fairly before the public, either to make the necessary sacrifice for the perseverance in a progressive state of prosperity, or to enjoy the present moment, at the risk of a progressive state of decay in future. They should recollect, however, that when the option is made, it will be too late to retrace their steps, and a little too absurd to complain of the consequences. I should here have concluded this brief investigation of agricultural profits and expenses, were it not for the peculiar circumstances under which the agriculture of England now labours with respect to this item of tenant's profits. After a protection, which has certainly been more than sufficient, as the event has shown, against the competition of foreign corn, an apparently permanent diminution in the price of raw produce has nevertheless ensued, which has not only annihilated the tenant's profit on inferior land, but has also materially trenched upon the item next liable to be affected, viz. the landlord's rent, and which must, if not remedied, as a natural consequence, soon affect the other outgoings, and the general state of cultivation, of revenue, and of every branch of national prosperity. I think it will be peculiarly instructive to the advocates for making England again a country exporting corn to perceive that, although the surplus produce above the wants of the whole community, for which they so strenuously contend, now presents itself to their wishes, and that this surplus has lowered the price of corn so as to distress the agricultural interest to the greatest degree, and therefore so as to give more than a reasonable facility to exportation, yet, in point of fact, none has been exported, but the whole has been kept at home, and has glutted the domestic market. Now the cause of this seems very evident. Although the price of corn is low compared with the expense of raising it in England, it is still high compared with the expense of raising it in the agricultural countries; it therefore cannot com. pete with them in the foreign market; it has not therefore been exported; and it is not very unsafe to predict that, so long as the same relative circumstances continue, it never will be exported; at least, not permanently. The advocates for rendering England a permanently exporting country must first ruin our manufactures, throw all our inferior lands out of cultivation, and reduce our population within the limits of the supply from the lands of superior staple. They may then attain the object of their desires by exporting the surplus. This point may perhaps deserve a more minute investigation, as the advocates for the system of exportation from England have some plausible facts on their side connected with the progress of agriculture during the last century: into these I shall briefly enter. Before the Revolution, the agriculture of England was comparatively in a very wretched state. The abuses of purveyance, the licenses for monopoly, and the unbounded permission given to the importation of corn, were impediments to cultivation so intolerable, that much of the best land of England lay waste, and had done so for centuries. It is indeed impossible that other consequences should have followed the confined or mistaken policy of our princes before that period, who rather had in view to draw a revenue immediately from the corn trade than, by regulations on more enlarged and liberal principles, to

[ocr errors]

encourage the improvement of agriculture and the general prosperity of the country; and thus to secure to themselves the power of levying a revenue of twenty times the amount. So true it is, that selfish policy, grasping immediate advantages, without regard to future consequences, always defeats its own ends. From the year 1570, many laws were made verbally encouraging agriculture, by allowing exportation; but they embarrassed it with duties of from 10 to 50 per cent. ad valorem; and, with very trifling exceptions, allowed an unlimited importation. At the Revolution, a different policy was adopted; bounties were then given upon exportation; high duties were laid upon corn imported; and twelve years afterwards, (in 1700,) the duties payable on exportation were in all cases abolished. But the high duties upon importation being often evaded, from the difficulty and neglect in ascertaining the price of corn in the home market, the system was completed in 1732, by a law obliging the grand juries, at every quarter sessions of the maritime counties, to present the average price of corn, and the justices to transmit them to the officers of the customs at the ports, in order to enforce a fair and strict collection of the duties. These wise alterations operated like magic, and placed England in some measure in the situation of a newly-settled country. Good land, long in waste from former discouragements, could be had cheap; farms easily procured; and the soil being fresh, and producing abundantly, could therefore be cultivated at a large profit, as soon as it was eased of a part of the discouragements under which it laboured. The effects were such as might be expected; the people were, with very few exceptions, plentifully supplied with food at a moderate price; and so large an exportation of grain shortly took place, that the annual average was never less than 300,000 quarters; and in the twenty years of greatest prosperity, (from 1740 to 1760,) it amounted to upwards of 700,000 quarters of all kinds of grain. - Now this effect of the corn-laws, established after the Revolution, is the ground upon which those who think a recurrence to the same system would now produce the same effect rest their arguments. But do they consider the different condition of the internal demand for corn, and the state of the soil yet uncultivated, between that period and the present? Do they reflect upon the manufacturing population now existing, which then was not even thought of?, The demand from whom must operate, at least as much as any bounty could do, in securing a market. for such corn as the cultivator can bring to it under the present state of the soil? If any part of these considerations have escaped their attention, I think that a recurrence to them, and to the facts which were contemporary with the laws which are accused of having checked exportation, will operate a conviction on their minds. From the year 1732 to 1760, England continued to make large exports of corn: from 1760 to 1767, the exporting balance gradually decreased, till, in the last year, it wholly ceased, and has never since been resumed. During this period, the price of corn had been gradually rising from 11, 19s. to 31. 4s. the quarter. Yet, be it carefully observed, it was not till the last of the abovementioned years, 1767, till the export of corn had ceased, and till its price had thus risen, that even a temporary law was made prohibiting the export; and this was enacted ingonsequence of disturbances from the scarcity and dearness of corn, and petitions to parliament from London and other places; and no permanent law for the purpose was made till 1773, six years after all exportation of corn had finally ceased. Unless therefore it be considered logical in reasoning to ascribe an effect to causes which succeeded it in the order of time, I think it perfectly evident, that the balance turned from the exporting to the importing side, not in consequence of any statutes, but from other causes; and these causes are clearly to be traced in the rapid increase of manufacturing and commercial industry and population during the same period, which not only absorbed all the surplus produce derived from the land and formerly exported, but which also created a demand for a still further supply: and the reason why this supply was not produced from the domestic soil of inferior staple, as it maturally would have been according to the principles of this treatise, was because the laws prohibiting the export also, absurdly enough, encouraged the import of corn, thereby establishing a competition between the best lands of foreign countries and the inferior lands of our own for feeding our own people. It is natural enough that on this system we should have gone on importing corn, and encouraging the capital and industry of other countries at the expense of our own till the error was discovered. But the rapid increase of population and industry nevertheless continued to afford so strong a stimulus to cultivation, in spite of a low protecting duty, that it still proceeded in some degree upon the inferior lands, and kept our supply of food so nearly up to our demand that the permanent

« ForrigeFortsett »