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Quotations about Liberty and Power

About this Quotation:

In spite of the rather condescending tone of the all-knowing landlord there are some sound economic truths here aimed at the working classes of Britain in the 1830s. This quotation was selected as millions of consumers in the west go about their Christmas shopping, perhaps not knowing about the benefits of “globalisation” and the international division of labor. So much of what is purchased and which provides happiness and joy at this time of the year depends upon a complex web of international trade. Today we have the electronic equivalent of the “plums and spices” mentioned in the Marcet homily.

Other quotes about Free Trade:

4 December, 2006

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Jane Haldimand Marcet, in a popular tale written for ordinary readers, shows the benefits to workers of foreign trade, especially at Christmas time (1833)

Read the full quote in context here.

Jane Haldemand Marcet was a successful popularizer of free market ideas in 19th century Britain. In a series of short “tales” in the book John Hopkins’s Notions on Political Economy (1833) she has various characters discuss topics such as the benefits to ordinary people of foreign trade, especially at Christmas time:

“So you see, my friends,” continued the landlord, “foreign trade has two advantages; for it not only procures things better and cheaper, but things which our climate renders it impossible for us to produce at home; such as wine, sugar, tobacco, plums, currants, rice, spices, cotton, silks, and other things without number.”
“Oh, then,” cried the good woman, “I could not even treat my children with a plum pudding at Christmas without foreign trade; for there’s no making it without plums and spices.”

The full passage from which this quotation was taken can be be viewed below (front page quote in bold):

“Well, you see, my good friends,” continued the landlord, “that foreign trade—that is, trading with foreign countries—is advantageous to every country engaged in it; for, what is true of one, is true of all: and when we buy a piece of foreign goods, be it what it may, or come from whence it will, we encourage the British manufacture thereby, just as much as if we bought the piece of goods at Leeds or Manchester.”

“Ay, and a little more, too,” cried Bob, “according to your honour’s reckoning; for you have forgot to take into the account the money saved by buying the cheaper goods, which saving is laid out in something else, and so sets more hands to work.”

“That is true,” cried the landlord; “I was falling into your argument, my honest tar, that there was neither loss nor gain in foreign trade; but I am glad to find you steer so clear of error that you can become my pilot. We are agreed then, that there is gain on both sides; and I hope, John, that you begin to think so too.”

“Why,” said John, “to be sure your honour must know best; and, if all you say be true, (as no doubt it is,) why I can’t but say it must be so.”

“Well,” continued the landlord, “but there is another advantage in foreign trade, which I have not yet mentioned. There are some things, such as good wine, that it would be impossible for us to make, because our climate is not hot enough to cultivate vineyards; so, if we did not get it from other countries, we should be obliged to go without.”

“Oh! for the matter of that,” cried John, “foreign wines will never come within our reach: we poor folk should not be the better for them, even if they paid no duty at all.”

“But you are sometimes the better for foreign spirits, John, I take it,” said the landlord.

“And sometimes the worse, too,” said his wife. “However, I have no right to complain; for that is only once in a way.”

“Well, to say nothing of the wine and the spirits,” continued the landlord, addressing himself to the wife, “you, good dame, would not have a spoonful of sugar to sweeten your tea, without foreign trade. Nor could you give me a pinch of snuff,” added he, holding out his hand to John, who first tapped his box and then opening it, respectfully offered it to his landlord.—”And as for the English silks,” said Bob, “why we should have had none to dispute about without foreign trade; for, though we can spin and weave silk, we can’t breed silk-worms in our climate.”—”Nor could you smoke your pipe,” said the landlord; “for tobacco is not raised in England any more than silk.”—”But I have heard some talk,” said John, “of passing a law to let them grow tobacco in Ireland.”

“If the law of the land should allow them, I doubt whether the law of nature would,” replied the landlord; “for the warm climate of Virginia, in America, whence it comes, is much more favourable to its growth; and, if they attempt to raise it in Ireland, I doubt but that it will cost them dearer, and not be so good.”—”Why, then,” said John, “it would be wiser to make a law to prevent instead of to allow them to grow it.”

“The best way would be to pass no law, either for or against,” replied the landlord. “Let men have their own way, and plant and sow, buy and sell, just where and how they like; they will soon find out what will answer best. If they can raise tobacco in Ireland as cheap and as good as in America, they will do it; and if they cannot, they will let it alone.”

“Ay,” cried Bob, “a man has a sharper look out for his own interest than any one else can have for him.”

“So you see, my friends,” continued the landlord, “foreign trade has two advantages; for it not only procures things better and cheaper, but things which our climate renders it impossible for us to produce at home; such as wine, sugar, tobacco, plums, currants, rice, spices, cotton, silks, and other things without number.”

“Oh, then,” cried the good woman, “I could not even treat my children with a plum pudding at Christmas without foreign trade; for there’s no making it without plums and spices.”


Patty smiled, and cast a look upon her wedding gown, which her mother observing, said,—”Well, child, take it up and make it up. I should be loth to say or think ill of it, after all the squire has told us.”

[More works by Jane Haldimand Marcet (1769 – 1858)]