Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. LXXXVII. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. LXXXVII. - 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. LXXXVII.
march 9, 1831.
Political Economy taught in several institutions in this country Professor Vethake’s Introductory Lecture.
IT is already known to our readers that Political Economy is taught, as a branch of liberal education, in Columbia College, New York, in William and Mary, Virginia, and in the South Carolina College, under Professors McVickar, Dew, and Cooper, respectively. Those who admire that science, and who regard it as one of the chief studies to which the youthful mind should be directed in a country where the avenues to public stations are open to all, will now learn with pleasure that a course of lectures has been recently instituted at Princeton College, a seminary celebrated for the number of eminent and enlightened men who claim it as their Alma Mater. The Introductory Lecture to this course was delivered by Professor Vethake, on the 31st of January last, and has since been published in pamphlet form, “at the request of the Senior Class.” A copy of it will be found in our paper of this day, and, as it is written by one who thoroughly understands the subject, and in adaptation to the minds of those who have not yet studied it closely, it will be easily understood by any one who will take the trouble to peruse it. For our parts, as humble amateurs of the science, we feel under great obligations to Professor Vethake for the able and spirited manner in which he has defended the champions of the true faith, by separating them from the ignorant empyrics and quacks, who, because they have stored their heads and their libraries with a mass of statistical tables, fancy themselves capable of teaching doctrines with which they are utterly unacquainted.
In this lecture, which we earnestly recommend to the reader, the Professor very properly urges that every student, who is, as one of the people, destined in future life to exercise the privilege and perform the duty of an independent elector, ought to feel himself bound to direct a portion of his attention to the science. In this sentiment we know that all concur who have themselves examined into the importance of the study. Ninetenths of the misery now suffered by the population of Europe and this country arises from the ignorance of those who are placed at the head of affairs, of political philosophy, a branch of knowledge as indispensable to the statesman, as that of navigation is to the mariner. So long as this neglect of the only means adapted to the accomplishment of the end of good government continues, so long will portions of society be distressed, and so long will there exist a liability to fall into greater evils owing to the want of knowledge of the causes which occasion the existing ones. The case is even now plainly presented before us. Our restrictive laws have deprived more people of employment, in some branches of industry, than have gained employment in others. Their operation, however, being insidious, indirect, and invisible, the mind of the uneducated man is incapable of seeing the cause of his loss of employment. Political demagogues and quack doctors, tell him that his suffering is owing to the circumstance that the restriction has not been pushed far enough, and he, falling into the snare, advocates a policy, by his vote, which renders his situation, or that of somebody else, more wretched still.
The Professor states, what is perfectly correct, that there is now going on a great contest between truth and error, and he asks, with great justice, “Are we not called on by a sense of duty to take a side, at least, if we have the opportunity of acquiring the requisite information to enable us to make up an opinion? And does not he who remains neutral in such a contest, and in such circumstances, in fact take the side of error, by contributing to retard the progress of knowledge, and to delay the period of the ultimate triumph of truth, which it is in his power, and which it is his duty to accelerate?” We recommend these serious questions to the especial perusal of certain of our editorial brethren, who, convinced as firmly of the truth of the free trade doctrines as was Adam Smith himself, are, nevertheless, upholding the cause of what they know to be untrue, by closing their columns to free discussions of, if not by positive eulogiums upon, the restrictive policy. We would ask such if they can lay their hands upon their hearts, and say, with a clear conscience, that they are performing their duty as honest men, as virtuous citizens, as pure patriots? Can personal or political devotion to any man, or any party, justify an abandonment of principle, and especially at a period when all the influence of philosophy, and all the aid of integrity, are called in requisition to save the country? We think not, and we trust that the number will be few who will ever have occasion to say, “The time once was, when my co-operation with the resolute few who braved the storm of prejudice, delusion and avarice, but were forced to yield to the blast, might have saved the Union.”
The remarks of the lecturer, upon the objections raised against the science of political economy, upon the ground of its being metaphysical, abstract, and theoretical, are perfectly just and conclusive against the objectors, and will be acknowledged so to be by every man who is capable of comprehending the force of a logical demonstration. His strictures, too, upon your anti-theorist, your “practical man,” who believes nothing but facts, who is so full of the idea that one fact isworth a thousand theories, that he is wholly incapable of designating the cause which produces any given effect, are altogether merited. And he throws great light upon one matter which has been involved in partial obscurity, and that is, the cause of the perseverance in error of those who possess minds capable of perceiving the truth. He says: “All men are slow to alter the opinions in which they have been educated, and which have been, as it were, interwoven into their general system of thinking, and intimately associated, perhaps, with many other favourite doctrines; and such alteration is more especially difficult, if the individual have, in mature or advanced life, committed himself before the public in support of his opinions.” There is, however, one other principle, as potent as the one he has mentioned, not merely in retaining men in error, but in inducing them to desert the truth, and to embrace error, and that is self-interest. This powerful stimulant lies, in this country, at the root of the evil, the existence of which all men of sound political views cannot but deplore. No sooner does a politician, a lawyer, or even a merchant, become a stockholder in a manufacturing corporation, or a co-partner in some cotton, or woollen, or iron establishment, than a new light breaks in upon him, and he falls to work to conjure up a string of sophisms by which he may persuade himself, which he finds little difficulty in doing, that truth is error, and that error is truth. The same thing happens with those whose selfish views run in a vein of political ambition. If they wish to be elected to public stations, or to receive appointments from those who are already placed there, they straightway reason themselves into the belief that white is black, and that black is white, and they all appear to adopt the creed that there is no such thing as truth—that that only is truth, to any particular man, which appears to him, for the time being, to be such.
To conclude: Professor Vethake asserts, what is perfectly true, that the truths of political economy, are in accordance with the truths of Christianity. The principles of free trade are the precepts of the most unbounded philanthropy. We consider the lecture as a harbinger of good. The reputation of the Professor, for deep erudition in the mathematics, is extensive, and the influence of his name, in connection with this lecture, cannot fail to produce an accession of strength and numbers to our cause.