« AnteriorContinuar »
our hands for want of a market; though our labor stands still; though our skill be fully adequate to produce the same things; and though we could make them cheaper and better, under a system of Protection.
Nor is this all. Under a Free-Trade system, foreigners come here, without tax or condition, to sell labor itself, and art of every kind: agricultural labor, on an immense scale, as seen above; manufacturing and mechanical labor of every description, and all the arts, useful and ornamental.
And what is the effect of all this on the labor and arts of this country? Clearly our wants, and our ability to consume, are limited. All that we buy, in this way, of foreigners, which could and would be produced by ourselves, under a system of Protection, is so much abatement of the demand for home labor. This is determined with all the accuracy of figures and mathematical quantities. To the same extent, it checks our advancement in the arts. And not the least of the misfortunes is, that, to the same extent also, it subtracts from our ability to buy. We are not only so much poorer, as we should have been richer by this saving; but also so much poorer as the amount of this unnecessary expenditure. Here is the secret of the foreign balances against us, which Free Trade invariably brings upon our heads, as shown in another part of this work. Nor is it an answer to say, that we must buy, in order to sell; for we have also proved, in another place, that the country always trades more with foreign parts under a Protective, than under a Free-Trade system.
We are aware it is said, that Free Trade occupies the same position, in the great society of nations, which is occupied by any two parties, in their commercial transactions with each other, as members of the same society or commonwealth; and that freedom in the former case, is the same as freedom in the latter. This reply is defective and fallacious on both points. First, it assumes, that the trade in both cases is under a social system, without a break of jurisdiction; and next, that a national protective system does not leave the parties, in their commercial transactions, equally free as parties trading under one compact society. We will first speak to this last point. It is averred, that any two parties disposed to make commercial exchanges, should be free to make their own terms, under common regulations of society, and that this freedom is essential to the rights of the parties engaged in commercial exchanges. Granted. And who can show, that this is not the case under a na
tional protective system, regulating foreign exchanges? On this point, the cases are exactly parallel. There is no more freedom in one than in the other, when the parties meet. Under known regulations, in both cases, they make their terms, with no interference whatever.
As to the other assumption, the cases are by no means parallel, as the assumption implies. The question is not whether any two parties, each living under a national jurisdiction, different from that of the other, shall, when they come together for commercial exchanges, freely make their own terms for this they do equally under a Protective or Free-Trade system- but whether one of them, occupying a more advantageous position, as to the cost of the article in which he trades, shall be permitted, without tax, to enter the jurisdiction of the other party, and trade with him, to the disadvantage, perhaps the ruin, of a third party in the latter jurisdiction, who is engaged in producing, or trying to produce, the article thus imported, under less advantageous circumstances than the foreign producer, and who, for that reason, must fall before the foreigner. THIS is the question. There can be no want of freedom, in any case, in the commercial transactions of the parties so engaged, either under a Free-Trade or Protective system. But the question is, whether a party, under one national jurisdiction, shall be permitted in this way, through a second party under another jurisdiction, to invade and impair, to ruin it may be, the interest of a third party under the latter jurisdiction, and thus to injure the neighbors of this third party, and thus to injure the community of which he is a member." If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it." And when all the members suffer, not simply from their connexion with the others, but in their own proper position, under a common misfortune, the state of the body is bad indeed. It is the effect of these Free-Trade transactions on third parties, and that alone, which constitutes the evil, the injustice. These third parties, which sometimes embody a whole people, are thus deprived of their rights, and their subsistence is impaired by foreign depredators.
Thus, the claims of Free Trade are nothing other, nor less, than for an open field of depredation, without restriction, on the rights of others. Both the principle on which it is founded, and the spirit which actuates it, are identical with the principle of anarchy, and with that spirit which, in the absence of law, and from the imperfections of the social state, is for ever seeking to take advantage of the defenceless, and to injure them.
In this ch. the author. becomes even mean
RISE AND PROGRESS OF FREE TRADE.
I mean morally meas
REASONS OF THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF THE THEORY OF
The Prevalence of Free Trade makes a Problem.-The Rules by which it is to be solved.
