Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. CXVII. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. CXVII. - 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. CXVII.
october 12, 1831.
Importance of Iron as a metal. Impolicy of an artificial augmentation of its price. Pennsylvania injured, instead of being benefited by the duty on Iron.
A WRITER in the “Franklin Repository,” of this state, in an article, re-published in Poulson’s Advertiser of 22d September, in adverting to the efforts making to strike a blow against the high duty on iron, very justly and feelingly remarks, that if that duty should be reduced, the tariff will go by the board: for that, independent of the protection of iron, neither Pennsylvania, New Jersey, nor Maryland, has any interest in the American System. This opinion is not peculiar to the paper just cited. It is, perhaps, universal at the North, and hence the friends of Free Trade have not neglected any means of exposing the injustice and mischievous effects of that duty upon the prosperity of agriculture, navigation, manufactures, and the mechanic arts.
Iron is decidedly the most useful product which exists, except food. To its powerful agency are we indebted for every improvement in agriculture, since the first man scratched the ground with a stick, and harvested his grain by pulling it up by the roots or breaking it off with his hands; for every improvement in navigation, since the first canoe was dug out with a sharp stone, or burned out with fire; for every improvement in manufactures and the mechanic arts, since the needle was substituted for the thorn, or the knife for the sharp flint. Without it, the human family would positively merge at once into a state of semi-barbarism, or perish for the want of food and raiment. Not a single thing, adapted to the wants of man in his present civilized state, could be obtained. There would be an end to ploughs and harrows, to ships and steamboats, to looms and spindles, to the implements and utensils of every trade. Now if this be true, is it not evident, that just in proportion to the abundance of iron, must the great interests of society, in all its departments of industry, be promoted and extended? We do not see how any sensible mind can hesitate to reply in the affirmative; and, up to this stage of the argument, we have no doubt that the sentiment of the American people would be unanimous. The question, then, which first presents itself, is, by what means or process can iron be placed most within the reach of those who have occasion to use it? The answer is plain enough—by rendering it cheap to the consumers. And how is iron to be rendered cheap to the consumers? By letting them buy it in any part of the world where they can get the most of it in return for what they have to dispose of.
Every body knows, that the cost of iron depends upon the fertility of the mines where it is produced, and upon the expenses of mining it. The reason why iron is now, in England, as low as $25 a ton, notwithstanding the greater depth in the earth from which the ore must be raised, is, that every year new machinery has been invented, with power sufficient to counteract more than all the increased expenses. To this machinery, made from the very iron which it is intended to raise, is due a great part of this reduction in the price. Now suppose a law were passed, in England, to prevent the use of machinery at the mines, by which the price of iron should be raised $37 per ton, would not every considerate man in the world cry out against the measure, not merely as impolitic, but as anti-Christian? Would it not be regarded as a conspiracy against the comforts of the human family, and against the progress of science and the arts? We cannot imagine any man so obtuse in intellect, as not to conclude with us in opinion on this point.
And we will now respectfully ask of the advocates of the American System, where is the difference between a law prohibiting the use of labour-saving machines, and any other law which has the effect of raising the price of iron thirty-seven dollars a ton? We cannot possibly conceive of any—and, as our Tariff law has this effect, we look upon it with precisely the same views as we should regard its prototype. Free Trade is nothing but a great labour-saving machine, and to prevent its operations with the view of promoting the interests of the many, is as stupid and absurd as it would be to destroy half a crop of grain, with the view of promoting the interests of the consumers of bread—whilst, to prevent its operation, with the view of promoting the interests of the few, is positively wicked. As far as the people of Pennsylvania have a hand in preventing iron from being cheap, we are free to admit that the great body of them are not chargeable with the imputation of wickedness. They think they are in pursuit of their interest, but they have got upon the wrong scent. Like a pack of hounds, they have been drawn off from the track of the hare, and are now in full chase after a drag, which has so vitiated the atmosphere with its odour that they can no longer adapt their olfactories to the true scent. If this were not the case, the iron duty could not stand six months. So far from its being a benefit to the state of Pennsylvania, we do not believe that it is a real benefit to a single county in the state, and we would pledge ourselves to demonstrate it to any individual whose nose is free from the contamination of the drag.