The mercantilism played a significant role. For proper assessment of the mercantilist programme we must try to judge it in the context of the then existing conditions.
The mercantilists never tried to present any coherent philosophy and merely laid down principles of national political economy. They were certainly not interested in laying down principles of cosmoplitan economy.
Similarly, the emphasis placed by the mercantilists in England, France and Germany to the acquisition of more gold and silver in return for the commodities available with them, was quite natural in view of the fact that these were rare quantities in these countries. On the other hand, Spain which had lot of gold and silver exchanged it for other commodities which she needed.
If it was right for Spain to exchange her gold and silver for commodities she did not have, it is difficult to understand why Britain, France and Germany should be condemned for their eagerness to collect these metals in return for the surplus commodities in the country.
Similarly, in the existing conditions even the policy of balance of trade was justified as a temporary expedient. The real significance of mercantilism lies in the fact that it taught the people to approach economic problems rationally and instilled a new ethos of work.