Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/65

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
55
THE LOGIC OF FREE TRADE AND PROTECTION.

all, it proves that tariff legislation, taken separately, had no more influence on the national prosperity than the movement of the planets. To make matters even worse, he attempts to account for the instances that make against him by ascribing the results to other causes. For example, in the case of the free-trade period, 1846 to 1856, he tells us that the war with Mexico, the Irish famine, the discovery of gold in California, and the Crimean war combined to defeat the natural result of free trade, and, instead of there being a minus, there was a plus quantity. What else is this than a simple begging of the question? By assuming that the result was due in this instance to a plurality of causes, sufficiently strong to totally destroy and even reverse the effect which he believes free trade would have produced alone, he leaves the ground open for a similar assumption by his opponents during those periods which apparently make for his theory. Wars, famines, and gold discoveries have happened at other times—times in which protection was in force. These would doubtless produce similar effects in disturbing the predicted results, and would act as disastrously against Mr. Blaine's theory in the one instance as for it in the other. It was of reasoning such as this of which Bacon wrote: "The very form of induction that has been used by logicians in the collection of their instances is a weak and useless thing. It is a mere enumeration of a few known facts, makes no use of exclusions or rejections, concludes precariously, and is always liable to be overthrown by negative instances."[1]

For a satisfactory and anything approaching a reliable application of empiricism, it would be requisite to ascertain precisely what effect the increase of population, emigration, the variations of the seasons—causing excessive rains, droughts, and storms—also inventions, political contests, fires, robberies, etc., had upon trade; and until such an application can be made, no one can truly say such and such a period of prosperity was due directly to the tariff. The element of time plays one of the most important parts in this method.[2] Our greatest and most general truths have taken ages to make themselves apparent. We come now to the examination of the argument by which free trade is sustained.

Mr. Gladstone deduces his conclusion from these premises: "International commerce is based not upon arbitrary or fanciful considerations, but upon the unequal distribution among men and regions of aptitudes to produce the general commodities


  1. The inductive system seems to have been the peculiar aversion of the brightest Scotch intellects of the eighteenth century. Both Adam Smith and David Flume spoke contemptuously of the Baconian method, and Buckle thinks this aversion to Bacon's system led Hume to underrate his genius. In his History of England, Hume places Bacon inferior to Galileo, and possibly below Keppler! which Buckle considers unfair.
  2. Hume calls it the "tedious, lingering method." (Philos. Works, vol. i, p. 8.)