National Independence

Among the arguments advanced in favor of a restrictive system, we must

not forget that which is drawn from the plea of national independence.

What will we do, it is asked, in case of war, if we are at the mercy

of England for our iron and coal?

The English monopolists, on their side, do not fail to exclaim: What

will become of Great Britain in case of war if she depends upon France

for provi

One thing appears to be quite lost sight of, and this is, that the

dependence which results from commercial transactions, is a reciprocal

dependence. We can only be dependent upon foreign supplies, in so far as

foreign nations are dependent upon us. This is the essence of society.

The breaking off of natural relations places a nation, not in an

independent position, but in a state of isolation.

And remark that the reason given for this isolation, is that it is a

necessary provision for war, while the act is itself a commencement of

war. It renders war easier, less burdensome, and consequently less

unpopular. If nations were to one another permanent outlets for mutual

produce; if their respective relations were such that they could not be

broken without inflicting the double suffering of privation and of

over-supply, there could then no longer be any need of these powerful

fleets which ruin, and these great armies which crush them; the peace of

the world could no more be compromised by the whim of a Thiers or a

Palmerston, and wars would cease, from want of resources, motives,

pretexts, and popular sympathy.

I know that I shall be reproached (for it is the fashion of the day) for

placing interest, vile and prosaic interest, at the foundation of the

fraternity of nations. It would be preferred that this should be based

upon charity, upon love; that there should be in it some self-denial,

and that clashing a little with the material welfare of men, it should

bear the merit of a generous sacrifice.

When will we have done with such puerile declamations? We contemn, we

revile interest, that is to say, the good and the useful, (for if all

men are interested in an object, how can this object be other than good

in itself?) as though this interest were not the necessary, eternal, and

indestructible mover, to the guidance of which Providence has confided

human perfectibility! One would suppose that the utterers of such

sentiments must be models of disinterestedness; but does the public not

begin to perceive with disgust, that this affected language is the stain

of those pages for which it oftenest pays the highest price?

What! because comfort and peace are correlative, because it has pleased

God to establish so beautiful a harmony in the moral world, you would

blame me when I admire and adore his decrees, and for accepting with

gratitude his laws, which make justice a requisite for happiness! You

will consent to have peace only when it clashes with your welfare, and

liberty is irksome if it imposes no sacrifices! What then prevents you,

if self-denial has so many charms, from exercising it as much as you

desire in your private actions? Society will be benefited by your so

doing, for some one must profit by your sacrifices. But it is the height

of absurdity to wish to impose such a principle upon mankind generally;

for the self-denial of all, is the sacrifice of all. This is evil

systematized into theory.

But, thanks be to Heaven! these declamations may be written and read,

and the world continues nevertheless to obey its great mover, its great

cause of action, which, spite of all denials, is interest.

It is singular enough, too, to hear sentiments of such sublime

self-abnegation quoted in support even of Spoliation; and yet to this

tends all this pompous show of disinterestedness! These men so

sensitively delicate, that they are determined not to enjoy even peace,

if it must be propped by the vile interest of men, do not hesitate to

pick the pockets of other men, and above all of poor men. For what

tariff protects the poor? Gentlemen, we pray you, dispose as you please

of what belongs to yourselves, but let us entreat you to allow us to

use, or to exchange, according to our own fancy, the fruit of our own

labor, the sweat of our own brows. Declaim as you will about

self-sacrifice; that is all pretty enough; but we beg of you, do not at

the same time forget to be honest.