And in a case of
resistance, to break open doors, chests, trunks,
and other packages (see provisions in
1767 Townshend Acts).
Writs of Assistance were Introduced
As the American colonies grew in importance and
profitability the British government attempted
to make American trade profitable to British
merchants by interfering in the government of
the colonies. The colonists disobeyed the
navigation laws and Britain 'turned a blind eye'
due to its policy of
However, the benevolent period of Salutary
Neglect all changed after the French and Indian
War (aka Seven Years War 1755-1763) when the
British were left with a massive war debt. To
pay the war debt the British ended their policy
of Salutary Neglect in the colonies. The British
intended to end illegal trading, enforce the
Navigation Acts and impose new taxes and the Writs of Assistance,
or search warrants, would help them to do this.
The Use of
Writs of Assistance
The British reversed their policy of Salutary
Neglect but it was much easier to order the laws
to be carried out than it was to implement them.
It was almost impossible for the customs
officers to prevent goods from being smuggled
into the colonies. And equally difficult to
seize them. The custom officers therefore asked
the judges to give them writs of assistance to
search the premises of suspects.