Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. CVII. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. CVII. - 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. CVII.
june 1, 1831.
Horse shoes imported ready made. Cost of, shewn by reference to an invoice. Foreign pig iron imported as necessary to make machinery for domestic manufactures, so that the duty upon it of fifty per cent. is at war with the American System.
THE advocates of the Restrictive System say, that nothing but facts can produce any impression upon their reasoning faculties. They despise theories, although the proposition that two and two are four is a theory. As we are obliged, then, to take them in their own way, we shall submit for their inspection the following fact:
Every body knows that there is a duty upon iron of $37 per ton, and that the farmers, mechanics, and other working-men have been cajoled into the belief that this duty has been imposed for the encouragement of the industry of blacksmiths and other artificers of iron. This fallacy was fully exposed during the last session of Congress, in a petition, signed by three hundred Philadelphia blacksmiths, who proved, most conclusively, that the duty, so far from benefiting them, was of infinite injury in depriving them of employment, and that, in reality, not an individual throughout the country was benefited, except the few rich proprietors of iron-mines and iron-works, amounting probably to not more than two or three hundred in the whole United States. We intend now to state a case, to which we invite the attention of our farmers.
A few days ago we were invited by a merchant of this city to visit his counting-house, for the purpose of seeing a sample of horse shoes, ready-made, imported from England. We did so, and were permitted to take the following abstract from one of his invoices, for the purpose of showing their cost. To this invoice the merchant also added the expenses actually paid by him on the importation.
Equal to $5.80 per 100 lbs.
These horse-shoes are all finished, except turning up at the ends, and have the holes for the nails already punched in them—and, that the public may know that there is no mistake about the cost of importation, we are authorized to state that the importer, who is a native citizen, and no “British agent,” will dispose of them, as far as ten tons, the quantity he has on hand, at six cents a pound, which is but a trifle more than the blacksmiths in and near our cities have to pay for the raw material, and less than some country blacksmiths, distant from the sea-board, are obliged to pay. This is called protecting the industry of mechanics and manufacturers, and is the greatest humbug that was ever played off against a nation.
Let us now see how the farmers are benefited by this duty on iron, merely as regards horse shoes. These shoes weigh 1lb. 2oz. a piece, making 4 1-2lbs. for a set. They can therefore be imported and sold under a duty of 25 per centum—which in all conscience is duty enough for every legitimate want of such an economical government as ours ought to be, at 27 cents per set. Now if these shoes were introduced into general use, it would diminish greatly the demand for journeymen blacksmiths, and throw them out of employment, as any farmer may perceive; and it is this circumstance which now operates against their extensive sale in cities. The quality of the iron has been tried and found to be excellent: but the master blacksmiths hesitate to buy them, because the journeymen have declared that they will not let them come into the shops. The American blacksmiths say it will diminish the demand for their labour, and take the bread out of the mouths of themselves and families, in order to benefit the English blacksmiths. They think it is an outrage upon their rights, to lay so heavy a tax upon iron as to make it an object for merchants to import horse-shoes ready made, and they are now preparing materials for a fresh petition to the next Congress, which, we think, will present the subject in a stronger light than it has yet been exhibited in.
Having observed an advertisement in one of our city papers, of English pig iron for sale, we had the curiosity to call upon the importer and inquire its price, subject as it is to a duty of $12.50 per ton. We found the price to be $45, whilst that of American pig iron is $30 to $35. It seems that this English iron has peculiar properties, from which the American is exempt, which renders it the best adapted for all the small castings which belong to the machinery employed in the cotton and woollen factories; so that the duty of $12.50 per ton, which is fifty per centum upon the foreign cost of the article, operates as a tax precisely to that extent, upon that portion of the machinery which must needs be made of this iron, on account of its fineness and its capability of being turned in a lathe. Here we have another instance in which the American System is at war with itself. For the encouragement of cotton and wool spinners and weavers, a tax upon all consumers of cotton and woollen goods, to the extent of 35 to 225 per cent., is imposed. But, say the wool growers, we will not agree that you shall feed out of our pans, unless you will assist us to get a law authorizing us to eat out of the pans of all the rest of the community. The spinners and weavers consent to this, because, relying upon their strength and their long arms, they calculate that, upon the whole, they will be able to gain more plunder than they will lose—and so a tax is put upon wool. Then start up the iron masters, and say, “Gentlemen, we will not agree that you shall thrust your fingers into our pans and take out the choice pieces, unless you will consent that we shall come in for our sop out of all the pans of the community.” This modest request is cheerfully accorded, under the generous and paternal title of “mutual protection;” which means nothing but mutual robbery, besides the robbery of all the rest of the public to boot, and a tax is put upon iron which draws from the pockets of the whole body of farmers a vastly greater amount than the whole body of farmers derive from the tax on wool.
But the best of the joke is, that the good natured public, simpleton as it is, is made all the time to believe that these burdens, imposed upon their backs, rather tend to lighten than to aggravate the load which is already there; and they thus exhibit the same sort of stultification as was displayed by a late inventor of a boat on the Western waters, who said he had contrived it so that the heavier the boat was loaded the faster she would go. They are even made to believe that heavy taxation sets a good deal of American industry in motion. There is no doubt that the taxes incident to the national debt of Great Britain and the support of the government, set a good deal of British industry in motion; but the mischief of it is, that this industry is working for others, and not for one’s self. And, admitting the case to be the same here, where would be the benefit? To the man who labours, if he is not to enjoy the fruits of his own industry, it is of very little odds whether he works for the fund holders or the manufacturing monopolists and corporations.