During the 17th and 18th centuries Europeans believed in an idea called mercantilism, the idea that a nation's existence depended on power, and power depended on wealth. To gain wealth a country had to have colonies. These to provided a constant source of raw materials and become markets for the manufactured goods to the country that owned them or their "Mother Country." For example, the colonists cut down trees, these trees were sent to England where craftsmen made furniture, paper, barrels, and tools. These goods were then sent back to the colonies and sold to the colonists. The money went back to England.

This process also helped England establish a favorable balance of trade. A nation had to sell more products to other countries than it bought from other countries. Products were sold for gold and silver which helped build up the treasury for England.

To enforce mercantilism England passed the NAVIGATION ACTS, (Trade Acts) beginning in 1651. These acts were designed to control trade with its colonies. These laws forced the colonies to trade only with England. Under these laws the colonies were not allowed to make any products they could buy from England. In other words, if you needed a barrel to pack your goods, a cooper in your town could not make or sell you that barrel. you had to buy the barrel from England. Also, all goods had to be shipped on English ships or ships built in the colonies. In other words no Dutch, French, or Spanish ships could sell or trade their goods to the colonies. The colonies were not allowed to sell raw materials or products to them.

England passed other Trade Acts that continued to control colonial trade. The colonists became increasingly angry as each new Act was passed and began to find ways around these restrictions. Smuggling and piracy became big business. During the French and Indian War, England needed the cooperation of the colonies so they did not work hard to stop the law breakers. After the war England cracked down on the colonies and passed new and more restrictive Acts.

Another way the colonies found to get around trade restrictions was through THE TRIANGLE TRADE ROUTES. To trade with European merchants, the colonial merchants shipped their products to European ports. There they were traded for goods that were not available in England, such as fruits and wines. Next, the fruits and wine were traded in England for manufactured goods. Finally the manufactured goods from England were sold in the colonies.

Another triangle trade route brought African slaves to America. First, colonists traded their products for sugar and molasses in the West Indies. Ships carried sugar and molasses back to the colonies where they were made into rum. In the next step, ships carried rum and guns to Africa. In Africa these were exchanged for slaves. Then slaves were shipped to the West Indies or to the colonies. As this form of trade grew, great fortunes were made by merchants, slave traders, ship captains, and England.

ACTIVITIES See Triangle Trade Game

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