History of Domestic and Foreign Commerce of the United States - Vol. 1

By Emory R. Johnson; T. W. Van Metre et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III.
THE COMMERCIAL POLICY OF ENGLAND TOWARD THE AMERICAN COLONIES: THE ACTS OF TRADE.
The mercantile theory , 35.
Origin of the Navigation Acts , 37.
The Navigation and Trade Acts of 1651, 1660, and 1663, 39.
The Administrative Acts of 1673 and 1696, 43.
The Molasses Act of 1733, 42.
British regulation of colonial manufactures, 44.
English bounties, preferential duties, drawbacks, and other encouragements to colonial industries and trade, 46.
The Grenville, Townshend, and North Acts, 1964-1770, 48.
Effects of the British commercial policy upon colonial industry, commerce, and manufactures, 49.
The illegal trade of the colonists , 51.
Summary of the effects of the Acts of Trade , 52.
Before continuing with the history of the development of American commerce after 1660, it will be well to consider the policy adopted by England and the measures enacted by the several American colonies for the promotion and regulation of commerce. The present chapter will discusss the British Acts of Trade; the following one will summarily review the commercial policy of the colonies.
THE MECANTILE THEORY.
During the seventeenth century, and indeed from the fifteenth until well into the nineteenth century, the mercantile theory of trade was accepted without question by practically all Englishmen, and in fact by Europe generally. The nation was by this theory regarded as a political and economic unit. Each country's relations with all other countries were to be carefully regulated so that all international intercourse might enhance national wealth and power.Under the mercantile theory it was held that if trade were to be of advantage to the country as a whole the following principles must be observed:
1. Trade must be so conducted that the money value of the commodities exported from the country exceeds the money cost of the goods imported, so that there is a "favorable balance of trade" with a steady flow of coin or bullion into the country. It was believed that the military and naval strength of a country depended upon the stock of ready money in the war chest or at least in the possession of the people of the country.
2. It seemed equally evident to the people of the times of Elizabeth and Cromwell that certain kinds of trade were much more to be desired than others, and that it was the business of the government to restrict or prohibit some exchanges and to foster others. The imports ought not to compete with, but ought to contribute to, the growth of home industries; the exports should not include those articles needed at home for consumption or use in production.
3. Under the fully developed mercantile system, it was held that the merchants of other countries should be permitted to engage in the

-35-

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