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Leaving Colbert, we may now pass to Mr. Hume, in whose opinion, no country need fear any difficulty in regard to its power of commanding the services of those great instruments of association, the precious metals, provided only that it “preserved with care its people and its manufactures”—so exercising its power of co-ordination, as to facilitate the near approach of the converters of raw products to the neighborhood of those by whom the commodities had been produced. Of all economists, none appears more fully to have appreciated “the superior skill and industry that become developed in countries whose power of conversion have fitted them for obtaining the start of others in trade.” No one ever saw more clearly how the possession of the arts of manufacture facilitated the accumulation of wealth — enabling merchants to hold “greater stocks,” “to trade on much smaller profits,” and thus to offer great inducements to the people of other countries to come to them when they desired to buy, or when they needed to sell.—No one has ever shown himself more sensible of the fact, that land and labor must, in the absence of manufactures, be low in price, and that, in countries so situated, the difficulty of regaining the ground they had lost, or gaining that which had not been previously obtained, was a great and growing one.*
No economist, more than Adam Smith, has manifested his admiration of local centres of action, in which agriculture and manufactures were happily combined. In his view, the course of his countrymen, in seeking to centralize the machinery of manufactures for the world, and thus converting themselves into “a nation of shopkeepers,” while compelling all other nations to send their raw materials abroad in their rudest state, was not only an act of folly, but also “a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind”—such a violation as, had he lived in any other country, would have led him to urge such action on the part of the co-ordinating power, as would afford a remedy for the evils that thus were sought to be produced. That he highly approved of the navigation laws, we know, and the fact that he did so, furnishes evidence of his belief in the necessity for the exercise of a sound discretion—thus discarding absolutely the belief in the propriety of an indiscriminate application of the idea implied by the expression, laisser faire. Protection, as regarded those productions which were necessary for self-defence, he regarded as equally justifiable with that afforded by the navigation laws to shipping. As to that extended to other branches of industry, he was of opinion, that the articles thus protected might, after a time, “be made as cheap, or cheaper, than in the foreign country.” + He did not, it is true, regard it as certain that “the sum total” of the revenue of a country could be thereby increased, yet he elsewhere proved it to be so, when he showed, that to whatsoever extent the market might be brought home to the farmer, the saving of the cost of transportation Inust enure to him—giving value to his labor and his land. Adding to this the further advantage resulting from the cheapening of commodities that before had been imported, his gain was doubled, where not even trebled or quadrupled. Much more fully than Dr. Smith, did Mr. J. B. Say appreciate the necessity for action on the part of the co-ordinating power— circumstances, in his opinion, greatly modifying the proposition, generally true, that each and every individual is capable of judging for himself as to the most advantageous mode of employing his capital and his labor. Smith wrote, as Mr. Say well saw, in a country whose government had shown itself little disposed to neglect its interests — one, therefore, that was, in its societary arrangements, far in advance of many others. Admitting the general truth of Smith's propositions, he was, nevertheless, led to ask if, in these latter, there existed no prejudices little likely to be overcome, without the aid of government : “How many are the towns and provinces,” did he inquire, “in which may not be found a spirit of routine, in regard to the employment of capital? Here,” he continues, “they will have nothing but mortgages; there, they have faith only in certificates of public debt. In both —every new application of capital being looked upon with distrust—protection, granted with a view to promote the profitable * Wealth of Nations, Book IV., ch. ii.
Food is cheap in Illinois, but finished commodities are dear — the former being dear in England, while the latter are cheap. Food was cheap in France, in the days of Louis XV., but cloth and iron were scarce and dear. The former is now much dearer, but the latter are cheaper.—Such being the errors of the present day, we may well excuse those made by Colbert, two centuries since.
* Essay on Money.
