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THE WAY TO CHEAPEN FLOUR - William Leggett, Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy 
Democratic Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy, Foreword by Lawrence H. White (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984).
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THE WAY TO CHEAPEN FLOUR
February 18, 1837.
Our paper contains, under the appropriate head, an account of the daring and causeless outrage which disgraced our city last Monday evening. There never was a riot, in any place, on any previous occasion, for which there existed less pretence. There is no circumstance to extenuate it, in any of the aspects in which it can be viewed. The only alleged excuse is the high price of flour, and a suspicion which it seems was entertained, that the price was in part occasioned by a combination among the dealers. But this suspicion has not only no foundation in fact, but if it were well founded, if it were an established truth too notorious for contradiction, it would afford no sort of justification or shadow of excuse to any portion of the community to commit acts of violence, and much less to that portion which was chiefly concerned in this disgraceful tumult.
The chief actors in the riot of Monday evening were, beyond question, members of some of the numerous associations of artisans and labourers affiliated under the general name of the Trades Union. What, let us ask, is the very first and cardinal object of the Trades Union? To enable labour, by the means of combination, and of extensive mutual countenance and co-operation, to command its own price. And is not labour as much a necessary of life as flour? Is it not, in fact, more indispensable? Is it not the chief, the prime, the very first necessary of man, in his social organization? What would this city do for a week, nay, for a single day, if labour, in all its varieties of form and application, should wholly and obstinately refuse to perform its offices? It does not require any great fertility of imagination to picture the social anarchy, the chaotic confusion, into which the whole frame of things would be thrown. Yet it is to enable it, on occasion, to do this, or, as the only alternative, to compel capital to pay whatever price it chooses to exact, that the combination of different mechanic and operative crafts and callings has been formed. And these very people, thus combining to create, in effect, a monopoly of the chief necessary of life, are so enraged by the mere suspicion that the dealers in flour—a commodity for which there are many substitutes, and not indispensable if there were none—have followed their example that they assault the doors and windows of their storehouses with stones, crowbars, and levers, break down all barriers, scatter their property to the winds, and even tear, into irrevocable fragments, their most valuable books and accounts!
. . .
With regard to the question of combination we wish to be distinctly understood. If the dealers of flour had combined to monopolize the article, and to fix a high price upon it, we would hold them answerable for their conduct neither to the civil law nor to mob law, but to the inevitable penalties of a violation of the laws of trade. In the same way, when labourers combine to fix the price of labour, we would hold them responsible only to those natural and immutable principles of trade which will infallibly teach them their error, if they do not graduate the price according to the relations of demand and supply. We are for leaving trade free; and the right to combine is an indispensable attribute of its freedom.
That the price of flour is not the result of combination, but of causes which lie much deeper, we fully believe. One of those causes is a deficient crop; but the chief cause of the enhancement in price, not of that article alone, but of every variety of commodity, is the vast inflation which the paper currency has undergone in the last two years. It is not that exchangeable commodities have risen in value, but money, or that substitute for money which the specially privileged banks issue, has depreciated. The fluctuations in the currency must necessarily occasion equal fluctuations in money prices; and these fluctuations must necessarily be exceedingly oppressive to many, since all commodities do not instantly rise and fall in exact relative proportion, but require, some a longer, and some a shorter time, to be adjusted to new standards. The clergyman and the accountant on stated salaries, the tradesman who sells his articles according to a price fixed by ancient custom, and very many others, cannot immediately increase their demands as the price of other things increase; and such are affected most injuriously by the continual augmentation of paper money, resulting from the incorporation, every year, of whole herds of specially privileged bankers.
The true way to make flour cheap, and beef cheap, and all the necessaries of life cheap, is, not to attack the dealers in those articles, and strew their commodities in the streets, but to exercise, through the ballot boxes, the legitimate influence which every citizen possesses to put an end, at once and forever, to a system of moneyed monopolies, which impoverish the poor to enrich the rich; which, building up a class of lordly aristocrats on the one hand, and degrading the mass into wretched serfs on the other; and which has already exercised a vast and most pernicious influence in demoralizing both the educated and the ignorant classes of society—both those who fatten on the spoils of the paper-predatory system, and those from whose very blood the spoils are wrung.