We have just seen that all which renders transportation difficult, acts

in the same manner as protection; or, if the expression be preferred,

that protection tends towards the same result as obstacles to


A tariff may then be truly spoken of, as a swamp, a rut, a steep hill;

in a word, an obstacle, whose effect is to augment the difference

between the price of consumption and that of produc
ion. It is equally

incontestable that a swamp, a bog, etc., are veritable protective


There are people (few in number, it is true, but such there are) who

begin to understand that obstacles are not the less obstacles, because

they are artificially created, and that our well-being is more advanced

by freedom of trade than by protection; precisely as a canal is more

desirable than a sandy, hilly, and difficult road.

But they still say, this liberty ought to be reciprocal. If we take off

our taxes in favor of Spain, while Spain does not do the same towards

us, it is evident that we are duped. Let us then make treaties of

commerce upon the basis of a just reciprocity; let us yield where we

are yielded to; let us make the sacrifice of buying that we may

obtain the advantage of selling.

Persons who reason thus, are (I am sorry to say), whether they know it

or not, governed by the protectionist principle. They are only a little

more inconsistent than the pure protectionists, as these are more

inconsistent than the absolute prohibitionists.

I will illustrate this by a fable.


There were, it matters not where, two towns, Stulta and Puera, which

at great expense had a road built which connected them with each other.

Some time after this was done, the inhabitants of Stulta became

uneasy, and said: Puera is overwhelming us with its productions; this

must be attended to. They established therefore a corps of

Obstructors, so called because their business was to place obstacles

in the way of the wagon trains which arrived from Puera. Soon after,

Puera also established a corps of Obstructors.

After some centuries, people having become more enlightened, the

inhabitants of Puera began to discover that these reciprocal obstacles

might possibly be reciprocal injuries. They sent therefore an ambassador

to Stulta, who (passing over the official phraseology) spoke much to

this effect: We have built a road, and now we put obstacles in the way

of this road. This is absurd. It would have been far better to have left

things in their original position, for then we would not have been put

to the expense of building our road, and afterwards of creating

difficulties. In the name of Puera, I come to propose to you, not to

renounce at once our system of mutual obstacles, for this would be

acting according to a theory, and we despise theories as much as you do;

but to lighten somewhat these obstacles, weighing at the same time

carefully our respective sacrifices. The ambassador having thus

spoken, the town of Stulta asked time to reflect; manufacturers,

agriculturists were consulted; and at last, after some years'

deliberation, it was declared that the negotiations were broken off.

At this news, the inhabitants of Puera held a council. An old man (who

it has always been supposed had been secretly bribed by Stulta) rose

and said: The obstacles raised by Stulta are injurious to our sales;

this is a misfortune. Those which we ourselves create, injure our

purchases; this is a second misfortune. We have no power over the first,

but the second is entirely dependent upon ourselves. Let us then at

least get rid of one, since we cannot be delivered from both. Let us

suppress our corps of Obstructors, without waiting for Stulta to do

the same. Some day or other she will learn to understand better her own


A second counselor, a man of practice and of facts, uncontrolled by

theories and wise in ancestral experience, replied: We must not listen

to this dreamer, this theorist, this innovator, this utopian, this

political economist, this friend to Stulta. We would be entirely

ruined if the embarrassments of the road were not carefully weighed and

exactly equalized, between Stulta and Peura. There would be more

difficulty in going than in coming; in exportation than in importation.

We would be, with regard to Stulta, in the inferior condition in which

Havre, Nantes, Bordeaux, Lisbon, London, Hamburg, and New Orleans, are,

in relation to cities placed higher up the rivers Seine, Loire, Garonne,

Tagus, Thames, the Elbe, and the Mississippi; for the difficulties of

ascending must always be greater than those of descending rivers. (A

voice exclaims: 'But the cities near the mouths of rivers have always

prospered more than those higher up the stream.') This is not possible.

(The same voice: 'But it is a fact.') Well, they have then prospered

contrary to rule. Such conclusive reasoning staggered the assembly.

The orator went on to convince them thoroughly and conclusively by

speaking of national independence, national honor, national dignity,

national labor, overwhelming importation, tributes, ruinous competition.

In short, he succeeded in determining the assembly to continue their

system of obstacles, and I can now point out a certain country where you

may see road-builders and Obstructors working with the best possible

understanding, by the decree of the same legislative assembly, paid by

the same citizens; the first to improve the road, the last to embarrass