application of labor and capital, may become productive of universal benefit.” “Further,” as he adds, “such employments, though destined to result in great advantage, when the workmen shall have been trained, and the preliminary obstacles shall have been surmounted, are liable, without the aid of government, to cause heavy loss to the undertaker”—a result that, as he thought, was carefully to be avoided.* Following in the footsteps of his distinguished predecessor, Mons. Blanqui tells his readers, that “experience has already taught us, that a people ought never to deliver over to the chances of foreign trade, the fate of its manufactures.”f Turning now to one of the most eminent of recent economists, we find him utterly disclaiming the idea of non-intervention by the co-ordinating power — telling his readers, that however true it is that, under ordinary circumstances, perfect freedom of trade would furnish the most certain means of augmenting the productive power, circumstances will occur to render necessary a departure from the rule. Elsewhere he says—“There is no father of a family who does not know, that there are circumstances in which the sacrifice of to-day may be followed by advantages that will not only compensate therefor, but will do far more. A prudent and enlightened administration requires the making, in view to probable future benefit, of advances that may not, possibly, be repaid in full. There is no father of a family,” he continues, “who, having good reason to believe that there existed on his property a great deposit of mineral wealth, would not feel himself called upon, having the means, to make some examinations with a view to prove the fact—thereby opening to his children a new road to affluence. Equally true is this, when applied to the conduct of a nation.” On another occasion we find him declaring, that he held it to be undeniable, that there are exceptions to the free trade principle — an idea in which he would have been more fully confirmed, had he reflected, that in every community there exists, latent, all the ability shown to exist in others more advanced; that its development is dependent altogether upon the power of combination; and that, where that power does not yet exist, the vast treasure of human faculties remains as useless and unproductive as would have done the mineral wealth to which he above refers. “Italy,” says M. Moreau de Jonnès, “profited of her liberty to create, in her free cities, the first manufactures that were to be found in Christendom—thereby securing to herself a monopoly of the production of silks and woollens, and of arms. Our wars,” he continues, “having led our armies into that beautiful country, and we having thus become initiated into the secret of its prosperity, efforts were made at transplanting into our provinces the culture of the mulberry, the raising of silk, and the silk manufacture. All progress in this direction ceased, however, under the late sovereigns of the Valois family, the luxuries of France having been then exclusively supplied by the cities of Italy and the Netherlands. Manufacturing industry was, therefore, compelled to wait the appearance of Sully and Henry IV., to obtain from them the royal protection, and the aid so much required.” Mr. J. S. Mill is of opinion, that “the superiority of one country over another, in a branch of production, often arises only from having begun it sooner. There may,” as he continues, “be no inherent advantage on one part, or disadvantage on the other, but only a present superiority of skill and experience. A country which has this skill and experience yet to acquire, may, in other respects, be better adapted to the production than those which were earlier in the field; and besides, it is a just remark, that nothing has a greater tendency to produce improvement in any branch of production than its trial under a new set of conditions. But it cannot,” as he says, “be expected that individuals should at their own risk, or rather to their certain loss, introduce a new manufacture, and bear the burthen of carrying it on, until the producers have been educated up to the level of those with whom the processes have become traditional. A protecting duty, continued for a reasonable time, will sometimes be the least inconvenient mode in which a country can tax itself for the support of such an experiment.” + Elsewhere he says, that “the countries which have, at the same time, cheap food and great industrial prosperity, are few in number.”f He might have gone further— * Principles, Book V., ch. x. f Ibid, Book I., ch. xiii.
* Traité d’Economie Politique, ch. xvii. See ante, vol. ii., p. 47, for Mr. Say's
view of the results of Colbert's policy, as now exhibited in France.
asserting that the existence of either one is wholly incompatible with that of the other. Food is cheap where, because of the absence of the industrial class, the market is distant. Finished commodities are there dear—the combination of the two phenomena presenting evidence of a feeble civilization. They are found together in all the countries that follow in the train of the RicardoMalthusian school. Though generally favorable to the system commonly denominated “free trade,” not one of these writers, as here is shown, has failed to see the necessity for the exercise, in the social body, of that same co-ordinating and regulating power, we see to be so constantly exercised in the physical man who furnishes, within himself, the type of the various societies of the world.
§ 5. “It is asserted,” says M. Chevalier, “in favor of the protective system, that in every country, the age of maturity having arrived, there arises a necessity, in the interest even of civilization, for acclimating among its people, the principal branches of industry; that, agriculture alone becoming insufficient, it is needed to add thereto trade and manufactures; that it is necessary to have, not only some certain species, but each and all of the principal manufactures — adding to woollens and linens, those of silk and cotton; that it is required that they become familiar with the working of metals and of mines, with mechanics, and with the arts of navigation. Up to that point,” he continues, “the programme is certainly right—every community, considerable in numbers, and occupying an extensive territory, being well inspired when seeing to the establishment, among its members, of diversity in the modes of employment. From the moment when it approaches maturity, it should seek to prepare itself therefor, and when it fails to do so, it makes a great mistake. This division of labor, or, according to Messrs. List and Mill, this combination of varied effort, is not only promotive of general prosperity, but it is the condition of national progress. It is, certainly, much better than a less varied production could be — being more in harmony with the diversity of human faculties, and of capabilities presented by a widely-extended territory. It is favorable to the advancement of knowledge—there being but few who willingly