Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. LVIII. - The Principles of Free Trade
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
ESSAY No. LVIII. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
ESSAY No. LVIII.
october 6, 1830.
Fallacy of the doctrine, that it is for the public interest that legislative protection should be extended to every thing that can be abundantly produced in the country, illustrated by reference to figs.
IT is a prominent doctrine of the advocates of the Peter and Paul System, that every article which can be abundantly produced in the country, should be encouraged by legislative protection; and our readers will recollect, that certain farmers in Pennsylvania last winter petitioned Congress to impose protecting duties upon a number of articles which had eluded the searching powers of the committee of Congress that reported the last tariff act. We recollect, however, one article, which has not, we believe, heretofore drawn the attention of any of the friends of protection, and for their benefit we will mention it. It is the delicious article called figs. They grow in the vicinity of Washington, in sufficient abundance to be sold in the market at 12½ to 6¼ cents per dozen, a fact of which we had repeated proof in the month of September. Now, as figs can undoubtedly be raised in the district of Columbia, to the extent of 1,220,266 pounds, the quantity imported last year, as that quantity would only be a trifle more than forty pounds to the acre, allowing two pounds of green to be equal to one of dry, why not fall to work at once, prohibit the importation of figs from France, Spain, and Turkey, and thus save to the country, the specie which is sent abroad to pay for this foreign luxury? That nothing is wanted to insure a home supply equal to the domestic demand, but adequate protection, cannot be questioned by any one who will reflect upon the subject, and there is no more reason why figs should not be protected, than raccoons or castor oil.
Nay, according to the theory of the restrictionists, why could we not raise figs for exportation? The inevitable effect of high duties, they say, is to lower prices; and they even tell us, that the more efficient the protection, that is, the higher the duties are, the greater will be the fall. Well, now, assuming this principle as correct, the true policy would be to put on a duty that would certainly break up the importation. To accomplish this, we think a duty of two or three thousand per cent. would be sufficient. Dry figs cost in Smyrna about 3 or 4 cents a pound. The present duty is 3 cents, which is a hundred per cent., or near it. An increase of this duty to a dollar a pound would effectually stop their importation, and so elevate their price, for a season, as that the inhabitants of the fig region would have the entire command of the domestic market, which, at a dollar a pound, would not call for more than a few hundred pounds, sufficient to supply the demand for roasting to put on swelled faces, and for furnishing Mr. Rand with animalculæ to exhibit in his solar microscope.
But this season, say the protection folks, would be short. The domestic competition would ultimately reduce the price below 3 or 4 cents, and we should then be able to export figs in competition with the French, Spaniards, and Turks. As proof of this, they bring forward the case of coarse domestic cottons and they say, that the mere fact of their being exported, is proof that we can undersell the British in foreign markets. Now, if this be the sort of proof which satisfies the restrictionists, why do they not back their faith in this position, by proposing to reduce a part of the duty on coarse cotton goods? For surely, if they can undersell the British in foreign markets, where their fabrics cannot be sent without incurring the expenses of freight, insurance, and commissions, why can they not undersell them in our own market, where they meet the British subject to these charges, whilst they themselves are exempt from them? Will it be believed ten years hence, that men calling themselves statesmen, have relied upon such arguments as these to give them fame and advancement to high stations? We cannot believe it possible, and were it not from a conviction that the stupefaction which has so long prevailed, is gradually wearing away, we should not have patience calmly to discuss a matter so self-evident in its nature.