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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.
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 ?
Will they for this object incur the risk of losing å portion of the demand which they might otherwise expect from foreign nations for their manufactures ? and to what degree will they consent to suffer this loss ? Certainly not to the extent of risking any permanent decrease in the whole amount of the commercial and manufacturing population ; because such a result would at once destroy the demand for agricultural produce, which it is the object of the whole argument to find the means of supplying. But in estimating its probable extent it may be useful to recollect, that although this risk is apparently increased by every step made in the progress of society; because as the land yet remaining uncultivated decreases in quality, the premium for cultivating it must be increased pari passu ; yet we may also conclude that the improved machinery, the perfect state of public credit, the freedom and security of property, which are all necessary to the existence of a highly civilized and manufacturing state of society, usually confer advantages on the products of their industry even in foreign markets, which are frequently found in practice more than to counterbalance even a considerable difference in the price of labour. They also produce effects on the home market, tending to something like an uniform price in corn of domestic growth, by the accommodation afforded to the cultivators in times of difficulty. , It should seem, therefore, that by making an immediate sacrifice for the encouragement of domestic agriculture, a clear advantage is gained over the opposite system. For a great and opulent class of domestic consumers are at all events preserved, affording a permanent and certain demand for manufactures; while the
foreign demand, which at the best is comparatively precarious, appears not to be subjected to any very material additional risk.
If indeed, in a country which nearly or just feeds its population from the produce of it's own soil, it were possible to establish a monopoly of food, so as to prevent its sinking in price in proportion to its plenty ; and thus to deprive the consumer of his fair advantage in a plentiful crop, in return for his sacrifice in favour of the grower in the event of a deficient one; much might be said against the necessity of such sacrifice being ever made: for the extraordinary profit of average or abundant years might, and probably would, more than compensate the deficiencies of scanty crops. But the very idea of monopoly of agricultural produce appears to me to be a prejudice. It is perfectly fair and just, and the well understood interest of the public, that every proprietor should be permitted to inake as much of his property, as a fair contemplation of the demand and supply will enable him to make. If he attempt to make more, not the public, but the speculator himself must suffer. This is peculiarly true of agricultural produce. That man must be very superficially acquainted with the first principles by which markets are regulated, if he does not know that a corn-grower, holding back his produce to enhance its price when no actual scarcity exists, must ultimately be. obliged to bring it to market at a reduced price; and that holding it back when there is a real scarcity is the greatest possible public benefit; because it tends to enforce economy in the use of grain, and to make the general stock last the longer. The result is, that the public instead of paying first a high