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 IV.
COMMERCIAL POLICY OF THE COLONIES.
Legislative power of colonies over commerce , 54.
Authority exercised by Parliament, the Privy Council, and King, 55.
Import duties of the colonies , 56.
The four purposes of import duties, 57.
Export duties , 59.
Bounties , 60.
Inspection laws, 62.
Embargoes , 63
Tonnage duties63.
Regulation and administration of ports, 64.
Summary of commercial legislation in the colonies , 65.

The commercial legislation enacted by the several colonies needs to be considered in connection with the British Acts of Trade; both conditioned the development of American commerce, and affected, at least slightly, the progress of industry. Just as England in the seventeenth century, and Great Britain in the eighteenth, endeavored to regulate the trade of the colonies so as to increase the wealth and add to the power of the realm, so each American colony attempted to promote its own interests by elaborate laws. To some extent, the legislative enactments of the mother country and her American dependencies were complementary, not only because they applied to the same subjects, but also for the reason that they sometimes sought to accomplish the same results.

The trade acts of the colonies merit careful study. They reveal much regarding the nature and importance of the commerce of the several colonies; they throw light upon financial and industrial conditions; and they illustrate some of the causes of the clash of British and colonial interests. In legislating for the regulation and promotion of their domestic industry and external trade, the colonies developed the principle of self-government and achieved a far greater measure of political autonomy than had been intended by crown or Parliament. Neither the restored Stuarts nor the determined George III could substitute centralized British authority in place of the ever-developing colonial self-government. Indeed, it was in the efforts of the mother country to regulate and tax the external trade of the colonies that its administrative weaknesses were strikingly shown. The British laws that interfered with trade were largely evaded by the colonies; and when England attempted to enforce her statutes and administrative requirements, a spirit of independence and revolt spread throughout the colonies.

The legislative authority exercised by the colonies over commerce was but slightly limited by King or Parliament. Theoretically, the English colonists were settlers of regions belonging to the crown because discovered by explorers bearing royal charters. When the King made grants of American territory to corporations or proprietors he conferred upon them general governmental control over their plantations and settlements, subject to such regulative interference as the crown might

-54-

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