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Corn Bill? What had the Corn Bill to do with the flogging of English Local Militia-men, and the employment of German troops ? one, in answer to Lord Bacon's philosophical works, were to remind the reader, that that famous Lord Chancellor was punished, at last, for taking bribes, the reader would certainly believe, that the writer wanted the power to answer the philosophy of Lord Bacon.
It would have pleased me to receive, or to see in print, some answer, with or without a name, to my Address. I could then have cleared up whatever remained doubtful in the minds of my neighbours, for whom, speaking generally, and leaving the Rose politics out of the question, I really do entertain as great a respect as for any set of inhabitants that I have ever known, the Quakers of Pennsylvania always excepted. I showed no want of respect for them; and, if any of them had thought me in error, I produced grounds sufficient, at any rate, to warrant the expectation of an answer. The answer might have been as cutting as you please. That is all fair ; but, if anything at all was said, there should have been an attempt, at least, at an answer.
One of these annonymous writers reproaches me with calling Mr. Rowcliffe a tallow-chandler, when it appears, he is a wine-merchant. I did not say he was a tallow-chandler. I really did not know that he was any trade at all. I sent into our village to ask what trade he was of, and nobody here could tell me. I merely supposed him, for argument's sake, to be a tallow.chandler, as I might, for argument's sake, suppose the Lord Chancellor to be a tallow-chandler, in order to enforce what I might have to say, in opposing any principle, or statement, of his.
I really did not know Mr. Rowcliffe personally, nor had I any knowledge of his calling or profession. I presumed, as it became me to presume, that he was a very worthy citizen and magistrate.
But it was clear to me, that either he was very ignorant indeed of the subject on which he had, under his hand, put forth a publication, or that he had been led, to oblige others, or to gratify his own whim, to publish what was not true. I believe, in fact, that he was wholly ignorant of the subject. But a man may be a very worthy gentleman, and a very worthy Mayor, and yet 110 political economist. And the only fault I impute to him, is, that of having made a publication on a subject, which he did not understand ; a fault, to be sure, which is not very iare; but, at the same time, it is a fault which every one who appeals to the press must run the sisk of seeing exposed. Besides, it was a duty in me to expose this fault, because Mr. Rowcliffe had promulgated some errors of a very dangerous tendency, He had pointed out the growers of wheat as objects of public hatred. Now, though as a wheut-grower, I do not care a pin, for my own part, for any popular feeling or prejudice; yet I was, surely, fairly entitled to show that my calling was not one which ought to expose me to such prejudice. This consideration had, however, no weight with me; nor was I actuated by any predilection for the calling of a farmer, whom I regard as no more useful in society than a shoemaker or a tailor, or a wine, merchant, and (merely on account of his calling) to be entitled to more respect. My motive was, that of putting the public right, as to certain important points, with regard to which Mr. Rowcliffe's publication was misleading them. And, surely, if I was able to do this, it was my duty to do it! Upon what ground, then, do I deserve abuse instead of an answer ? Unless, indeed, the Mayor of Southampton can show, that the publishing of false notions and nonsense, without liability to exposure, be amongst the privileges secured by the Charter of that ancient Corporation. If, indeed, Mr. Rowcliffe had kept his Resolutions in bis closet ; if the town had deliberated in secret ; if no publication had been made by them, then the thing would have been different. But Mr. Rowcliffe, or the town through him, had thought proper to put the result of their deliberations into the public newspapers. They had appealed to the sense of the public at large. And were they, above all the rest of the world, to expect security against criticism ? He who resorts to the use of the sword is an assassin, if he does not suppose that the sword is to be opposed to him; and he who resorts to the use of the press, if he knows, or expects, the press not to be open against him, is a coward of the basest description ; a description which I am far from supposing to apply to Mr. Rowcliffe, who, I should hope, instead of partaking in the base feelings of these anonymous writers, will, if he be convinced of his error, thank me for having pointed it out.
As to the subject itself, it is done with, for the present, and, I hope, will never be revived. The Corn Bill is thrown out; and, while I express my pleasure thereat, I cannot help lamenting, that similar energy is not shown in petitioning upon other subjects, far more interesting to the people. It is painful to observe, that the fear of dear bread; that the paltry consideration of the price of the loaf, in which the mass of the nation are in no degree interested; that the imaginary difference in the price of food should set the whole country in a flame, and produce the instantaneous rejection of a law, proposed and supported by the Government, while the people are torpid as stocks and stones, as to all those matters in which their rights and liberties are involved. By pointing out to them the real causes of the high price of provisions; namely, the tases and the depreciation of the currency, I show them, that, if they wish to reduce prices, they must prevail on the Parliament to take off taxes, and restore the currency to its former value. Here their petitioning would have some sense in it; but, in their recent proceedings, there is no sense at all.
