A close look at the history of the 18th century reveals that the fight for a formal break from England was not a radical leap but instead a subtle change within the minds of the colonists. This shift from agitating for a change in colonial policies to rallying for independence is due in part to a variety of actions initiated by a variety of people. Parliament, the slaves, and the native peoples each played a role in the ultimate shift, but it was the implementation of nonexportation by the colonists at the end of 1774 which is the most significant in the understanding of this change. This initiative, and the Parliamentary response, the New England Restraining Act, were so significant because they affected every colonist rather than a
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Seemingly a trivial substance, salt was a necessary nutrient for all the colonists and livestock, and was essential for the preservation of meat (173). For the first time, the colonists faced a threat that impacted the health and welfare of every person, and this bred discontent amongst many. By late 1775, Lund Washington reported that "the people are run[nin]g mad about Salt" (Holton 173). Wide-spread riots began to spring up, and Richard Henry Lee "urged Virginia leader to find some way to produce or procure salt, lest 'the want of this Necessary...produce universal riot and convulsion" (Holton 174). This sort of general discontent needed to be addressed with haste, as each day, the quality of life for every colonist was diminishing.
The time-critical aspect of the situation created by nonexportation and the subsequent Restraining Act is another reason the initiative is so significant in the need for a break from Britain. Salt shortages occurred within a year of nonexportation, but salt was just the first commodity to run out. John Page, vice-chariman of the Virginia Committee on Safety, worried what the colonists would do "When to their Want of Salt there shall be added a Want of Clothes and Blankets" (Holton 174). With time, many critical commodities would run out, and colonists, particularly smallholders and poor whites would turn from inconvenienced to desperate. Such a desperation "threatened to drive [these people] into the arms of the