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
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.