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natural 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 vịce 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 ex. pediency 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
and the abandonment of the sacrificies necessary to obtain it, is a system of policy equally pernicious and contemptible.
In the early stages of society, before the best lands are all appropriated and brought under cultivation, laws enacting a bounty upon the exportation of corn will give an extraordinary and immediate impulse to agriculture. But as much of the additional quantity of produce thus raised will eventually be brought into the home market, the ultimate result of this temporary rise will be a gradual but considerable and steady diminution in price. This was partially the case in England at the beginning of the last century, when, after a long system of discouragement and of impolitic enactments respecting agriculture, bounties were given upon exportation, and high duties laid upon the importation of corn. These wise alterations operated like magic, and placed England in some respects in the situation of a newly settled country. Good land, long in Waste from former discouragements, could be procured at a cheap rate; and the soil being fresh and producing abundantly could be cultivated with a large profit, and returned an abundant surplus produce. The effects were such as might have been expected : the people were plentifully supplied with Pood at a very reduced price, and so large an ex. portation of grain nevertheless took place, that the annual average was never less than 300,000 quarters; and in the 20 years of greatest prosperity, viz. from 1740, to 1760 it amounted to 700,000 quarters of all kinds of grain. The present condition of the soil of France, lately liberated from the feudal system and other oppressive impediments in the
way of agricultural enterprise, may probably lead under proper encouragements to the same results; and corn in that country may for some years be both cheap and very plentiful.
Such is the natural result of corn laws enacting a bounty upon exportation and imposing duties upon importation, during the agricultural state of society, or rather until the best and richest lands of a country are all appropriated and cultivated. But as society advances, as none but inferior lands are left to be brought under cultivation, as capital is gradually diverted to the then more profitable employments of commerce and manufactures, and as a mercantile and manufacturing population absorb by degrees all the surplus produce of the best lands, and create a demand for further produce from soil of an inferior staple; we immediately perceive that the political question is completely altered. Bounties upon exportation are no longer necessary, because the demand which they are intended to produce is already made to a sufficient extent by the mercantile and manufacturing population at home. They would moreover, if enacted, be a mere dead letter, not only because the utmost exertions, which can be made upon the inferior land yet remaining uncultivated, cannot permanently do more than supply the increasing demands of its own inhabitants, but also because, if a surplus produce for exportation could be raised upon such land, no reasonable bounty could enable it successfully to compete in the foreign market with corn grown upon the superior soil of the agricultural countries, especially where any considerable expense, by way of freight or otherwise, is to be incurred in the transport. The bounty