Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. XVII. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. XVII. - 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. XVII.
february 17, 1830.
One fact is worth a thousand theories. Fallacy conveyed by this phrase, employed in reference to the manufacture of carpets.
IN the tariff newspapers one is perpetually saluted with this dogma, and it is really amusing to see, sometimes, how perfectly farcical is its application. The following is an example, which some time ago went the rounds, without note or comment:—
From the Virginia Free Press.
“One fact is worth a thousand theories.—A gentleman of Martinsburgh gave us a striking instance in proof, that the American System only requires a fair test, and a reasonable perseverance, to render it triumphantly successful. He informs us that he saw the other day, a large box of cloths, manufactured in the factory of Messrs. Gibbs & Orrick, directed to Baltimore. Upon inquiry into the strange occurrence, he was informed that the company find in that city a ready market for a large portion of their products, which are of most excellent quality. Mr. G. C. Crondatt’s carpet manufactory, in that town, produces carpeting of a quality and pattern fully equal to the best Scotch fabrics. Success to the cause of home industry, and to its great patron and generous supporters!”
Now we should like the editor of the Free Press to tell us what fact, worth a thousand theories, is supposed to be established by the circumstance herein stated, viz: that a large box of cloths, manufactured by Messrs. Gibbs & Orrick, was seen directed to Baltimore; and that “upon inquiry into the strange occurrence,” it was ascertained that that company find in Baltimore a ready market for a large portion of their products? Is it pointed out as an object for exultation, that a manufacturer of cloth, with a protecting duty of from 50 to 225 per cent. in his favour, is enabled to carry on a profitable business? Nobody ever doubted that manufacturers would thrive, if those who carried them on were authorised by law to take out of the pockets of those who consumed them, an amount equal to what they would otherwise have lost, and a large profit to boot. Suppose Mr. Pratt, of Philadelphia, should procure a law to prohibit totally the importation of tea, upon the principle, that, in his hot house, he could raise tea for ten dollars a pound, a price which some people could afford to give, what would be thought of an editor who should cry out, “Success to the cause of home industry, and to its great patron and generous supporters?” Would not such an editor be looked upon as very little removed from the degree of a wiseacre? We think he would, and we do really wish, that those who bring forward facts in opposition to theories, would take the trouble to state what are the facts they mean to substantiate. It may be very true, that Mr. Crondatt’s manufactory “produces carpeting of a quality and pattern fully equal to the best Scotch fabrics.” But who would thank any man for doing this, with a protecting duty in his favour of 70 cents per square yard for Brussels, Turkey and Wilton, and 40 cents for Ingrain, Kidderminster and Venetian, when the retail prices in London, as we have shewn at page 156 of the Free Trade Advocate, vol. 2, are only for Brussels from 68 to 108 cents per square yard, Kidderminster 48 to 84 cents, and Venetian 48 to 56 cents? If the fact intended to be established in the article quoted be, that Messrs. Gibbs & Orrick, and Mr. Crondatt, of the town of Martinsburgh, are growing rich in consequence of being authorised to tax all the purchasers of cloth and carpets, who deal with them, a sum equal to the difference between their prices and the prices at which similar articles could be imported, no one will dispute it; but we doubt very much whether such a fact is worth a thousand theories—such as this, for example, that cheap cloths and cheap carpets are better than dear ones of the same quality. If the fact, so joyfully announced, had been that cloth and carpets could be manufactured at Martinsburgh, at prices so low as not to require more than a mere revenue duty to sustain them, then we would have agreed with the editor of the Free Press, that such a fact was worth a thousand theories, for such a fact would prove, by its very existence, that high duties would be unnecessary for such manufactures.