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to do so; or if any particular nation refuse so to act, that it will suffer for the deviation to the advantage of the rest. This supposition, in ordinary times and cases, or in times the same as when the principles of the science were laid down, is perhaps correct, and may often have been justified by the event; but the case is very much altered when the ordinary systems of policy are completely overthrown by extraordinary causes.” Now I think it will be found in practice, that the prospect of ruining or materially injuring a rival nation has always been considered a cause sufficiently evtraordinary to justify a departure from general principles, even under a full acknowledgment of their use and advantage in ordinary times: at least, I am sure that any nation which should venture to rest the fundamental principles of its political system upon a contrary expectation would wilfully place itself in great and imminent jeopardy.
Fully admitting therefore the theoretical expediency of general principles on the subject before us, and that, according to every fair conclusion to be drawn from them, population would not necessarily press to a mischievous degree against the means of subsistence, although the natural powers of the domestic soil were insufficient to afford those means, because food might be purchased by the products of the people's industry from other countries where the powers of the soil are sufficient; yet this admission is by no means conclusive of the question : for the reasons above mentioned, the temptations which such a state would afford to the hostility of rival nations is so great, the effects which would be actually produced by depriving any considerable portion of the people of their accustomed means of subsistence, are in truth
so dreadful, that nothing short of absolute necessity can justify a great and extensive country in submitting to a permanent dependance upon imported food. ... But if the natural tendency of population to increase be not abated as society advances in its progress, but retain (as it is asserted to do) all its original vigour, even in the highest stages of its progress, and when the productive powers of the soil are necessarily very limited, it is evident that this absolute necessity of a permanent dependanee upon imported food must at length occur; the idea of ultimately placing the community in a state of comfort as to their means of subsistence from the domestic soil must be abandoned as hopeless; and there should seem to be a limit in the progress of wealth and civilization beyond which no prudence, no public spirit, no attention to public and private morals can carry any people; a point from which they must necessarily begin to decline, and a principle of decay which no obedience to the commands of God can obviate. This is a very disheartening prospect, and one that I should be exceedingly reluctant to entertain; because it involves a principle of apathy in the cause of public virtue and happiness, by the necessary anticipation of their speedy decay. For it is impossible to doubt of their transient existence, when once they come to be considered as necessarily dependant upon the prevalence of general principles; that is, upon the universal consent of nations in a course of conduct upon which no two have been ever found practically to agree. But if the natural tendency of population be such as I have endeavoured to prove in this treatise; and if by a fair adherence to moral and political rectitude, that matural tendency may actually be made to operate, so as to introduce, without any countervailing increase of vice and misery, a gradual abatement in the progress of population as society advances and the inferior soils only remain uncultivated, we at once recognize a conservative principle, which may carry on the society in wealth and happiness to an indefinite period: at least in so far as the principles of population and production are concerned, there is no assignable limit to the existence of a state so conducting itself. Under the blessing of Providence, and in conformity to its laws, such a community may remain for ages a standing monument that the permanence of prosperity may always be commensurate to the wisdom and virtue of the people. For as the powers of the soil diminish, the demand for its produce decreases also; and we have already seen that, before the powers of the soil are altogether exhausted, the demand for its produce will have been altogether stationary by the arrival of the population at its point of non-reproduction. But although the powers of population and production will both gradually abate of the rapidity of their progress as society advances; yet while they are still proceeding, however slowly, it is necessary that this abatement should take place, pari passu; that is, that there shall be no abatement of production except as there is a corresponding one of population; but that due encouragement should still be given to the production of food on inferior soils, in proportion as the continued progress of population creates a demand for it: otherwise the conservative principle will be destroyed, and either an increase of vice and misery, or an uncertain dependance upon foreign produce, will be necessarily introduced, and the permanence of the public wealth and happiness thereby endangered. But as the temptation is always great for a country in an advanced state of society and supporting expensive establishments by taxes upon agricultural produce, to avail itself of the importation of foreign corn from the agricultural countries, where it may be had cheap, rather than to cultivate its own inferior soil at a great expense; and as the difficulty is also considerable in finding the means of confining the people to the latter expedient, when the former appears to be their more immediate interest, it seems necessary in this part of our inquiry to enter into a consideration of those means: for this purpose, it is my intention, in the following chapter, to discuss the principles upon which corn laws ought to be constructed; that is to say, the principles upon which the powers which we know still to exist in the soil of a country to return a further produce may best be called into action.
An Inquiry into the Principle of Corn Laws.
IT appeared from the last chapter, that all corn laws are a departure from the general principles of political economy; and, in so far as they have a tendency immediately to raise the price of corn, may generally be considered in the light of a tax paid to the grower by the community at large, to ensure either the safety of the state by securing an independent supply of subsistence for the people, or the ultimate cheapness of corn by encouraging its plentiful growth by a temporary rise in its price. Corn laws then are only to be justified upon grounds of general advantage to the whole community. Their expediency should never be argued upon other grounds. But when this general expediency is once plainly established, the specific object being to afford protection to one particular branch of national industry, because it is thought of vital importance to the welfare of the whole, the argument must then of course turn upon the sacrifices by which the rest of the society can give this special protection. Having previously determined it to be for their own, because for the general good, they should always bear these premises in mind, be careful to investigate the subject dispassionately, and not to suffer their jealousy to be excited by the necessary result, if it should end in proving that some expense must be incurred to purchase the expected advantage. A continual vacillation between the pursuit of a desired good