Discriminating Duties

A poor laborer of Gironde had raised, with the greatest possible care

and attention, a nursery of vines, from which, after much labor, he at

last succeeded in producing a pipe of wine, and forgot, in the joy of

his success, that each drop of this precious nectar had cost a drop of

sweat to his brow. I will sell it, said he to his wife, and with the

proceeds I will buy thread, which will serve you to make a trousseau

our daughter. The honest countryman, arriving in the city, there met

an Englishman and a Belgian. The Belgian said to him, Give me your wine,

and I in exchange, will give you fifteen bundles of thread. The

Englishman said, Give it to me, and I will give you twenty bundles, for

we English can spin cheaper than the Belgians. But a custom-house

officer standing by, said to the laborer, My good fellow, make your

exchange, if you choose, with the Belgian, but it is my duty to prevent

your doing so with the Englishman. What! exclaimed the countryman, you

wish me to take fifteen bundles of Brussels thread, when I can have

twenty from Manchester? Certainly; do you not see that France would be a

loser, if you were to receive twenty bundles instead of fifteen? I can

scarcely understand this, said the laborer. Nor can I explain it, said

the custom-house officer, but there is no doubt of the fact; for

deputies, ministers, and editors, all agree that a people is

impoverished in proportion as it receives a large compensation for any

given quantity of its produce. The countryman was obliged to conclude

his bargain with the Belgian. His daughter received but three-fourths of

her trousseau; and these good folks are still puzzling themselves to

discover how it can happen that people are ruined by receiving four

instead of three; and why they are richer with three dozen towels

instead of four.