Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. XXIV. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. XXIV. - 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. XXIV.
march 3, 1830.
Recent efforts to advance the cause of free trade. Mr. Cambreleng’s Report on Commerce.
AMIDST the calamities which are now weighing down the American people, and which have been brought upon them by a policy, as destructive in its tendency as it is fraudulent in its name, there is one consolation to be found, in the reflection, that the struggle for freedom in trade has brought out a more full and enlarged discussion of the principles of political economy, as connected with the restrictive system, than had ever before been presented. Prior to 1816, the scientific works of Smith, Say, Franklin, and a few other political philosophers, constituted almost all the learning which was accessible on the subject; and even in these writings, the truth, that industry is most productive when left free from legislative interference, was rather asserted as a self-evident proposition, than as a doubtful doctrine, calling for illustration. Hence, when fourteen years ago our statesmen were called upon to oppose the innovation upon the then existing liberal policy of this country towards foreign nations, which was then first attempted, they were compelled to rely more upon general principles than upon detailed expositions. Economical science, at that day, stood unsupported by auxiliary authorities, as the principles of the common law stood, before an accumulation of the books of reports. The case is now however altered—the constant efforts which have been made since the year 1819, by the advocates of monopoly, to extend the restrictive system over the whole face of the land, have naturally led to an examination of the mischievous tendency of that system, and of the fallacious arguments employed by the oppressors of the people, to induce them to hold still whilst they were getting fleeced. At this day, there are books, and documents, and speeches, all produced within the last seven years, which have shed such a light upon the subject of the delusion called the “American System,” that no man need now grope in the dark, who does not prefer obscurity to light.
But this is not all. The work is still going bravely on, and every year will witness an increase of knowledge on the subject, which, at a future time, cannot but assume a form so powerful, that all the artifices, absurdities, and childish fancies, gravely put forth as political economy, by grave men, who imagine themselves to be statesmen, will be dissipated like fogs before the morning sun.
Amongst the recent productions with which the cause of sound political science has been enriched, the Report upon Commerce, made to the House of Representatives by Mr. Cambreleng, stands pre-eminent. To that gentleman, the country is in no small degree indebted, for one of the most able, nay, we must say, according to our humble apprehension, the most able and masterly exposition of the practical operation of restrictive laws, that has ever been submitted to Congress; for it not only advances and maintains in an argumentative, sound, and logical manner, the grand essential theories of free trade, but it supports and renders irrefutable those theories, by the adducing of the most conclusive facts, collated in the form of tables. To those only who are accustomed to scientific and statistical researches, can possibly be known the labour bestowed upon a composition of this sort. It is not within the walls of a committee room in the Capitol, however industriously a member may be employed, that such full developments of important principles and facts are to be made. Months of unceasing toil are requisite for the amassing of such a body of information as is contained in this report; and when we find an individual, whose zeal for the interests of the country has led him to devote to the public service, as we presume Mr. Cambreleng has done, time and industry not belonging to the public, we think that his claims to the public gratitude are very materially increased. In our next paper we shall commence the publication of this important document. It will be read by every friend to the true interests of the country with satisfaction, and should be preserved for future reference by all those who wish to retain in their possession a document, before which all the vapid and silly effusions of the whole College of “American System” philosophers sink into mere non-entity. The facts which are there brought forward cannot be disputed, and we are so fully convinced, that this document itself contains sufficient evidence to establish beyond all rational doubt, the absolute and consummate folly of the restrictive system, even as regards the interests of the manufacturers, that we say, without hesitation, that those who reject such testimony, cannot be reached by the powers of reason.
The merchants of New York, says the Evening Post, have made arrangements for printing 5000 copies of Mr. Cambreleng’s able and masterly Report on Commerce, for distribution. This is as it should be. Those who are injured by the tariff policy, thousands of dollars a year, should not hesitate to expend their tens, in the dissemination of knowledge, calculated to overthrow that policy. It was by means of the press, that the arch heresy which is destroying the peace and prosperity of this country, became first implanted amongst us, and it is by means of the press, that the imposture is to be eradicated. But the press cannot operate, unless some one will pay for its support. And who, in the natural order of things, should perform that duty? Clearly, those who are to put a hundred dollars into their pockets, for every five they take out.
It is a remarkable fact, and one which ought not to be forgotten, that of all the writers and statesmen, who within the last seven years have done so much to enlighten the public mind, upon matters of political economy, there is not one, who has a deeper stake in the question of high duties, than any moderate consumer of foreign commodities. And yet all their literary, scientific and political services, and they have neither been few nor unimportant, have been rendered to the cause, without any remuneration, except the self-consciousness of having performed a service to the country. Of their exertions of the mind and the pen, others are to reap the reward, and the least therefore that these latter can do, is to compliment those who have laboured for their interests, by giving circulation to the writings and public documents, which are the fruits of their labours, and which can alone remove the veil from the eyes of the people.