Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. CXXIII. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. CXXIII. - 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. CXXIII.
march 14, 1831.
The Vested Interests of the few not to be upheld by the sacrifice of the interests of the many; this position sustained by reference to many well known cases.
IN a monarchical or aristocratical government, where the few rule the many, and where the interests of the many are sacrificed to promote the interests of the few, there may be vested interests, for the protection of which all other interests are made subservient. In a popular government, however, instituted for the equal benefit and protection of all, there can be no special interest, vested in any conceivable manner, for the advancement of which all others must be sacrificed. The march of intellect which has been exhibited with such rapid strides for the last half century, has been nothing but one perpetual overthrow of vested interests; which, although not so visible to our bodily senses as some other works of demolition, is not less real; and nature herself, in this mighty work, cries out, “The vested interests of the few are not to be protected at the cost of the many.” What has become of the vested interests in distaffs? Swept away by the spinning-wheels. What has become of the vested interests in spinning-wheels? Destroyed by the inventions of Arkwright—and these again by others following one another in rapid succession, down to the most improved machinery in Statist’s factory, near Boston, who is as far ahead of some of his fellow-manufacturers, in the perfection of his works, according to what we have heard, as these again are ahead of the machinery of five years back. Look, too, at the steamboats. What has become of the vested interests in shallops and sloops, that formerly plied upon the Chesapeake, the Delaware, the Hudson, and the Sound, for the conveyance of passengers? What has become of the vested interests in stages and horses, where land travelling has been broken up by water conveyance? Look at the interests vested in turnpike-roads, swallowed up and rendered valueless by canals; and then cast an eye into futurity, and see these canals again all devoured by rail-roads. The vested interests in wheel-barrows have been sacrificed by carts and wagons. Cast your eyes to the river Schuylkill—where are the interests vested in the former water-works—in the basin at the end of Chestnut Street—in the large building in which the water was first raised, at the corner of Schuylkill Front Street—in the huge tunnel which conveyed the water to the Centre Square—and in the marble edifice in which it was raised to its proper elevation for distribution? All swept away by the new works at Fairmount. Where are the interests vested in the ten miles of wooden pipes, which formerly conveyed the water through the city? Destroyed, to make room for the present iron pipes. In fine, look where we will, we see every where a constant succession of improvements. And why have these improvements been resorted to, at such a great sacrifice of vested interests? Because it was more advantageous for the public that the new improvements should be introduced, even at the cost of annihilating the existing vested interests, than that they should not have been introduced. It is for the same reason that Pennsylvania, having two stone-turnpike roads to Pittsburg, (built at a cost, to individuals and the state, of at least five millions of dollars,) has undertaken a canal which will almost entirely render the road valueless. It is for the same reasons that a company is about now undertaking a rail-road from Albany to Buffalo, over a tract of country occupied by a canal which is capable of transporting to market all the produce which is likely to offer for these twenty years to come. It is for the same reason, that a man who has nothing but a hatchet to chop wood with, buys an axe, which renders his hatchet of no use in felling a tree.
In all these cases where existing interests have been sacrificed, the question has been simply this: By these improvements, will all the annual gains be greater than all the annual losses? This is the only possible rule for determining a matter of this sort. And the question is not one whit different, whether the object to be obtained be cheap travelling, cheap water, cheap transportation, cheap clothing, cheap sugar, cheap iron. Where a Restrictive System exists, Free Trade is precisely like the invention of some new machine to cheapen production. It is a great labour-saving machine. Its operation is precisely the same as if a machine were invented by which one man could do the work of two. To reject Free Trade, then, on account of its influence on the vested interests of manufacturers, would be precisely the same as if such an improvement as we have described were to be rejected, for fear of the injury which would be done to the owners of less perfect machinery, or as if the Philadelphia Councils had rejected the new-water-works and iron pipes, because their adoption would entirely destroy the value of the old water-works and wooden pipes.
It is, no doubt, unpleasant to see the prosperity of one’s neighbours disturbed. When the fashion to wear wigs was abandoned, it was no doubt a painful reflection to see the vested interests of wig-makers, in wig-blocks, &c., sacrificed; but who would say that people should continue to wear wigs, if they did not like it, for the sake of the wig-makers? In a country like this, where the laws are made and unmade at the popular will, it is preposterous to talk of vested rights in a monopoly. The only vested rights are, the rights of freedom of employment and of protection against fraud and violence; and every man who embarks in any particular pursuit, does it at his own risk. Those who choose to hazard their property, by staking it upon an artificial system, founded in injustice and wrong, have no right to complain, if, when those who have been wronged resume their rights, they should lose what they chose to hazard in a run for luck, as some of the Bostonians call their speculations in manufacturing stock.