Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY No. CXXVII. - The Principles of Free Trade
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ESSAY No. CXXVII. - 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. CXXVII.
july 11, 1832.
Anti-Christian character of the American System.
IT is to us one of the most incomprehensible things that so many persons, who profess to be advocates of religion and good will to man, should be the disciples of a philosophy which teaches that the selfish principle is paramount to the principle of neighbourly love. If there be one truth which the Christian dispensation enforces with more than peculiar emphasis, after a man’s duty to God, it is a man’s duty to his neighbour. Upon these two principles hang all the law and the prophets.
And what is man’s duty to his neighbour? It is to act towards him according to the rules of equity and justice—it is to do unto him as you would that he should do unto you. An observance of these rules could not fail to make of society a complete band of brothers; and, so far from their operating to the disadvantage of individuals, their happiness would be incalculably promoted by it. The truth of this position may be illustrated by a case which is familiar to every body who is acquainted with the laws of hospitality and good breeding. At a dinner table, for example, where a dozen well-bred people are seated, the principle of neighbourly love is exhibited in form, if not in substance. Each person, instead of helping himself to the best dish within his reach, offers it to his neighbour—and thus every one enjoys the advantage of the kind offers of eleven persons, instead of relying upon his own individual exertions, as would be the case at a canine festival, where the strongest alone could be fully gratified.
Now what does the restrictive philosophy teach? Why, that individuals, pursuing particular branches of industry, should consult their own interests, without any regard whatever to the interests of their neighbours; that sections or districts of country should unite together in a scheme calculated to render others tributary to them; and, carrying the principle still further out, that nations should study their own selfish interests, without regard to the interests of other nations. The consequences of such a course of conduct cannot be other than to produce private enmities and heart-burnings between those who benefit and those who suffer, as is visible, every day, to our own eyes—civil war between different sections of the same country, as we may see before another year—and foreign wars of which we have witnessed an abundance within the last half century, growing out of commercial restrictions.
If it were true that the Christian religion enjoined one sort of duty from man to man, and another sort of duty from nation to nation, there might be some ground for the adoption of one rule as applicable to one case, and another rule as applicable to the other. But no distinction is made between them, and peace on earth, and good will to men, are every where inculcated. Or, if it were true that the adoption of the selfish principle, in opposition to the neighbourly principle, either in relation to individuals, sections of country, or nations, would promote even the temporal interests of man, something might be allowed to those who embraced it, upon the score of human frailty, which often prefers a temporal to a spiritual blessing. But no such effect follows. The Restrictive System not only is injurious to the whole nation which adopts it, and to every separate branch of industry which is carried on in it, but, in the long run, to most of the very favoured classes themselves: for every one must perceive, that the profits and wages gained in protected branches of industry must ultimately be brought down to the common average of profits and wages, by which they are placed on a level with others which are not protected—and, when they reach that point, they participate with the rest of the nation in bearing their share of the national loss arising from the diminished production of the total land and labour of the country. We say “most of the favoured classes,” because the exceptions to it are rare, and consist only in those branches of business in which domestic competition is restricted by natural causes, such as soil and climate, &c. Thus, the owners of fertile iron-mines and salt-wells, in this country, might enjoy a permanent advantage from protective laws, because the number of fertile ore-banks and salt-springs is limited; but there can be no such thing as conferring a perpetual advantage over the rest of the community, by law, upon the growers of wool, or the manufacturers of cotton or woollen cloths—because in those branches of business there is no natural limit to competition. That this is the case is manifest from the actual situation of the protected classes. Over-production has already produced a re-action, and the market price of many articles will not now replace the cost of production.