In his classic study of the commercial life of the St. Lawrence, Creighton notes that the first arrivals in "Canada" following the British Conquest were not agricultural settlers, but mercants: "The first British Canadians were merchants drawn northward by the promises of the river; and they came with the single, simple objective of making money by trade." [The Empire of the St. Lawrence, 1956, p.22.] The subsequent development of the region was both as a staple producing hinterland and as an artery of commerce. Often these functions were complementary, for example, both local farmers and local merchants and traders stood to benefit from improvements which reduced transportation costs on the St. Lawrence - Great Lakes waterway. But with the reduction and eventual abolition of British preferences for colonial exports in the 1830s and 1840s, the efforts of commercial interests to capture the trade of the American mid-west were not always consistent with the objectives of local producers, exacerbating tensions which led to the disturbances of 1837-38. Both farmers and local manufacturers in the British North American colonies had an interest in restricting the import of competing food and manufactured goods from the US and consequently favoured the imposition of tariffs to restrict such imports. On the other hand merchants and others engaged in trade, and often in the handling of commodities produced in the US, had good reason to resist such measures. Of course, the ability of either side to control tariff and other policies affecting trade was limited by colonial status so long as Britain was interested in maintaining an imperial trading system designed along the lines laid down by mercantilist principles to benefit the mother country. With the breakdown of that system in the 1840s and the development of responsible government in the colonies, designing commercial policy became a key function of the local political process.
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