Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. CXXII. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. CXXII. - 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. CXXII.
february 22, 1832.
National Independence; true nature of. The mutual dependence of nations upon each other, resulting from commerce, dishonourable to neither.
THERE is no subject to which the sensibilities of the American people are more alive, than that of their National Independence. The recollection of our former state, and of the impositions practised upon us by the mother country whilst we were dependent colonies, still clings to the bosom of the patriot, and nothing is more revolting to him than the idea of being dependent upon a foreign nation for any of the blessings he enjoys. So far as this feeling originates in a love of political independence, so far it is a noble and high-minded sentiment. No man amongst us would consent to receive the laws from a foreign land, or to be subject to the mandates and government of a foreign power. But, whilst this is the case, let us be cautious not to suffer this glorious term to be perverted, and to be employed as an instrument to decoy us into national folly. Let us not imagine, that to be independent of a foreign country, requires us to renounce the opportunity we may enjoy of promoting the happiness and prosperity of our own country, by commercial intercourse. Let us not delude ourselves into the belief, that because we will not submit to the yoke of a foreign government, we are bound to reject the favours which her people are willing to confer upon us. Let us not, because we do not choose the king of England to reign over us, commit the folly of refusing to sell his subjects our cotton, if they will give us more things for it, that we want, than any body else. And yet this is the sort of conduct which is preached up, by certain modern philosophers, as constituting independence. Away with such absurdity, fit only to cajole idiots.
What would be thought of a man, in our community, who should be so independent in his spirit that he could not brook the idea of being dependent upon any body else for the supply of any of his wants? He would have to be his own tailor, shoe-maker, and hatter—his own baker and butcher; and, by undertaking to supply all his wants himself, he would not be half so well off as his neighbours who should be so poor-spirited as to consent to be dependent upon other people. Now, where is the difference between the case of an individual and a nation? We challenge the production of the shadow of a difference. In truth, the error consists, in both cases, in representing that as a dependence on one side, which is, in reality, a mutual dependence. There is no one-sided dependence between two people or nations who exchange equal values. Commercial intercourse can only lead to mutual dependence. Is the farmer, who sells his grain to the merchant, willing to admit that he is dependent upon the latter, any more than the merchant is dependent upon him? Is the mechanic, who labours for his employer, prepared to say that he alone, of the two, is dependent? Is the man who employs a lawyer, any more dependent upon him than the lawyer is dependent upon the man who gives the fee? We think no one will answer in the affirmative. Then let the difference be pointed out between those cases and that of the mutual dependence which exists between nations. Are not the West Indies as much dependent upon us for our flour, corn meal, beef, pork, butter, and lard, as we are dependent upon them for sugar, molasses, and spirits? Is not France as much dependent upon us for cotton, rice, and tobacco, as we are upon her for wines, silks, and fancy goods? Is not Great Britain as much dependent upon us for cotton, as we are upon her for woollen goods and ironmongery? Why then is it said that dealing with foreign countries is discreditable to us? If so, it is equally discreditable to them.
But, in truth, there is nothing discreditable about it, any more than there is in a farmer’s selling his wheat for the most he can get, and buying with the proceeds as many store goods as the merchant will give him. This mutual dependence is a part of the design of the Creator, in the constitution of the human race. Man is born a dependent being; he is brought up a dependent being; and, unless he becomes a hermit, he continues all his life a dependent being. And this very dependence it is which lies at the bottom of all parental, filial, and conjugal ties. Without it, man would be immersed in selfish passions; would care for nobody; would respect nobody; would love nobody; and would be less social than the brutes, whose mutual dependence leads them to congregate for mutual safety. Of the truth of this position we conceive every individual has evidence within his own breast. And, that the same mutual dependence is designed, by the same Creator, to be extended to nations, is manifest from the facilities to intercourse which have been conferred upon man by the science of navigation, from the variety of soils and climates with which the carth has been enriched, and from the multiplicity of products peculiar to these. Had a mutual dependence between nations never been designed, it is quite probable that the quadrant and compass would never have been invented, or that the law of propelling forces would never have been so modified as to enable a ship to make way against an opposing wind.
Some people may, perhaps, reply, that the facility of intercourse between nations is only designed to enable each to procure from the others commodities which it cannot itself produce. But even here there would be established a mutual dependence, no less discreditable than any other; for, after all, it is only for articles of comfort or luxury that nations are mutually dependent upon one another. For the actual necessaries of life, no nation ever has been, or ever can be, dependent upon a foreign country. The bulk of the food necessary for the support of men and cattle, and of the materials necessary for the clothing and fuel of the former, is too great to bear the expenses of a distant transportation; and hence we find that there is not a country on the face of the globe that does not produce the ordinary food and materials for clothing its population. In some countries, the bread of the people is wheat, rye, or corn; in others it is rice; in others fruits; in others the mandioca root. This last substance furnishes the bread of four millions of people in Brazil—a few only of whom are acquainted with wheat-flour, and with that only as a luxury. In some countries the ordinary clothing is of wool; in others of cotton; in others of flax or hemp; in others of skins; and in others of the bark of trees—and there is no nation that ever has imported any very material portion of its clothing. Notwithstanding all the clamour about foreign dependence, the United States has never, in any one year, exclusive of fine and high-priced goods, imported an amount of cotton and woollen clothing sufficient to cover one-twentieth part of her population; and it is very doubtful whether she would import a quantity equal to a tenth of the consumption of the country if all duties were abolished—and for the simple reason, that the household manufactures of the farmers, which have always prospered without protecting duties, can, as they always have done, carry on a successful competition, in the home-market, with foreign goods.
We trust that, in the foregoing remarks, we have shown that, whilst a love of political independence is a commendable virtue in every patriot, a desire for commercial independence is a selfish, misanthropic, and anti-Christian passion, at variance with the dictates of common sense, and at war with the true interests, happiness, and prosperity of a country.