Making Great-Britain independent from the rest of the world requires to make the world independent from Great-Britain.

William Johnson Fox, translated by Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 3, pages 96 to 118 (in French)
Drury Lane, March 30th 1843

There are three speeches from Messrs. James Wilson, William Johnson Fox and Richard Cobden that were translated from this meeting at Drury Lane on March 30th. requesting the repeal of the Corn Law.

The speech from James Wilson relates a number of facts and figures showing the evolution of trade between England and some of its colonies or between England and the foreign nations to take apart the protectionist arguments on the possible consequences of the repeal of the Corn Law. He highlights that “the question the public is precisely to know if this is a just and economical way of levying taxes” (the answer being “no”, of course).

The speech from William Johnson Fox reviews certain arguments, and notably the one pertaining to war or peace that are created by protectionism or liberalism. He explores the argument of dependancy, independence and reciprocity that is still asserted nowadays (e.g. national or food independence). This is the frame in which today’s quote fits, showing how absurd it is to wish for independence from the rest of the world and, at the same type, hoping to get rich through exports. To make oneself dependent from abroad for some part of consumption renders the foreigners dependent on a part of oneself’s production (this is the source of the argument advocating free-trade as a conduit for peace). 

The speech from Richard Cobden exposes the argument (not really used anymore) according to which the people is poor because it is too numerous and brings as a “solution” the export of the people (Richard Cobden has no objection against voluntary emigration but is up in arms against “emigration when it raises from the necessity to escape legal famine, which is nothing else but deportation”). He reminds us that “it would be much easier and much more reasonable to bring foodstuff to us rather than bringing us to foodstuff”.

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