The Merits and Menace of Mercantilism.

Essay by greenfoxxHigh School, 12th gradeA+, October 2003

download word file, 3 pages 5.0

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the economic theory utilized by Great Britain towards its empire was known as mercantilism. The idea behind mercantilism was to amass wealth through a favorable balance of trade, or exporting more goods than were imported. Within the idea of mercantilism, the colonies were meant to be a source of raw materials and a market for manufactured products. Even though the mercantile theory seemed to prosper between England and the colonies, the underlying resentment from the colonies towards it and its negative effects on them eventually led to its failure.

The mercantile theory dictated both the visible and invisible trades throughout the colonies. Mercantilists believed that national wealth and power were best served by increasing exports and collection precious metals in return. Many positive economic effects came from the first signs of mercantilism: the Trade and Navigation Acts. In England, mercantilist policies were effective in creating a skilled industrial population and a large shipping industry, and it was reflected in the colonies.

Foreign competition was cut down because any foreign ship had to have a license in order to enter a colonial port. Laws that restricted British ships, captains, and crews helped New England shipyards and gave many New Englanders jobs as sailors. Tobacco laws ensured a colonial monopoly seeing that America was the only provider of the "light tobacco" rather than the harsher tobacco produced in the West Indies. These laws were worked into colonial trade quite easily; hardly any of them were strictly enforced. This was known as "salutary neglect". Smuggling was usually ignored, and "friendly customs officers" gladly accepted bribes in colonial ports; Britain knew of these happenings, yet did not mind because they knew a war with France was highly possible, and did not want hostile feelings towards them coming...