During the 1500’s to 1800’s, the strength and stature of acountry depended upon its political power, which can be traced to howself-sufficient it was. Striving to be self-sufficient was whatnations sought after; dependency was not a characteristic of apowerful nation. Raw materials were the most required item tostrengthen the central government, and deter interactions, such astrade with other nations.
The first country to introduce mercantilismin America was Spain. The spanish american colonies were not allowedto trade directly with Europe. Instead they had to funnel all of thesugar and tobacco, two common commdities of the new land, throughSpain. When this was done, heavy custom duties were imposed and thecentral government gained.
Spanish American colonies were forced intoproviding precious metals and raw materials to the mother country. These colonies existed only to enrich spain, even if the economicpolicies adversly effected the well-being of the colonies. This gripcaused the central economy of Spain to grow at the expense of thecolonies. During the duration of this period, the 1500’s through the1700’s, mercantilism had a major effect on the economies in the newworld.
English speaking colonies were effected by England’s policiesand acts. These policies and acts were means of controling the economyof the colonies in America and strengthen the central government ofEngland. Dutch traders had the commercial vessel market well corneredin the 1640’s. It was very difficult for English colonies to competewith the Dutch.
With owning 75 percent of Northern Europes’ vessels,being well-financed and experienced, the Dutch were going to stay incontrol of the market unless European Parliament intervined. In 1651the European parliament enacted the first Navigation Act to undercutthe Dutches domination. England was hoping that this Act would excludethe Dutch from trade with the English and force its own merchantmarine to grow. This act was the first attempt to enforcemerchantilism by England. The act proclaimed that all trade betweenFrance and English colonies, Europe and English colonies, and thecolonies with themselves must be conducted on an english ship(Kurland).
The British were hoping that this would boost the economyand expand the mercant marine. The failure of this act was caused byinadequate machinery to enforce the law. The english colonies publiclydefied the act and kept on trading with the Dutch. The restoration ofCharles II brought about major changes in 1660. All of the acts of theCommonwealth Parliament, including the Navigation Act of 1651, wereconsidered illigal under his rule (Kurland).
Charles II did not intendon doing away with the act, but revising it. The Navigation Act of1660 was a restatement of the 1651 act, but it also established a listof items including: tobacco, cotton, wool, and indigo, that couldn’tbe shipped outside of the British empire (Barck and Lefler). This Actmade the english colonies frusterated for they could get a higherprice for these items outside of the british empire. The NavigationAct worked as a disadvantage to the colonies, but helped the centraleconomy and government of the british by excluding such raw materialsfrom trade to other countries.
The Staple Act of 1663 was an offshootof the Navigation Acts. It stated that all European goods bound forthe American colonies must first land at an english port and then bereshipped to America in English vessels (Kurland). The British wouldbenefit from this act by imposing custom duties on goods, which costwould be passed to the american consumer. The english merchants wouldprofit from handling, insurance, and shipping fees. This Act alsoprovided for a naval officer in all colonial ports to insure theupholding of the mercantile law. From the American stand point, theStaple Act meant higher prices and a blatant attempt of the British toexploit America for the benefit of the english merchants.
There was noneed for the Staple Act to be passed. The Act served no other purposeother than the enrichment of the British people and strengthening ofthe central government. Another example of the British trying to exertcontrol over America was with the Molasses Act of 1733. This Actimposed a duty of nine pence per gallon on rum, six pence per gallonon molasses, and five shillings per hundredweight of sugar importedfrom French or Spanish colonies. The was no tax put on british rum,molasses, or sugar imported from British Colonies. The British, tryingto control the american colonies, were largely ineffective.
The actwas vastly ignored by the Americans. The Americans were not going toobey a law passed by the english, when the english had no way ofenforcing it. The english colonies were pulling away from thealligence to Britain. The British wanted the colonies to build thepolitical power of Britain, without getting anything in return. TheBritish wanted to use up all of the resources and raw materials ofAmerica, without the colonies resisting. After the British recognizedthat the Molasses Act was ineffective, they amended it with the SugerAct (Morison and Commager).
Bribing customs officals into taking 1 anda half pence per gallon not to notice the cargo being unloaded was howthe Molasses Act failed. To do away with this problem, the British cutthe tax by fifty percent and strickly enforced it. Now the colonieswere objecting to the decreased tax. Before, the tax was not collectedor enforced so the Americans were happy. Now that the tax wascollected the Americans were feeling the threat of British rule.
TheBritish government was regarding the colonies as a source of revenue. The colonies also noticed how the money was being spent and objectedto it. The British talked of how they needed money to support troopsin America. The troops were not there to protect the colonies, but toenforce British rule. The troops were stationed at ports, not in theinterior where the threat of attack was the greatest.
America existedfor the sole purpose of strengthening the central government ofEngland. Unlike the rest of the Acts passed for the improvement of thebritish government, the Stamp Act caused the biggest political storm. Everyone from small farmers to merchants were effected. The parliamentwanted the colonist to pay for some imperial expenses. To do this,parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765.
This law made it illigal topuchase any paper, newspapers, customs documents, various licenses,college diplomas, and numerous legal forms for recovering debts,buying land, and making wills without a stamp bought buy the British. The law enabled the British not only to generate revenues, but censorall materials going into the public. The British would simply notstamp any material, such as a newspaper, that were putting anycomments about the British that were bad. The American colonies didnot reciate this law at all. They protested it with a venganceclaiming, “Taxation without representation is slavery.
” Theworking-class’s approach to this problem is to riot, gather great mobsand burn things, and beat up the tax collectors. The upper-class’s wayof handling this was to make reforms and go about changing this in acivilized manner. Everyone in the colonies could agree that the StampAct was a selfish law made by the British to control the media andaquire revenues at the expense of the colonies. During 1790 to 1795,mercantilism helped spark the economy of America under Hamiltonsauthority. Hamilton wanted all foreign debts, amounting to 11.
7million, to be payed off in full (Kurland). This would establish avery high credit rating with other nations and help the governmentcreate political power. Other debts the Hamilton required to be payedoff or assumed were the 40 million in Confederation war bonds and 28million in debts of individual states (kurland). For the good of thecreating a cash economy and strengthing the U. S. credit rating,Hamilton wanted to induce a Bank of the United States under the”implied powers” clause.
The system of banking he purposed was verysimilar to that of Englands. Founded in 1791, the Bank of the UnitedStates had the duties of financing the federal government during war,regulating credit, and producing sound currency. Hamilton also had theidea of making the bank privately owned, so it would run proficiently. This would give the federal government a backbone during times of waror emergencies and make it much more powerful. Hamilton also calledfor American self-sufficiency. The report on Manufactures of 1791,written by Hamilton, promoted tariffs on imports to protectmanufacturing and create national wealth.
America was building itspolitical power by manipulating its economy. What the British wereonce doing to the colonies, the colonies were now doing to themselves. America was using the idea of mercantilism to run the country andbuild political power. In conclusion, the whole purpose for England todevelope and carry out the Acts they passed were to stay in control ofthe colony’s economy and better their central government. The Britishtroops were not there to protect, but to carry out english laws.
TheStamp Act was developed to control the media and legal documents sothe colonies wouldn’t stray away and acquire their own system. TheNavigation Act was to stop the dominating Dutch from taking over thecommercial vessel industry and build up Englands merchant marine. TheMolasses and Sugar Acts were to make America pay for its so calledtroops and help British merchants. Britains mercantilistic ideas inthese Acts show their disregard for the new colonies and theexploitation of their resources. After the War for Independence,America took some mercantilistic ideas to begin building theirpolitical power and economy.