Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. XV. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. XV. - Condy Raguet, The Principles of Free Trade 
The Principles of Free Trade illustrated in a series of short and familiar Essays originally published in the Banner of the Constitution, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia, 1840).
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ESSAY No. XV.
february 13, 1830.
The beet sugar manufacture of France. Injurious effects of governmental protection afforded to it. Comparative consumption of sugar in France and in the United States. Tax paid by the consumers of sugar in the United States for the support of the sugar planters of Louisiana.
A FEW months ago, an article went the rounds of the American papers, in the following words:—
“The manufacture of sugar from beets, which was introduced into France by Napoleon, in 1811 and 1812, has increased to such an extent, that there are now nearly one hundred sugar manufactories in that country, producing an annual amount of about five million kilogrames, or five thousand nine hundred and twenty-one tons. In Picardy alone, the number of manufactories is twenty-five. While the price of refined sugar in Paris, is eleven and a halfpence sterling, per pound, the manufacture is profitable. It is estimated that one-half of all the sugar consumed in Paris, and one-eleventh of the total consumed in France, is made from beets. For whiteness and beauty, it is said, when refined, to be unequalled by any other. ‘Bulk for bulk, however, the refined West India sugar is sweeter than the refined beet sugar; but weight for weight, the two are equally sweet.’ The discovery of sugar in the beet root, was made by the celebrated German chemist, Margrave, and announced to the public in 1747.”
Many of those who copy this article, do it, not as the mere record of a statistical fact, but as a practical illustration of the benefits France is deriving from what is called the protection of her domestic industry, and instead of its being held up, as it ought to be, as a solemn warning to other nations not to follow the silly example, it is no doubt regarded by many of our American System philosophers as worthy of all imitation. The figures are no doubt very imposing, and to those who are more familiar with a pound of sugar, than with kilogrames or tons, the quantity mentioned may appear to be immense. For the benefit of such, we will offer a few remarks upon this subject, for the purpose of presenting it in its true light, and if, after the analysis we shall make of the celebrated beet sugar, there be any one disposed to think that France is a gainer by the policy of Napoleon, we have no objections that he should continue to enjoy his opinion.
From the foregoing statement, the following facts appear:
First. That beet sugar is produced in France, to the extent of five million kilogrames, which is eleven million and twenty-five thousand pounds.*
Secondly. That this is equal to one-eleventh part of the total consumption of sugar in France.
Thirdly. That the manufacture of beet sugar is only profitable when the price of refined sugar in Paris is eleven and a quarter pence sterling per pound, or about twenty one cents of our money.
It appears then from the foregoing statement, that the beet sugar manufacture in France is a losing business, unless refined sugar is worth twenty-one cents per pound. But refined sugar could not be kept up at twenty-one cents, but by means of a high duty upon raw sugar. That duty is about eight cents per pound for brown, and ten cents for white, and of this a great portion no doubt is levied for the purpose of protecting the manufacture of beet sugar. Supposing one cent only of this duty to be for the purpose of protection, then it will follow, that, as the total consumption is equal to eleven times the quantity manufactured from beets, that is, to one hundred and twenty-one million two hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds, the consumers are annually taxed the sum of one million two hundred and twelve thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars, for the purpose of enabling one hundred beet sugar makers to produce a quantity of sugar which could be procured in the West Indies or Brazil, in exchange for French wines, silks, and other productions, for less than half the amount of this tax alone.
The statement upon which we are commenting, admits that West India sugar, pound for pound, contains as much sweetness as the beet sugar, and as the former can be purchased in the Antilles for five cents a pound, the quantity of eleven millions and twenty-five thousand pounds, the quantity manufactured, would cost but five hundred and fifty-one thousand two hundred and fifty dollars.
From this view of the subject, it may be seen how extremely prejudicial to the consumers of sugar in France, is the existence of the beet sugar manufacture, and the simplest arithmetical calculation will shew, that it would be a profitable bargain for the people of France to raise, by way of contribution, a million of dollars, and pay it to the beet sugar makers as a gratuity, for stopping their works, if they would consent to the abolition of the duty imposed for their protection of one cent per pound. If the quantity of eleven million and twenty-five thousand pounds of sugar, could be procured abroad for five hundred and fifty-one thousand two hundred and fifty dollars, it is very clear that the domestic substitute, of equal weight, is really worth no more, so that by the commutation we suggest, the beet sugar makers would receive a much larger sum than the true value of their goods, besides being left at liberty to apply their labour and capital to any other occupation, the result from which would be clear national gain.
But we apprehend that the mischief which the French population sustains from the protection of the beet sugar manufacture, is much greater than the amount here assumed. The part of the duty intended for protection, is probably greater than one cent per pound, and we are much mistaken if the total consumption of the country is not somewhat underrated. By a document, published a few months ago in the Baltimore American, it appears that the quantity of sugar produced in the United States in the year 1828, was eighty-seven thousand nine hundred and sixty-five hogsheads, which, estimating the hogsheads upon an average at one thousand pounds, would be eighty-seven millions nine hundred and sixty-five thousand pounds. The quantity imported in the year 1827, as appears by the official report of the Secretary of the Treasury, was fifty-five millions one hundred and twenty-three thousand five hundred and fifteen pounds, so that the total annual consumption of the United States may be estimated at least at one hundred and thirty-two million pounds, or at eleven pounds per head. It can therefore be hardly probable that the consumption of France, with a population of thirty millions, can be less than ours, with a population of twelve millions.
In regard to the protection which the sugar planters of Louisiana enjoy, by the present tariff, it is quite time for the American people to reflect upon the amount of the tax which is paid for the support of the domestic production. From the statement last referred to, it appears, that the profits of sugar planting are sufficiently inviting to have induced an extended cultivation, so that, it is said, two hundred and six additional planters will send sugar to market, produced in 1829, who have never sent any before. If, of the present duty of three cents per pound, only one half is considered as for protection, it is manifest that the American people pay for the one hundred and thirty-two millions of pounds they consume, the sum of one million nine hundred and eighty thousand dollars more than they would be obliged to pay if the duty was reduced to a revenue scale. In other words, they pay a tax of that enormous amount, for the support of the sugar planting interest, and with no more justice than the French population does, for the support of the beet sugar manufacture. From information which we have received from an intelligent source, we have no doubt that sugar planting is the most profitable branch of agriculture now carried on in this country, and we think it would be an act of real benefit to that interest, to reduce the duty upon sugar, if for no other reason than to prevent that waste of capital which must ultimately result from the rushing of so many new undertakers into its cultivation. If this is not done soon, the nation will be called upon, in a few years, to prohibit the importation of foreign sugar, in order to save the sugar planters from ruin.
It is proper here to mention, that the manufacturers of beet sugar, in France, are not content with the present enormous duties, but have been, during the past year, petitioning the government for an increase, as necessary to sustain them from absolute destruction. This is truly a la mode of the American System, and is only another evidence of the truth, that hot house plants can never, in the frigid zone, be rendered capable of existence, but by keeping up the same, or a greater degree of heat.
[* ] Fifty kilogrames are equal to one hundred and ten and one-quarter pounds avoirdupois.