Mercantilism was a major economic tool for England. How did England exploit this commercial policy and how did the North American colonies react to England's implementation of this policy?

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The economic doctrine of mercantilism encouraged England to use the American colonies as a source of national wealth. Generally, the way to do this was to maintain a positive trade balance with the colonies. Among such sixteenth-century promoters of empire as the Hakluyts, Humphrey Gilbert, and Walter Raleigh, this was...

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The economic doctrine of mercantilism encouraged England to use the American colonies as a source of national wealth. Generally, the way to do this was to maintain a positive trade balance with the colonies. Among such sixteenth-century promoters of empire as the Hakluyts, Humphrey Gilbert, and Walter Raleigh, this was a motive driving the establishment of colonies in the first place. After the establishment of colonies in the Americas, England sought to maintain a general arrangement wherein the colonies produced raw materials and cash crops and served as markets for finished goods from the home country. By the mid-seventeenth century, this arrangement was seriously threatened by the emergence of the Dutch as a powerful merchant nation, and the English attempted to counter their influence by passing what were known as "Navigation Acts." Broadly speaking, these laws forbade colonial merchants from shipping goods on anything by English ships. They proved very difficult to enforce, however, and for decades, the colonists flourished under a policy that Parliamentarian Edmund Burke would later call "salutary neglect." Even though mercantilist laws were largely winked at, the colonies, especially the sugar colonies of the Caribbean, remained very profitable for British merchants. This arrangement began to change in the mid-eighteenth century, especially after the Seven Years War, known as the French and Indian War in the colonies. A series of laws, beginning with the Sugar Act, sought to impose tighter regulations on colonial trade. The imposition of new taxes like the Stamp Act is best understood as part of this process, which was intended in part to recoup some of the expenses of the war. The colonists claimed that these acts were antithetical to their liberties, touching off an imperial crisis that culminated in the Revolutionary War and American independence.

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