Berkeley Challenges the Navigation Acts

While Berkeley worked in England, Virginia continued to evolve. The Brent family moved southward out of Maryland, bringing the first major Catholic settlers into the colony, Indian unrest threatened peace along the frontiers, and proprietary schemes further threatened Virginia’s economy. But the Navigation Acts remained the biggest threat to Virginia’s economy.

Governor Berkeley’s 1662 trip to England is arguably the most pivotal event affecting his time in Virginia. He had been reinstalled as the colonial governor just before Charles Stuart restored the Stuart monarchy.

Berkeley wanted to breathe life into Virginia’s mediocre economy through a series of essentially free-trade oriented plans,  but his restored king had other ideas. The Navigation Act of 1662 wasn’t a new idea, in fact most of the Act was borrowed from previous editions. All of those previous versions, however, were easily neglected for various reasons, but the 1662 Act had vigorous royal backing.

Berkeley and his colonial leaders understood how detrimental the Navigation Act could be to their young economy, but they couldn’t voice their disapproval quickly enough. So, when the Council for Foreign Plantations was formed as a body to collect colonial viewpoints, it made sense to the General Assembly to send someone to champion Virginia’s cause. Who better to fight for that cause than their very own royal insider, Sir William Berkeley.

Would he be successful? If so, Virginia would grow in leaps and bounds. If not, Virginia could begin going down a devastating path.


The “Aquia Crucifix” honoring Virginia’s first Catholic settlements by the Brent Family


  1. Billings, Warren M.; Selby, John E.; and Tate, Thad W. Colonial Virginia: A History. White Plains, NY: KTO Press. 1986.
  2. Billings, Warren M. Sir William Berkeley and the Forging of Colonial Virginia. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press, 2004.
  3. Billings, Warren. A Little Parliament: The Virginia General Assembly in the Seventeenth Century. Richmond, VA: Library of Virginia, 2004.
  4. Breen, T.H. and Innes, Stephen. Myne Owne Ground: Race & Freedom on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, 1640-1676. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.
  5. Craven, Wesley Frank. White, Red, and Black: The Seventeenth Century Virginian. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1977.
  6. Craven, Wesley Frank. The Southern Colonies in the Seventeenth Century: 1607-1689. LSU Press, 1949.
  7. Dabney, Virginius. Virginia: The New Dominion, A History from 1607 to the Present. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1971.
  8. Horn, James. Adapting to A New World: English Society in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
  9. Mapp, Alfred J. Virginia Experiment: The Old Dominion’s Role in the Making of America, 1607-1781Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2006.
  10. Neill, Edward D. Virginia Carolorum: The Colony under the Rule of Charles The First and Second, A.D. 1625-A.D. 1685. Albany, NY: Joel Munsell’s and Sons, 1886.
  11. Rothbard, Murray N. Conceived in Liberty. Auburn, AL: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 1999.
  12. Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. The Cradle of the Republic: Jamestown and the James River. Richmond, VA: The Hermitage Press, 1906.
  13. Wallenstein, Peter. Cradle of America: Four Centuries of Virginia History. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2007.
  14. Walsh, Lorena S. Motives of Honor, Pleasure, and Profit: Plantation Management in the Colonial Chesapeake, 1607-1763. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
  15. Washburn, Wilcomb E. Virginia Under Charles I and Cromwell 1625-1660. Kindle Edition.
  16. Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson. Virginia Under the Stuarts: 1607-1688. New York: Russell and Russell, 1959.
  17. Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson. The Planters of Colonial Virginia. Kindle Edition.
  18. Wise, Jennings Cropper. Ye Kingdom Of Accawmacke: Or The Eastern Shore Of Virginia In The Seventeenth Century. Richmond, VA: The Bell Book and Stationary, CO. 1911.
  19. The Navigation Act of 1651 (Act passed by Rump Parliament and spurned by Berkeley).
  20. The Navigation Act of 1660 (This is the Act that concerned Virginians before Charles II’s Restoration).
  21. The Navigation Act of 1663 (Argued previous to July 1663 ratification, after Berkeley had returned to Virginia).

Berkeley Signature



All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of The 17th Century Royal Navy.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and “Go Back” by Darlingside, also available on iTunes.