There is one thing which embarrasses me not a little; and it is this:
Sincere men, taking upon the subject of political economy the point of
view of producers, have arrived at this double formula:
A government should dispose of consumers subject to its laws in favor
of home industry.
It should subject to its laws foreign consumers, in order to dispose of
them in favor of home i
The first of the formulas is that of Protection; the second that of
Both rest upon this proposition, called the Balance of Trade, that
A people is impoverished by importations and enriched by exportations.
For if every foreign purchase is a tribute paid, a loss, nothing can
be more natural than to restrain, even to prohibit importations.
And if every foreign sale is a tribute received, a gain, nothing more
natural than to create outlets, even by force.
Protective System; Colonial System.--These are only two aspects of the
same theory. To prevent our citizens from buying from foreigners, and
to force foreigners to buy from our citizens. Two consequences of one
It is impossible not to perceive that according to this doctrine, if it
be true, the welfare of a country depends upon monopoly or domestic
spoliation, and upon conquest or foreign spoliation.
Let us take a glance into one of these huts, perched upon the side of
our Pyrenean range.
The father of a family has received the little wages of his labor; but
his half-naked children are shivering before a biting northern blast,
beside a fireless hearth, and an empty table. There is wool, and wood,
and corn, on the other side of the mountain, but these are forbidden to
them; for the other side of the mountain is not France. Foreign wood
must not warm the hearth of the poor shepherd; his children must not
taste the bread of Biscay, nor cover their numbed limbs with the wool of
Navarre. It is thus that the general good requires!
The disposing by law of consumers, forcing them to the support of home
industry, is an encroachment upon their liberty, the forbidding of an
action (mutual exchange) which is in no way opposed to morality! In a
word, it is an act of injustice.
But this, it is said, is necessary, or else home labor will be arrested,
and a severe blow will be given to public prosperity.
Thus then we must come to the melancholy conclusion, that there is a
radical incompatibility between the Just and the Useful.
Again, if each people is interested in selling, and not in buying, a
violent action and reaction must form the natural state of their mutual
relations; for each will seek to force its productions upon all, and all
will seek to repulse the productions of each.
A sale in fact implies a purchase, and since, according to this
doctrine, to sell is beneficial, and to buy injurious, every
international transaction must imply the benefiting of one people by the
injuring of another.
But men are invincibly inclined to what they feel to be advantageous to
themselves, while they also, instinctively resist that which is
injurious. From hence then we must infer that each nation bears within
itself a natural force of expansion, and a not less natural force of
resistance, which are equally injurious to all others. In other words,
antagonism and war are the natural state of human society.
Thus then the theory in discussion resolves itself into the two
following axioms. In the affairs of a nation,
Utility is incompatible with the internal administration of justice.
Utility is incompatible with the maintenance of external peace.
Well, what embarrasses and confounds me is, to explain how any writer
upon public rights, any statesman who has sincerely adopted a doctrine
of which the leading principle is so antagonistic to other incontestable
principles, can enjoy one moment's repose or peace of mind.
For myself, if such were my entrance upon the threshold of science, if I
did not clearly perceive that Liberty, Utility, Justice, and Peace, are
not only compatible, but closely connected, even identical, I would
endeavor to forget all I have learned; I would say:
Can it be possible that God can allow men to attain prosperity only
through injustice and war? Can he so direct the affairs of mortals, that
they can only renounce war and injustice by, at the same time,
renouncing their own welfare?
Am I not deceived by the false lights of a science which can lead me to
the horrible blasphemy implied in this alternative, and shall I dare to
take it upon myself to propose this as a basis for the legislation of a
great people? When I find a long succession of illustrious and learned
men, whose researches in the same science have led to more consoling
results; who, after having devoted their lives to its study, affirm that
through it they see Liberty and Utility indissolubly linked with Justice
and Peace, and find these great principles destined to continue on
through eternity in infinite parallels, have they not in their favor the
presumption which results from all that we know of the goodness and
wisdom of God as manifested in the sublime harmony of material creation?
Can I lightly believe, in opposition to such a presumption and such
imposing authorities, that this same God has been pleased to put
disagreement and antagonism in the laws of the moral world? No; before I
can believe that all social principles oppose, shock and neutralize each
other; before I can think them in constant, anarchical and eternal
conflict; above all, before I can seek to impose upon my fellow-citizens
the impious system to which my reasonings have led me, I must retrace my
steps, hoping, perchance, to find some point where I have wandered from
And if, after a sincere investigation twenty times repeated, I should
still arrive at the frightful conclusion that I am driven to choose
between the Desirable and the Good, I would reject the science, plunge
into a voluntary ignorance, above all, avoid participation in the
affairs of my country, and leave to others the weight and responsibility
of so fearful a choice.