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' P. W.' on Monopolizers



' Tis a common saying, "every thing has two handles," the meaning of which is, every thing is capable of being improved to a good or bad purpose. Should we suppose any thing ever so well adapted in its nature to produce good, its tendency to this end may be prevented by misapplication, as to be productive of evil. Innumerable instances might be mentioned to confirm this truth; but I shall, at present, select only one: ' tis that of commerce.

The design of this, if grounded on the principles either of reason or religion, is the good of mankind; and if managed as it ought to be, the good of mankind would be the effect. But ' tis capable, through the influence of an unreasonably private spirit, of being as great a curse as it might have been a blessing if every one sought his own in union with the weal of others. Of this we have a most striking illustration in the management of commerce in this town and land. A self-seeking spirit appears to have taken a universal spread. Those who are employed in carrying on trade seem to have totally forgot that eternal rule of righteousness, "Do to others as you would they should do to. you," and to have placed as unrighteous an one in its room, "Get what you can, no matter how nor who is oppressed and distressed thereby." ' Tis, without all doubt, reasonable and fit that merchants and traders should consult their own interest, and endeavour to promote it; but,at the same time, ' tis unreasonable and shameful in them to do this in opposition to the interest of others, taking occasion, from their necessities and sufferings, to turn oppressors and extortioners, that by this means they may enrich themselves.

If the traders in this town and land had managed their commercial business with any tolerable regard to the good of the publick, as they might have done, in consistency with seeking their own profit, so far as it was fit and proper they should, being members of one and the same political body, we should have been at this day in happy circumstances, compared with what we now are. Our traders, considered in general, are, in the view of all considerate persons, as grand oppressors, and as truly and extensively so, in proportion to the sphere in which they move, as our ministerial oppressors in England; and unless they are soon restrained, either from a virtuous principle within or from some extensive power, they will be the destroyers of the poor, the widow, the fatherless, and all others whose situation in life is such as renders it impossible for them to do justice to themselves. To what can it be attributed, but the excessive love traders have to their own precious selves, that they put such an extravagant price upon the commodities they have to sell? And what an unspeakable damage has this been to the publick! It has occasioned the undue rise of every thing we depend upon for the support and comfort of life. Farmers, manufacturers in their several


occupations, and labourers in all their kinds, excuse their high demands for what is wanted in their way from the still higher demands of traders for what they have to sell. In very truth, our traders, both in town and country, are the real cause of the monstrously high price of every thing; and the love of their own interest, in opposition to the interest of all others, and to the subversion of it, if they may get by it, is that shameful principle by which they are governed in this whole affair.

Monopolizers, in this day of common calamity, are our worst oppressors. Those among them, in special, are so, who, not content with the thousands they are righteously entitled to, in consequence of the prizes the commissioned vessels they own have brought in, have been unduly influenced, from an avaricious disposition, to make a monopoly of as much of the effects of those prizes as their cunning would enable them to do, that, by an excessively enhanced price, they might by and by get that from others, however poor and destitute, which both reason and revelation unite in calling the gain of oppression. These extortioners are not only sordidly unjust, but basely wanting in gratitude to that Providence which has distinguished them from most others in this day of general distress; and they ought to be restrained by Government within the limits of what is right and fit; and unless some measures are soon authoritatively come into to effect so righteous and valuable an end, it may be feared whether undesirable consequences will not take place, as a general clamour begins to be loudly heard.

P˙ W.

Needham, Massachusetts, October 29, 1776.