Salutary Neglect was a concept employed by the British
government towards their colonies in North America
(including the West Indies
) from 1621 until 1750. Like all other European
nations at the time, Britain
operated under a mercantilist
economic system which sought mostly to bleed wealth from the smaller colonies back to the mother country
. Prosperity would then 'trickle down
' (yep, that idiotic notion has a long history of failure behind it) to the colonies eventually. Though this was the idea, things were actually somewhat different with the American colonies.
Sir Robert Walpole proposed a concept of salutary neglect, which held that there wasn't really a need to interfere in the affairs of the Americans. Letting them fend for themselves and keeping trade unregulated except for minor mercantilist establishments would be the best stimulus for economic growth. And it was, in fact, American industry exploded especially in the Yankee area of New England with innovations like the triangular trade and an abundant supply of natural resources to keeping things running. Eventually, Britain began to see a danger in competition from the fledgling settlers, and went back to stricter, more regulatory mercantilist policies.
The abandonment of salutary neglect after so long a period of freedom grated the colonists and caused a step-up in hostilities. It was the start of the path to Revolution.