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or corporate whatsoever, of, or for the sole buying, selling, making, working, or using of anything within this realm ; ... and all proclamations, inhibitions, restraints, warrants of assistants, and all other matters and things whatsoever, any way tending to the instituting, erecting, strengthening, furthering, or countenancing of the same, or any of them, are altogether contrary to the laws of this realm, and so are, and shall be utterly void and of none effect, and in no wise to be put in use or execution.” The following passage I quote verbatim from a petition presented to the House of Commons in 1691, relative to the East India trade, on behalf of divers Merchants and Traders in and about the City of London, and other their Majesties' Subjects. “The trade to the East Indies is of very great importance to this nation; and yet, by the manifold abuses of the present East India Company both at home and abroad, (who have managed the same for their private gain, without any regard to the public good,) the trade is likely to be utterly lost to this kingdom, and to fall into the hands of foreigners, unless timely prevented by some better regulation thereof, on a new joint-stock and constitution.” The petitioners further pray, “ that the House will take into consideration the establishing of a new East India Company, in such manner, and with such powers and limitations, as to them shall be thought most conducing to the preservation of so beneficial a trade to the kingdom.” One great objection urged by the favourers of the Company against the freedom of trade is, that “it will not only cause the said trade to suffer much, but other European nations will make great advantage thereof, to the hazard, if not the ruin, of the English commerce to those parts."
In this manner, then, the policy of Europe, by the privileges of corporations, by apprenticeships, exclusive companies, and other regulations favouring monopolies, restrains the competition in some employments of stock and labour to a smaller number than would otherwise be disposed to enter into them.
“ Secondly, In some other cases, it tends to increase the competition beyond the natural proportion.”* Of these, obvious * (Wealth of Nations, Book I. chap. x.; Vol. I. p. 202, tenth edit.-See above, p. 12.]
examples are found in the institutions of bursaries, scholarships, &c. On this article, however, it is unnecessary to enlarge, as the inconveniences which they produce to individuals are amply compensated by the public benefit which attends them.
“ Thirdly, The policy of Europe, by obstructing the free circulation of labour and stock both from employment to employment, and from place to place, occasions in some cases a very inconvenient inequality in the whole of the advantages and disadvantages of their different employments.
“The statute of apprenticeship obstructs the free circulation of labour from one employment to another, even in the same place. The exclusive privileges of corporations obstruct it from one place to another, even in the same employment.
“ It frequently happens, that while high wages are given to the workmen in one manufacture, those in another are obliged to content themselves with bare subsistence. The one is in an advancing state, and has, therefore, a continued demand for new hands; the other is in a declining state, and the superabundance of hands is continually increasing. Those two manufactures may sometimes be in the same town, and sometimes in the same neighbourhood, without being able to lend the least assistance to one another. The statute of apprenticeship may oppose it in the one case, and both that and an exclusive corporation in the other. In many different manufactures, however, the operations are so much alike, that the workmen could easily change trades with one another, if those absurd laws did not hinder them. ...
“The obstruction which corporation laws give to the free circulation of labour, is common, I believe, to every part of Europe. That which is given to it by the poor-laws is, so far as I know, peculiar to England. It consists in the difficulty which a poor man has in obtaining a settlement, or even in being allowed to exercise his industry in any parish but that to which he belongs. It is the labour of artificers and manufactures only of which the free circulation is obstructed by corporation laws. The difficulty of obtaining settlements obstructs even that of common labour.”* But I shall delay entering on the consideration of the
* [Ibid. pp. 209.212.]
English poor-laws, till we have taken a view of the different systems which have been proposed for the maintenance of the poor.
So much with respect to the policy of restraints on domestic commerce and industry. [SUBSECT. 11.—Of Restraints on the Commercial Intercourse
of Different Nations.] I shall now proceed to consider the restraints which affect the commercial intercourse of different nations. The system of regulations, which we are to examine under that head, is distinguished by Mr. Smith by the title of the Commercial or Mercantile system of Political Economy. This last phrase, as before hinted, is used by him in a very restricted sense. Its objects, he tells us, are the two following :-“ 1st, To provide a plentiful revenue or subsistence for the people, or more properly, to enable them to provide such a revenue or subsistence for themselves; and, 2dly, To supply the state or commonwealth with a revenue sufficient for the public services.”* According to the definition which I formerly gave of Political Economy,t it applies to all the different objects of law and political regulation, among which, undoubtedly, the principles which regulate the systems of agricultural or commercial policy occupy a very distinguished place. I mention this circumstance, that I may not be supposed, by adopting the language of Mr. Smith, to have lost sight of the explanation given in my Introductory Lectures of the province of Political Economy..
In stating the argument for a free trade with other countries, I shall aim at nothing more than a very succinct abridgment of Mr. Smith's doctrines on this subject; a general knowledge of which I must necessarily presuppose in my hearers, when I proceed to the discussion of some of the questions connected with these inquiries. While this outline may facilitate the studies of those who have not yet perused that invaluable work, it will, I hope, be not altogether useless to others, as containing a recapitulation of some of the more important doctrines which it explains.
* [Ibid. Book IV. Introduction ; Vol. +[Supra, Political Economy, Vol. I. II. p. 138, tenth edition.]
p. 9, seq.]
