Discuss the role mercantilism played in imperial control over the colonies during 1700-1800.

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mercantilism was an essential element in British control of the colonies but unfortunately worked to diminish colonial growth. Mercantilistic policy was that colonies were to be a source of raw materials and a market for manufactured goods from the mother country. It also held that a country's economy could only grow if there was a positive cash flow. That cash flow was to be maintained by exports exceeding imports in value. It is for this reason that Parliament passed the Navigation Acts thatrequired all goods shipped from the colonies to be shipped on English ships or that the ships dock first at English ports where they would be assessed the appropriate duty.

Unfortunately, these actions, though beneficial for the mother country, were detrimental to the colonies; primarily because it caused a shortage of hard money. The colonists worked around this by developing the famous Triangular Trade system between America, Europe and Africa. Much of the trade was illegal, as it was more profitable to trade with other countries than with England. This led to passage of the Navigation Act of 1696 which armed customs agents with Writs of Assistance to search for violations. Because colonial juries would almost uniformly return verdicts in favor of colonial merchants rather than the crown, the Act provided that all cases of violation of the Navigation Acts would be tried in the Court of Admiralty, whose judges were appointed by the Royal Governor.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mercantilism was the idea that a country could only increase its wealth by exporting more than it imported.  This idea was relevant to the way the British treated the colonies because mercantilism also says that a colony should not be allowed to compete with the mother country.  The colony should take imports from the mother country rather than manufacturing its own goods.  All of the colony's exports should go through the mother country and then be exported onward.  That way, the payments for the exports would come to the mother country.

In order to implement mercantilism, the British imposed a series of laws called the Navigation Acts on the colonies.  These laws essentially imposed the rules that I have mentioned above. Placing these sorts of restrictions helped the British government to control the colonies.

Thus, the idea of mercantilism led to the imposition of a number of laws that increased imperial control of the colonies.

Yojana_Thapa | Student

During 16th to 18th century Great Britain practiced an economic philosophy called Mercantilism in international trade. Great Britain, the mother country was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. Colonizing America and pursuing a policy of mercantilism greatly increased their power.Mercantilism is the idea that colonies existed for the benefit of the Mother Country and it states that nation becomes stronger by keeping strict control over its trade. Britain sought to increase its power by obtaining large amount of silver and gold and by establishing favorable trade with its thirteen colonies. Based on these ideas, Great Britain, the mother country made decisions that were more advantageous to themselves than they were to the colonies. There were many regulations that were passed to support this theory; Navigation Act of 1651, Act of 1660, and many laws as well. This definitely angered the colonists, but this didn’t really play a role in prompting Americans to rebel in 1776. There were far more other reasons for the Americans to rebel in 1776. Therefore, Mercantilism plays a small role in sparking the rebellion.

To begin with, the theory of Mercantilism represents the colonists as Britain’s tenants providing “rent” by supplying raw materials to England. In return, colonists had to buy the finished products back from Great Britain. To have to export more than you import is not beneficial. But to Britain it was more than beneficial. Britain wanted to accumulate as much hard money as possible, since colonial money was worthless in England. Hard money was the source of prosperity, prestige, and the strength for a nation.

Furthermore, Mercantilist economy is a managed economy, managed by the larger and stronger power. The mother country, Great Britain wanted to be self-sufficient, but for this to be successful, it needed laws and regulations to protect wealthy British merchants and industrialists at the expense of the colonists. The regulations that supported mercantilism was the Navigation Act of 1651 which stated that all imports or exports had to be carried in Great Britain ships. Act of 1660 required that European nations must sell products to the colonies by first stopping at English ports where they would have to pay a custom duty, taxes, which is a way for Britain gain more money. Exports from the colonies could only be shipped in British or colonial ships and had to be sent to England first. After that, the products would be taxed and was allowed to be sent to other countries in European nation. Colonial products could not be shipped directly to any foreign nation. These laws and regulations supported the theory of Mercantilism.

In addition, Mercantilism doesn’t play much of a factor in prompting Americans to rebel in 1776. As suppliers of raw goods only, the colonies could not compete with Britain in manufacturing. In fact English ships were favored. It’s being said that the relationship between Britain and the colonies in the mid-1700s were good. The colonies joined Britain to fight the French in the seven years’ war. During this time the British had to deal with the wars in Europe and really didn't enforce the Navigation Acts, due to their focus with the war. Colonists began to prosper on its own by trading with non-British colonies in the Caribbean. Britain once again tried to enforce these laws after the French and Indian War, but the colonists objected. Moreover, Britain had a lot of debt from the war and thought that the colonies in America should pay much of the debt so Britain imposed several acts such as the Stamp and Townsend act.  Because of this, their relationship deteriorated, prompting Americans to rebel in 1776