Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. XL. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. XL. - 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. XL.
may 19, 1830.
Injurious influence of high duties upon foreign liquors, on the cause of temperance.
WE have been politely furnished by its author, with the copy of an essay published in “The New England Farmer” of April 30, “On the means necessary to accomplish a total abolition of the practice of drinking ardent spirits.” It is a very sensible production, and the writer professes to accomplish his object in that rational way, which, if adopted by the Temperance Societies, would more effectually tend to reform the public taste for liquor, than by any compulsory process, or forced voluntary associations, that can be devised. In speaking of the habit of inebriety, the writer says, “Is it not a cardinal point to change this habit in the natural way? Far be it from me to arrest the progress of exertions in the pulpit—the diffusion of moral precepts, or to discourage the extension of societies for suppressing intemperance, and conventions to abstain from ardent spirits. Our object is to urge these associations and the community, especially the fairer and most estimable portion, whose influence and handy works will have commanding force, to exert all their physical energies for the diffusion of pleasant, mild and innocent stimulants to suit the condition, taste, and circumstances of all ranks and classes, throughout our whole country, and place these substitutes within their reach in the most alluring forms. The substitutes we shall notice are the fermented liquors, such as wine, perry, cider, beer, and the milder stimulants and restoratives of tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, &c.”
The author is a friend to low duties on wine, tea, coffee, &c., and is of opinion, that in proportion to their increased consumption will be the improvement of public morals. He has quoted from this paper, in support of his views, some remarks made by us relative to the trade with the island of Madeira, and the letter which accompanied them from a merchant in Lancaster, shewing that the people of that vicinity left off drinking wine and took to whiskey, when the duty on the former was increased. There is, however, one subject in connection with this question of temperance, which is worthy of consideration, and which if properly understood and acted upon by that portion of our citizens who take a zealous part in Temperance Societies, could not fail to produce the most beneficial effects.
It is well known that the great cause of inebriety in this country is the cheapness of whiskey. A gallon can be purchased for from 20 to 30 cents in almost any part of the United States, and as a quart is worth but from five to seven and a half cents, the means of intoxication are so entirely within the reach of every individual, that the only wonder is, that there are not more drunkards than there are. Now as we cannot make laws to increase the price of whiskey, (for no majority in Congress since the whiskey insurrections in Pennsylvania has been disposed to lay a direct tax on distillation,) it ought to be desirable to ascertain if there be not some other mode by which the consumption of that liquor may be diminished, in addition to those resorted to by the Temperance Societies. Such a mode exists, and it simply consists in reducing the duty on French brandy, West India spirits, and Holland gin. The duty on the first and second named articles is 53 cents per gallon, and on the third, 57 cents, for first proof, and as the market price of each is about one dollar to one dollar ten cents per gallon, a reduction of the duty, consistent with all purposes of revenue, might be made to bring it down to 60 cents a gallon. Such a reduction would have the effect of elevating the public taste for liquor. We well recollect the time, when the country labourers in the neighbouring counties of Philadelphia, indignantly spurned rye whiskey. Apple brandy and rum was their accustomed drink, but the superior cheapness of whiskey triumphed in time over the liberality of their employers, and compelled them to accommodate their palates to the new standard.
By the tariff of 1790, the duty on liquors was 5 per cent. By the act of 1794, the duty on gin was 28 cents, and on brandy and spirits, 25. That was the period of temperance. But as soon as the American System made its appearance, sobriety was banished.
By the act of 1816, gin was raised to 42 cents, and brandy and spirits to 38—and by the act of 1828, gin was further increased to 57 cents, and brandy and spirits to 53.
To judge from the accumulating clamour about intemperance, it is manifest that a fondness for liquor has kept pace, pari passu, with the increase of duties, and the laws, as they now stand, do virtually bear on their face a positive command, that no poor man shall taste French brandy, Jamaica spirits, or Holland gin, however much inclined he may be to be satisfied with a gill of those palateable liquors, in preference to drinking a pint of nauseous whiskey. Instead of letting him have a drop of comfort, as it was called in olden time, he must now be drenched with a gallon of the alcohol of Indian corn. We think it can hardly be necessary to undertake to prove, that, if the public taste were raised to a higher standard by a resort to more expensive liquors, there would be a diminution of drunkards. The sum of money which any man can afford to expend in liquor, must always be a limited one; and whether that sum be small or great, it will only buy one-half the quantity at sixty cents, that it will buy at thirty. Of this position we think there cannot be a doubt, and we will put the question to any man, whose throat has not been burnt to insensibility, and whose olfactories have not lost all power of discriminating between a pleasant and a nauseous flavour, whether he would not, at any time, have an allowance of one gill of old Jamaica spirits, in preference to two or three gills of new corn whiskey?
All this may be very true, cries the moralist and the stickler for Temperance Societies, but then the American System? Very well, gentlemen, if you prefer the American System and a nation of sots, to Free Trade and a sober population, be it so. You only thereby shew the depth of your philanthopy to be equal to that of the patriotism of some others we could point out. But what would you say, if we could prove to you, with the clearness of mathematical demonstration, that the substitution of foreign liquors for domestic, instead of injuring the agricultural interest would positively benefit it, and that thus Providence has very wisely directed that the physical and moral happiness of man are to be promoted by the same measures? We pledge ourselves to do this in our next paper.