Mercantilism: notes and terms

Essay by ilnet2000High School, 11th grade January 2004

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--Under mercantilism, the government directed all economic activities within its borders, subordinating private profit to public good. In particular, government tried to minimize imports and maximize exports. England applied this doctrine to America. But to make the system work, Britain would have to control America too, keep it from trading with other partners.

--But many English attempts at controlling American trade = unenforced. 1 reason = sheer distance between colonies and England. Second = politics. Almost all of American colonies = founded before sacendanc of Parliament in 1688, or when ultimate authority in England = uncertain. Much of the time, rulers in Englnd = too concerned with domestic affairs or wars in Europe to think of Americas.

--But when Charles II acceded, colonies = significant enough to protect. Thus, merchants pressed Navigation Acts, 1660,63. Basic principles = always the same:

1) forbid all trade with colonies except in ships owned or contructed there or in England and manned by crews at least 3/4 English or colonial.

2) forbid transportation of certain goods from colonies to any place besides England.

3) with few exceptions, forbid transportation of European or Asiatic goods to America from an place besides England.

--Later modification = mostly additions to list of restricted goods, or limitations or encouragements of colonial products.

--Acts gave government more income, at least indirectly.

--Problem of the Dutch: Dutch = at peak at this time. Would be hard to enforce Navigation Acts against their trade with colonies. Charles tried to end Dutch presence in N. America by giving Dutch New Netherlands to his brother and successor, James. He too k it easily. But Dutch waged war on England and continued to violate Navigation Acts.

--Establishment of the various colonies:

Virginia: First permanent English settlement in N. America = Jamestown, 1607, eventually...