For the fledgling British colonies in the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries, mercantilism was a way of securing a new, uncertain economy. The colonies were able to run their trade uninterrupted and had the most powerful navy in the world around for protection. However, as devised, mercantilism more greatly benefited England as it severely limited colonial manufacturing, resulted in high prices for the colonists, and caused a resentment of the British government.
Mercantilism was an economic system in which the government controlled both the industry and trade of its country. Its purpose was to build a wealthy and powerful state by limiting imports and encouraging exports. England kept a tight control on the economic affairs of its colonies through the use of tariffs and regulatory laws. These laws created a trade system whereby Americans provided raw goods to Britain, and Britain used the raw goods to produce manufactured goods that were sold in European markets and back in the colonies. As the suppliers of raw goods only, the colonies could not compete with Britain in manufacturing. (Mercantilism 2)
In 1651, the English Parliament passed the first of the Navigation Acts. These acts prohibited foreign ships from engaging in coastal trade in England and required that all goods imported from the continent of Europe be carried on either an English ship or a ship registered in the country of origin of the goods. Also, all trade between England and her colonies had to be carried in either English or colonial vessels. The Staple Act of 1663 extended the Navigation Act by requiring that all colonial exports to Europe be landed through an English port before being re-exported to Europe.
A big part of British mercantilism came in the form of the triangular trade. The triangular trade routes linked the American Colonies, West Indies, Africa, and England. Each port provided shippers with a payoff and a new cargo. New England ru...