Raw Material

It is said that no commerce is so advantageous as that in which

manufactured articles are exchanged for raw material; because the latter

furnishes aliment for national labor.

And it is hence concluded:

That the best regulation of duties, would be to give the greatest

possible facilities to the importation of raw material, and at the same

time to check that of the finished article.


There is, in political economy, no more generally accredited Sophism

than this. It serves for argument not only to the protectionists, but

also to the pretended free trade school; and it is in the latter

capacity that its most mischievous tendencies are called into action.

For a good cause suffers much less in being attacked, than in being

badly defended.

Commercial liberty must probably pass through the same ordeal as liberty

in every other form. It can only dictate laws, after having first taken

thorough possession of men's minds. If, then, it be true that a reform,

to be firmly established, must be generally understood, it follows that

nothing can so much retard it, as the misleading of public opinion. And

what more calculated to mislead opinion than writings, which, while they

proclaim free trade, support the doctrines of monopoly?

It is some years since three great cities of France, viz., Lyons,

Bordeaux, and Havre, combined in opposition to the restrictive system.

France, all Europe, looked anxiously and suspiciously at this apparent

declaration in favor of free trade. Alas! it was still the banner of

monopoly which they followed! a monopoly, only a little more sordid, a

little more absurd than that of which they seemed to desire the

destruction! Thanks to the Sophism which I would now endeavor to deprive

of its disguise, the petitioners only reproduced, with an additional

incongruity, the old doctrine of protection to national labor. What

is, in fact, the prohibitive system? We will let Mr. de Saint Cricq

answer for us.

Labor constitutes the riches of a nation, because it creates supplies

for the gratification of our necessities; and universal comfort consists

in the abundance of these supplies. Here we have the principle.

But this abundance ought to be the result of national labor. If it

were the result of foreign labor, national labor must receive an

inevitable check. Here lies the error. (See the preceding Sophism).

What, then, ought to be the course of an agricultural and manufacturing

country? It ought to reserve its market for the produce of its own soil

and its own industry. Here is the object.

In order to effect this, it ought, by restrictive, and, if necessary,

by prohibitive duties, to prevent the influx of produce from foreign

soils and foreign industry. Here is the means.

Let us now compare this system with that of the petition from Bordeaux.

This divided articles of merchandise into three classes. The first

class includes articles of food and raw material untouched by human

labor. A judicious system of political economy would require that this

class should be exempt from taxation. Here we have the principle of no

labor, no protection.

The second class is composed of articles which have received some

preparation for manufacture. This preparation would render reasonable

the imposition of some duties. Here we find the commencement of

protection, because, at the same time, likewise commences the demand for

national labor.

The third class comprehends finished articles, which can, under no

circumstances, furnish material for national labor. We consider this as

the most fit for taxation. Here we have at once the maximum of labor,

and, consequently, of production.

The petitioners then, as we here see, proclaimed foreign labor as

injurious to national labor. This is the error of the prohibitive


They desired the French market to be reserved for French labor. This

is the object of the prohibitive system.

They demanded that foreign labor should be subjected to restrictions and

taxes. These are the means of the prohibitive system.

What difference, then, can we possibly discover to exist between the

Bordalese petitioners and the Corypheus of restriction? One, alone; and

that is simply the greater or less extension which is given to the

signification of the word labor.

Mr. de Saint Cricq, taking it in its widest sense, is, therefore, in

favor of protecting every thing.

Labor, he says, constitutes the whole wealth of a nation.

Protection should be for the agricultural interest, and the whole

agricultural interest; for the manufacturing interest, and the whole

manufacturing interest; and this principle I will continually endeavor

to impress upon this Chamber.

The petitioners consider no labor but that of the manufacturers, and

accordingly, it is that, and that alone, which they would wish to admit

to the favors of protection.

Raw material being entirely untouched by human labor, our system

should exempt it from taxes. Manufactured articles furnishing no

material for national labor, we consider as the most fit for taxation.

There is no question here as to the propriety of protecting national

labor. Mr. de Saint Cricq and the Bordalese agree entirely upon this

point. We have, in our preceding chapters, already shown how entirely we

differ from both of them.

The question to be determined, is, whether it is Mr. de Saint Cricq, or

the Bordalese, who give to the word labor its proper acceptation. And

we must confess that Mr. de Saint Cricq is here decidedly in the right.

The following dialogue might be supposed between them:

Mr. de Saint Cricq.--You agree that national labor ought to be

protected. You agree that no foreign labor can be introduced into our

market, without destroying an equal quantity of our national labor. But

you contend that there are numerous articles of merchandise possessing

value, for they are sold, and which are nevertheless untouched by

human labor. Among these you name corn, flour, meat, cattle, bacon,

salt, iron, copper, lead, coal, wool, skins, seeds, etc.

If you can prove to me, that the value of these things is not

dependent upon labor, I will agree that it is useless to protect them.

But if I can prove to you that there is as much labor put upon a hundred

francs worth of wool, as upon a hundred francs worth of cloth, you ought

to acknowledge that protection is the right as much of the one, as of

the other.