The great principle of the Mercantile system is, that money constitutes the wealth of a nation, or in other words, that a nation is rich or poor in proportion to the plenty or scarcity of the precious metals.
(Here Mr. Stewart introduced an abridged view of the first eight chapters of the fourth book of the Wealth of Nations,*
* [The abstract here alluded to by Mr. “Governments finding it impossible Bridges, as given in the notes taken by to restrain by force the exportation of Mr. Bonar, is as follows: "It was for a gold and silver from a country, came long time the opinion of statesmen, that next to turn their attention to what was as the wealth of an individual consists in termed the balance of trade. It was the quantity of money which he possesses, thought, that according to the value or can command, and that as the more which these commodities imported by a this is increased, the more is his wealth nation bear to the commodities exported augmented, so the same thing must hold by it, as greater or less, so would the true of a nation ; and, therefore, that prosperity of the country rise or fall. the more gold and silver which can be If it was found that the value of the goods accumulated in a nation, the more will sent out was greater than that of those its opulence and prosperity be increased. imported, then it was of course reckoned Hence one great object of government that the country was in a prosperous was, by means of laws and regulations, state,-but if it was otherwise, the to prevent the exportation of gold and country was deemed to be declining. silver out of a country, and to draw into “For the ascertaining of the value of the country as much specie as possible. the commodities sent out and received, Experience, however, at last proved that two methods were had recourse to, one all such attempts were unavailing; that was the Custom House books, the other where a superfluity of gold and silver the Rate of Exchange." was accumulated in a country, no laws (After referring to Mr. Macpherson's or regulations could prevent its being views given in the text on the Custom sent abroad for the purchase of commo- House entries as testing a nation's prodities. This is clearly proved in the sperity, Mr. Bonar proceeds :)—" The case of Spain and Portugal, where all other criterion resorted to for this purtheir sanguinary laws against carrying pose,—the Rate of Exchange, though gold and silver out of the country have perhaps not quite so fallacious, yet is never prevented their exportation, as by no means a certain test. Many cirthey come into these countries in greater cumstances often occasion a rise or fall abundance than their own necessities in the course of the Exchange, inderequire. It has been computed that the pendent of the amount of goods actually Lisbon packet brings over to Britain on exported and imported. an average no less than £50,000 worth i Notwithstanding the fallacy of the of gold and silver weekly. This may modes of ascertaining the proportional not be accurate, but there can be no value of commodities exported and imdoubt that all the laws and regulations ported, still the balance of trade, as it that were made, never had the effect of has been called, has been constantly the detaining in the country the superfluous object of solicitous attention to governgold and silver that could not be made ments. With a view to guard against use of if it remained.
what is supposed an unfavourable bal
with the following additions. After stating Mr. Smith's reasonings with regard to the Navigation Act, he added :)
On the same principle have been founded some late reasonings,
ance, it has been the aim of legislators, its capital can maintain. It can only by laws and regulations, to restrain divert a part of it into a direction into commerce with foreign nations, in such which it might not otherwise have a manner as they thought most likely to gone ; and it is by no means certain prevent the consequence so much dread that this artificial direction is likely to ed. This has been attempted chiefly be more advantageous to the society in two ways :-the imposition of heavy than that into which it would have gone duties, or even the total prohibition of of its own accord. Every individual is importing the commodities of another continually exerting himself to find out nation,--and the granting of bounties the most advantageous employment for and other encouragements to the expor whatever capital he can command.'t. tation of native commodities. "These ". As every individual endeavours as restraints upon importation, and encour. much as he can, both to employ his agements to exportation, constitute,' capital in the support of domestic inas Mr. Smith remarks, 'the principal dustry, and so to direct that industry means by which the Commercial System that its produce may be of the greatest proposes to increase the quantity of gold value, every individual therefore labours and silver in any country, by turning to render the annual revenue of the the balances of trade in its favour.'* society as great as he can. He generally
" Against this system Mr. Smith indeed neither intends to promote the argues in the following satisfactory and public interest, nor knows how much he conclusive manner:
is promoting it. . . . He intends only his "By restraining either by high duties own gain; and he is in this, as in many or by absolute prohibitions, the importa other cases, led by an invisible hand to tion of such goods from foreign countries promote an end which was no part of as can be produced at home, the mono. bis intention. Nor is it the worse for poly of the home market is more or less the society that it was no part of it. secured to the domestic industry employ. By pursuing his own interest, he freed in producing them. . . . That this quently promotes that of the society monopoly of the home market frequently more effectually than when he really gives great encouragement to that par- intends to promote it. ... ticular species of industry which enjoys “What is the species of domestic it, and frequently turns toward that em- industry which his capital can employ, ployment a greater share of both the and of which the produce is likely to be labour and stock of the society, than of the greatest value, every individual, would otherwise have gone to it, cannot it is evident, can, in his local situation, be doubted. But whether it tends either judge much better than any statesman to increase the general industry of the or lawgiver can do for him. The statessociety, or to give it the most advan- man who should attempt to direct pritageous direction, is not perhaps alto- vate people in what manner they ought gether so evident. . . . No regulation of to employ their capitals, would not only commerce can increase the quantity of load himself with a most unnecessary industry in any society, beyond what attention, but assume an authority which
*(Wealth of Nations, Book IV. chap. i. ; Vol. II. p. 175, tenth edition)