Mercantilism: Britain & Spain (was Re: the role of forced labor)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sun Nov 26 12:06:50 MST 2000


>Plus, you still haven't replied my question on Navigation Acts. This means how
>useful the discussion is with you. Only chatting and intellectual name
>dropping! That is it!

You mean this question?

At 1:33 AM -0500 11/26/00, Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx wrote:
>Furthermore, if the abolishment of navigation acts gradually
>undermined slavery in 1848, as you claimed, then why was there was
>slavery in the US till 1865?

The claim that Eric Williams makes is not that "the abolition of
navigation acts gradually undermined slavery in 1848"; his argument
is as follows:

"The capitalists had first encouraged West Indian slavery and then
helped to destroy it.  When British capitalism depended on the West
Indies, they ignored slavery or defended it.  When British capitalism
found the West Indian monopoly a nuisance, they destroyed West Indian
slavery as the first step in the destruction of West Indian monopoly"
(Williams, _Capitalism and Slavery_, Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina
P, 1994 [originally published in 1944], p. 169).

_Capitalism and Slavery_ mainly concerns British capitalism & West
Indian slavery.  When we turn to the question of dialectical
relations among mercantilism, chattel slavery, & industrial
revolution in general, our analysis must be much more complex than
what Williams offers.

For instance, while, for Britain, mercantilism served as a stimulus
for domestic industrial development (see, for instance, Williams,
_Capitalism and Slavery_, Chapter 5 "British Industry and the
Triangular Trade"), it did not play the same role at all for Spain,
for all its extraction of gold & silver from the so-called New World.
Spain was so busy trying to build an old tributary empire, making
wars, etc. that the crown was perpetually in debt just during the
period of time when it was making out like a bandit in the New World
("Spain was practically bankrupt by 1557, and the new king [Philip
II] defaulted on existing loans" at
<>; it was a
failure by mercantilist standards, too, the crown itself hemorrhaging
money.  Hence the 17th-century crisis of Spain & Europe in general
(except Britain & the Netherlands), which helped to develop cash crop
plantations (& to a lesser extent manufacturing) in Spanish
possessions, as you mentioned in another post:

At 5:29 PM -0500 11/25/00, Xxxx Xxxxx Xxxxxx wrote:
>In the 17th century, however, in the peripheries of
>South Europe and Hispanic America, manufacture slowly gained a role
>as Hispanic America
>was forced to reorient itself toward regional markets (particularly in cereal
>*production* and "pasturage"). With the long economic contraction of
>1600 to 1750, it
>became evident that the signifigance of merchant class declined as
>compared with the
>rising importance of "productive entepreneurs"--"planters"--(owing
>to the percentage of
>total capital concentrated in their hands, W, p.167). So the system
>was not technically
>"mercantile capitalism"; it was a "plant production economy".
>Merchants and planters did
>not belong to the same class. Indeed, the elimination of long
>distance trade due the
>economic contraction hurt the merchant groups in their bargaining
>power visa  vis local
>producers--land owning cash crop planters-- as plantations grew in
>scale. *Nascent*
>capitalism was *emerging* in Hispanic America.

The beginning of the development of underdevelopment....


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