For a period of 100 years the Colonies had
been under the control of the British Government. The control was to have a striking
innovation. The navigation acts of earlier years were designed to regulate trade,
the new measures were to raise revenue. The whole program for tighter colonial
control had larger objectives than raising a revenue and providing for joint defence.
It included the reassertion of the mercantilist principle that the colonies were to
be the suppliers of raw materials for the homeland and the consumers of her profitable
manufactured goods. It was all right for colonials to mine ore to be turned into
iron, but they were not to make tools or weapons out it. Restrictions were vain.
America's iron industry had grown to such proportions by 1750 that English
manufacturers were fearful of losing the colonial market. The average Englishman
took it for granted that colonies existed to provide him with sugar, rice, tobacco and
indigo, lumber, naval stores and at the same time pay a good price for Britain's exports.
Britain's growing interest in the colonies as
markets sharpened fear of colonial rivalry in manufacturing finished goods. The
statistics of England's trade from the close of the seventeenth century pointed up
Franklin's observation on the value to Britain's economy of an increasing population in
America. By 1767, provinces north of Maryland were taking two thirds of
England's colonial exports. American manufacturing and commerce were to be fitted
into a pattern beneficial to the whole empire but it was expected that the greater
advantage would fall to England. It was assumed that British capitalists should be
given preference in the grant of western lands and in the fur trade. To govern the
colonies required many officials and the British ruling class was ready to supply
them..The whole attitude of the British official and commercial world was that America was
to remain permanently inferior to England.
American interests in many respects directly
opposed those of Britain. Colonial manufactures and merchants wishing to be eased of
restrictions in order to develop their own enterprises and to trade freely in the world
outside Great Britain; the navigation acts confined their trade to the motherland.
Colonial big business competed for the western lands with British bigger business.
Political plums which went to British favorites looked as juicy to hopeful
colonials. And, as for the contributing revenue for the upkeep of empire,
Americans maintained they were already sharing that responsibility to the limit of their
ability. They pointed in the direct support in money and men but even more
emphatically to indirect contributions in port duties collected in England and the
latter's monopoly of American trade.
Had George Greenville known about the
Frenchman's observations he would not likely have been deterred by them. He was
described as one of ablest men in Britain, though with a legalistic, pedantic mind.
He knew the rules, saw the financial requirements and proceeded logically to apply
his knowledge. He was recognized to be the most capable man of business in the House
of Commons. He introduced the Sugar Act to tax certain colonial imports coming from
places outside Great Britain--coffee, wine , silks, while the tax on sugar was raised.
The duty on molasses was reduced by half to discourage smuggling from the French
West Indies. As the colonial merchants were paying in bribes a penny and a half per
gallon, surely it was argued by the too shrewd Grenville, they could well pay three-pence
honestly. Country squires and merchants in parliament smiled approvingly at the
reading of a budget aimed at relieving the former of taxes and increasing the profits of