Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. LXXIV. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. LXXIV. - 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. LXXIV.
december 15, 1830.
The Sugar duty. Tax paid for the support of the sugar planting interest in the United States. Cost of an invoice of sugar at Matanzas.
THE advocates for taxation are always calling out for facts. They say that one fact is worth a thousand theories. We say so too, but we mean a different thing from what they mean. We mean, that one fact, illustrative of a sound theory, is worth a thousand theories unsupported by facts. To make this plain, we will be somewhat particular. It is a fact—for example—that sugar is now cheaper, all over the world, than it was fourteen years ago. This fact proves, that, owing to improved modes of cultivation, to improvements in machinery, to the extension of the culture in Brazil and other countries, and to the various other causes which have operated all over the world, in multiplying the products which agriculture, in all its departments, yields, with the same exertions of human labour, sugar can be produced more cheaply than formerly. But it proves nothing more, and, consequently, when it is asserted that this fact is proof that the American tariff of high duties has occasioned this reduction of price all over the world, we pronounce the fact to be worth a thousand such theories.
In our paper of the 24th November, we devoted a considerable space to the examination of the sugar duty, and demonstrated, what cannot be controverted, and what we think will not lose by repetition. It was there shown—
First. That the production of sugar in Louisiana is estimated at 80,000 hhds., equal to about 80,000,000 lbs.
Secondly. That the quantity we import from abroad is about 60,000,000 lbs.
Thirdly. That the consumers of sugar in the United States pay, upon their whole consumption of 140,000,000 pounds, a tax of three cents a pound, equal, in the whole, to $4,200,000, of which $2,400,000 go into the pockets of a very few sugar planters.
Fourthly. That the whole number of hands, in Louisiana, employed in raising the quantity of sugar there produced, estimating the value of the labour of each hand at the low estimate of $112, which would be the value of 1,600 pounds of sugar, at seven cents per pound, is but 50,000.
Fifthly. That, consequently, a tax of $4,200,000, imposed upon the people of the United States, for the sake of employing 50,000 hands, is a tax at the rate of $84 a head.
Sixthly. That this tax of $4,200,000 is a much greater sum than the price at which the whole 80,000 hhds., produced in Louisiana, could be purchased for abroad; and that, consequently, it would be more advantageous for the nation to pay the Louisiana planters a bounty of $50 a head, equal to their entire maintenance, upon all the hands employed in the cultivation of sugar, and let them stand behind their masters’ chairs at table, or behind their coaches when they ride, than to persevere in the duty, when the only benefit which it can possibly confer, is, to put into the pockets of not exceeding two hundred rich men, the sum of $2,400,000, which is, upon an average, $12,000 a piece, raised chiefly at the expense of the substantial comfort and happiness of the working people of this country.
Seventhly. That the idea of supposing that the production of 80,000 hhds. of sugar in the United States, had caused a reduction in the price of sugar all over the world, could only be entertained by one who had never reflected on the subject. It was shown, that the imports into Great Britain alone, from her West India colonies alone, during ten years, commencing with 1813, and ending with 1822, was, upon an average, 397,513,508 pounds, a quantity nearly five times as great as that now produced in the United States; and it was argued, that the addition of 80,000 hhds. to the stock which annually supplies 800,000,000 of people with sugar, would produce no more effect upon the price of sugar, in the market of the commercial world, than the addition of one barrel of flour to every hundred, would produce upon the price of flour; and how much that would be, any farmer can judge for himself.
In making the calculations which led to these results, we are now satisfied that our extreme caution to be within limits, presented the question in too favourable a light for the sugar interest. We believe that $112 per head, as the value of the sugar produced by each hand, is too low an estimate, and think that $200 would be nearer the mark. The estimate of seven cents per pound, as the value of the sugar, was also too high. Placing this latter at five cents, which is probably the maximum which the planter receives, we have then $4,000,000 as the total cost of all the sugar produced in Louisiana; and, if our other position be correct, this quantity is produced by the labour of 20,000 hands. In these positions we cannot be far from the truth, and it will consequently appear that this nation pays a tax, for the raising of sugar, equal to $210 a head upon all who are concerned in its production, which is a sum adequate to support, four times over, the said 20,000 hands, and would pay the first cost, in foreign countries, of all the sugar that the people of the United States now consume.
But how can this be proved? it will be asked. We answer, by turning to the prices of sugar in the West Indies and other countries, the soil and climates of which are adapted to its cultivation. Upon former occasions, we have spoken of three cents per pound as the foreign cost of sugar. We are now enabled to furnish a document, which will settle this question. It is a copy of a fresh invoice of sugar, purchased in September last, furnished to us by a respectable merchant, from which we have only omitted the names of the shipper and consignee, and the marks and numbers of the packages.
From this document it will be seen, that, on the 16th of September last, the highest price paid at Matanzas, in the island of Cuba, for Brown Sugar, was $2.25 per 100 lbs., Spanish weight, which is eight per cent. better than our English weight; that some, of an inferior quality, cost but $1.25—that is, a cent and a quarter a pound; and that, after adding the enormous expense of the boxes, which is equal to about 75 cents per 100 pounds, the average price is less than three cents per pound. The addition of export duty, drayage, weighing, brokerage, commissions, &c., increases the cost; but, notwithstanding these, and the freight, insurance, storage, and merchants’ profits besides, the price at this day, in New York, for Brown Havana Sugar, is quoted at $7 to $7.75 per 100 pounds, long price—that is, including the duty; and for exportation, it can be purchased at $4 to $4.75 per 100 pounds. The following is the invoice referred to, with which we shall take leave of the subject at present.
E. E. Matanzas, 16th Sept. 1830.
(Signed) M. & S.