Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. LXIII. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. LXIII. - 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. LXIII.
october 27, 1830.
The export of cotton fabrics from the United States no proof that we can undersell the British in foreign markets. Exports to Turkey, and other ports on the Mediterranean.
THE following article is copied from the Boston Daily Advertiser:
“Cotton Manufactures.—In the third volume of the Encyclopædia Americana is an interesting article, giving a history of the cotton manufacture in England, and in this country. An opinion is there expressed, that the whole process of the manufacture is performed to as great advantage in this country as in any part of the world; and that particularly for descriptions of a coarse fabric, the advantages of possessing the raw material, and of water power for moving the machinery, with the proximity of the South American market, more than counterbalance the disadvantages of the higher cost of machinery, and of some branches of labour. This view of the subject has been confirmed by the success of recent shipments to foreign markets.”
There is no class of citizens who would more rejoice, than the friends of free trade, if the opinion above advanced by the writer in the Encyclopœdia had been “confirmed,” as the editor of the Advertiser supposes it to have been; for, in such case, the cotton manufacturers would voluntarily come forward and propose a reduction of the duty, and thus remove one of the chief causes of dissatisfaction against the tariff. But, we apprehend that the Boston Advertiser has not examined the subject any closer than the Encyclopœdia has done it, and has adopted the idea, that we can manufacture as cheap as the British, from the simple fact that domestic cottons are exported to foreign countries. That this is no evidence whatever on the subject, is annually proved from the Reports of the Secretary of the Treasury, which show, that foreign merchandise is imported from Great Britain, France, Holland, Russia, Sweden, Germany, and other countries, to the amount of upwards of twenty millions of dollars, and although saddled with the expenses of freight from the country where they are produced, with insurance, profits, commissions, and other charges, is exported to other foreign countries, where it comes in competition with the same articles from the producing countries. The real fact is, that a great part of the commerce carried on by our merchants, as we have said upon a former occasion, is in the nature of a scramble. He who runs fastest, gets the prize; and it is precisely because our geographical situation gives us advantages in the trade with the West Indies and the continent of America, which Europe does not and never can enjoy, that our rulers ought to leave commerce with the least possible extent of restriction. We have no doubt that, if all duties were low, our cities would become depots for immense amounts of merchandize waiting for the freshest advices, that are now shut out by the high duties, which deter merchants from importing, through the fear that a favourable market abroad may not offer, before the expiration of the term within which they would be entitled to the benefit of drawback. And as to the very article of coarse cotton goods, we are well persuaded that, if the duty on the foreign articles were reduced to 15 per cent., our exports of them to South America would be double what we now export of the domestic fabric. The real truth is, that cheap as domestic muslin now is, it can be made cheaper in England, and the most conclusive evidence of this fact is to be found in the resolute manner in which the manufacturers adhere to the tariff, which, upon all low priced muslins, is entirely prohibitory. If, however, the Boston Advertiser has any other ground than the one we have stated, for its belief, we should like to see it, and we think it is a duty owing to the country, for the manufacturers of any protected article which can now stand alone, to come forward and confess the fact, and propose a repeal of the protecting duty. Nothing but such a frank and just course can ever satisfy the nation; and we think that even the manufacturers themselves would hardly be disposed to hazard the existence of the Union, by adhering to a principle which produces no practical benefit.
