Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. XLVI. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. XLVI. - 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. XLVI.
june 23, 1830.
Remarks on the passage of the bills reducing the duties on tea, coffee, cocoa, salt and molasses. The protective system can only be broken up by attacking it in detail. The inquisitorial features of Mr. Mallory’s bill abandoned.
IT appears that some of our Southern friends are not pleased at the passage of the bills reducing the duties on tea, coffee, cocoa, salt, and molasses; being apprehensive that the effect of it will be to render more difficult the repeal of the other taxes which bear more heavily upon the South. They are of opinion that the Southern delegation in Congress, instead of advocating, as they did we believe, unanimously, these partial measures favouring principally the ship-owning and lumber and grain-growing states, should have opposed any reduction, except a general one which would have touched the most odious and oppressive features of the American System. In this view of the subject, we think our friends are in error, and we will state our reasons for this belief.
At the commencement of the late session of Congress, we believe it was the general sentiment of the anti-tariff party, that the proper way to attack the system was, to aim a blow at the whole, and not to listen to any plans for a partial assault. It was thought that certain sections of the country had become so heartily sick of particular burthens imposed upon them by the log-rolling system, that they would gladly unite with the Southern representatives in casting off the yoke, even at the hazard of overthrowing the other parts of the system. Under this impression, we presume it was, that, on the 5th of February a bill was introduced into the House of Representatives by Mr. McDuffie, chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, for a general reduction of duties. The votes however which took place on that bill, on the 8th of the same month, most clearly showed, that the combination was too strongly riveted together by the common ties of interest, to be vulnerable, if the whole were attacked at once. It was decided, by a vote of 107 to 79, not merely that the bill should not pass, but that it should not even be discussed, and it was accordingly laid upon the table, or, in other words, laid upon the shelf.
Nothing then remained for the minority, but to resort to the expedient of taking the bundle of rods which had inflicted so many severe stripes upon the nation, one by one, in order to try what could be effected by that process. The monstrous and untenable doctrine had been set up by the Committee of Manufactures, and by certain distinguished members of both houses of Congress, that the American System, admitted by these latter to be vicious and injurious in principle, had now become the settled policy of the country. To put down this hideous feature of legislation, which, if admitted as valid, would perpetuate the reign of darkness, of vandalism, and of misery, in this country, for which there are in store, we trust, higher destinies than any that can be conferred by such politicians as those to whom we have alluded, was of the greatest importance. It was indeed of infinite moment that the people, that the world, with which we have commercial intercourse, should be made to know, that, although some individuals, who had been hostile to the tariff policy, but had found it convenient no longer to oppose it, had now justified the latter course by professing to believe that a system of six years standing had acquired a right to perpetuity by prescription, yet that the body of the nation was not so immersed in ignorance, or a blind devotion to political leaders, as to persevere longer in a policy than it was found to answer the ends of its institution. To prove, therefore, that the American System was not the settled policy of the country, called for the united efforts of the true frends of the people, and by their acting in concert, that desirable object was accomplished. No man, henceforth, who values his reputation or his sincerity as a statesmen, will be found to profess a belief, that a policy can be looked upon as settled, which has met with so violent a shock as that which has been experienced by the high duty policy within the last two months.
It is true, that, in commencing the work of demolition, the most feeble points were first assailed. Tea, coffee, and cocoa, articles not produced in this country, presented themselves as prominent objects through which the public pulse might be felt, and through which an opportunity might be afforded to the editors throughout the country, who did not feel at liberty directly to attack the tariff, to do it indirectly, by setting forth the blessings of low prices. The anticipated result was fully accomplished, and it may be considered, that the re-action of public opinion upon Congress in relation to these articles, prepared the tariff party for the further steps of reducing the duty on salt and molasses, and allowing a drawback upon domestic spirits distilled from foreign molasses. But, in regard to the article of tea, a still further point was gained. The China trade has always been regarded by the tariff party as one of the most injurious to the country that has been carried on, on account of its draining us of our specie; and the facilities now afforded for the further exportation of coin to that country, by the votes of the very tariff party themselves, may be looked upon as abandoning one of their strong holds. We are not unaware, that a part of the tea brought from China, is paid for with skins, furs, ginseng, and a few other articles of domestic produce, or with British goods shipped in England, or with seal skins and other products obtained in the South seas; but these bear but a small proportion to the amount purchased with Spanish dollars, and therefore a direct and almost unanimous vote to encourage the exportation of dollars from this country, evinces a clearing off of a part of the mental obnubilation which has so long obscured the vision of our political arithmeticians.
That the reduction of the salt duty is a real breach in the walls of the American System, cannot be doubted. Although it was originally imposed as a mere revenue duty, yet it would have been reduced soon after the war, as originally contemplated, had its continuance not been urged, upon the same ground precisely as the continuance of the cotton and woollen duties, viz., the injury of those who had embarked their capitals in the domestic manufacture, at a period when the duties were not designed for protection. The molasses duty, perhaps, cannot be altogether considered as a bona fide part of the tariff policy, inasmuch as it was ingrafted on the main stock by the enemies of the system. Considered, however, as a measure highly favourable to Louisiana, one of the most thorough-going tariff states in the Union, it was clearly one of the elements which made the combination stronger, and, taken in connexion with the abolition of the drawback on New England rum which accompanied its adoption, the object of which was protection to the whiskey distillers of Pennsylvania, Ohio, &c., it cannot but be regarded as one of the rods which helped to make the bundle more difficult to be broken. Upon the whole, when we add the entire abandonment of Mr. Mallary’s bill, intended to establish the holy inquisition in our custom-houses, its substitution by a new measure which so entirely altered the character of the original, that of it, it could scarcely be said, stat nominis umbra, abundant evidence is afforded of a great triumph, on the part of the friends of free trade, over an opposition which six months ago appeared to be insurmountable.
Considering, as we do, the course pursued by the anti-tariff party in Congress, as a display of good generalship, we cannot easily bring ourselves to believe, that any more efficient course could have been adopted, and we look forward with great confidence to the developments of the next six months, as corroboratory of our views. The reduction of the duty on salt and molasses, articles so necessary to the poor man, will give an opportunity to the editors who are at heart on our side, but have too many American System subscribers to risk an open assault, to lead public opinion into a correct mode of thinking upon the other branches of the system. From salt and molasses, the transition will not be great to sugar and clothing, to iron, cotton bagging, and wool. It is a great thing, in carrying on war against an enemy, who has possessed himself of one’s country, to compel him to commence a retreat. Every new position that is taken up, becomes a fresh point d’appui, and the advantages can hardly be over-rated, which the invaded enjoys, when he has once seen the invader turn his back. This favourable posture of the battle now belongs to the friends of free trade; and if the advantages be followed up as they ought to be, without the slightest relaxation, we may expect, before long, to see the enemy driven back to his own borders, or throwing himself upon the mercy of the victors.