Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. CXIII. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. CXIII. - 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. CXIII.
july 6, 1831.
Political Economy for the Ladies. Tax upon Carpets, and Floor-cloths—operation of.
SOME people have a notion that Political Economy is too dry and abstruse a subject for the ladies. There are some of its departments which are undoubtedly so, but there are other branches again which any one may comprehend; and, to show that we are right in this position, we have written the present article.
Every house-keeper knows the comfort, in summer time, of having a cool covering on the floor—such, for instance, as a China straw-matting. Such an article is not merely an article of luxury, it even promotes economy, by saving the labour of frequent scrubbing; and every one can perceive, that, with a neat covering on the floor, the room can be furnished to look well with less expense than where there is none. We leave this to the judgment of any lady; and if she decides in our favour, we will ask her attention to a few remarks upon the beauties of the American System.
We will suppose, that on the first of June she took up her carpets from the parlours, chambers, and entry, with the intention of purchasing China matting, to put down for the summer. On going to the different shops, she finds, to her amazement, that there is none to be had of the first quality, (which we understand to be the fact now in Philadelphia,) and that for the inferior qualities they ask 62 1-2 cents a yard for the yard and a half wide. She inquires the cause of this, of her husband, when he comes home to dinner, and he tells her that this scarcity and high price are owing to the Protecting System, as some people call it. She then very naturally asks whether there is any China matting manufactured in this country, which requires that the manufacturer should oblige house-keepers to pay as much for covering two rooms as they ought to pay for covering three? The husband answers, No. “Why, then,” asks the lady, “should there be a high tax upon China matting?” The husband is puzzled to answer this, and he promises to inquire into it the next time he goes out. He is not long in getting a key to the scheme of protecting the ladies against cheap floor-cloths, and, for their benefit, we will lay it before them.
By the tariff of 1824, oil cloths and China matting were both subject to a duty of 30 per centum on the first cost. It seems that a few persons in the United States had undertaken the patriotic enterprise of supplying their fellow-citizens with oil cloths, at double the price they cost in other countries, but had found out that they could not accomplish this without a law to impose a penalty upon every person who should be so unpatriotic as to use an English, French, or German oil cloth. They also found out, that if the penalty upon the use of foreign oil cloth should be made very high, people would be driven to the use of China matting, and in order to prevent this, it was cunningly devised that another penalty should be imposed upon any house-keeper who should dare to use this latter article. The matter was laid before Congress in 1828, and the request of the patent floor-cloth manufacturers, viz.,—that twelve millions of people should be taxed to support one, two, or three, unprofitable establishments—appearing, to that enlightened body, to be so very reasonable, it was readily acceded to. A penalty of 50 cents per square yard upon oil cloth, and of 15 cents per square yard upon China matting was imposed.
Now, 15 cents per square yard upon China matting, is equal to 22 1-2 cents per running yard; and, consequently, if it were not for the tax, the price would now be but 40 cents per yard. Indeed it would not be so much, for it must be remembered that the merchant charges a profit upon the duty which he is obliged to pay.
There are now existing in this country what are called Mite Societies—that is, societies composed of ladies, who contribute very small sums, or mites, annually, towards particular objects. Now we would recommend a Mite Society to be formed, for the purpose of raising a fund to put an end to the monopoly of the floor-cloth manufacturers, and to enable house-keepers to buy China matting at its fair and natural price. If double the number of floors were covered with matting that there now are, which would be the case if it could be had at 25 cents per yard less than its present price, the comfort of families would be amazingly promoted; and when the smallness of the sum that will be sufficient to purchase this great privilege shall be named, we are satisfied that many persons will be astonished. Our calculation is this: The whole number of persons in the United States, employed in the manufacture of floor-cloths, cannot exceed one hundred. Estimating their earnings at the high price of 300 dollars per annum each, the amount would be 30,000 dollars. Now if a fund were raised, equal to one-fourth of a cent per head of the whole population of the United States, estimated at thirteen millions, it would be more than sufficient, by $2,500, to maintain the whole of these people, even supposing them to be able to get no other employment.