How Mercantilism Helped To Shape The American Nati Essay

This essay has a total of 2214 words and 7 pages.

How Mercantilism Helped To Shape The American Nation

In the Middle Ages, the definition of wealth was based on the amount of productive land.
According to this definition, France was the wealthiest and therefore the most powerful of
the European nations. During the sixteenth century the definition of wealth began to
change. As the ability to conduct profitable foreign trade increased, so did the amount of
cash. Thus, the new definition of wealth came to mean the gain of cash or specie. Specie
included gold, silver, or bullion. The wealthiest nation became the one with the most
cash, and therefore, the most powerful nation. As the redefining of wealth took hold,
there was an increased desire and ability to conduct foreign trade on a larger scale as
cash became the new medium of exchange in contrast to bartering. Mercantilism began to
take hold of the countries of Europe. Mercantilism was characterized by the governmental
regulation of industries, trade, and commerce. This was especially true with foreign
trade, and was determined more by national aims rather than individual or local interests.
This new quest for trade began the Age of Expansion in the early fourteen hundreds. This
era ushered in a search for new sources of revenues, and focus turned toward the
colonization of the New World. The Portuguese, Spanish, and English directed many efforts
of colonization and development toward this new land in an attempt to establish themselves
as the economic leaders of the world. As mercantilism began to change, so did the power
flux of the European countries. Thus began the shaping of North America as we know it.The
Age of Expansion brought many changes to medieval Europe. During this period, the
countries of Europe began to look beyond their borders. In Europe, there was nowhere to
grow. This being the case, the only place to turn was west. Portugal came into existence
in the early 1400's. It is a small country bordered on one side by the sea, and by Spain
on the other. Out of necessity the Portuguese became the masters of the sea. They began to
acquire a great knowledge of the sea and advanced in navigation, sailing, and map-making.
They also founded an academy of navigation in Lisbon. In the early 1400's, the Portuguese
began exploratory voyages. The Portuguese wanted to establish themselves in large-scale
international trade. The four things most desired by the people of Europe were spices,
sugar, precious metals, and silk. These goods were found primarily in the West Indies. In
1497, a Portuguese explorer named Vasco da Gama became the first European to sail around
the Cape of Africa, allowing the Portuguese to establish colonies in East Africa and open
new trade routes. By 1513, the Portuguese had established trade with much of the West
Indies as far as the Spice Islands. In the late 1400's, a man by the name of Christopher
Columbus had the idea that he could reach the West Indies by a westward route over the
Atlantic Ocean. He believed that he could find a westward route to the West Indies that
would make trade much more feasible and that would supply desired goods to the European
people. Desiring support for an exploratory voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, Columbus
went to the most logical place - Portugal. For ten years he sought support for a voyage,
but he never received the funding he needed. Since Portugal refused to provide him with
the necessary support, he decided to try Spain. In 1492, Queen Isabella of Spain granted
him a commission, and he sailed west with three ships. On October 12, 1492, the ships
landed on an island which Columbus named San Salvador. He then claimed the land for the
country of Spain. Columbus explored the Caribbean Islands and journeyed back to Spain
believing he had found the West Indies. The focus of expansion now shifted to the New
World. The Spanish began to establish colonies with the hope of turning a profit. In 1521,
Hernando Cortez, another Spanish explorer, conquered the Aztecs in Tenochtitlan (Mexico
City). He later conquered the rest of Mexico, including the Mayan people. The Spanish also
colonized Florida and claimed all the land west of the Mississippi River. Most of the
conquered natives were put into slavery or forced labor. The Spanish operated vast silver
mines and sugarcane plantations. Most of Spain's profit came from silver and gold. The
native peoples had mined much of it before the arrival of the Spanish, and the Spanish
exploited these people for their wealth. There was a massive influx of cash into Europe.
Spain began spending money as fast as it came in. The result was the Economic Revolution.
Prices all over Europe fell because of rising inflation. In 1497, the British sent an
explorer named John Cabot on a voyage to North America. King Henry VII granted John Cabot
a royal Charter. This charter, issued by the government, authorized Cabot to conduct a
voyage in search of a Northwest Passage to the West Indies. The charter was only
permission - not financial support. The Merchants of Bristol supplied the monetary
support. Although Cabot did not find anything, his voyage served as a model for later
English settlement of the New World. The North American colonies did not begin as royal
colonies - they became royal colonies. The colonies began as individual economic ventures
supported by joint-stock companies and given royal charters by the government. Cabot was
the first man sent by Britain on a voyage to the New World. He was also the last for a
long time. The British were late starters in the race to establish colonies. They had
become a fairly wealthy and powerful nation. As a result of this wealth, the people wanted
more material things. These material goods had to come from somewhere, so money was being
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