In world history, the 17th and 18th centuries are known as britishers era. They made every other underdeveloped country such as Africa and India as their colony and used their resource for their own economic benefit.
During this, they passed a policy known as mercantilism to accumulate wealth and maintain control over its American colonies. This Mercantilism policy was based on a financial philosophy that emphasized the importance of exporting more than importing to amass wealth and power.
As part of this process, the British government imposed various restrictions on trade with its American colonies. In this blog, we will explain the compelling reasons why Britain chose to limit trade with the colonies during that time.
The Mercantilist System
Before we explain the reasons behind Britain’s trade restrictions, you must understand the importance of the Mercantilist System imposed by the Britishers to govern the European economic policies during that period.
This system, because of its ideology at that time, was prevailing all over Britain. This idea was driven by the view that a country’s wealth is measured by its collection of precious resources. This includes things such as gold and silver.
Colonies Source of Wealth
From the start, Britishers recognized the potential of their colonies’ source of wealth. They used exports of their raw materials to increase their profit.
Most of the colonies produced valuable raw materials, including grain, sugar, and tobacco, which at that time were highly sought in Europe.
As Britain concentrated on increasing its supply of metals and resources. This includes gold and silver and other elements. It became imperative to secure access to these properly.
1. Collecting Metals such as Gold and Silver
In the mercantilism era, a country’s status was based on the reserve of precious metals. In other words, for a country to show its wealth and quality, it needed an extensive resource of gold and silver.
Since Britain was an island country, it lacked these precious metals, and because of that, it sought to obtain these metals through trade with its colonies.
2. Controlling the Trade Routes
Britishers during that time implemented many policies to make Britain more wealthy. They monopolized the trade route between their colonies and their motherland. Under this system, colonies could not trade directly with other nations.
The Navigation Acts
To achieve these goals, the British government passed a series of laws that came to be known as the Navigation Acts. The British government made these acts to enforce mercantilist policies in the American colonies strictly.
According to the Navigation Act, all the goods exported from their colonies will be first transported to their ships.
Only Englishmen will trade them further. They also restricted the trade of goods, such as sugar, tobacco, and cotton, with any other country apart from England.
3. favorable Trade Balance
Under the mercantilist system, creating a favorable balance of trade was necessary to achieve success.
A favorable trade balance means exporting goods more than importing, which will result in creating a surplus of wealth that will flow into the country that is exporting goods.
Britain’s government prevented their colonies from trading with other nations by levying heavy taxes on their imports to achieve this.
4.The Molasses Act of 1733
One notable example of Britain’s efforts to restrict colonial trade was the Molasses Act 1733.
This act aimed to curb colonial trade in the West Indies by imposing a substantial tax on sugar and molasses imported into the colonies from non-British sources.
While the law was officially in place, British authorities often paid no heed to smuggling, leading colonists to question British intentions.
5. Only Raw Materials Matters
To strengthen Britain’s power in the world, they made those countries their colonies, which used to have a surplus of valuable raw materials such as tobacco, sugar, and lumber.
At that time, these materials came on the list of luxury, and not all people could afford them. By restricting the trade, the British crown ensured that these resources were channeled exclusively to their motherland.
As a result, their fellow citizens flourished, whereas those living in colonies suffered greatly because of poverty.
6. Colonial Markets for British Goods
To make their country more powerful and wealthy, they started selling finished goods in their colonies, from which they exported the raw materials. Because of the Navigation Acts, the colonies could not
trade with any other nation, which created an absolute monopoly for Britain. This arrangement supported the growth of British industries and created jobs for their people.
7. In Response Rivals
These policies were also made in response to the activities of rival traders. Other merchants, such as the Dutch, traded frequently in the Caribbean and North America during the period.
The Restraining Acts
The British government likewise implemented the Restraining Act in 1699. This act was created to protect England’s manufacturers by restricting the manufacturing process in all the colonies. This was all done to prevent the colonial manufacturers from competing with their manufacturers in the future.
Colonies’ Response to Trade Restraints
You might be wondering what these colonists’ response was; with time, these policies generated resentment among the people.
They began to blame the Britishers for their poor conditions, and as a result, smuggling goods became a prevalent thing at that time. Ultimately, these grievances of colonist peoples led to the American Revolution.
To sum up, Britain’s decision to restrict trade with its American colonies during the mercantilist era was made due to many aspects, such as economic, geopolitical, and strategic factors.
The main reasons behind these policies were the pursuit of accumulating precious metals such as gold and silver, controlling trade routes, maintaining a favorable balance of trade, and securing access to beneficial raw materials.
Britain wanted to increase power; however, these trade limitations sowed the seeds of resentment among the colonists, which ultimately began the American Revolution.
The mercantilist era is a compelling historical chapter, showing the complex relationship between economic policies and colonial aspirations.