Wool Act

Parliament in the 1700's

The Act was passed in Parliament

This article on the Wool Act in Colonial America provides fast facts and information about the effects of these laws and taxes. 

  • What was the Wool Act?
  • The Meaning and Definition of the Act
  • The purpose of the Wool Act
  • The effect of the Act
  • Fast and easy to understand explanation of the Act,  suitable as an educational resource for kids
Words of the Wool Act of 1699
American Colonies Index
Taxation in the Colonies

History of the 13 Colonies and the laws & taxes that sparked rebellion against the British

The definition and purpose of the Wool Act of 1699 and the cry of "No taxation without representation!"

Definition of the Wool Act of 1699
The Meaning and Definition of the Act: The Wool Act of 1699 was a British Law, passed by the Parliament of Great Britain, that was designed to restrict the trading of wool products by banning the export of wool from the colonies, limiting the importing of wool to that produced by Great Britain, and taxing wool sales.

Mercantilism and the Wool Act
The Wool Act was part of the policy of Mercantilism that favored England in which materials from the colonies, in this case Wool were used to make different products in England - finished goods had a higher value than the raw materials.

Triangular Trade and the Wool Act
The establishment of the 13 Colonies, with their surplus of raw materials, made it possible for Great Britain to engage in highly lucrative trading via the Triangular Trade routes across the Atlantic. Wool made from the raw materials provided by the colonies and were sent to England.


Map of Thirteen Colonies

Map of the Thirteen Colonies

Wool Act of 1699 - Background Information
Which colonies produced Wool? The New England colonies were the first to produce wool. Eventually all of the colonies produced wool, despite the restrictions imposed by England forbidding the import of sheep to America. England wanted to control the production of clothing for export to the Colonies.  The wool trade was extremely important to England and wool fabric represented 66% of England's foreign trade in the early 1600's. Despite their efforts to control the importation of sheep the early Colonists still managed to acquire the animals. Sheep were bought from the Dutch and other Europeans and these were smuggled into the Colonies.

Wool Act of 1699 - Clothing
The price of clothes from England was extremely expensive so the colonists were keen to produce their own clothes. Scotch-Irish immigrants brought with them skills at growing flax and making linen. Linsey-woolsey, or wincey, was a strong, coarse fabric made from a combination of linen and wool. Serge was another material produced in the colonies which consisted of a durable twilled woolen fabric that was commonly used for bed curtains, upholstery and clothing. Wool and linen were the most common materials used by the early colonists. Many colonists spun their own yarn and wove their own cloth which was called “homespun.” The “homespun” clothes reduced the clothing that had to be bought from England and by the time the Wool Act was passed in 1699 the colonies were producing their own wool based products for trade and export.

The Reason for the Wool Act of 1699
The reason England passed the Wool Act of 1699 was indicated in the Act. It was "An Act to prevent the Exportation of Wool out of the Kingdoms of Ireland and England into Forreigne parts and for the Incouragement of the Woollen Manufactures in the Kingdom of England."

 "... great Quantities of the like Manufactures have of late been made and are daily increasing in the Kingdom of Ireland and in the English Plantations in America and are exported from thence to Forreigne Marketts, heretofore supplyed from England, which will inevitably sink and lead to the ruine of the Trade and the Woollen Manufactures of this Realm..."

The Purpose of the Wool Act of 1699
The purpose of the Wool Act of 1699 was as follows:

  • To ban the export of wool, wool yarn, or wool cloth from the American colonies to markets outside the colonies
  • To limit wool production in Ireland
  • To restrict the import of woolens and linens created in other areas of the empire

The Effect of the Wool Act of 1699
The effect of the Wool Act of 1699 was to forced all wool and wool products produced by colonies to be sold to England. The English then resold it in all areas of the empire. Each sale generated taxes on these goods.

The Reaction by the colonists to the Wool Act of 1699
The reaction to the Wool Act was anger and resentment. Many colonists opposed the Wool act by buying more flax and hemp to ensure that they would not have to buy clothes from England.

Wool Act - British Laws and Taxes
Discover interesting  facts and information about the Taxes in the 13 Colonies, including the Wool Act, which was imposed on the colonists of Colonial America by the British government via parliament. The Wool Act was one of a series of taxes that divided Great Britain and its colonies in America. The role of the legal systems and courts in the colonies included enforcing the laws of Great Britain.

The Colonists Reaction to the Wool Act of 1699
The Wool Act of 1699 was seen as detrimental to Colonial America and sewed the seeds of dissension and rebellion in the colonies. The colonists reaction to the Wool Act led to anger, resentment, dissension and ultimately revolution in Colonial America - the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and the Declaration of Independence  from Great Britain.

Wool Act

  • Meaning and Definition of the Act

  • History of the Wool Act of 1699

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  • The Wool Act article is a great history resource for kids

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