Front Page Titles (by Subject) FREE TRADE WEIGHTS AND MEASURES - Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy
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FREE TRADE WEIGHTS AND MEASURES - 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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FREE TRADE WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
December 24, 1836.
The American is a newspaper in which articles often appear indicating that it entertains a strong attachment to the principles of free trade, and a desire that the law of free competition should be the only law to regulate the pursuits of industry, so far as they do not interfere with the morals or order of society. It was with surprise and regret, therefore, that we read in that journal, a few evenings since, a paragraph commendatory of the tyrannical act, now under the consideration of our municipal authorities, relative to bread, and expressing a wish that it may become a law. The paragraph referred to is in the following words:
We are adverse, on principle, to all laws regulating the quality, or price, of any article, and of course, therefore, adverse to an assize, as to the price or quality, of bread, as we are to all inspection laws. But policy and justice alike require that false weights shall not be permitted to pass current, and, therefore, we see no objection, but all fitness, in an ordinance that the loaf should be of a given weight, leaving it to the seller and the purchaser to arrange the price for themselves.
Would the American see “all fitness” in a law requiring the butchers to cut beef into one, two, and four pound pieces, or into pieces of any other stipulated weight? Would it see fitness in requiring that a quarter of lamb should be of a given weight, or that a bunch of onions should contain a certain number, and of a certain size? There is no law hindering people to buy their bread by the pound, if they choose; and there is no reason why other persons than the members of the special bread committee of the Board of Assistant Aldermen may not discover, if they think the search worth their while, the shops where the largest loaves are sold. The law does quite as much as is necessary for the protection of the community, (this is always the pretext for these arbitrary restraints on the freedom of trade) when it fixes a standard of weights and measures, and requires all persons selling by them to have them stamped and certified by a duly appointed officer. We have our doubts, indeed, whether even in going so far, it has not exceeded the proper business of legislation. We have our doubts whether it should not stop when it has simply fixed the standard, leaving buyers and sellers free to conform to it or not, as they choose. There is no inspector of yardsticks; and yet we doubt very much if people who buy by the yard do not generally contrive to get good measure. If they do not it is their own look out. We would have it the same with regard to bread. We would let the purchaser take care of himself. The law has furnished him with all the necessary appliances and means to see that he gets good weight and measure, and the rest of the affair ought to be trusted to his own shrewdness and sagacity. The familiar saying, that a man’s eyes are his best chapman, contains more wisdom than our corporation ordinances; and we were in hopes to have the American’s cooperation in enforcing it as a rule of publick conduct, in regard to the matter now under consideration.