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Recapitulation of the last Five Chapters, and the Conclusion deducible therefrom.
AT the close of the sixth chapter, I observed that the question concerning the encouragement to be given to agriculture is a question of degree; that it must obviously not be carried to an extent that would either permanently injure commerce, and especially manufactures, by materially affecting the exportation of them to foreign countries, in consequence of an exorbitant rise in the price of labour at home; or that would check the sale of goods in the domestic market. I further observed that, to ascertain whether due encouragement can be given to agriculture without any of these pernicious consequences, it is expedient in the first place to inquire into the necessary expenses that must be defrayed by the cultivator, before he begins to calculate upon those profits which are to determine the propriety of his continuing or relinquishing the objects of his pursuit. For these expenses must evidently be exceeded by the price paid for the produce by the general consumer, in order to give the cultivator any profit at all. This inquiry has been carried on in the four chapters preceding the last; and the result seems to be, that in a country far advanced into the commercial and manufacturing state of society, enjoying a free constitution, and that wishes to preserve and improve those blessings;—1st, a rent sufficient to return fair interest for the capital invested in the land;—2dly, wages high enough to afford to the labourers and their families a fair participation in the improving condition of the whole society;-3dly, money sufficient to keep the stock and implements upon the farms in a thriving and serviceable state;— 4thly, the power of keeping the land in heart, and sowing the most profitable crops;–5thly, the support of the moral and religious institutions of the country;-6thly, the fair return of the farmer's capital;-7thly, the necessary taxes to government;and lastly, increasing clear profits upon the farmer's capital—constitute the encouragement necessary to the successful progress of agriculture. Be it observed, that they are not stated as essentially necessary to the prosperity of agriculture in all countries ; but to its co-existence with the peculiar condition and advantages of a free and commercial country. The question then arises, can it co-exist with those peculiar advantages? Can the general consumer in a commercial and manufacturing country afford to defray all these necessary expenses without destroying commerce and manufactures, the very sources of agricultural prosperity in such a country? In short, can the infant be supported without destroying its nurse while it still requires her milk? I am disposed to think it can. In the first place let it be considered that there are no consumers of manufactures, and objects of commerce, so certain and so constant as the domestic cultivators. Let us refer again to the schedule at the beginning of the last chapter but one, and we shall find that at least two thirds of the sums there specified are expended by the farmer, or by those
who receive the sums from him, in such objects. Rent, wages, wear and tear, tithe, taxes, and at least the interest of the farmer's capital, are in a considerable portion so expended. The sum, therefore, paid by the general consumer in the price of raw produce is circulated, till a large portion of it is conveyed to the merchant or manufacturer, in the price of his commodity: and the circulation of it, with its return to the farmer through the agency of the manufacturing labourers, promotes industry and comfort among all classes of society. But let us suppose the farm lying waste, and the outgoings from it consequently annihilated; the whole of this circulation is of course at an end. The eristing labourers receive no wages, and can therefore spend none, but must be supported by a tax on the manufacturer so long as he is able to support them ; the landlord receives no rent, consequently he can purchase no commodities. The clergyman receiving no tithe is in the same predicament. So are all those whose industry and employments were promoted by the expenses of the farmer. Now supposing the produce formerly raised on the farm to be imported at a cheaper rate, what compensation does the merchant or manufacturer obtain for the above-mentioned loss of his domestic market, and of property to the state? I will grant that he is enabled to export his manufacture at a somewhat cheaper rate; yet surely he can never expect permanently to do this to the extent of converting the labourers and farmers, previously employed as cultivators, into manufacturers; nor to that of compensating to himself the loss he has sustained by expelling them from the domestic market. To say nothing of the precarious nature of foreign trade, especially of the market for exported manufactures, it cannot be too often repeated that, in a highly commercial state of society, a very large portion of the cultivators are employed on in. ferior land, and must therefore be ruined by a free eompetition with the cultivators of the purely agricultural countries. Their disappearance then from the manufacturer's market is at once a certain and enormous loss: and I am persuaded that nothing but the difficulty of procuring an accurate estimate of the comparative value of manufactures sold in the foreign and domestic markets respectively could ever lead the manufacturer to suppose, that this certain loss could be permanently compensated by his eventual success in the foreign market. If therefore the alternative were that he must lose one or the other, it is presumed that he ought not to hesitate. But is this, in fact, the alternative? Certainly the sacrifice of the cultivators of inferior lands is a great and certain loss to the commercial and manufacturing market at home. But does the high price of produce, necessary to the maintenance of that cultivation, as certainly deprive the merchant and manufacturer of their success in the foreign market? H will cite an authority better than my own upon this subject. (See Malthus' Grounds of an Opinion on the Policy of restricting the Importation of Foreign Corn, p. 31.) “It may be said, perhaps, that a fall in the price of our corn and labour affords the only chance to our manufacturers of retaining possession of the foreign markets; and that though the produce of the country may not be increased by the fall in the price of corn, such a fall is necessary to prevent a positive diminution of it. There is some weight undoubtedly in this argument. But if we look at the probable effects of returning peace to Europe, it is impossible to suppose that, even with a considerable diminution in the price of labour, we should not lose some markets on the continent, for those manufactures in which we have no peculiar advantage; while we have every reason to believe that in others, where our colonies, our navigation, our long credits, our coals, and our mines, come in question, as well as our skill and capital, we shall retain our trade in spite of high wages. Under these circumstances, it seems peculiarly adviseable to maintain unimpaired, if possible, the home market, and not to lose the demand occasioned by so much of the rents of land, and of the profits and capital of farmers, as must necessarily be destroyed by the check to our home produce. “But in whatever way the country may be affected by the change, we must suppose that those who are immediately engaged in foreign trade will benefit by it. As they, however, form but a very small portion of the class of persons living on the profits. of stock in point of number, and not probably above a seventh or eighth in point of property, their interests cannot be allowed to weigh against the interests of so very large a majority. “With regard to this great majority, it is impossible that they should not feel very widely and severely the diminution of their nominal capital by the fall of prices. We know the magic effect upon industry of a rise of prices. It has been noticed by Hume, and witnessed by every person who has attended to subjects of this kind. And the effects of a fall are proportionately depressing. Even the