If the people of Southampton, or any part of them, are disposed to reject my arguments and statements, I refer them to Mr. Huskisson, who, in his place in Parliament, has said the same that I have said. Let them attack him, and not me; for, surely, if we are both in error, he is more to blame than I am. He was, many years, a Secretary of the Treasury, under that Heaven-born Minister, Pitt, having, for his fellow in office, that veteran placeman, Mr. George Rose. He ought to know the real causes of high price, and the likelihood of a fall if there be any. Yet he says as I say. Attack him, then, and not me.
A correspondent, for whom I have the greatest respect, seems not to have clearly understood me, as to one or two points. He says, that I assert, that a taxation and a depreciation of the currency are the real and sole causes of the high price of corn, an assertion, says he, not warranted by the fact; for taxation and depreciation continue, and yet corn is cheap. My correspondent, intent upon the main drift of the argument, omitted to observe, that I everywhere qualify my assertion by saying, that these are the sole permanent causes; the sole arerage causes; or the sole causes, on an average of years. These qualifications I have invariably used ; and I have, to a tiresome repetition, stated, for fear of this very objection, that the variation in the price, between one year and another, depends wholly on the amount of the crop, and the weather of the har.
vest, with the exception only of that gradual and imperceptible rise, which, year after year, the taxation and depreciation are producing. We have a proof of this gradual progress in the price of the loaf at the present time, compared with the price of the loaf in 1802 and 1803. Great crops and fine harvests then brought down the price of the quartern loaf, at one time, so low as eight-pence, in London. The great crops and fine harvests of the two last years have not been able, as yet, to bring down the loaf to less than about eleven-pence, in London. This shows, that the very largest crops and finest harvests are unable to contend against their two powerful opponents, taxation and depreciation, which march on, steady and inflexible, like one of our own battalions, unaffected by the chilling frosts, or by the rays of the sun; while the crop is affected by every blast that blows, and by every ray of heat that lights upon the earth.
Another point, on which my correspondent has remarked, is this : You say, he observes, that the Bill would not be unjust ; you say, that corn is as much entitled to a protecting law as candles are; you show clearly, that in whatever degree wheat is imported, less will be grown in Englund : and yet, you are an enemy to the Bill.
But, as to the justice of the Bill; a measure may not be at all unjust, and yet very inexpedient ; which, it is my opinion, is the case with regard to this Bill. And, before my correspondent concluded, that there was something inconsistent in my being an enemy to the Bill, and, at the same time, saying, that the corn was as much entitled to protection as candles are, and that the importation of corn would cause less 10 be grown in England, he should have waited to hear me say, that CANDLES OUGHT TO BE PROTECTED, and that it would be AN EVIL to cause less corn to be grown in England. My opinion, which I have before explicitly stated, is in opposition to both these. I see no reason for protecting English-made candles; and I see no harm that could arise from our sending away our copper and tin, and steel, and cloth, and crockery-ware, and getting, from finer climates, corn, oil, and wine, in return. If men do not raise corn, they will not lose money by raising corn. If they have not capital employed in farming, they will not have to pay taxes upon land, horses, &c., and will have no poor-rates to pay. If the country (though the idea is absurd) were wholly fed from abroad, those who are now farmers would find something else to do.
But, my grand objection to the Bill, an objection which over-balances everything else, is, that, in case of future high prices, it would have given a wrong direction to the public outcry. It would bave set the people to clamouring against lardlords, farmers, nillers, and bakers, and have thus taken their attention away from the real causes of public distress. This alone was sufficient to make me oppose the Bill. I know that taxes must be raised ; that prices, upon an average of years, must, keep pace with the taxes and the currency; that, if the taxes be not laid so directly upon the farmer, they must reach himn indirectly; but, ts.e difference would have been, that, if the Bill had been passed, all tl @ blame would have been laid upon the grower of corn, and the manufacturer of it into bread.
I do not say, that this will not be the case as it is; but it would have been sure to be the case, if the Bill had been passed.
(Political Register, September, 1814.)
