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MANACLES INSTEAD OF GYVES - 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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MANACLES INSTEAD OF GYVES
January 21, 1837.
The American, some days ago, in an article on the subject of the laws relative to pilots, proposed the following as the features proper to be embraced in a new law on the subject:
. . .
We see, also, by the newspapers, that a committee of merchants have drawn up a scheme, which embraces similar provisions. It proposes to have appointed, by legislative authority, a Board of Commissioners, whose business it shall be to superintend the whole pilot system, to examine candidates, appoint and license pilots, and attend to the enforcement of a multitude of minute and complicated arrangements.
It seems to us that this scheme merely recommends manacles instead of gyves; that it is a mere substitution of one kind of fetter for another. It would diminish the burden, but does not propose to cast it off entirely. It mitigates the evil, but does not go to the extent of abating it. It enlarges our bounds, but does not give us freedom. Is not the piloting of our vessels, in and out of our harbour a simple matter of trade? Then why not leave it to be governed by the laws of trade? Why should it be a matter of political regulation? Why should control of the subject be left to a body of legislators, nine-tenths of whom cannot, in the nature of things, be supposed to have any knowledge concerning it? Why should it not be submitted to the operation of those principles, which, in all the affairs of trade to which they have ever been applied, have invariably been found of adequate efficacy?
The ocean, beyond the limits of our jurisdiction, has its bars and rocks and quicksand; yet no difficulty is experienced in finding persons of sufficient knowledge and skill to guide commerce through all its dangers, without asking legislative supervision, or requiring those entrusted with the important business to be authenticated by official appointment. It seems to us if the business of piloting a vessel were left equally free from political interference, with that of navigating it across the ocean, the result would be greatly to the advantage of all concerned, directly or indirectly, except those only who fatten on the unearned fruits of monopoly, and those who derive an undue political influence from the power of dispensing official patronage.
If there were no law regulating the number of pilots, it would be fixed by that law of trade which adjusts the supply to the demand. The compensation would also be adjusted, in the same way, by the amount of competition; as the wages of masters and mates of vessels, and of seamen, for any given voyage, or as the prices of any other service or commodity, are now fixed. Ignorant and unskilful persons might engage in the business; but competition here again would remedy the difficulty. It would naturally lead those possessing the requisite qualifications to obtain the best sort of credential which, under any circumstances, they could possible have, namely, a certificate, duly authenticated, from a board constituted by the underwriters and merchants. It might lead, also, to the formation of rival joint stock pilot associations, of sufficient capital to afford ample pecuniary guarantees against loss by the carelessness or ignorance of those employed. The insurers, also, would devise a code of regulations for their own security, the tendency of which would necessarily be to promote the interests of commerce, for the interests of commerce and of the insurers are identical.
We do not like to speak with unbecoming positiveness on this subject, lest we incur an application to ourselves of the sentiment of Pope, that “fools rush in, where angels fear to tread;” yet we must say that, after a good deal of meditation on the subject, and an examination of it by such tests as our knowledge supplies, we have arrived at the conviction that the business of piloting might as safely be left to the principles of absolute free trade, as any other business whatever. If there were no law to regulate the subject, it may be said, an extortionate pilot might, under peculiar circumstance, exact an exorbitant compensation, and refuse to act unless it were paid. A physician, or surgeon, too, might be brought to the bedside of an affluent patient under circumstances which required instant medical or chirurgical aid, and refuse to administer the potion or the knife, on which all hope depended, without being previously paid an enormous remuneration. If the common sentiment of mankind, in the one case as well as the other, were not sufficient to prevent the attempt of such extortion, could a jury be found that would ratify the compulsory bargain?
If the laws of trade would of themselves lead to the best results in regard to piloting, we think no one will dispute that it would then be clearly proper to separate the subject from political control. We are of those, who, as a principle of abstract political doctrine, desire to confine government to the fewest possible offices. Those who differ from us in political creed, and, as an abstract principle, desire to strengthen the powers and multiply the functions of government, will yet admit that it is desirable to retrench power in the hands of its present possessors. Thus, on the one ground or the other, we should count upon the cooperation of both the democracy and the aristocracy, to bring about the emancipation of trade, in the respect of which we speak, if it could be shown that the simple principle of competition is adequate to all the purposes which the law now vainly attempts to enforce. That it is so we do not entertain a doubt; and the opinion is sustained by every species of analogical reasoning to which it can be subjected. The experiment could not, at any rate, place our commerce in worse peril than it is exposed to by our present system; and, in that view of the subject, is it not worth a trial?