Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 April 2020
Chapter 6 explores Burke’s early views and legislative activities on foreign trade by analyzing Account of the European Settlements in America, which he coauthored with Will Burke. I explain how the Account offered some of the earliest glimpses into Burke’s conception of imperial political economy: the British Empire possessed the right to rule its colonial possessions, but its governance should be selective in regulating their internal affairs. Furthermore, the Account criticized the idea that the accumulation of gold was the best means to opulence, thereby challenging a core tenet of mercantilism. More important, the Account stressed that the character and fortitude of the English people would enable Britain to counter the imperial threat of its rival, France. In addition, Chapter 6 explores Burke’s leading parliamentary role in orchestrating the passage of the Free Port Act of 1766, which created six new free trade ports in the West Indies. Such legislative efforts showed that he was a champion of merchants and commercial liberty early on in his career in the House of Commons.