Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. CXVIII. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. CXVIII. - 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. CXVIII.
november 2, 1831.
The tabac de mille fleurs. Extent of the tax imposed on the people of the United States, for the support of the Cotton and Woollen, Iron and Sugar manufacturers.
A STORY is told of an old Frenchman in Paris, who from affluent circumstances had been reduced to poverty, and who obtained his living in the following manner. He took a daily position in the neighbourhood of the principal tobacconist, whose store was frequented by thousands of snuff-takers, each of whom offered his replenished and variously scented box to the respectable mendicant, that he might take a pinch. The snuff thus collected was all put together, and was afterwards sold, under the title of le tabac de mille fleurs, (snuff of a thousand flowers,) in sufficient quantity to maintain the old gentleman.
It is precisely in this way that the cotton and woollen manufacturers, the iron masters, sugar planters, and all the rest of those who live upon public contributions, get their living; with this difference, however, that in the case of the Frenchman, the pinch of snuff was given voluntarily—whilst, in the case of the others, it is extorted by the power of law. No doubt every polite Frenchman, as he offered his box, said to himself, “a pinch of snuff is not much,” and, in like manner, every good tariff man says to himself, “it is not much for me, every time I want a piece of muslin, or a suit of clothes, or a hundred weight of iron, or a barrel of sugar, to give half of it to the custom-house,” for the benefit of my neighbours A, B, C, and D. Notwithstanding, however, they think it not to be much, yet we can prove it to be a good deal, and we will demonstrate it in reference to a few of the most prominent articles of manufacture.
The advocates of the tariff say, that 200,000 bales of cotton are manufactured in this country, which, taking the average weight at 300 lbs., would give sixty millions of pounds. This cotton is made into fabrics varying from three to five yards per pound, and taking the average—that is four yards—would, consequently, make 240 millions of yards. Now supposing the operation of the tariff to occasion a rise of one cent only per yard upon all that is made in the country, (and if it did not do this, why should the manufacturers hold on so tenaciously to the present duty of 8 3-4 cents per square yard?) it would amount to a tax of two millions four hundred thousand dollars upon the good people of the United States. Should the rise be two cents, it would amount to a tax of $4,800,000, and if it were three cents, it would amount to $7,200,000, besides the duty paid upon about seven millions of dollars worth imported—equal to about $1,800,000 more—making in the whole the moderate sum taken from the people, a pinch at a time, of nine millions of dollars.
Of the actual extent of the woollen manufacture in the United States, there have never yet appeared any statistical statements. One thing however, is known, that upon woollen cloths and cassimeres, flannels and baizes, the duty is from 45 to 225 per centum, and as importations have been made, and are still making, upon which, within our knowledge, duties have been paid of eighty per centum, it will be very evident that the domestic article must command in the market at least fifty per centum more than it would do if there was no duty. In other words, there is no cloth, cassimere, flannel, or baize, now worn in the United States, foreign or domestic, for which we must not pay three dollars for two dollars’ worth.
Every man, woman, and child in the United States, wears some of the manufactures of wool we have mentioned, and if the high duty have the effect of increasing the cost of clothing of each individual in a year, to the extent of one dollar only upon an average, it snows a tax of thirteen millions of dollars. That this is not overrated, will appear to any one who is told that upon one single yard of broadcloth, even of the coarsest quality worn by working-men, the duty is sixty-two and a half cents, and that the duty upon a single yard of flannel or baize, of the coarsest quality, a yard wide, is twenty-two and a half cents. No man or boy puts a suit on his back that does not pay from one dollar to fifteen dollars tax. No woman or girl can be clothed with less than two or three yards of flannel in a year, and the smallest infant must have some. But even supposing this calculation to be overrated, which we do not admit, the warmest admirer of the tariff must acknowledge that the woollen imitators of the Frenchman take a pretty large pinch out of the public snuff-box, and that the tax cannot be less than fifty cents per head, or six millions and a half of dollars.
As regards the consumption of iron in the United States, we have no certain data to reason upon. The testimony given before the Committee on Manufactures in 1828, represented the quantity to be 60,000 tons, of which about one-half was imported, and the other half made at home. The iron-masters, however, in a representation made to Congress last winter, insisted upon it that 100,000 tons of iron were produced in the United States, and we have no objection, in this argument, to take their own words for it. Now, as the importation exceeds 30,000 tons, (having been 35,000 on the average of the three years ending with 1829,) we have, then, 135,000 tons as the total quantity of iron consumed. If then we suppose that the protecting duty on iron has the effect of keeping up the price on the whole quantity, only ten dollars a ton, it amounts to a tax of one million three hundred and fifty thousand dollars; if of twenty dollars, to a tax of two millions seven hundred thousand dollars; and if of thirty dollars, to a tax of upwards of four millions of dollars. That the reader may judge how far one or the other of these taxes is imposed, we lay before him the actual rates of duties, which the iron masters say are so necessary to their support that they cannot consent to a reduction of them.
We shall now look to the article of sugar, and see how large a pinch the sugar planters take.
The consumption of sugar in the United States, prior to the present year, has been estimated at 130,000 hogsheads, of 1,000 pounds, of which 80,000 were made at home, and 50,000 imported. The duty on brown sugar is three cents a pound, and on white, four cents. If the duty has the effect of raising the price on the whole quantity only one cent a pound, it amounts to a tax of $1,300,000; if it raises it two cents, it amounts to a tax of $2,600,000; and if it raises it three cents, it amounts to a tax of $3,900,000; and if we add the additional duty on the white, it may be assumed, in round numbers, at four millions of dollars.
In these statements there is no theory. They are made in such a way that any man who is capable of thinking, can see at once whether they are right or wrong. We invite criticism upon them. If they are not correct, they can be disproved. If they cannot be disproved, they establish, beyond the reach of contradiction—
That the people of the United States pay, for the support of the cotton manufacturers, from $2,400,000 to 9,000,000 per annum.
For the support of the woollen manufacturers, $6,500,000 to $13,000,000.
For the support of the iron-masters, from $1,350,000 to $4,000,000.
For the support of the sugar planters, from $1,300,000 to $4,000,000.
If we take the aggregate of the highest rates here given, we shall have, upon four articles alone, the enormous tax of thirty millions of dollars. If we take the lowest rates, we shall have eleven millions five hundred and fifty thousand dollars; and if we take the medium between both, which is fair in such reasoning, and most unquestionably cannot be above the truth, we shall have near $20,755,000. Of the weight of such a burden any one may have a proper conception, if he only reflects that this sum would pay the interest of a public debt of three hundred and forty-six millions of dollars, at five per cent. Is it not, therefore, wonderful beyond imagination, that a whole nation, which is making such a racket about the extinguishment of a paltry public debt of thirty millions of dollars, as if the interest upon it was going to ruin them, should calmly and contentedly, not merely submit, but absolutely court, a burden of eleven times greater amount? Verily, it may be said of our wise and discerning people, that they strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. It is time for them to shut up the public snuff-box. If the Frenchman in Paris had been as unconscionable as our monopolists—if every time he had taken a pinch of snuff he had used with his thumb two fingers instead of one, the contributors to his support would probably have cut off his supply. Such a fate undoubtedly awaits our gentlemen, for it is altogether impossible to conceive how a whole people can be much longer cajoled by a handful of men, particularly when they reflect that the tax they pay for the support of the four manufactures we have mentioned, besides the full value of the articles purchased, is equal to a bounty of one hundred dollars a head upon every man, woman, and child, concerned in the whole of them, even if we fix their aggregate numbers at the incredible estimate of 207,550 souls.