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Pro side of the debate: The British mercantile system was beneficial to the colonies...

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belzie | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 20, 2010 at 1:47 PM via web

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Pro side of the debate: The British mercantile system was beneficial to the colonies (1607- American Revolution).

I need serious help. This is for my A.P. U.S. History class, and I'm drawing a blank on how to start. I have to argue that it WAS beneficial, even though I think it wasn't. Any suggestions?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 20, 2010 at 1:51 PM (Answer #2)

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I think that you need to focus on the actual living conditions of people in North America during the time that the British were imposing mercantilism on the colonies.  If you do, you will find that there are various types of evidence that show that Americans were really quite well off during this time.

Most texts argue that American colonists were healthier and richer than people were in England at the time.  Now, I know that there are other circumstances that may account for this, but it certainly implies that the colonists were not being oppressed to the point where their actual lives were seriously impacted.

You might also want to talk about the fact that under mercantilism, the colonies were given access to the rich English market, even if this access was limited.  If there had been free trade, there would have been much more competition because other countries would have been able to trade freely with England as well.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 20, 2010 at 2:12 PM (Answer #3)

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There are economic arguments to be made as well.  And though many colonists and historians alike might disagree with them, they hold, in my opinion, some validity.

For example, a mercantile system did guarantee a market for colonial cash crops and raw materials, even if it wasn't always the best price.  This insulated colonial farmers and producers from the natural highs and lows of a free colonial market.

The mercantile system also virtually guaranteed the delivery and availability of British finished goods in colonial markets, thus creating a stability and prosperity that was evident even as the Revolution was starting.

You could say that Mercantilism was very selectively applied by the British Empire.  Difficult to enforce at best, the colonists lived for decades at a time without strict mercantile control, even though it was the law.

Lastly, perhaps argue from the imperial view, what the King would think - that the colonies were literally part of England, and they were being protected from outside invasion, and entitled to all the rights of British citizens except direct representation.

Hope that helps, good luck!

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted October 4, 2010 at 9:00 PM (Answer #4)

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The fact that people in American colonies were better off than those in England, may point to the the possibility that the people in colony were not exploited by the British. But the wealth of the colonist could also be pointed out as an incentive for their exploitation. Further the exploitation of the colonies was not intended to benefiting the common people in Britain. It was meant to benefit only the the rich and the wealthy. It is interesting to note that later, in the late nineteenth century, the industrial workers in Britain also were exploited ruthlessly by the wealthy industrialist of their own country.

Whether or not British mercantile system was beneficial to the colonies must judged solely on two criteria. First, whether this system enforced laws that discriminated against the people in the colonies. Second, the net impact of such discrimination. The fact is that British deliberately followed a system that favoured British business at the cost of the colonies.

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lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted October 26, 2010 at 4:45 PM (Answer #5)

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I would agree that the Mercantile System guaranteed the colonists had buyers for their natural resources and goods. While the prices may not have been fair they at least were able to have a market for their goods.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:56 AM (Answer #6)

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The biggest benefit was that the British were supporting and subsidizing everything. The colonies had buyers lined up for everything they needed to sell. They did not Ned to worry about the free market. Although they might have gotten less money after taxes for what they sold, they were guaranteed to sell.

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