Was Tobacco Important To British Empire And USA In 1600?

Submitted By Sivvy
Words: 1016
Pages: 5

Was Tobacco important to British Empire and USA in 1600’s?

These days smoking is not as visible and acceptable in society as it used to be. Smoking is now banned in public places on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean in parts of the USA and in Scotland, Ireland and from 2007 the whole of Britain and France. This does not mean, however, that people have stopped smoking in the USA and Britain. It is still a multibillion dollar industry. In Britain, a well-known brand of hand-rolled tobacco is ‘Golden Virginia’. Almost four hundred years ago and Britain and the US had a huge connection with each other through tobacco.
Tobacco was an important factor for economic development. It boosted both Britain’s and USA’s economy. Britain would levy tax all imports and exports that would any British colony. In 1612 John Rolfe discovered that Tobacco would blossom well in Virginia and sell well in Britain. The system was called the mercantile system.
Mercantilism was the dominant economic philosophy in Europe. It was crucial to export more than it imported according to Mercantilists. The possession of colonies (so a nation wouldn't have to rely on other nations for raw materials), tariffs, and monopolies were other mercantilist tactics of the era. The American colonies were more than adequate from a mercantilist point of view, as they could provide crops such as tobacco and rice from the southern colonies and raw materials such as lumber from the colonies of the north.
During 17th century Europe had a high demand for tobacco. Tobacco grew well in the American South. These farmers saw tobacco as merely a temporary crop to get them started until they could plant something else. Their reasoning behind the temporary status given to tobacco had to do with low prices. During the 17th century in Virginia, tobacco was selling for pennies per pound. Solutions to this problem came with slavery. Slavery had already existed in the colonies, but a new influx would greatly expand tobacco production.
The requirement of slaves was a response to the low birth rates of European settlers in America. Using slaves would keep costs down and profits higher. When the use of slaves began small tobaccos farms were turned into larger farms which made high labour force necessary by the slaves. Late 17th century in the Caribbean farmers also shared the idea of having large farms using slaves. Slaves in the Caribbean were seen as animals, if one died it was of no concern to them as they could be easily replaced. However, even in the Caribbean, the slaves working on tobacco were treated somewhat more fairly than those on sugar plantations whereas the slaves growing tobacco on the islands had often come from regions in Africa that grew tobacco and as such had an appreciated knowledge for the planting and harvesting of tobacco. However, this is not to say they were treated well.
All this gave birth to the triangular trade. The use of African slaves was fundamental to growing colonial cash crops, which were exported to Europe. European goods, in turn, were used to purchase African slaves, which were then brought on the sea lane west from Africa to the Americas, the so-called middle passage. A good example would be the trade of sugar from the Caribbean to Europe or New England, where it was distilled into rum. The profits from the sale of sugar were used to purchase manufactured goods, which were then shipped to West Africa, where they were bartered for slaves. The slaves were then brought back to the Caribbean to be sold to sugar planters. The profits from the sale of the slaves were then used to buy more sugar, which was shipped to Europe, etc. The trip itself took five to twelve weeks. The first leg of the triangle was from a European port to Africa, in which ships carried supplies for sale and trade, such as copper,