The year 1607 brought England into the 'New World' with its first permanent settlement at Jamestown, and the following years would bring more American colonies to the British Empire. When sending people into the new land, the English planned to use a mercantilist policy and fully use the colonies for their resources. The colonist's creation of the proverb 'Mother countries exist for the benefit of their colonies' is sufficient because England's original intentions of mercantilism soon disappeared after their entrance into this new world. The reason for the decline in their motives can be traced to many occurrences, most notably benign neglect of the colonies and internal English conflicts.
In many cases, the mother country was doing more for the colonies than the colonies were for their homeland. Besides offering them protection and giving them more rights than the Englishmen, England also guaranteed the colonists a market to sell products. The English had one of the best naval forces in the world and as a result of being under British control; the colonies also had the privilege of having an excellent navy. The same policy went for ground troops, the colonists were given protection from the French and Indians without having to train a large army.
British redcoats were trained in England and sent to protect colonists in America. As stated by Dean Tucker in "Dean Tucker Advises a Divorce", colonial protection put severe burden on the English treasury. 300,000 to 400,000 pounds a year were spent on protecting colonies. Adam Smith also touches this subject in "Adam Smith Criticizes Empire". Smith argues that as a result of sending British troops to America during wars, England lost a large quantity of money. This shows that in many cases the English were in fact working for the colonies, although the principal of mercantilism shows the opposite.
Unlike those that actually lived in England and had to pay large sums of money to support the army, the colonists received protection for free. Although the Navigation Acts posed on the colonists hurt some, for many it would mean financial stability. Farmers in South Carolina and Virginia had the privilege of heavy tobacco growth. At the same time, middle colonies had fertile soil making it a good land for grain.
Others such as Massachusetts benefited from lumber. One part of the Navigation Acts stated that raw materials could only be sent to the mother country. As a result, many colonists had a monopoly on English trade. With only America trading tobacco with England, it was easy for farmers to make hefty profits on trades. As stated in "Virginia Resents Restrictions", the colonists were provided with a monopoly in England since they were prohibited to trade with other nations. At the same time, "Adam Smith's Balance Sheet" shows that their relation with England also provided the colonists cheap manufacturing that they did not have the facility for.
This is another example of colonists taking advantage of England's policies; it proves that the proverb can indeed be reversed. With officials working for the betterment of the entire empire, colonies greatly reaped the benefits of being under the English throne. Although it may be expected that Englishmen would live better lives as a result of paying extremely high taxes and living close to the empire, it was in fact the opposite. Even with the direct correlation of the English with the government, colonists lived in a much safer economic environment. The policies enforced in England were enforced to a lesser degree in America. Not only did the colonists enjoy all the rights the English had, but the colonists also had the unusual right of self-government.
While the British themselves were in many different economic problems, the colonists were living a relatively stable life without intrusion by the government. Many different reasons strengthen the colonist's statement. In many cases, the mother country was in fact working for its colonies. Although the British wanted to be steadfast with their mercantile policies, they were enforced loosely. The end results were colonists greatly benefiting from the English's negligence.
Patriots argued that English policies were too strict but at the same time, Loyalists felt that the English were not strict enough. While England's mercantile policies diminished, other countries in Europe at the time remained true to the system and even today mercantilism can be seen as a part of many government policies. Both Spain and France used mercantile policies for their colonies in Central America and Northern America, respectively. Spain established colonies to profit from Incan and Aztec gold and silver mines. Soon, they also began to use the New World's farmland extensively.
According to mercantilism, colonies were created only to benefit their motherland, and in Spain's case that was definitely true. France had similar intentions, but to a lighter degree. France greatly used their colonies for raw materials such as fur. These fur hats' extreme popularity in France resulted in large profits for the country. Mercantilism played a large role in colonial settlements, and its affects are still seen today. Many protective tariffs are placed to offer workers protection.
Although strict policies are no longer enforced, cases of mercantilism are still apparent. Although both sides gained as well as lost in the relationship, the colonists benefited the most. Not only did they receive free protection, but also they had more rights than Englishmen and had a guaranteed market to sell products. So, it is possible for the colonists to reverse the maxim. By doing so, it's just as true as the original statement.
Mercantilism declined, but only in America. Other nations continued using the policy and in many cases it can still be seen today. Mercantilism played a large role in shaping America, and even though its ideals were not completely successful, America would not be the same without it.