« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
tirely opposite, exhibiting the general longing after the power of enjoyment, and the absence of enjoyment from a vast multitude of the human family; exhibiting poverty, destitution, social alienation and discord, demoralisation and crime. Unjust action, or that which imparts destruction, prevailing in the system far more largely in degree than just action, or that which imparts conservation and required increase, so the stability of states and empires will be gradually undermined and destroyed. Such are the results of the abuse of language, abuse of facilities, abuse of faculties, abuse of power, abuse of knowledge. Instead of just, wise, and salutary use, the abuse of those beautiful and sustaining materials with which the earth abounds; and which, being generated and supported by the varied and appropriate soils, and by the varied and appropriate climates of the world, are designed for duly satisfying, as well as for gratifying, the wants and desires of man. Law disregarded; freedom and free use, loved and pursued in that degree which constitutes lust or licentiousness.
Contrast drawn between the Free Principle and System of Commerce in which no law of Proportion has place, and that principle and system of which the law of Definite Proportions constitutes the main characteristic.
THE obstacle which has hitherto impeded and baffled the efforts both of writers and of statesmen who have undertaken to investigate and direct those great courses which the subject of Social and Political Economy presents, has been that of where to draw the line, or how to attain and exhibit a definition of the general course as well as of the particular; or, the courses that ought to be adopted by the collective members of a community, as well as the courses that ought to be adopted by individual members. It has been discerned by them that the subject is composed of many and varied elements, which render an inquiry very difficult, by reason of complication, so much so, that whilst their minds have been engaged in the pursuit of truth in one quarter, they have lost sight of it in another, and thus when a conclusion, derived from the apparent interests of individuals, and which has been thought to be sound and practically good, has been attempted to be applied generally, or to the interests of a whole people, it has been found to be defective and false.
And then, in addition, there is the immense and disagreeable difficulty, or, perhaps, impracticability, of getting the people of any nation into such a state of unanimity, or reverence for right social principle, even if it should be discovered and presented to them, as that they should consent
to act in accordance with it. The impediments arising from these obstacles appear to have induced many statesmen and writers, even of the better class, to abandon, in hopelessness, the whole subject to mere chance; and so that FREE system of commerce, the offspring of modern invention, has been gradually assumed as the only safe, presentable, and practicable system.
By a steady and matured consideration of the subject, the mind of the capable student will be led to perceive how extraordinary it is that any man endowed with a good reasoning capacity, with comprehensive power of observation, and conversant with the principles of science in general, should give entertainment to the opinion that FREE commerce or trade, can, by any possibility, be right. The unfounded character of the free-trade principle, or the vacuity of which it consists, may be shown by a minute exposition of the meaning of the two words "Free Trade."
The word "Trade" is a substantive, and there are few substantives which possess a character so substantial, and a meaning so extensive: it embraces all the means upon which man, in every associated state or nation, in every quarter of the world, of every degree of rank and power, from the most powerful monarch down to the humblest and poorest peasant, depends for subsistence: for it has been ordained respecting man, that by the fruit of his labour he shall live. Now, when the adjective "free" is attached to the important substantive "trade," it is immediately perceived, that there is not present to the mind any definition or accurate meaning whatever. Thus, under the meaning of "free," two men who may be placed in circumstances precisely similar, may pursue exactly opposite courses; and then, if it be contended that the free principle be right, it must be contended that the courses pursued by both these persons must be right
also, even though they are diametrically opposed to each other. Or, we may suppose, that a great number of men may be placed in similar circumstances, and all may pursue different or opposing courses, and, by the free principle, it must be declared that all are right; thus, he who maintains that the free principle is true, is involved in the absurdity of maintaining that a dictate and a contradictate may both be true.
Supposing, again, that we apply the term "free to any agent, it may be to man, or to any being either superior or inferior to man. Now, when we talk of such an agent being "free" to do or to act, we convey no knowledge whatever of the nature or character of his acts. What we want to know and to impart is, How such a being acts, or is disposed to act. If it be the agency of the all-good and all-wise Creator which we contemplate and examine, we find that everything is done by a rule of unvarying rectitude, consequently, the privilege or power of freedom is RIGHTLY used; but, then, all the virtue of the question becomes concentred in the word RIGHTLY, which involves the whole LAW of action; and then that which we want is a definition, or a clear and full explication of this law of action. Thus, it must be evident, that the word "free" becomes entirely overruled by, or is in complete subserviency to, the word "right." In the case of the inferior being or agent, we have the reverse exemplified. He also is free; but the power possessed by him is exercised without reference to any rule of right. Thus, it follows, that when we make use of the word "free," as signifying a proper or right operation, we are under an obligation to show, in the first place, that the agent to whom we attach it, is unvaryingly disposed or predetermined to fulfil a right law. Now, is it, I ask, within the power of all the disciples of the school of free philosophy, to prove that.
man is this good or perfect agent? If, indeed, it were proved to be so, then acts, issuing from his free agency, would be right and good; but, should all this be proved, even in that case, the duty incumbent on those who undertake to argue and to write on the subject, would be that of showing the precise law and course of action which ought to be, according to the natural constitution of things observed, and which would be observed.
The utter inapplicability and hollowness of the "free" principle, may be rendered apparent by several methods of illustration. Let the term "free" be applied to the natural physical elements around us. For instance, let us suppose the power of the great luminary, the sun, to be free, or to have no definite or prescribed course assigned to it; its heat being subject to no law by which its degree or proportion is regulated and determined. It will be manifest to all persons, that in this case the direst consequences must ensue from such power being unregulated or without due direction and control. So, also, must it be with the great element water; if the sea were free, instead of being checked and regulated by a law which influences its action, determines its relative proportions, prescribes its boundaries, and utilises its power.
Again, let the free doctrine be imparted to the mind of a scientific chemist. He is engaged either in examining or compounding matter, which consists of a variety of simple elements. By deep thought, and by persevering experiment, he has, by the process of synthesis, succeeded in discovering the exact method of forming such or such a compound. In order that he may not lose the benefit of the successful results of his labours, he preserves, with the greatest care, a knowledge of the exact quantity of each simple element which has been required for realising the perfect composition; for he knows, that it is only by a strict adherence to the propor