« ForrigeFortsett »
siderable; land yields a poor rent, or even none at all ; labour languishes, industry pines, and national wealth decays. That the produce of national labour is consumed at home, and that the capital of the hometrade always replaces two national capitals, is of little importance; national wealth is not improved, nor is the condition of the people rendered less miserable by the circumstance.
But when the produce of national labour is sold at a high price, the labourer then receives ample wages, the profit of stock is great, the rent of land considerable, national industry flourishes, opulence is progressive, and the wealth of the state becomes the immoveable basis of its power : whether this high price of the produce of national labour be paid by foreign countries, is of no moment; its effects are not less certain nor less prosperous.
The question reduces itself simply to this: does the foreign or the home trade procure the most advantageous price to the produce of national labour: And I think it has been sufficiently answered in favour of foreign trade. Consequently, all nations are in my opinion powerfully interested in giving to foreiga the preference over the home trade.
Consistently with his principles, Adam Smith assigns the last place to the carrying trade, the capital of which is merely employed in replacing the capitals which support the labour of foreign countries.
But his opinion is directly opposite to that of D'Avenant, whose knowledge and information on subjects conneeted with political economy are entitled to the highest consideration.
Freight,” says D'Avenant, “is not only the most politic, but the most national and most certain profit a country can possibly make by trade." *
Such a difference between two justly esteemed writers deserves to be investigated.
And first it ought to be observed, that the assertion, that the capital employed in the carrying trade replaces only foreign capitals destined to support the labour of a foreign country, is not correct.
This capital supports also the labour which builds and fits vessels out; it pays the wages of the sailors t, the commission for warehouses, and all the advances to which it gives rise. It is the origin and principle of the transit trade, which is so profitable in all its branches, because it pays considerable wages, and maintains a great number of individuals at the expence of the industry of other nations,
Notwithstanding these numerous advantages, I do not think that the carrying trade is the most beneficial, or that it ought to be favoured at the expence of the foreign trade of consumption.
* Vol. ii. page 275.
+ The author forgets that Adam Smith himself observed, that, “ when the carrying trade of any particular country is carried on with the ships and sailors of that country, that part of the capital employed in it which pays the freight is distributed among and puts into motion a certain number of productive labourers of that coun. try.” (Wealth of Nations, vol. ii. page 68.) But Adam Smith did not enter much into the subject, because Great Britain had no carrying trade at the time he wrote, and this is also the probable reason why he neglected mentioning the transit trade.--T.
Why does a nation employ its capitals in one labour preferably to another? Because it has a decided superiority in this labour; and this superiority balances the advantages which other nations have in other branches of industry. The benefits of the carrying trade are therefore relative. They depend on the situation of the country, on the manners of the people, and on their taste and knowledge. Such circumstances are local, and cannot easily be transferred from one country to the other.
Every nation has advantages in some kind of industry. It ought to study to improve them without envying those advantages which other nations enjoy in other branches of industry, and without neglecting those which it may attain without inconvenience, and in which it may keep up the competition.
In short, we ought to recollect what D'Avenant says, with as much sagacity as judgment : “ The various produce of different soils and countries is an indication that Providence intended that they should be helpful to each other and mutually supply the necessities of one another,"
Thus it appears certain, that foreign trade is more favourable to private and public wealth than the hometrade. Nations ought therefore studiously to exert themselves to place foreign trade on a solid and immovable basis, and eagerly seek for the means best calculated to raise it to the highest pitch of perfection.
The means hitherto employed consist in privileged companies, colonies, and treaties of commerce with foreign powers. The efficacy of these different means is disputed by our best writers, and forms a problem which is not easily solved. I shall endeavour to give it a full investigation and to reduce it to a proposition so plain that the advantages and inconveniencies of the different theories on this important point of political economy may at least be appreciated.
COMMERCE, or the general circulation of the produce of labour, in which wealth is so strongly interested, has not escaped the attention of modern governments; and what must appear very extraordinary is, that the mode of conducting it has been nearly the same at first in all countries. Every-where the home-trade was at first entrusted to privileged individuals, and afterwards to corporations regulated by statutes and general and private laws. Every-where privileged companies have been exclusively allowed to pursue the most productive branches of foreign trade: but it must be acknowledged, that the uniformity of a method establishes neither its necessity, nor its utility and advantages. The interests of princes, temporary wants and personal considerations, were generally the motive or the pretence of such concessions.
Experience and reason have long ago pointed out the defects, inconveniencies, and calamities of a restricted commerce. It has been equally reprobated by all writers, without exception; and if it be still found among some enlightened nations, it is because it is in soine degree become a part of the political system, and is identified and confounded with the right of property. But it is every day modified, every day it is forced to capitulate with public opinion, by which it is hooted, and governments themselves
prolong its existence merely because they are obliged to yield to the circumstances of the times, which excase any thing and oppose the best intentions.
It is not therefore with the view to ascertain the truth of the principles, that I shall inquire into the influence of corporations and privileged companies upon the circulation of the produce of general labour; but I think it will not be useless rapidly to state the powerful considerations which imperiously demand the suppression of a method of commerce so fatal to general wealth.
Corporations and exclusive companies, as their proceedings are similar, afford also the same results. They give to a certain number of privileged individuals the right of purchasing of the producer to sell to the consumer. They consequently limit the number of buyers and of sellers; which circumstance gives to the privileged buyers and sellers the faculty of selling dear and purchasing cheap. But to purchase cheap of the producer is to discourage production, and to sell dear to the consumer is to discourage consumption. Thus it is