Free labour is cheaper than slave labour.

George Thompson, translated by Frédéric Bastiat
Complete Works, Volume 3, pages 281 to 298 (in French)
Covent Garden, April 17th 1844

The speech from George Thompson focuses on differential tariffs applied to sugar, whether it comes from the colonies, foreign lands or foreign lands where slavery is still ongoing.

He starts by praising the reduction of tariffs on foreign sugar, which, despite favouring “indigenous” sugar, open the way towards equality of treatment. However, he is up in arms against the tariffs that remain absolutely prohibitive on sugar produced through the exploitation of slaves. This may be surprising because George Thompson had been a fervent abolitionist and therefore needs to explain his position. According to him, if it is healthy that an individual refuses to consume a product that has involved slavery, it is not the role of government to implement prohibition. To prohibit the consumption of a product because its source is evil equals to fighting evil through evil. Moreover, he shows how cynical are those sugar producers who argue in favour of restrictions on slave sugar but who, not being producers of tobacco but simple consumers, do not care about knowing if the latter is produced by slaves or not. The other inconsistency is to allow slave sugar to enter British refineries and export the refined sugar at low price while the English consumer is not allow to buy it at that price.

According to George Thompson, the fight against slavery remains valid but it should not be conducted through tariffs. To expose the horrors of slavery as much as its economic inefficacy is what should lead to its extinction. This is the frame in which today’s quote appears, reminding us that, despite popular belief, slavery is not a product of capitalism but that, on the contrary, the advent of capitalism, which is economically more efficient, is what led to its disappearance.

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