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cannot feed itself, and that it must permanently depend upon imported corn. The whole system of its laws will be framed with this view; and as states of this description seldom excite a general jealousy, especially among the agricultural nations, and their demand for foreign corn does not extend to any great positive quantity, they may with prudent precautions go on prospering for ages under such a system. In truth, many advantages with respect to regularity of supply and uniformity of price will in such a case result from it. In the first place, whenever such a country depends mainly upon importation for its regular supply of food, a stated encouragement to the exporting countries will always produce a stated supply, which will be grown by them for the specific purpose of feeding the importing country. It will therefore be generally sure of a sufficient and regular supply, one main ingredient producing uniformity of price. In the next place it will be affected in a very slight degree by the variableness of seasons, and by any eventual deficiency of the crops in the corn-growing countries; for as their surplus produce considered in the bulk is at all times more than sufficient for the limited supply of the small commercial states, and the deficiencies of one country will probably be compensated by the redundancy of another, their prices are regulated more by the wants of the importing nation than by the average growth of their own. This has been fully established by incontestable evidence.” Here then is another ingredient, securing almost to a certainty a regular uniformity of supply and of price in
. * See Evidence before the Lords' Committee, 1814.
the corn market of an importing country not capable of feeding its own population, but permanently depending upon a supply of foreign produce. The practical conclusions however are exceed. ingly altered when we come to apply them to an extensive and highly manufacturing country, which in average years is nevertheless capable of supplying the whole of its inhabitants with food the growth of its own soil. For in this case any considerable demand for imported corn must of course depend upon the state of the preceding harvest at home. There will be no permanent demand for foreign corn as in the former case; and of course the exporting countries will not regularly grow corn for its supply. They must be tempted by a previous knowledge of an extraordinary demand, indicated by an extraordinary increase of price in consequence of a deficient har. vest. But such a supply from the regularly exporting countries is in the nature of things distant and uncertain; and after all it may perhaps be brought into the country at a loss to the importer, in consequence of a plentiful year succeeding one of deficient crops, or of a glut caused by excessive importation into a market of the precise extent of whose wants. no previous knowledge could be obtained. This last result will inevitably occur, if the neighbouring countries not usually exporting corn should have been blessed with a plentiful crop, and able to forestall those usually exporting in the deficient market; as was the case of France with respect to England, in the year 1814. All these circumstances must render the supply from the corn-growing countries to one nearly feeding its own population in average years very uncertain R
and precarious; and in such a country it seems next to impossible to establish a regular and permanent equality in the price of corn, which must fluctuate in proportion as Providence has been more or less bountiful in blessing the labours of the husbandman with increase. Temporary exceptions to this result may certainly be shown; as in the case of a deficient crop at home, when the neighbouring countries have been blessed with an abundant harvest. Under these circumstances if the importation of their corn be freely admitted into the country where the crops have been deficient, the price of its scanty produce may be reduced either to the average level, or to that at which the grower could only have been remunerated for a plentiful crop; a condition under which nothing but speedy relief can save him from ruin, and the country from an ultimate fluctuation of price much greater than that which would naturally have ensued. We see then the difficulty of establishing an uniform price of corn in a manufacturing country principally depending upon its own resources for the food of its people, together with the improbability of always ensuring a certain supply from abroad to meet the eventual deficiencies in the crops of such a country. The unavoidable conclusion therefore, in every view of policy, seems to be that domestic produce should be encouraged by any means consistent with the general welfare of the community; that from a supply almost sufficient for the people, it should be made to afford one altogether so. We know that the inherent powers of the soil are always sufficient for the purpose. The difficulty, however, of calling them into action may still
be considerable. Nor indeed does it appear possible, in a country where the inferior lands are extensively cultivated, to secure a fair prospect of remuneration to the corn grower, without measures involving what the general consumer will be apt to call a hardship upon him, and what really is an immediate sacrifice on his part. For it is evident that the same price, which in a plentiful year will more than remunerate the grower for an abundant produce, will expose him to ruinous loss in one of deficient crops, when the quantity he could carry to market may perhaps be reduced one half. But inferior lands are peculiarly subject to the hazard of a deficient crop, and in a given number of years they occur very frequently. If therefore by the admission of foreign grain at a price constituting a fair remuneration for an average crop, the price should be kept at the same level when the domestic produce is scanty; although the circumstance would in the first instance be extremely favourable to the general consumer, it would be ruinous to the agriculturist, and therefore ultimately injurious to the permanent interests of the whole community. To say that corn is the measure of value, and that the cultivator would be renumerated by a diminution in the money price of wages and other articles of consumption, is an argument contrary to fact. For it has always been found practically impossible to establish an average in the money prices of the necessaries of life, at all corresponding with the fluctuations in the price of corn. It certainly affects them in some degree, and in proportion as the purchase of bare food, or rather of mere bread-corn, constitutes the expenditure of the people. But
many necessaries in general consumption, even among the labouring classes, in countries at all advanced into the commercial and manufacturing state of society, are very remotely if at all affected by the price of corn. If these necessaries, therefore, by taxation or other causes, continue dear, the labourer who requires them cannot, or least ought not, to work cheap. But a high rate in the wages of labour, of whatever component parts they may be made up, and a low price of its products, can never be permanently maintained; they are conditions altogether incompatible with the prosperity of industry, whether exerted on the land or on other objects. To the limited extent, however, in which the wages of labour are actually affected by the price of corn, the general consumer, i. e. every order of the state except the agriculturist, is immediately benefited by a reduction of price; although if that reduction be produced by importation, and be also sufficient permanently to discourage agriculture, this immediate benefit will soon resolve itself into an ultimate evil, by diminishing the demands for all the products of industry from the numerous class of cultivators, and by the insecurity of the substituted mode of supply for the food of the people. The whole question, therefore, is reduced to this. What immediate sacrifice will a manufacturing community, supporting expensive establishments by taxes upon the land and labour of the people, make to secure to themselves the permanent advantage of an independent supply of food from their domestic soil, and a permanent demand for domestic manufactures together with a large contribution to the taxes from a prosperous and increasing class of cultivators?