Introduction





My object in this little volume has been to refute some of the arguments

usually advanced against Free Trade.



I am not seeking a combat with the protectionists. I merely advance a

principle which I am anxious to present clearly to the minds of sincere

men, who hesitate because they doubt.



I am not of the number of those who maintain that protection is

supported by interests. I believe that it is founded upon errors, or, if

you will, upon incomplete truths. Too many fear free trade, for this

apprehension to be other than sincere.



My aspirations are perhaps high; but I confess that it would give me

pleasure to hope that this little work might become, as it were, a

manual for such men as may be called upon to decide between the two

principles. When one has not made oneself perfectly familiar with the

doctrines of free trade, the sophisms of protection perpetually return

to the mind under one form or another; and, on each occasion, in order

to counteract their effect, it is necessary to enter into a long and

laborious analysis. Few, and least of all legislators, have leisure for

this labor, which I would, on this account, wish to present clearly

drawn up to their hand.



But it may be said, are then the benefits of free trade so hidden as to

be perceptible only to economists by profession?



Yes; we confess it; our adversaries in the discussion have a signal

advantage over us. They can, in a few words, present an incomplete

truth; which, for us to show that it is incomplete, renders necessary

long and uninteresting dissertations.



This results from the fact that protection accumulates upon a single

point the good which it effects, while the evil inflicted is infused

throughout the mass. The one strikes the eye at a first glance, while

the other becomes perceptible only to close investigation. With regard

to free trade, precisely the reverse is the case.



It is thus with almost all questions of political economy.



If you say, for instance: There is a machine which has turned out of

employment thirty workmen;



Or again: There is a spendthrift who encourages every kind of industry;



Or: The conquest of Algiers has doubled the commerce of Marseilles;



Or, once more: The public taxes support one hundred thousand families;



You are understood at once; your propositions are clear, simple, and

true in themselves. If you deduce from them the principle that



Machines are an evil;



That sumptuous extravagance, conquest, and heavy imposts are blessings;



Your theory will have the more success, because you will be able to base

it upon indisputable facts.



But we, for our part, cannot stop at a cause and its immediate effect;

for we know that this effect may in its turn become itself a cause. To

judge of a measure, it is necessary that we should follow it from step

to step, from result to result, until through the successive links of

the chain of events we arrive at the final effect. We must, in short,

reason.



But here we are assailed by clamorous exclamations: You are theorists,

metaphysicians, ideologists, utopians, men of maxims! and immediately

all the prejudices of the public are against us.



What then shall we do? We must invoke the patience and candor of the

reader, giving to our deductions, if we are capable of it, sufficient

clearness to throw forward at once, without disguise or palliation, the

true and the false, in order, once for all, to determine whether the

victory should be for Restriction or Free Trade.



I wish here to make a remark of some importance.



Some extracts from this volume have appeared in the Journal des

Economistes.



In an article otherwise quite complimentary published by the Viscount de

Romanet (see Moniteur Industriel of the 15th and 18th of May, 1845),

he intimates that I ask for the suppression of custom houses. Mr. de

Romanet is mistaken. I ask for the suppression of the protective

policy. We do not dispute the right of government to impose taxes,

but would, if possible, dissuade producers from taxing one another. It

was said by Napoleon that duties should never be a fiscal instrument,

but a means of protecting industry. We plead the contrary, and say, that

duties should never be made an instrument of reciprocal rapine; but that

they may be employed as a useful fiscal machine. I am so far from asking

for the suppression of duties, that I look upon them as the anchor on

which the future salvation of our finances will depend. I believe that

they may bring immense receipts into the treasury, and, to give my

entire and undisguised opinion, I am inclined, from the slow progress of

healthy, economical doctrines, and from the magnitude of our budget, to

hope more for the cause of commercial reform from the necessities of

the Treasury than from the force of an enlightened public opinion.





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