Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. XX. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. XX. - 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. XX.
february 27, 1830.
Progress of improvements, especially in labour-saving machinery. The United States deprived of a participation in these improvements by restrictive laws. Nations that will not buy, cannot sell. Commerce an exchange of equivalents, illustrated by transactions between individuals.
THE rapid march of science, skill and enterprise, which has characterised the present century, is as unparalleled in history, as it is calculated to excite our amazement. Time and space seem to be gradually disappearing before the energetic and inventive powers of man. A sea-voyage, which formerly required three months, is now performed in as many weeks. By the aid of turnpike roads and steamboats, a journey, which a few years ago was performed with difficulty in seven days, may now be performed in two or three, and after the introduction of rail roads and steam carriages, we may reasonably expect to see the present velocity more than doubled. With all this improvement too, there is introduced along with it a diminution in the expense of transporting commodities, by which articles intended to supply the necessities, the comforts or the luxuries of life, are brought to the door of every individual upon much more economical terms than before.
Ingenuity and enterprise, however, are not confined to the mere facilities of locomotion. They are extended to the operations of agriculture and manufactures; and not a year passes without the introduction, into both of these pursuits, of some labour-saving invention, which occasions a reduction in the cost of the articles to which it is applied. It is, however, more particularly in manufactures, that are visible the mighty results which have been the astonishment of the present day. When we compare the slow and tedious process of the distaff, follow it up to the common spinning-wheel, and then examine the almost incredible rapidity with which spinning is performed, by the most improved machinery now in operation; and when we compare the facility and ease and expedition with which the power loom can convert yarn into cloth with the laborious movement of the common loom of former days, we need not be surprised at the great reduction which has been made in the prices of cotton and woollen fabrics. An article which used to cost for the weaving, perhaps fifty cents, can now be had for ten, and there are even some manufactures, the price of which, including materials and all, is less than half the former cost of making alone.
Unfortunately, however, the people of the United States are deprived, by the laws of the country, from participating in some of the benefits which have resulted to the world from the great improvements to which we have referred. As if desirous to remain in a stationary condition, and to spurn the blessings which other nations are ready to confer upon us, we build up walls around the Republic and prohibit them from entering. To the nation which says, “We will give you two yards of clothing, at the same price which it will cost you to make one, and will take in exchange for them some one or more of the numerous products of agriculture with which your country abounds,” we reply, that, “Although we think it right that we should exercise the privilege of buying of you only those commodities which suit us best, yet we are not disposed to grant you the same indulgence. If you will not give us eight dollars a barrel for flour, which you can purchase from your European neighbours at six, we will take our revenge by refusing to sell you cotton at a higher price than we can get from others.” Can any thing be more absurd than such a system of reasoning?
But how, it may be asked, do we refuse to sell cotton to Great Britain? We answer, by refusing to buy her manufactures. Nations which cannot sell, cannot buy, and nations that will not buy, cannot sell. Cause and effect are not more inseparable, than the acts of buying and selling, amongst nations. Any one may see, that a nation which could sell nothing, could buy nothing; and if this position be true in the whole, it must be true in part. Every increase of duty, therefore, which excludes a million of foreign commodities, deprives the nation of the power of exporting a million of domestic products; for foreign commerce, being nothing but the simple operation of exchanging one thing for a another of equal value at the place where the exchange is made, no exchange can take place unless the parties mutually consent to take from each other. Of the truth of this principle every day affords ample illustration in the pursuits of individual life. The farmer we will suppose to say to the hatter and the shoemaker, “Henceforth I intend to make my own hats and shoes, and as you cannot live without provisions, you will be obliged to buy of me with money.” The hatter and shoemaker reply, “All the money we receive in the way of our business, we have other calls for, and if, therefore, you will not take our hats and shoes, which are the only things we have to give, we must try to find out some other farmer who will trade with us, and if we cannot do that, we shall be obliged to raise the provisions which we used to get from you in our own gardens and fields. In such case you will perceive, that neither you, nor we, will be as well off as when we used to exchange the articles which we could make to the best advantage, for those which you could make to the best advantage; and we therefore caution you against a proceeding by which you cannot gain, and which will injure yourself as much as it will injure us.” Wherever you travel through the country, you hear this question—“Will you trade?” Now what is this, but an admission of the principle, that if you will not buy of me, I cannot buy of you?