Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. CIV. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. CIV. - 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. CIV.
may 18, 1831.
Importance of the study of Political Economy to private individuals as well as to public men. Evils resulting to the community from the want of understanding the operation of poor laws, and from misapplied philanthrophy.
IF the science of Political Economy were taught in all our schools, not merely as a branch of liberal education, but as a familiar study, the interests of society would be immensely promoted. There is scarcely a transaction in life, connected with the administration of affairs, from the government of the whole Union, and that of each particular state, down to the government of every individual family, which is not dependent for its laws upon this important science. No man deserves to be classed amongst statesmen or legislators who does not thoroughly comprehend it. A member of Congress who is not acquainted with the principles that teach the mode by which the greatest good of the greatest number is best to be promoted, is as unqualified for his post as an individual would be to teach algebra, who was ignorant of the simple rules of arithmetic. In like manner, a member of Assembly, who knows nothing of banking, of currency, of the principles upon which capital may be accumulated or wasted, of the sound rules by which taxes should be apportioned, of the administration of the poor-laws, of the regulation of the interest of money, and the various other matters which appertain to the functions of our state Governments, must always legislate in the dark. Even the corporations of cities and boroughs, and the administrators of the affairs of a county, township, or parish, can never fulfill their duties to the public, without some acquaintance with the laws which relate to income and expenditure. And, lastly, what family can enjoy as much substantial comfort and independence, as one in which the domestic economy is regulated, not by the laws of parsimony, but by the dictates of a science which teaches how the greatest extent of enjoyments is to be secured at the least cost of labour.
The idea that Political Economy is an abstruse, dry, and uninteresting subject, is founded in error. It is true that the most abstract principles of the science, like those of any other branch of philosophy, are beyond the reach of ordinary minds—but its more plain and practical elements are as easily to be apprehended as any other matter of every day concern. It is not, how ever, intended hereby to advance the position that the attractions held out by this study are sufficiently strong to induce every one to enter upon it; such universal power of attraction belongs to no pursuit whatever. Look at the beautiful study of botany, for example, or the useful science of chemistry, or the amusing researches of natural history, and professors will tell you that the number of individuals who embark with zeal in those departments of knowledge is comparatively limited. Still there are many who devote their attention to these studies, and who find a satisfaction which amply compensates them for the labour, although they may not be in a situation to apply the knowledge they may acquire to any practical utility. And would not Political Economy be studied if it were generally known that its principles are as intimately connected with the daily transactions of society, as the principles of domestic economy are with the daily transactions of an individual family? Nine-tenths of the misery and suffering of the poor and labouring classes arises from the absence of all knowledge of Political Economy on the part of those who are chosen to regulate affairs. In reference, especially, to our poor laws and charitable institutions, the most lamentable ignorance prevails. Instead of striking at the root of the evil, and cutting out the cancer which is consuming the body politic, we are content to apply an external plaister, which only conceals from our sight the mortal ulcer, but leaves the disease more deeply seated than ever. The whole system of our charitable institutions, designed for the temporary relief of the poor, requires revision. Instead of diminishing pauperism, they increase it, by holding out inducements for those who would otherwise depend—aye, and successfully depend, too—upon their own exertions for their support, to rely upon charitable aid. They multiply the class, already sufficiently large, of those who calculate upon public patronage, for their maintenance, and create, in the humblest walks of life, a class of people corresponding to that which is found in the higher grades, who rely altogether upon public offices for their support. Charity, when well regulated, is a cardinal virtue, but every species of alms-giving is not charity. A good motive must be tempered by a sound discretion. Hospitals and asylums, for the deaf and dumb, and blind, for infants who are too young to obtain their livelihood, for aged people who are too old or infirm to labour, for lunatics, idiots, and those who are physically incapable of helping themselves, are deserving of all support. But where persons labour under none of these disabilities or afflictions, the claim for charitable aid ought to be very fully established to entitle it to attention; and, where it is ascertained to be founded upon casualty or misfortune, and not misconduct, the relief should be afforded in the way of furnishing employment, rather than in the payment of gratuities.
Upon this subject, we are aware, there is in our community, a morbid sensibility. To take an active part in charitable institutions is quite a mania, and those who venture to advance opinions intended to show that more mischief than good may result from a blind, indiscriminate zeal, are looked upon as uncharitable and hard-hearted. The odium attendant upon this imputation is too much for editors generally to hazard, and hence we rarely see the press enter upon the discussion of this delicate question. For our part, with feelings of charity and good will extending to the poor of other countries as well as our own, and limited by no such anti-christian doctrine as that “charity begins at home,” we shall cheerfully open the columns of this paper to a free discussion of any measure which proposes the melioration of the physical condition of the human family. Our plan of relief is the adoption of the principles of Free Trade, and the abolition of all restrictions upon the liberty of the hand. In a state of perfect freedom, pauperism of ablebodied persons would be unknown. The fertile and almost unlimited regions of the West, are capable of supplying the means of abundance and independence to millions of emigrants—and all who could not find employment in the commerce and manufactures of cities and towns, would find it in the agriculture of the country, which would be greatly extended under a liberal system of commercial policy. The man who devotes his time to an active administration of some charitable institution for the relief of the poor, and who at the same time advocates the Restrictive System, is like the quack-doctor, who, whilst he was prescribing flannels and bandages for the gouty foot of a patient, fed him up with choice dainties and luxurious potations.