The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation

By David Ricardo | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV

ON COLONIAL TRADE

ADAM SMITH, in his observations on colonial trade, has shown most satisfactorily the advantages of a free trade, and the injustice suffered by colonies in being prevented by their mother countries from selling their produce at the dearest market and buying their manufactures and stores at the cheapest. He has shown that, by permitting every country freely to exchange the produce of its industry when and where it pleases, the best distribution of the labour of the world will be effected, and the greatest abundance of the necessaries and enjoyments of human life will be secured.

He has attempted also to show that this freedom of commerce, which undoubtedly promotes the interest of the whole, promotes also that of each particular country; and that the narrow policy adopted in the countries of Europe respecting their colonies is not less injurious to the mother countries themselves than to the colonies whose interests are sacrificed.

" The monopoly of the colony trade," he says, " like all the other mean and malignant expedients of the mercantile system, depresses the industry of all other countries, but chiefly that of the colonies, without in the least increasing, but, on the contrary, diminishing that of the country in whose favour it is established."

This part of his subject, however, is not treated in so clear and convincing a manner as that in which he shows the injustice of this system towards the colony.

It may, I think, be doubted whether a mother country may not sometimes be benefited by the restraints to which she subjects her colonial possessions. Who can doubt, for example, that if England were the colony of France, the latter country would be benefited by a heavy bounty paid by England on the exportation of corn, cloth, or any other commodities? In examining the question of bounties, on the supposition of corn being at £4 per quarter in this country, we saw that with a bounty of 10s. per quarter on exportation in England, corn would have been reduced to £3 10s. in France. Now, if corn had previously been at £3 15s. per quarter in France, the French

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