Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. LXXXVIII. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. LXXXVIII. - 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. LXXXVIII.
march 9, 1831.
Impossibility of preventing smuggling. Extent to which it is carried on in Europe. Honourable conduct of the people of the South in not resorting to it as a means of redress.
IN a country situated like the United States, with a sea-coast of near two thousand miles in extent, and separated from a foreign territory for perhaps a thousand miles more, by lakes and rivers, and a mere geographical line, it is almost as physically impossible to prevent smuggling, as it would be to shut out the tides of the ocean. This proposition must be self-evident, and it is therefore clear, that the only protection which exists against the general introduction of contraband trade, is to be found in the moral sense of the people. That moral sense, however, with nine persons out of ten, has its price. Very few, perhaps, would be willing to sell it for a profit of fifteen per centum, but, when the inducement held out is thirty, fifty, or one hundred per centum, there are few, we apprehend, who would refuse to part with it. In forming our opinion on this subject, we must not suffer ourselves to be blinded by too high an estimate of the moral character of our own people. We must look to the broad school of experience in other countries, where high duties and prohibitions have been long familiar, and see how they operate there, and if we find that all over the world, smuggling is connived at, or directly sanctioned, by the great body of the people, we should hardly expect to form an exception to so general a rule. Nay, let the question be asked, what proportion of our citizens would buy a yard of cloth at seven dollars, from a merchant’s store, if he could buy one, next door to him, of the same quality, for six dollars, even though there might be strong reasons for suspecting that the latter had been brought into the country by smuggling? Would the great mass of the people ever think it incumbent on them, if a grocer should offer to sell sugar at five dollars a hundred, whilst others asked six or seven dollars for the same quality, to enquire whether it was smuggled or not? We apprehend that an answer will be given, to both these questions, by no means calculated to inspire a belief in the existence of any such moral feeling as would operate as a check upon the industry of smugglers, and this, after all, is the main element in this branch of business. If people of respectability and character have no qualms of conscience to urge them to withhold purchases where a suspicion exists, there will be no lack of enterprising rogues to meet their demands.
We have lately made some inquiries on this subject, from persons who have travelled in Great Britain and on the Continent of Europe, and their testimony has satisfied us, that, in the intercourse between France and England, every thing is smuggled, by travellers, that can possibly be concealed. People that would not for the world defraud an individual out of six pence, have no hesitation in pocketing six pounds which ought by law to go into the public treasury. And, not only does this practice extend to the inferior and middling classes of people, to whom the saving is an object in a pecuniary point of view, but to people of the highest rank and fortune. Even ladies, in crossing the channel, are in the habit of concealing upon their persons, laces, jewelry, and articles of valuable clothing, and, what is the worst of it, no stigma of disgrace is attached to such a transaction, and, in the politest circles of society, the illicit introduction of foreign goods is spoken of by them without any reserve, or the slightest sense of their having been guilty of a dishonest act. Such is the inevitable effect of a long perseverance in tempting duties; and the misfortune of it is, that, after the moral sense has once been broken down, by a duty of fifty per centum, it cannot be raised again by a return to low duties. It is precisely like the taste for liquors. Had the duties on wines and foreign brandy and spirits been kept at a low rate, tens of thousands, who are now drunkards upon cheap whiskey, would have remained to this day temperate drinkers of the former, from which they were driven by the high price occasioned by the duty.
A writer in one of the New York papers, in an article which we lately saw quoted in the National Gazette, asserts, that there are now persons in England who will undertake for fifteen per centum, to ensure the safe arrival of goods at certain points of the United States, free of duty. We think this quite probable. A gentleman lately from England has assured us that goods can be insured from London to Paris, by the way of Ostend, against all the risks attendant upon smuggling, for seven and a half per centum. All through South America and the West Indies smuggling is carried on upon a most extensive scale, and it is known to every body, is practised by almost eve-body, and excites no compunctions, except those which arise from the fear of detection. Old Don John, of Portugal, when in Brazil, used to say that he knew he did not get above one half his revenue, but he said he should gain nothing by clearing all the rogues out of the custom-house, for that their places would be supplied by a hungry set, who would not be content with a half.
Now, when we reflect that the duties in most other countries are not as high as they are in this, and that their facilities of detection are greater than ours, owing to more limited territory, a more dense population, and greater experience, how can we expect to remain free from contamination? Our custom-house officers may not become corrupt, but our border inhabitants, being driven from honest pursuits by laws restricting their industry, will assuredly not long remain pure. And here we cannot withhold a tribute of respect to the high-minded and honourable conduct of the people of the Southern states, who, having at their disposal the means of destroying the forced manufacturing interests of the North, by a process which in some other countries would have been resorted to without hesitation, have spurned at the idea of accomplishing their emancipation from the burdensome system by which they are oppressed, by ignoble means. Yes, it may be asserted, without danger of contradiction, that there are people in other countries, if not in our own, who, had their interests been lawlessly trampled upon, as have been those of the planting states, would, instead of securing redress by a manly contest for their rights, very soon have settled the question, by the simple operation of shutting their eyes, along the sea-coast, to the illicit introduction of foreign goods, brought to their doors, by their fellow-citizens of other States perhaps, in the same manner that goods are now brought from Canada. For their conduct in this particular, they merit, and will receive, the applause of every honest man; and, if those whose interests have been preserved by this observance of an honourable line of conduct, possessed half the magnanimity which has been thus displayed, they would unite in doing homage to Southern virtue, and express their gratitude by returning to the paths of justice and the Constitution.