DISALLOWANCE. There were many steps involved in the formal process of enacting legislation in the royal colonies of British North America. The popularly elected assemblies initiated laws, which the royal governor could veto. Laws passed by the assembly that received the governor's assent were sent to the Board of Trade for review. The Board then recommended to the Privy Council the "allowance" of the legislation if, in its opinion, it did not deviate from imperial policy, and recommended "disallowance" in other cases. The Privy Council submitted final recommendations to the king.
While perhaps as many as 95 percent of all laws eventually received royal assent, a process which could take up to a dozen years, the governor initially and the Board of Trade at the center of the empire always were alert to disallow laws that adversely affected the interests of British merchants. Laws that enhanced the stature and authority of local assemblies were more favorably received during the time of "salutary neglect" (when enforcement of trade policy was left intentionally lax), on the theory that the delegation of power and responsibility promoted an accommodation of interests whereby everyone would benefit. Wartime brought increasing strains in relations between governors and assemblies, especially about raising money and men for military purposes; local elites were not above using emergencies to extract concessions from the governors that would have been unthinkable in peacetime. The assemblies could evade some measure of disallowance by passing these laws as temporary acts.
revised by Harold E. Selesky