I ask you then why this bag of wool is worth a hundred francs? Is it not

because this is its price of production? And what is the price of

production, but the sum which has been distributed in wages for labor,

payment of skill, and interest on money, among the various laborers and

capitalists, who have assisted in the production of the article?

The Petitioners.--It is true that with regard to wool you may be

right; but a bag of corn, a bar of iron, a hundred weight of coal, are

these the produce of labor? Is it not nature which creates them?

Mr. de St. Cricq.--Without doubt, nature creates these substances,

but it is labor which gives them their value. I have myself, in saying

that labor creates material objects, used a false expression, which

has led me into many farther errors. No man can create. No man can

bring any thing from nothing; and if production is used as a synonym

for creation, then indeed our labor must all be useless.

The agriculturist does not pretend that he has created the corn; but

he has given it its value. He has by his own labor, and by that of his

servants, his laborers, and his reapers, transformed into corn

substances which were entirely dissimilar from it. What more is effected

by the miller who converts it into flour, or by the baker who makes it

into bread?

In order that a man may be dressed in cloth, numerous operations are

first necessary. Before the intervention of any human labor, the real

primary materials of this article are air, water, heat, gas, light,

and the various salts which enter into its composition. These are indeed

untouched by human labor, for they have no value, and I have never

dreamed of their needing protection. But a first labor converts these

substances into forage; a second into wool; a third into thread; a

fourth into cloth; and a fifth into garments. Who can pretend to say,

that all these contributions to the work, from the first furrow of the

plough, to the last stitch of the needle, are not labor?

And because, for the sake of speed and greater perfection in the

accomplishment of the final object, these various branches of labor are

divided among as many classes of workmen, you, by an arbitrary

distinction, determine that the order in which the various branches of

labor follow each other shall regulate their importance, so that while

the first is not allowed to merit the name of labor, the last shall

receive all the favors of protection.

The Petitioners.--Yes, we begin to understand that neither wool nor

corn are entirely independent of human labor; but certainly the

agriculturist has not, like the manufacturer, had every thing to do by

his own labor, and that of his workmen; nature has assisted him; and if

there is some labor, at least all is not labor, in the production of


Mr. de St. Cricq.--But it is the labor alone which gives it value. I

grant that nature has assisted in the production of grain. I will even

grant that it is exclusively her work; but I must confess at least that

I have constrained her to it by my labor. And remark, moreover, that

when I sell my corn, it is not the work of nature which I make you pay

for, but my own.

You will perceive, also, by following up your manner of arguing, that

neither will manufactured articles be the production of labor. Does not

the manufacturer also call upon nature to assist him? Does he not by the

assistance of steam-machinery force into his service the weight of the

atmosphere, as I, by the use of the plough, take advantage of its

humidity? Is it the cloth-manufacturer who has created the laws of

gravitation, transmission of forces and of affinities?

The Petitioners.--Well, well, we will give up wool, but assuredly coal

is the work, the exclusive work, of nature. This, at least, is

independent of all human labor.

Mr. de St. Cricq.--Yes, nature certainly has made coal; but labor has

made its value. Where was the value of coal during the millions of

years when it lay unknown and buried a hundred feet below the surface of

the earth? It was necessary to seek it. Here was labor. It was necessary

to transport it to a market. Again this was labor. The price which you

pay for coal in the market is the remuneration given to these labors of

digging and transportation.[13]

[Footnote 13: I do not, for many reasons, make explicit mention of such

portion of the remuneration as belongs to the contractor, capitalist,

etc. Firstly: because, if the subject be closely looked into, it will be

seen that it is always either the reimbursing in advance, or the payment

of anterior labor. Secondly: because, under the general labor, I

include not only the salary of the workmen, but the legitimate payment

of all co-operation in the work of production. Thirdly: finally, and

above all, because the production of the manufactured articles is, like

that of the raw material, burdened with interests and remunerations,

entirely independent of manual labor; and that the objection, in

itself, might be equally applied to the finest manufacture and to the

roughest agricultural process.]

We see that, so far, all the advantage is on the side of Mr. de St.

Cricq, and that the value of unmanufactured as of manufactured

articles, represents always the expense, or what is the same thing, the

labor of production; that it is impossible to conceive of an article

bearing a value, independent of human labor; that the distinction

made by the petitioners is futile in theory, and, as the basis of an

unequal division of favors, would be iniquitous in practice; for it

would thence result that the one-third of the French occupied in

manufactures, would receive all the benefits of monopoly, because they

produce by labor; while the two other thirds, formed by the

agricultural population, would be left to struggle against competition,

under pretense that they produce without labor.

It will, I know, be insisted that it is advantageous to a nation to

import the raw material, whether or not it be the result of labor; and

to export manufactured articles. This is a very generally received


In proportion, says the petition of Bordeaux, as raw material is

abundant, manufactures will increase and flourish.

The abundance of raw material, it elsewhere says, gives an unlimited

scope to labor in those countries where it prevails.

