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a population of about two millions of individuals, who had scarcely attained the rank of a free and independent nation, could inspire with serious alarms a, population of five or six millions, who were still burning with the enthusiasm of liberty. Adam Smith himself acknowledges as much. “ In the Dutch war,” he says, “during the government of Cromwell, the navy of Great Britain was superior to that of Holland; and in the war which broke out in the beginning of the reign of Charles II, it was at least equal, perhaps superior, to the united navies of France and Holland.” The safety of England, therefore, was not, as Adam Smith pretends, the true cause of the framing of the act of Navigation. Its regulations proceeded from national animosity, rivalship, and ambition ; and they certainly were well calculated to gratify such dreadful passions. By excluding from the ports of England vessels that imported any other produce than that of their own country, the act of Navigation seemed to invite all maritime nations to share in the advantages of navigation which the Dutch enjoyed, as it were, exclusively. But as those nations had no vessels, they could not avail themselves of the advantage that was offered, nor enrich themselves with the spoils of Holland ; so that this measure weakened the naval power of Holland without any benefit to the maritime nations. No one except England reaped any profit from it: not only was her naval strength increased by the weakness
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* Wealth of Nations, vol. ii. book iy, chap, 7, page 454.
of her rival, but she also succeeded Holland in that maritime trade which she had interdicted. From that instant the naval power of Great-Britain acquired an absolute preponderance over that of all other nations, and ruled the seas. Had the maritime and continental nations of Europe been alive to their true interests, they might easily have counteracted a measure permicious to the circulation of their produce. It would have been sufficient to exclude from their ports British ships loaded with any other than British produce ; and the consequence would have been this : 7 England, being reduced to carry in her ships her own raw and manufactured produce, could not have profited by the spoils of Holland, nor could she have grown rich by the losses of the Dutch. Her naval power, limited by that of her rival, could not have dictated laws to the other seafaring nations. Sweden alone dared to resist this imperious measure, and forced England to relinquish it towards hor. * But the example was not followed. The other nations submitted to the yoke; and from that instant
* Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, vol. ii. page 552; or nderson’s Origin of Commerce, vol. ii. pages 1-15, 146; where it is said, that: “ although oue of Sir Josiah Child's most principal aims was the pointing out the increasing commerce of Holland, yet, in the close of his Preface, he observes, that the Swedes have laid such high impositions on their own merchandize, unless they be carried in Swedish bottoms, as amounts to almost a navigation act in Sweden,”—T.
England exercised an absolute dominion over general circulation, or commerce. It is therefore without any foundation that Adam Smith has transformed the English act of Navigation into an act of safety. It is evidently nothing but an act of hostility and ambition, incapable of forming a just exception to the necessity of a free cerculation of the produce of general labour. The second case, which, according to Adam Smith, ought to induce a nation to restrict the liberty of commerce, is when the produce of foreign industry is not burthened with a tax equal to that imposed upon the produce of inland industry. He thinks it is then reasonable that an equal tax should be imposed upon the like produce of foreign industry, because foreign industry would else have a certain advantage over the produce of national industry. This second limitation of the freedom of trade has led Adam Smith to examine whether it ought to be extended to the produce imported from countries which impose no tax upon objects of the first necessity, whilst in the country into which they are imported the necessaries of life are burthened with a tax. And although this second case appears every way similar to the first, his decision is precisely the contrary to what it had been in the former case. The arguments on which he grounds this diversity of opinion, are: 1. That it might always be known with great exactness how far the price of such a commodity could be enhanced by such a tax : but how far the general enhancement of the price of labour might affect the
price of every different commodity about which labour was employed, could never be known with any tolerable exactness.
2. That taxes upon the necessaries of life have nearly the same effect upon the circumstances of the people, as a poor soil and a bad climate ; and as in this case it would be absurd to direct the people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals and industry; it would be equally absurd, on account of an artificial scarcity arising from such taxes. To be left to accommodate their industry to their situation, and to find out those employments in which, notwithstanding their unfavourable circumstances, they might have some advantage either in the home or in the foreign market, is what in both cases would evidently be most for their advantage.
3. That, to lay a tax upon the foreign produce, because the home produce is already overburthened with taxes, and to make the natives pay dear for the greater part of other commodities, because the necessaries of life are dear, are certainly two most absurd ways of making amends. *
But in spite of Adam Smith's endeavours to establish a difference between the two cases, I think there is none : to burthen the produce of foreign industry with taxes equal to those imposed upon the produce of national industry, and not to impose any tax upon the raw produce of a foreign country, although the produce of the soil at home is burthened with a tax, appears a contradiction. If, in the first case, national
* Wealth of Nations; London, 1805; vol. ii., b. iv. ch. 2, p. 206.
industry would be discouraged, national agriculture would be alike discouraged in the second. Consequently, if the equality is to be restored in one case, it ought to be so in the other. The question therefore remains, and we must still examine, whether nations ought to refuse circulating the raw and manufactured produce of other countries, under the pretence that the exchangeable value of their productions does not afford them equivalents equal to those which the foreign producer receives. I think the question is completely answered by what I have stated above. If the equivalent obtained by commerce does not repay the national producer for what his commodity has cost him to produce, he will cease producing it, and employ his capital and industry in some other labour in which he is enabled to stand the competition, and to reap profits equal to those of the foreign trader; or if all productions are burthened with taxes to such a degree, that none can stand the competition with foreign productions, not even in the home-market, government in that case is so bad, that it becomes a matter of indispensable necessity to stop all kind of foreign commerce. Finally, Adam Smith examines how far it may be proper to continue the free importation of certain foreign goods, when the foreign nation restrains, by high duties or prohibitions, the importation of some of our manufactured produce into their country; and he justly decides, that when there is no probability that retaliation will procure the repeal of such prohibitions, it is a bad method of compensating the injury done to