But the Advertiser proceeds thus:
“The following extract from a letter of a mercantile house at Constantinople, shows with what favour the American manufacture is regarded in that market, and the extent of the demand for it;
“Constantinople, June 12.—The whole Turkish army and navy, and the great bulk of the population generally, make use chiefly of the cotton goods known in England as grey domestics, and here as Americas. You will at once perceive from this fact, that the consumption must be immense. Hitherto the intercourse between the United States and this capital has been exclusively through the medium of Smyrna; but from this time forward it will be established direct, and we look for some excellent business to commence in a few weeks hence. For the reason alluded to, of our getting real American domestics indirectly, we see scarcely any thing of the sort here. The English spurious imitations, flimsy and cheap, have usurped their place, and, under the American name, enjoy a reputation to which they are ill entitled. We calculate the present consumption here at near 100,000 pieces annually, and it must vastly increase, as the organization of the Mussulman nation produces more opulence among the lower classes. When once the American cottons come forward freely, they will always be infinitely preferred to the English, unless they should happen to stand in very much dearer, when there would always be large buyers of the cheaper commoditity. Allow us to say, then, that we consider a low price as a desideratum, even if it were necessary, to obtain that point, to deteriorate the value of the article a little. We could not recommend bringing it down too low, as it would be well to keep up its character of superiority over its rival.”
Suppose we were to say, that the whole of the interior population of Brazil was clothed with cotton fabrics, like the Turkish soldiers and sailors—what would that argue in favour of an extension of our trade in that article to Brazil? Absolutely nothing. The fact is, that, of every ten yards of cotton cloth consumed in Brazil, nine are made in the country, as they probably are in Turkey; and if this was not the case, we should be none the better for it, seeing that the British supply the same article cheaper than we can. The writer of the letter from Constantinople very justly observes that, to command a sale, our domestics should not “stand in very much dearer” than the English; and he might have said, that if they stood in any dearer at all, for the same quality, they could not be sold. This is the universal law of trade. Nobody consumes goods for any love to the makers. Every purchaser buys where he can get most value for his money, and it makes no odds to a Turk, whether his trowsers are made in England, France, or the United States.
From the manner in which this letter is introduced, and from its own contents, one might be led to suppose that the Turkish nation were already very familiar with our domestics. This we doubt very much. Upon reference to the Treasury Reports, we find that, during the year ending on the 30th September, 1828, there were exported to “Turkey, Levant, &c.,” white piece goods to the value of $3,880, and printed and coloured to the value of $417, and during the year ending on 30th September, 1829, white piece goods to the value of $4,004, and printed and coloured to the value of $172. Prior to these years, we presume that a less quantity must have been exported, and it is therefore very evident, that not many Turkish soldiers or sailors could have ever seen our domestic cloths.
But perhaps we shall be told, that the “grey domestics” or “Americas,” spoken of by the Constantinople letter writer, had been sent into Turkey from some of the Mediterranean ports, to which they had been previously shipped. Now, as every fair argument of our opponents ought to be fairly met, and as this is undoubtedly one, we shall give it all due weight. Upon reference to the official returns of the exports of the United States, we find that the value of domestic cottons, exported to all the ports situate within the Straits of Gibraltar, was as follows, viz:
The aggregate of these exports in two years, therefore, to all the regions washed by the Mediterranean and its tributary seas, is thus officially shown to have been but $41,330, and yet the American people are gravely told, that “the whole Turkish army and navy, and the great bulk of the population generally, make use chiefly of the cotton goods known in England as grey domestics, and here as Americas.”
The first official documents of the Treasury which noticed the exports of domestic cotton fabrics from the United States, separate from other manufactures, was in 1826. From these it appears, according to Waterston & Vanzandt’s Tables, that there were exported to the Mediterranean ports, white and coloured cotton goods—
That these goods were shipped as experiments, must be manifest to any one who will reflect upon the diminutive amount. That the experiment has failed, after a trial of three years, is established by the diminished export of 1829. It is really to be lamented, that persons who travel abroad are often so little qualified to communicate correct and useful information to their countrymen. The writer of the letter in question has done a great deal of mischief from his mania scribendi upon subjects which he does not understand, for not only has he given occasion to several editors to boast of our great trade to Turkey, in cotton goods, but he will probably induce some inexperienced merchant to try his hand at furnishing the “whole Turkish army and navy, and the great bulk of the population generally,” with what are called in England “grey domestics,” and in Constantinople, “Americas.”