In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the British parliament enacted a number of laws, called Navigation Acts, governing commerce between Britain and its overseas colonies. For example, the Navigation Acts of 1660 and 1663 barred the empire's colonial merchants from exporting such commodities as sugar and tobacco anywhere except to England and from importing goods in non-English ships. Similarly, the Molasses Act of 1733 taxed all foreign molasses (a thick liquid drained from sugarcane and used to make rum) entering the mainland American colonies at sixpence per gallon. This act was intended less to raise revenue than to serve as a protective tariff (tax) that would benefit British West Indian sugar producers at the expense of their French rivals. By 1750 a long series of Navigation Acts were in force, with several effects on the North American colonial economy. For one thing, the laws limited all imperial trade to British ships, defined as those with British ownership and crews that were three-quarters British. For purposes of the legislation, Parliament classified all colonists as British. This restriction not only contributed to Great Britain's rise as Europe's foremost shipping nation but also laid the foundations for an American shipbuilding industry and merchant marine. By the 1750s one-third of all imperial vessels were American-owned, mostly by merchants in the northeast and in mid-Atlantic colonies. The swift growth of this merchant marine diversified the northern colonial economy and made it more self-sufficient. The expansion of colonial shipping in turn accelerated urbanization by creating a need for centralized docks, warehouses, and repair shops in the colonies. By 1770 Philadelphia and New York City had emerged as two of the British Empire's busiest ports. The Navigation Acts also barred the export of certain "enumerated goods" to foreign nations unless those items first passed through England or Scotland. The American mainland's chief items of this sort were tobacco, rice, furs, indigo (a Carolina plant that produced a blue dye), and naval supplies (such as masts and tar). Parliament never restricted grain, livestock, fish, lumber, or rum, which altogether made up 60 percent of American colonial exports. Furthermore, Anglo-American exporters of tobacco and rice – the chief commodities affected by enumeration – had their burdens reduced by two significant concessions. First, Parliament gave tobacco growers a monopoly over the British market by excluding foreign tobacco, even though this hurt British consumers. (Rice planters enjoyed a natural monopoly because they had no competitors.) Second, Parliament tried to minimize the added cost of landing tobacco and rice in Britain (where customs officials collected duties on both) by refunding the duties on all tobacco and rice that the colonists later shipped to other countries.   The navigation system's impact on the colonies encouraged economic diversification as well. Parliament used British tax money to pay modest incentives to Americans producing such items as silk, iron, dyes, hemp, and lumber, which Britain would otherwise have had to import from other countries, and it raised the price of commercial rivals' imports by imposing protective tariffs on them. The trade laws did prohibit Anglo-Americans from competing with large-scale British manufacturing of certain products, most notably clothing. However, colonial tailors, hatters, and other small clothes manufacturers could continue to make any item of dress in their households or small shops. Manufactured by low-paid labor, British clothing imports generally undersold whatever the colonists could have produced given their higher labor costs. The colonists were also free to produce iron and built numerous ironworks. Finally, the Navigation Acts made the colonies a protected market for low-priced consumer goods and other exports from Britain. Steady overseas demand for colonial products created a prosperity that enabled colonists to consume ever-larger amounts not only of clothing but of dishware, home furnishings, tea, and a range of other items both produced in Britain and imported by British and colonial merchants from elsewhere. Consequently, the share of British exports sold to the colonies rapidly increased from just 5 percent in 1700 to almost 40 percent by 1760. Cheap imported goods enabled many colonists to adopt a lifestyle similar to that of middle-class Britons.