Raw material, says the petition from Havre, being the element of

labor, should be regulated on a different system, and ought to be

admitted immediately and at the lowest rate.

The same petition asks, that the protection of manufactured articles

should be reduced, not immediately, but at some indeterminate time,

not to the lowest rate of entrance, but to twenty per cent.

Among other articles, says the petition of Lyons, of which the low

price and the abundance are necessary, the manufacturers name all raw


All this is based upon error.

All value is, we have seen, the representative of labor. Now it is

undoubtedly true that manufacturing labor increases ten-fold, a

hundred-fold, the value of raw material, thus dispensing ten, a

hundred-fold increased profits throughout the nation; and from this fact

is deduced the following argument: The production of a hundred weight of

iron, is the gain of only fifteen francs to the various workers therein

engaged. This hundred weight of iron, converted into watch-springs, is

increased in value by this process, ten thousand francs. Who can pretend

that the nation is not more interested in securing the ten thousand

francs, than the fifteen francs worth of labor?

In this reasoning it is forgotten, that international exchanges are, no

more than individual exchanges, effected through weight and measure. The

exchange is not between a hundred weight of unmanufactured iron, and a

hundred weight of watch-springs, nor between a pound of wool just shorn,

and a pound of wool just manufactured into cashmere, but between a fixed

value in one of these articles, and a fixed equal value in another. To

exchange equal value with equal value, is to exchange equal labor with

equal labor, and it is therefore not true that the nation which sells

its hundred francs worth of cloth or of watch-springs, gains more than

the one which furnishes its hundred francs worth of wool or of iron.

In a country where no law can be passed, no contribution imposed without

the consent of the governed, the public can be robbed, only after it has

first been cheated. Our own ignorance is the primary, the raw material

of every act of extortion to which we are subjected, and it may safely

be predicted of every Sophism, that it is the forerunner of an act of

Spoliation. Good Public, whenever therefore you detect a Sophism in a

petition, let me advise you, put your hand upon your pocket, for be

assured, it is that which is particularly the point of attack.

Let us then examine what is the secret design which the ship-owners of

Bordeaux and Havre, and the manufacturers of Lyons, would smuggle in

upon us by this distinction between agricultural produce and

manufactured produce.

It is, say the petitioners of Bordeaux, principally in this first

class (that which comprehends raw material, untouched by human labor)

that we find the principal encouragement of our merchant vessels.... A

wise system of political economy would require that this class should

not be taxed.... The second class (articles which have received some

preparation) may be considered as taxable. The third (articles which

have received from labor all the finish of which they are capable) we

regard as most proper for taxation.

Considering, say the petitioners of Havre, that it is indispensable

to reduce immediately and to the lowest rate, the raw material, in

order that manufacturing industry may give employment to our merchant

vessels, which furnish its first and indispensable means of labor.

The manufacturers could not allow themselves to be behindhand in

civilities towards the ship-owners, and accordingly the petition of

Lyons demands the free introduction of raw material, in order to

prove, it remarks, that the interests of manufacturing towns are not

opposed to those of maritime cities.

This may be true enough; but it must be confessed that both, taken in

the sense of the petitioners, are terribly adverse to the interest of

agriculture and of consumers.

This, then, gentlemen, is the aim of all your subtle distinctions! You

wish the law to oppose the maritime transportation of manufactured

articles, in order that the much more expensive transportation of the

raw material should, by its larger bulk, in its rough, dirty and

unimproved condition, furnish a more extensive business to your

merchant vessels. And this is what you call a wise system of

political economy!

Why not also petition for a law requiring that fir-trees, imported from

Russia, should not be admitted without their branches, bark, and roots;

that Mexican gold should be imported in the state of ore, and Buenos

Ayres leathers only allowed an entrance into our ports, while still

hanging to the dead bones and putrefying bodies to which they belong?

The stockholders of railroads, if they can obtain a majority in the

Chambers, will no doubt soon favor us with a law forbidding the

manufacture, at Cognac, of the brandy used in Paris. For, surely, they

would consider it a wise law, which would, by forcing the transportation

of ten casks of wine instead of one of brandy, thus furnish to Parisian

industry an indispensable encouragement to its labor, and, at the same

time, give employment to railroad locomotives!

Until when will we persist in shutting our eyes upon the following

simple truth?

Labor and industry, in their general object, have but one legitimate

aim, and this is the public good. To create useless industrial pursuits,

to favor superfluous transportation, to maintain a superfluous labor,

not for the good of the public, but at the expense of the public, is to

act upon a petitio principii. For it is the result of labor, and not

labor itself, which is a desirable object. All labor, without a result,

is clear loss. To pay sailors for transporting rough dirt and filthy

refuse across the ocean, is about as reasonable as it would be to

engage their services, and pay them for pelting the water with pebbles.

Thus we arrive at the conclusion that political Sophisms,

notwithstanding their infinite variety, have one point in common, which

is the constant confounding of the means with the end, and the

development of the former at the expense of the latter.