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In American Colonial history, the Iron Act, strictly Importation, etc. Act 1750 (Statute 23 Geo. II c. 23) was one of the legislative measures introduced by the British Parliament, seeking to restrict manufacturing activities in British colonies, particularly in north America, and encourage manufacture to take place in Great Britain.
Additional recommended knowledge
The provisions of the Act
The Act contained several provisions, applying from 24 June 1750:
Its later amendment
The limitation of imported bar iron to London and the dockyards was repealed in 1757 by 30 Geo. II c.16, duty free imports to any part of Great Britain being permitted. A clause requiring bar iron to be marked was similarly repealed as unnecessary.
Pig iron had been exported from Virginia and Maryland since the 1720s, but little came from other colonies, nor did bar iron. The continuance of this was encouraged, as was the production and export of bar iron (which required a finery forge using a helve hammer not a trip hammer. At this time America was probably the third largest iron-exporting country in the world (after Sweden and Russia), and this was intended to continue and even increase.
Conversely, the Act was designed to restrict the colonial manufacture of finished iron products. Existing works could continue in operation, but no expansion would be possible in the output of:
This was a continuation of a long term British policy, beginning with the British Navigation Acts, which were designed to direct most American trade to England (from 1707, Great Britain), and to encourage the manufacture of goods for export to the colonies in Britain.
The Iron Act, if enforced, would have severely limited the emerging iron manufacturing industry in the colonies. However, as with other trade legislation, enforcement was poor because no one had any significant incentive to ensure compliance. Nevertheless, this was one of a number of measures restrictive on the trade of British Colonies in North America that were one of the causes of the American Revolution.
A. C. Bining, British regulation of the colonial iron trade (Univ. of Philadelphia Press 1933).
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