Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. XLI. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. XLI. - 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. XLI.
may 19, 1830.
The protective policy of the United States falls more heavily upon the poor than upon the rich. Quantity of salt produced and consumed in the United States. The duty is so great, that it would be for the interest of the consumers to raise a fund for the support of the salt makers, if they would consent to take it off.
THE United States is the first government ever established for the benefit of the people, that has acted upon the principle that the poorer a man is, the more heavily ought he to be taxed. In Great Britain, where, by means of rotten boroughs and disproportioned representations, the landed interest can always secure a majority in the House of Commons, and where, by the constitution of the kingdom, the mighty land owners have the right by birth to make laws for the plebeian multitude, it is very natural to expect, from the selfish spirit of man, that the weight of the national burthens should be made to fall upon the labouring people. Hence have sprung up corn laws, by which a tax is laid upon bread of at least fifty millions of dollars a year (estimating the population at 20 millions, and the increased price at only 2½ dollars per head) for the benefit, not of the farmers, nor of the agricultural labourers, but of the landed proprietors, who pocket this enormous sum in the shape of increased rent, as a hundred and fifty owners of iron mines, furnaces and forges, in this country, pocket the tax of two millions, paid by the consumers of iron, which Congress, in its zeal for “the general welfare,” has extorted by law from the farmers and mechanics and merchants.
It is true, that our laws do not throw the taxation upon bread. But they throw it upon other articles of prime necessity, and here we shall take occasion to copy, from an able and justly celebrated article, which appeared in the Southern Review for November, 1828, the following eloquent and expressive language.
“We might extend the enumeration to almost every article of human consumption to be found on the list of imports. Wherever we go, and whatever we do, we are in contact with the emblems of oppression. When we lie down at night, we are covered with them. When we get up in the morning, we are clothed with them. When we sit down to our frugal repast, we swallow them in our food. When we go into the fields to perform the daily labours of husbandry, we see and handle them in every implement we use. The very light of heaven comes to us in our dwellings, heavily charged with tributary taxation. In a word it may be said, almost without a figure, that ‘from the crown of our head to the sole of our feet,’ we are, already, even in the infancy of our government, ‘covered all over’ with taxation, and unjust, if not unconstitutional, impositions.”
With respect to the article of salt, there is no principle of policy or justice which demands the continuance of the duty. The government will shortly have a revenue far beyond its wants, and every one who has visited the interior of the country, where salt, from the expense of transportation, can only be procured at a high price, is acquainted with the fact, that vast quantities of meat are spoiled every year in curing, owing to the necessity into which the poorer class of farmers are driven, to use the smallest possible quantity of salt. And why, let us ask, is the poor man’s porridge to be taxed, and why are the hardy yeomanry of the country, who taste fresh meat only once in a week or a month, to be burthened, in order to enable the rich to eat fresh meat every day? Reader, have you any curiosity to know the reason why? It can be easily gratified. It is because a few individuals in Massachusetts and other states on the seaboard, have entered into the lists of competition in the process of converting the water of the ocean into salt by evaporation, with the inhabitants of Turks Island and Exuma, and as the sun does not work as hard in this operation in a cold climate, as he does within the tropics, the laws of nature are aided by a law of Congress, which says, What the sun fails to put into the pockets of the salt manufacturers of New England, shall be supplied by the labouring people of the country. But there is another reason. The great, powerful, and wealthy state of New York, possesses salt lakes so rich in product, that, after paying the expense of fuel to boil the water, the salt can be sold for 8 or 9 cents per bushel; and, availing herself of this great natural blessing to increase her revenue, she has imposed a duty of 12½ cents per bushel, equal to 133⅓ per cent. upon the cost of the article. It is to enable New York to collect this local tax, which amounted last year to more than $157,000, that she combines with other protecting interests to perpetuate a national tax, which amounted last year, in the form of duties alone, to $714,618. As proof of what is here asserted, we refer to the speech of Mr. Maynard in the Senate of New York, which was published in the National Intelligencer of the 14th inst.
The reasons however in favour of the salt tax, are not limited to these two. There is yet another. It is this. The proprietors of the great western salt works, being few in number, and having a complete monopoly of the supply of the Western country, have combined together to put money into each other’s pockets, by keeping up the price of salt; and as the process of boring for salt springs, to the depth of several hundred feet, is a costly operation, and very often proves abortive, the check to monopoly is limited to a few capitalists, who, after they succeed, find it for their interest to combine with the rest. The fact, that the proprietors of two of the principal works in Western Virginia and Pennsylvania had mutually agreed not to undersell one another in the Cincinnati market, was derived by us, last year, from one of the individuals most deeply interested in one of those establishments.
The quantity of salt now produced in the whole United States, does not exceed 4,500,000 bushels of 56 lbs. The quantity imported last year was near 6 million bushels; so that for the sake of encouraging the forced manufacture of 4½ millions of bushels, which, at the rate at which it can be produced in New York, would be of the value of but 385,000 dollars, the nation is made to pay 20 cents a bushel upon 10½ millions of bushels, equal to the enormous tax of $2,100,000. Why, it would be far better for the people to raise by subscription a million of dollars per annum, and pay to the manufacturers of salt to stand idle, rather than to continue this encouragement, as it is called, of domestic industry. The admission of Mr. Maynard, in the speech above referred to, is conclusive on the subject as a question of protection to American industry. He shews conclusively, that salt can be manufactured at Salina at less than half the price at which it can be imported free of duty, and consequently the domestic manufacturer stands in no need of protection. But the coffers of the state of New York must be replenished, and the people of the United States must be called upon to make up the deficit. Can any thing be imagined more arbitrary or unjust? In the name of common equity, if we must pay through the nose, for the support of private and unfortunate speculators, to save them from loss, let us not also be called upon to enrich the wealthiest state in the Union, by taxing every spoonful of salt which we put in our bread, our butter, and our pickling tubs, and upon every grain that we put in our mouths. We hope the present session of Congress will not close without wiping out this vestige of oppression and injustice from our statute books.