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Imperial Glory in United Kingdom

Imperial Preference History

System of trading deals where colonies and dominions have lower rates of import tariffs than other countries, stimulating trade within an Empire. Briefly popular in England in the 1900s and implemented in the Ottawa Agreement of 1932. An attempt to beat the Great Depression.

History of the Reformation of the British Emprie

New Conciliatory Colonial Policy

The War of American Independence not only had cost Great Britain the thirteen colonies, hitherto the most important, [Footnote: The thirteen colonies were not actually then so profitable, however, as the fertile West Indies, nor did they fit in so well with the mercantilist theory of Colonialism.] oldest, and strongest of her possessions, and likewise Senegal, Florida, Tobago, and Minorca, but it had necessitated a terrible expenditure of men, money, and ships. More bitter than the disastrous results of the war, however, was the reflection that possibly all might have been avoided by a policy of conciliation and concession. Still it was not too late to learn, and in its treatment of the remaining colonies, the British government showed that the lesson had not been lost.

Quebec Act, 1774

On the eve of the revolt of the English-speaking colonies in America, a wise measure of toleration was accorded to the French inhabitants of Canada by the Quebec Act of 1774, which allowed them freely to profess their Roman Catholic religion, and to enjoy the continuance of the French civil law. To these advantages was added in 1791 the privilege of a representative assembly.

Board of Control in India, 1784

India, too, felt the influence of the new policy, when in 1784 Parliament created a Board of Control to see that the East India Company did not abuse its political functions.

Separate Parliament for Ireland, 1782

Even Ireland, which was practically a colony, was accorded in 1782 the right to make its own local laws, a measure of self-government enjoyed till 1 January, 1801.

Decline and Gradual Abandonment of Mercantilism

British commercial policy, too, underwent a change, for the Navigation Acts, which had angered the American colonies, could not now be applied to the free nation of the United States. Moreover, the mercantilist theory, having in this case produced such unfortunate results, henceforth began to lose ground, and it is not without interest that Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, the classic expression of the new political economy of free trade,—of laisser-faire, as the French styled it,—which was destined to supplant mercantilism, was published in 1776, the very year of the declaration of American independence. Of course Great Britain’s mercantilist trade regulations were not at once abandoned, but they had received a death-blow, and British commerce seemed none the worse for it. The southern American states began to grow cotton [Footnote: During the war, cotton was introduced into Georgia and Carolina from the Bahamas, and soon became an important product. In 1794, 1,600,000 pounds were shipped to Great Britain.] for the busy looms of British manufacturers, and of their own free will the citizens of the United States bought the British manufactures which previously they had boycotted as aggrieved colonists. In this particular, at least, the loss of the colonies was hardly a loss at all.


Further Reading

M. R. P. Dorman, History of the British Empire in the Nineteenth Century, Vol. I, 1793-1805 (1902), Vol. II, 1806-1900 (1904). On Ireland: W. O’C. Morris, Ireland, 1494-1905, 2d ed. (1909). On Canada: Sir C. P. Lucas, A History of Canada, 1763-1812 (1909). On India: Sir Alfred Lyall, Warren Hastings, originally published in 1889, reprinted (1908), an excellent biography; G. W. Hastings, Vindication of Warren Hastings (1909), the best apology for the remarkable governor of India, and should be contrasted with Lord Macaulay’s celebrated indictment of Hastings; Sir John Strachey, Hastings and the Rohilla War (1892), favorable to Hastings’ work in India. On Australia: Greville Tregarthen, Australian Commonwealth, 3d ed. (1901), a good outline, in the “Story of the Nations” Series; Edward Jenks, A History of the Australasian Colonies (1896), an excellent summary; Edward Heawood, A History of Geographical Discovery in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1912); Arthur Kitson, Captain James Cook (1907).

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  • Article Name: Imperial Glory
  • Author: Asa Briggs
  • Description: Imperial Preference History System of trading deals where colonies and dominions have lower rates of import tariffs than [...]

This entry was last updated: October 30, 2016


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