Economic Annals of the Nineteenth Century

By William Smart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXIV
1820. THE BEGINNINGS OF FREE TRADE

AT the same time as the agricultural interests were clamouring for a further increase of their "inadequate" protection, another interest made itself heard in the first articulate Free Trade manifesto.

On the 8th May, was presented the famous Petition of the Merchants of London, the "originating impulse" of the Free Trade movement. As its language concerning reciprocity has often been misrepresented, as if the case for Free Trade rested on the expectation that other nations also would adopt it, it seems advisable to print it in full:1

The Merchants' petition.

"That foreign commerce is eminently conducive to the wealth and prosperity of a country, by enabling it to import the commodities for the production of which the soil, climate, capital, and industry of other countries are best calculated, and to export in payment those articles for which its own situation is better adapted.

"That freedom from restraint is calculated to give the utmost extension to foreign trade, and the best direction to the capital and industry of the country.

"That the maxim of buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest, which regulates every merchant in his individual dealings, is strictly applicable as the best rule for the trade of the whole nation.

"That a policy founded on these principles would render the commerce of the world an interchange of mutual advantages, and diffuse an increase of wealth and enjoyments among the inhabitants of each state.

____________________
1
Hansard, N.S. i. 179; Annual Register, ii. 770. It was an open secret that the petition was drawn up by Thomas Tooke, author of the well-known History of Prices.

-744-

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