Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. CXVI. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. CXVI. - 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. CXVI.
october 12, 1831.
British Corn Laws. Impolicy of, shewn. Similarity between laws for the protection of Corn, and of Iron.
EVERY body who has examined the subject knows, that the Corn Laws of England benefit nobody but the owners of the land, and the tenants who hold under long leases executed before those laws were passed. By excluding foreign grain by a high duty, the landlords, who hold a monopoly of the land, are enabled to get a higher rent for it than they would otherwise obtain, and the tenants under old leases, get a higher price for their grain. It is easy therefore to see, that all the rest of the community are losers, inasmuch as they are obliged to pay a higher price for their bread. So long as Parliament was controlled by the land-holders, there was no prospect of a repeal of the Corn Laws: for, like our manufacturers, they have always made a great outcry about destroying their vested interests—interests which became vested by a positive wrong against the rest of the community. Under the reform about to take place, it is to be hoped that the interests of the bread eaters will be consulted; and we therefore look forward to the day when the Corn Laws will be repealed, or greatly modified. In such event would agriculture be destroyed in Great Britain? Clearly not. Many individuals would indeed be losers, but the losses, as far as they should fall upon landlords, would be only leaving in the pockets of the consumers, money otherwise unjustly extorted from them. Part of these losses too would be compensated by the diminution of the poor rates: for if bread was cheaper, all other food would also be cheaper, and employment would be more abundant, and there would, consequently, be fewer paupers for the landlords to maintain. One class of persons, and one only would suffer, for whom commiseration ought to be excited, that is tenants who had rented lands upon long leases since the existence of the monopoly-price of grain; but no one would say that twenty millions of people should continue to buy dear bread, merely that a few thousands might be saved from loss. Agriculture would, however, sustain, comparatively, very little diminution. The lands of England now under tillage are sufficiently fertile to warrant their cultivation, even were there a very moderate duty on foreign grain. We have now before us a statement of the imports and exports of Wheat and Flour into and from Great Britain for twenty-one years prior to 1813, before the present system of Corn Laws was established, by which it appears that, during that term, only one-twenty-sixth part of the wheat and flour consumed in the country was foreign, although the import, in some years, was upwards of a million of quarters, of eight bushels. Supposing the best lands to be as fertile now as they were then, and, from the modern improvements in agriculture they are probably more so, it is not likely that a repeal of the Corn Laws would do more than to throw out of tillage those barren and unproductive soils which have only been rendered worthy of cultivation by the monopoly-price of grain. This would probably be the whole extent of the mischief; and yet we dare say that the body of the landlords are endeavouring to alarm the people, by telling them that, if the Corn Laws were to be repealed, nobody could raise a bushel of wheat without loss, and that the Americans and other foreigners, having them in their power, would raise upon them the price of grain, to the point of starvation.
Precisely as stands the question of the Corn Laws in England, stands the Iron question in this country. From the earliest settlement of the colonies, iron has been manufactured from the ore, and some of the greatest fortunes have been made by the owners of iron works, whilst the duty was five to ten per centum ad valorem. That the production of iron requires no artificial stimulus, is evident from the fact, that under the Colonial Governments not only was no protection afforded to it, but endeavours were even made, by the mother country, to keep it down. A reduction of the duty would restore the old state of things. The fertile mines would be worked, as they always have been, whilst those which are barren, and which cannot be made to yield a ton of iron at a less cost than the price of two tons of foreign iron, will be abandoned, as they ought to be. What proportion these may bear to the whole number cannot easily be ascertained. Much will depend upon their proximity to the sea ports. An iron establishment near Philadelphia, would feel a reduction more than one which is situated in the interior of the state. The same duty does not equally protect all against foreign competition: for if the price of transportation from Philadelphia to Centre County, in Pennsylvania, for example, be $12 per ton, an iron-master in that county could stand his ground with ten dollars less duty than one living so near Philadelphia as to be reached by the foreign competition at an expense of two dollars per ton. There are, in the United States, a great number of iron-works in the interior, so situated that foreign iron, if it were admitted duty free, could not come into competition with them, owing to the natural protection derived from the expenses of transportation, which they enjoy.