Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. CIX. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. CIX. - 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. CIX.
june 1, 1831.
The manufacture of houses, as a branch of business, greatly injured by the duties on iron, glass, iron-mongery, paints, and other materials required for building.
ONE of the most extensive and important branches of manufacture carried on in Philadelphia, is the manufacture of houses. This branch of domestic industry affords employment to many thousands of persons, such as architects, blacksmiths, brick-layers, bell-hangers, brick-makers, carpenters, carters, cellar-diggers, glaziers, gardeners, labourers, lime-burners, lumber-merchants, locksmiths, masons, marble-masons, ornamental-painters, painters, paper-stainers, paper-hangers, plaisterers, plumbers, pump-makers, stone-cutters, tinmen, varnish-makers, white-washers, wall-colourers, well-diggers, and many others; and our present object is to inquire whether any—and if any, what—interest, these numerous classes of working-men have in the continuance of the Restrictive System.
Any one may see, that the cheaper houses can be built, the more of them can be sold or rented; for, such in general is the desire of every individual family to live by itself, that nothing induces people to put up with a room or two under the same roof with another, but their inability to pay the rent of a whole house. To enter seriously upon an argument to show that more houses can be rented, at cheap rents, than at dear rents, would be presuming too much upon the ignorance of the reader, and we shall therefore content ourselves with this simple remark, that, with respect to a very large class of persons, it is a small sum which decides whether a family will go to house-keeping, or remain at lodgings, or as the tenant of part of a house. One hundred dollars, fifty dollars, nay, twenty dollars per annum, in the rent, frequently offers the inducement which leads to the demand for another house; and as the comfort of a family is greatly promoted by having its own castle, there is no telling what would be the extent of the demand for houses, in all our commercial cities, if houses were built at as cheap a rate as they could be built at, if it were not for the system of high duties. It is well known that a great proportion of our houses are built by mechanics, for sale. A carpenter, a brick-layer, a plaisterer, and others, frequently unite together, and build a row of houses, by each working for the other. Much of the work is done with their own hands and much of it by apprentices. If it were not for the tax upon clothing, and groceries, and upon every thing which the master-mechanic and his family, his apprentices, and journeymen, consume, he could afford to sell his house that much cheaper, and make the same profit he now does.
But it is not only the tax upon the articles consumed in families, which increases the cost of houses. Upon all the ironmongery, such as locks, hinges, bolts, bells, &c., there is a considerable duty—one which will not be wanted after the extinguishment of the public debt. Upon screws there is a tax of 40 per centum, upon cut nails a tax of at least two cents per pound, and upon all the iron work executed by a blacksmith a tax equal to 50 to 150 per centum on the foreign cost of the iron. Upon all the window-glass there is an enormous tax, of from $3 to $5 per 100 feet. Upon the lead employed in the spouts and gutters of the roof, and in the pipes to convey the Schuylkill water into the houses, yards, and bath-houses, there is also a heavy tax, of 3 cents a pound upon the former, and 5 cents upon the latter. Upon the paints used inside and outside of the house, upon the fences, and back-buildings, there is a very heavy tax. Upon red and white lead the tax is $5 per 100 pounds, and upon Spanish brown and yellow ochre $1.50 per 100 pounds.
Many persons may perhaps suppose, that the tax upon the manufacture of houses is limited to those articles which may be imported from abroad at a cheaper rate. This, however, is not the case. There is not a material of any kind, used in the structure of a building, nor any species of labour employed upon it, which does not cost more on account of the Restrictive System. The brick-maker charges more for his bricks than he otherwise would do, because his workmen are under the necessity of being paid more wages, owing to the heavy taxes which it has been the policy of our paternal government to impose upon the labouring classes, in the form of high duties upon groceries, coarse cotton and woollen goods, and upon almost every thing they consume. The lime-burners in the country charge more for lime, because their expenses are increased in the same way; the wagons in which they convey the lime to the city, cost them more, on account of the duty on iron, and they must therefore have more for the carriage. The same is true of the owners of stone-quarries. The lumber-cutters in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New York, must all charge more for boards, plank, and scantling, in consequence of the taxes imposed upon all their implements of trade, upon the vessels which transport the lumber, and upon every thing they eat, drink, wear, and sleep under and upon. The wages of all labourers and mechanics, of every kind, from the man who digs the cellar to the one who puts the last touch of paint upon the finished edifice, are more or less regulated by the expense of living. For if a working-man, at the wages he receives under high taxes, can comfortably maintain himself and family, he can maintain them equally well if the taxes were low, after a considerable abatement in his price, which he would readily make, as it would be the means of giving him more employment.
But we have not yet enumerated all the burdens imposed upon the manufacture of houses. Owing to the taxes imposed upon the subsistence of the community, which we have brought into view, and to those imposed upon the building of houses, as above described, the public expenses are increased: all public officers must be paid more salary; it costs more to erect public buildings, to maintain the public paupers, to light the city, to pave it, and to watch it. And will it be believed that the iron pipes, laid down to convey the Schuylkill water through the city, which now extend for many miles, cost so much more than they need cost, that, for every four miles of pipe we might have had five miles? All these causes operating together, increase the public taxes; and because the city, county, poor, and health-taxes, are higher, the owner of the ground must have more for his ground, and the owner of the house must have more rent. The ramifications of the high duty system may be traced throughout all the expenditures of the community, and we have not a doubt but that the whole cost, to the nation, of collecting its revenue, under the existing regulations, amounts at least to a tax of five dollars per head, or sixty-five millions of dollars per annum, upon thirteen millions of souls, the actual population.
If the manufacturers of houses should any longer adhere to a system which operates so decidedly against them, and without producing a single benefit to them, it will be a confirmation of the old adage, that “Fools build houses,” &c.