I have before me the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords, on the subject of the Corn Bill.—The manifest object of the “ inquiry' of this Committee is to lay the ground for a Bill to prohibit the importation of corn, until our own corn will sell at such a price as shall enable the grower to grow it and to pay his rent and taxes.As it is my opinion, that a Bill of this sort will be again brought forward, I shall, beforehand, put in my protest against any such measure. - I have several objections to it; and, that I may have the better chance of being understood, I shall state and explain, as clearly as I am able, the grounds on which they rest, under distinct heads.-I must first, however, premise, that I do not see any injustice, towards the rest of the community, in the passing of such a Bill as was proposed last year. I dislike such a Bill, because it would be injurious to ihe country at large ; because it would do general harm; and not because it would benefit the farmer at the expense of the community.—The state in which this country now is, is a very singular and critical state. A long and expensive war has created taxes enormous. These taxes (to say nothing of those necessary for the new war with America) must be kept on, or it will be impossibe for the Government to pay the interest of the National Debt. To pay these taxes, and the poor-rates, which latter alone amount to nearly half as much as the whole revenue of France, prices must be, on an average of years, kept up to nearly the point of the last five or six years. To keep up prices to this point the products of the earth in other countries must be excluded, and especially the products of France, lying so near to us, and now become infinitely more rich in agricultural productions than at any former period. - France, in consequence of her happy Revolution, seems to have become a new country. She has now an abundance of all the necessaries of life, and her superabundance she is selling to us. There is annually a great fair for neat catile at Barnet, in Hertfordshire. Hither are brought the cattle from Scotland, Wales, Devonshire, and elsewhere, to be distributed amongst the numerous graziers and stall-feeders of the southern and eastern counties of England. When exhibited at this fair, the cattle cover a space of ground about !wo miles in circumfer
Now, I have no scruple in saying, that I am fully convinced, from my own observation, and from information gathered nearly upon the spot, that the French have, since the month of May last, brought to, and sold in this country, a far greater number of nent catile than are brought in any one year, to this great national fair.— Let any one estimate the effect of such an importation. The effect really has been the lowering of the value of every man's neat stock above one-third.- France, therefore, freed from the feudal system, freed from the dronery of the monasteries, freed from tithes, possessing a happier climate, and paying lower wages for labour, can, does, and will undersell the growers of corn and breeders of cattle in England. Besides the neat cattle above-mentioned, the French have brought, and are daily bringing, great numbers of swine, fat as well as lean; of sheep, fat and lean, and the fat of surprising fatness; of poultry, of all sorts, of the finest quality; of butter, eggs, fruit, and even garden vegetables.- It would really seem, that two or three new counties of Eng. land had risen out of the sea, teeming with food, without having any one to eat it.— The effect of this must be, it has been, it is, and it will be, the lowering and the keeping down of the price of these articles in England, Ireland, and Scotland. For, though these products arrive or the coast they have their efect all over the kingdom. They swell the general quan. tity, in the same way, and with as perfect regularity, as your hand, put in on one side of a bucket of water, makes the water rise in every part of the bucket.—Therefore, if you pass a law to“ protect the farmer,” as it is called, against the importation of corn, why not include cattle, sheep, and hogs, which form nearly one-half of his property, and which are as necessary as bread ?—My objections to such a law are Ist, that, it being a benefit to mankind in general, that countries should be at liberty to supply each other with their products, such a luw would be hostile to that great and beneficent principle.—Why should such a war be made against nuture; against the universal good of man? Why should we, who live in a less happy climate, and who labour under many disadvantages, unknown to our neighbours; why should we not participate of their superabundance ? Here is a person of fixed income in England. Why should he not eat the cheap beef, mutton, and pork, raised by his neighbour in Normandy?“ Why !” exclaims the farmer and landlord : " Why! why, because we are compelled to pay as much tax and poor" rate as if none of this supply came from France to supp!ant ours in the “ market. Take off the taxes created by the war ; take off the poor-rates,
created by the war; take off these, place us where we were in 1792, “ and we shall be able to supply you at as cheap a rate as the French can." - In answer to this, I have to observe, in the first place that, if there be any fault in the creation of the taxes, who is more to blame than the farmers and landlords ? Did they, in any one instance, oppose the war ? On :he contrary, did they not address the King to undertake it and carry it on ? Did they not, in all parts of the country, pledge their lives and fortunes for the carrying on of the war ? Did they not say, that they were ready to spend their last shilling, and the last drop of their blood, in the cause of Kingly Government against Republicanism ? And, did they not, by voluntarily arming themselves as Yeoman Cavalry, actually support, physically support, the war-party, against all the remonstrances and attempts of the opponents of the war? Were these professions insincere ? If they were, those who made them deserve no pity ; and, if they were sincere, ought they to grumble and growl at the loss, which they are now sustaining, seeing that the object of all their prayers is attained ; namely, the fall of Republicanism, and the re-establishment of Monarchy in France ? The debt which now swallows up more than half of the taxes, arose necessarily out of the war; the expenses of the new war against America have a like source ; the increase of the poor-rates is attributable to the same mighty cause. And, as the farmers and landholders were amongst the forwardest in support of the war, must they not be unreasonable indeed to object to pay their share of those taxes? Yes, they are, indeed, willing to pay their share of the taxes ; but they wish to have such high prices as will enable them to do this without any distress, any