THE theory of Free Trade, though it has ramifications, is composed of a single dogma, and that a mere hypothesis, which, as we have shown, has never yet advanced a single inch in its own verification, but which has actually been driven from the field, times without number, by counter verifications. By a rule of logic and of scientific investigation, that an hypothesis is not always to remain an hypothesis, it has not now the slightest claim to be entertained by a single human being; for it was originally nothing but an hypothesis, and is still nothing more. Nevertheless, it has been entertained for ages, by many men of many nations, and advocated by men of distinguished consideration. Unless reasons can be given why they should have entertained an error, and so gross an error as this appears to be, the fact of their having entertained it, might seem to be a formidable recommendation, so far as mere authority governs mankind. It is the main object of this chapter to show, in the rise and progress of Free Trade, why this false pretension has been so long and so extensively received. We propose to make it appear, that in all the cases and in all the extent in which the Free-Trade hypothesis has been adopted or advocated, the secret of the influences which have led to that result, will be found, either in the social position or interest of the parties; or in the pride of science;
or in a subservience to authority, or in a propensity to extravagant opinions; or in ignorance and disqualification to appreciate the subject. In many cases, perhaps in the majority, two or more of these reasons have combined their influence.
We will begin with the history of this subject in Great Britain. In the first place, we would call attention to British literature, and to British legislation, on the subject of the protective policy, during the first century or so of the existence of her protective system. Sir James Stewart's work, published in 1769, was the first, in what may be called the epoch of Free Trade, which advocated that doctrine. Previous to that time, for a hundred years or more, nearly all British writers on public economy, such as Child who wrote in 1670, Gee who wrote in 1730, Cantillon who wrote in 1750, Mildmay who wrote in 1760, and others scattered along this period, all advocated Protection in the strongest terms, and some with great ability. We have elsewhere made extracts from Gee, and referred to his confession, that he wrote "by order of the lords of trade." His connexion with the government, is, in various forms, recognised in his work. A century of such teaching, and a practice in legislation corresponding with this doctrine, had taught Great Britain the value of a protective system. During this time, from six to seven hundred penal laws were enacted, to secure the objects of this policy, some of them of great severity. One, for example, against exporting a sheep, or a fleece of wool, imposing a forfeiture of goods for the first offence, cutting off the hand and nailing it up in the town market for the second, and death for the third. Enticing away artisans and manufacturers, was severely punished. The export of machinery was prohibited by forfeiture and other penalties.
By a rigid adherence to this system, from the time it was first adopted, down to the middle of the eighteenth century, Great Britain was growing rich, and acquiring power, beyond all example, either in her own history, or in that of other nations. Holland for commerce, and Flanders for manufactures, were already supplanted by her, she having borrowed her arts from the latter country, and outstripped the former in vending her wares over the world. She could not have failed to see her own position already gained, and the rapidity of her march in a career of increasing wealth and power, nor could she have been ignorant of the cause.
But she occupied a most important, yet critical position, in relation to her North American colonies, which were clamoring for
protection in their rights, had already set up manufactures in defiance and evasion of prohibitory laws, and threatened independence, at least in the supply of their own wants, as far as they could do it. Whatever might be the future political condition and relations of those colonies, the far-seeing eye of a British statesman could not fail to discern, that the character of British literature on the subject of public economy, which had come to have and was likely to maintain a leading influence in the world, could not be changed too soon; and the position of Great Britain at the moment, in relation to other nations, being, and still shooting, ahead of them all, in her manufactures and commerce, was enough to give her statesmen the hint: "Now is the time to withdraw our own lights, the lights by which we have so prospered, from the gaze of the world, and hold out new ones for other nations to walk by; and it is especially important to convince our North American colonies, that it is their interest to depend on us for manufactures." The same argument was equally adapted to accomplish their purpose with foreign nations, as with the colonies.
It is admitted, that this is an hypothetical argument, nor would we claim respect for it, any farther than it is associated with probabilities based upon fact, the character of which as evidence can not easily be resisted or denied. Can it be supposed, that British statesmen did not see this state of things; and if they saw it, that they would hesitate what to do? We arrive, then, at a moral certainty, that they did see it, and that they did adopt a policy corresponding thereunto, viz., to withdraw their lights, to be used behind a screen for their own purposes, and to hold out others to the world, after having put them in blaze. And what are the facts? Sir James Stewart appeared, in 1760, as a Free-Trade writer, and Adam Smith, in 1775. The former attracted much attention, more, perhaps, for the surprise and novelty of the spectacle, than for ability of execution; but it was soon eclipsed by Adam Smith's "Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations."
In the first place, this work of Adam Smith itself bears internal marks of a special design corresponding with the hypothesis now under consideration. The first edition must, as we suppose, have gone to press, before the war of the American revolution commenced. Even the revised editions show, in many important parts of the work, and in all of them having a bearing on Free Trade, that the writer had his eye on the colonies, which it was then ex