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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 wbich 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 uncul. tivated, 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 ll. 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 pro
hibiting the export; and this was enacted in fronsequence 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 naturally 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
requisitions from abroad never exceeded from a week's to a month's consumption, according to the state of the harvest. But this has of course brought so much inferior land into cultivation, and has so much enhanced the general and average expense of raising produce, that, as I have before fully explained, it is utterly absurd to suppose that it can ever be made to compete in the foreign market with corn the growth of the purely agricultural states.
I trust that these arguments are sufficient to convince the advocates for making England a country permanently exporting corn, that the period for success in such a scheme has long elapsed, and that they are neither entitled from precedent or fair reasoning to entertain any such expectations, while she retains her commercial and manufacturing greatness.
But it may be asked, how comes it then that a a surplus produce, (Jan. 1816,) actually exists beyond the wants of the community, which it would be certainly advantageous to the grower to export if he could find the means ? Whence, in short, is derived this extraordinary glut in the corn market to which we have so many years been strangers ?
The solution of this question may perhaps be thought to lead to considerations of too temporary a nature to be admitted into a work of this description. But I venture to hope that a perusal of the following arguments will correct this opinion. The circumstances under which we are now labouring must be of frequent recurrence in all free and extensive countries, far advanced in society, liable to be engaged in hostilities with their neighbours, and wisely exerting themselves to establish an independent supply of food for the people from their native soil. They
will doubtless recur, perhaps with aggravated force, in future periods of our own history. An investigation of them is therefore surely not superfluous in a work professing to treat fundamentally of the principles connected with the comfortable subsistence of the people in the advanced stages of society.