Wonderful Discovery!

At this moment, when all minds are occupied in endeavoring to discover

the most economical means of transportation; when, to put these means

into practice, we are leveling roads, improving rivers, perfecting

steamboats, establishing railroads, and attempting various systems of

traction, atmospheric, hydraulic, pneumatic, electric, etc.,--at this

moment when, I believe, every one is seeking in sincerity and with

ardor t
e solution of this problem--

To bring the price of things in their place of consumption, as near as

possible to their price in that of production--

I would believe myself acting a culpable part towards my country,

towards the age in which I live, and towards myself, if I were longer to

keep secret the wonderful discovery which I have just made.

I am well aware that the self-illusions of inventors have become

proverbial, but I have, nevertheless, the most complete certainty of

having discovered an infallible means of bringing the produce of the

entire world into France, and reciprocally to transport ours, with a

very important reduction of price.

Infallible! and yet this is but a single one of the advantages of my

astonishing invention, which requires neither plans nor devices, neither

preparatory studies, nor engineers, nor machinists, nor capital, nor

stockholders, nor governmental assistance! There is no danger of

shipwrecks, of explosions, of shocks, of fire, nor of displacement of

rails! It can be put into practice without preparation from one day to


Finally, and this will, no doubt, recommend it to the public, it will

not increase taxes one cent; but the contrary. It will not augment the

number of government functionaries, nor the exigencies of government

officers; but the contrary. It will put in hazard the liberty of no one;

but the contrary.

I have been led to this discovery not from accident, but observation,

and I will tell you how.

I had this question to determine:

Why does any article made, for instance, at Brussels, bear an increased

price on its arrival at Paris?

It was immediately evident to me that this was the result of obstacles

of various kinds existing between Brussels and Paris. First, there is

distance, which cannot be overcome without trouble and loss of time;

and either we must submit to these in our own person, or pay another for

bearing them for us. Then come rivers, swamps, accidents, heavy and

muddy roads; these are so many difficulties to be overcome; in order

to do which, causeways are constructed, bridges built, roads cut and

paved, railroads established, etc. But all this is costly, and the

article transported must bear its portion of the expense. There are

robbers, too, on the roads, and this necessitates guards, a police, etc.

Now, among these obstacles, there is one which we ourselves have

placed, and that at no little expense, between Brussels and Paris. This

consists of men planted along the frontier, armed to the teeth, whose

business it is to place difficulties in the way of the transportation

of goods from one country to another. These men are called custom-house

officers, and their effect is precisely similar to that of steep and

boggy roads. They retard and put obstacles in the way of transportation,

thus contributing to the difference which we have remarked between the

price of production and that of consumption; to diminish which

difference as much as possible, is the problem which we are seeking to


Here, then, we have found its solution. Let our tariff be diminished.

We will thus have constructed a Northern Railroad which will cost us

nothing. Nay, more, we will be saved great expenses, and will begin from

the first day to save capital.

Really, I cannot but ask myself, in surprise, how our brains could have

admitted so whimsical a piece of folly, as to induce us to pay many

millions to destroy the natural obstacles interposed between France

and other nations, only at the same time to pay so many millions more in

order to replace them by artificial obstacles, which have exactly the

same effect; so that the obstacle removed, and the obstacle created,

neutralize each other; things go on as before, and the only result of

our trouble, is, a double expense.

An article of Belgian production is worth at Brussels twenty francs,

and, from the expenses of transportation, thirty francs at Paris. A

similar article of Parisian manufacture costs forty francs. What is our

course under these circumstances?

First, we impose a duty of at least ten francs on the Belgian article,

so as to raise its price to a level with that of the Parisian; the

government withal, paying numerous officials to attend to the levying of

this duty. The article thus pays ten francs for transportation, ten for

the tax.

This done, we say to ourselves: Transportation between Brussels and

Paris is very dear; let us spend two or three millions in railways, and

we will reduce it one-half. Evidently the result of such a course will

be to get the Belgian article at Paris for thirty-five francs, viz:

20 francs--price at Brussels.

10 duty.

5 transportation by railroad.


35 francs--total, or market price at Paris.

Could we not have attained the same end by lowering the tariff to five

francs? We would then have--

20 francs--price at Brussels.

5 duty.

10 transportation on the common road.


35 francs--total, or market price at Paris.

And this arrangement would have saved us the 200,000,000 spent upon the

railroad, besides the expense saved in custom-house surveillance, which

would of course diminish in proportion as the temptation to smuggling

would become less.

But it is answered, the duty is necessary to protect Parisian industry.

So be it; but do not then destroy the effect of it by your railroad.

For if you persist in your determination to keep the Belgian article on

a par with the Parisian at forty francs, you must raise the duty to

fifteen francs, in order to have:--

20 francs--price at Brussels.

15 protective duty.

5 transportation by railroad.


40 francs--total, at equalized prices.

And I now ask, of what benefit, under these circumstances, is the


Frankly, is it not humiliating to the nineteenth century, that it should

be destined to transmit to future ages the example of such puerilities

seriously and gravely practiced? To be the dupe of another, is bad

enough; but to employ all the forms and ceremonies of legislation in

order to cheat one's self,--to doubly cheat one's self, and that too in

a mere mathematical account,--truly this is calculated to lower a little

the pride of this enlightened age.