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Fulton, Robert (1765-1815) to Earl of Stanhope

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04661.02 Author/Creator: Fulton, Robert (1765-1815) Place Written: Paris, France Type: Autograph letter Date: 10 April 1798 Pagination: 26 p. ; 25.3 x 19.8 cm.

Summary of Content: Explains to Stanhope the various reasons that his canal system will be so profitable. Argues that it will speed transportation and increase commerce. Says that it will earn an extra 84 million sterling per year for France if they replace their roads with his canals and that the country will need only to tax shipping to make money. Also argues for the freedom of trade, claiming that if each country produces only what it does best this will force them all to trade freely and fairly and even bring an end to all wars. He closes by saying "superior riches is only to be found in home improvement and the free exchange of produce," his canal system being a perfect example of the former.

Background Information: Robert Fulton was an engineer and entrepreneur, often credited with inventing the steamboat. While Fulton did not invent any of the individual components of the steamboat, he did combine the ...ideas of many other men to make the most successful steamboat. He was also involved in a number of other engineering projects, including his attempt to revolutionize canal building by making canals smaller and using them as a country's primary means of transporting goods. His plan, though intriguing, met with little success in the end.
Charles Stanhope, the third Earl of Stanhope, was a British politician and noted inventor, and a patron of Fulton's.
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Full Transcript: Selected Excerpts:

[4]…Commerce must be free, A freedom of Commerce is in fact of the very first Importance to all Nations, but unhappily a sense of Rational Politics is ...so very difficult of Cultivation; that the vast magnitude of a free trade Is not [inserted: yet] understood [5] by one Man in a thousand: Politicians In general would Consider their Country as on the Brink of Ruin if trade was perfectly free: Yet the fact Is that a perfect free Circulation of the whole produce of Industry without any duty [inserted: or] Import whatever Between Neighboring [struck: Nations] [inserted: Countries] is as necessary to the harmony of Mankind [inserted: and Riches of Nations] as the free Circulation of the Blood is to the Vigor of the human frame -

[7]…One Country has mines of gold and silver, another of Copper and tin, some have Iron, some Lead. The East Indies or China sends out tea silk and fine Manufactures the Wist [sic] Indies sugar Coffee, Cotton and Rum, Russia has Lumber hemp and tar America Lumber and Provisions the Mediterranean sends out fruits and oils Spain and Portugal Fruits and Wines, France Wines Brandees [sic] and Manufactures. England has [8] various Manufactures &c &c, Each Country finds it necessary to exchange such part of her produce as she Cannot Consume for the produce of other nations Which She may Require, the whole becomes Mingeled [sic] the demand is Reciprocal the exchange is absolutely necessary and must be made Whether in peace or War, but Certainly to greater advantage by a system of peace than War. Then Let the Cause of War be [struck: Removed] [inserted: done away] that peace may prevail set foreign [struck: Nations] [inserted: Possessions] free, annihilate the Restriction on trade [inserted: and] [struck: and this will Remove] [inserted: and] the Jealousies and [strikeout] [inserted: burdens] they Create [inserted: will be Removed] The object of Foreign Possessions should be to give produce Cheap to the mother Country and open a Market for her Manufactures, but [9] expenses proves that this is not the Case. For America without Foreign possessions has the various produce of the east and West Indies Cheaper than the people of England And France; the Reason is, France and England are obliged to Lay a duty on the Articles Consumed at home, in order to Raise a Sum to pay the Interest of Capital sunk In Wars to obtain and defend the Possessions hence where is the advantage of Possessions if the americans [sic] without them obtain their produce Cheaper than their possessions…

[15] And happiness to the people And Is the Real and only source of Riches -
It seems almost impossible that an Intelligent mind Could view this subject for a moment And not be struck with the Astonishing Blind and Wicked Politics which Can Induce a Nation to monopolize Foreign Islands and districts or particular Kinds of trade and then attempt to force the produce on other Countries at the point of the Bayonet -
It is as Ridiculous [struck: of] [inserted: as] to Atempt [sic] to monopolize the suns Rays. It is [struck: a] false as to force Religion on a people It is as horid [sic] as [struck: Feudal] Barbarity It is a Monster of Ignorance the [desk] the dreadful enemy of Man. -

[16] Restricting Laws [inserted: on trade] and duties on produce Imported is equally Injurious to Nations and the Policy is as bad as Contending for Foreign Possessions -
Commercial treaties Regulating duties on [struck: trade] Importation shackles [sic] trade [struck: by] establishing Custom Houses with all the train of officers and Collectors And an establishment of shipping officers &c &c to prevent smuggling.

[18]…Why not Remove this Cause of Jealousy by annihilating every kind of duty on trade. Let is be free avoid the Wars occasioned by such Restrictions and permanant [sic] peace being Established the price of every Article will be Lowered to the Consumer While the sum necessary to the expences [sic] of Government, may easy be Raised at home as I have before shewn [sic] by encouraging Improvements and a proper Application to Labour [sic]. It is such a system Which Instead of taking from the people What they have got will [strikeout] add to the present stock of conveniences and pay the National expenses…
[25] But What is Riches and how is tranquility to be established? Is [inserted: this] the Whole of the Argument? - [inserted: To this I would answer] All Riches Arises out of [inserted: productive] Manual Labour. It Consequently follows that the more persons there are employed and the Better their Labours are directed by systems of Political arrangement aided by Chimistry [sic] and Mechanics the greater will be the produce of the Labour and Riches of the Nation. - …
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People: Fulton, Robert, 1765-1815
Stanhope, Charles Earl of, 1753-1816

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: InventorInventionInfrastructureCanalsCommerceMerchants and TradeTransportationTaxes or TaxationFinanceGovernment and CivicsFranceGlobal History and CivicsForeign Affairs

Sub Era: The Early Republic

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