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
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
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
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
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.
[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
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
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
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.