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large majority. The bill, in all its no single nation can act on a different stages, was discussed as fully as it had one without disadvantage. Accordbeen in the Lower House, and on 20th ingly, a great body of legislative proMarch it was passed. Besides the de. visions have been made in this country bates on the bill, a great deal of inci- for the protection of our trade and dental discussion took place in conse
manufactures. These had, in the quence of a number of petitions which course of time, been extended into were presented against it
such a complicated system, that the We shall endeavour to give as cor. legislature had often found it necessary rect a view as possible of the argu. to protect particular branches of in ments used by the opposite parties in dustry, in order to prevent them from the debates on this important question, falling a sacrifice to other descriptions endeavouring to throw them, as far as of industry, even in this country, which, it can be done, into the form of a con- in consequence of some previous pro. nected discussion.
visions, would have been otherwise It was contended, in the first place, more favoured. In consequence of all by the supporters of the bill, that this this, our manufactures had been en. measure was necessary in consequence couraged by such high protecting du. of the general system adopted, not only ties, amounting frequently to prohibi. in this, but in every other commercial tions, that foreign manufactures were country, of protecting and encoura- completely excluded from competition ging the different branches of industry in our market: For example (as staby legislative provisions of different ted by Mr J. P. Grant,) woollen kinds. It was, no doubt, recognised cloths imported paid 100l. per cent. ; as a general principle in political eco- cotton goods 85l. 10s. per cent.; glass nomy, that the legislature ought not 1141. per cent.; brassand copper goods 10 interfere in matters of commerce, 591. per cent. ; earthen ware 791. per but that the course of trade ought to cent.; dressed leather 1421. per cent. ; be left to itself. This general princi- gold and si ver goods 80l.; gilt ware ple, however, could not be acted upon 100l. &c. It was admitted, that this by one nation, unless all the other na system of legislative enactments may tions, or at least the most considerable have been carried too far; but it bas ones, were also to adopt it. In such been so long acted upon that the a state of the world, each nation state of the country has adapted itself might purchase whatever commodities to it. There is no idea of doing it it required from those quarters where away ; and indeed it would be imposthey could be produced and brought sible. In such circumstances, it folhome at the cheapest rate and of the lows, that not to protect any one best quality. But the period, unfor. branch of agricultural industry, while tunately, was not arrived whea the all other branches are protected, is poworld should be so enlightened as to sitively to discourage it ; and surely, act generally upon any such principle. of all branches, this is the last that Each nation endeavours to protect and ought to be discouraged. This arguencourage its own commerce and ma- ment, as to the expediency of recipronufactures, at the expence of other cal protection, was not confined to the nations, by duties on the importation case of commerce and agriculture, as of the produce of other countries, or viewed in connection with each other by absolute prohibition of such im- for it was also to be considered, that porta ion : And, while such is the sys. one branch of agricultural produce was tem adopted by the world in general, already protected. The importation
of foreign cattle was prohibited ; but would operate in throwing a portion of if protection was to be given to any the land out of cultivation, was exdescription of agricultural produce, it plained by Mr Robinson, who obsershould chiefly be given to grain. It ved, that “ the great increase of agriwas farther remarked, that Adam culture which had taken place during Smith himself admitted that there the last twenty years, had inevitably were cases in which it would be advi- been accompanied by an increase of sable to lay burdens on the competi- charge to the consumer. It was well tion of foreigners. One of these was, known, that those parts of the counwhen such a measure w::8 necessary try which were so fruitful as not to for the defence of the country, and he require a great deal of cultivation, instanced the navigation act. Another when compared with the population, case was, when a tax was imposed on could only produce sustenance to a lithe production of the commodity at mited extent ; and in proportion as home. Agricultural produce might that population increased, and the be said to be in this situation ; for it number of manufacturing establishwas the same thing whether a tax was ments became extended, in the same imposed on the production of a com- proportion did the call for agricultural modity, or whether it was excluded produce increase. But the supply to from benefits enjoyed by other branches this increased demand could only come of industry. It was observed by Mr from that species of land which could Morritt, that “the farmers were load. not be cultivated without very consied with the support of the ecclesiasti- derable expense; and the produce, eal establishment,—the support of the therefore, of this kind of land, if culpoor, which had been of late years tivated at all, must necessarily be sold much increasing, and of the roads, at a dear rate."--Mr Robinson went which were of so much benefit to the on to shew, that if, in consequence of a commerce of the interior. How should supply of foreign corn, the market was it be said then, that there was a free. so depressed as not to afford the culdom of trade, if the agriculturists were tivator of those inferior lands such a subjected to so many burdens without price as would remunerate him, they countervailing advantages ?"
must, of course, be allowed to go out In the second place, it was argued, of cultivation. The fact on which that if an adequate protection was not this reasoning mainly depended, that offered to the growers of corn, a great domestic corn could not contend in part of the land in this country now our markets with foreign corn, seemed in tillage must be thrown out of culti. to be nearly agreed on by all parties. vation, and that we should be obliged Indeed it appeared to be proved by to draw a considerable proportion of the reports and the evidence, that with. our supply of grain from abroad ; the out some alteration in the existing consequences of which would be, not laws, we must be undersold by foreignonly that the prices would be higher ers in our own markets. The growers than if we had been able to provide of foreign corn were not so heavily for our own consumption, but that we loaded with taxes as ours, and conseshould be placed in the alarming situa- quently could afford to sell it cheaper. tion of depending for our subsistence Mr Huskisson stated, that large imon the pleasure of foreign, and proba- ports from France had arrived on the bly hostile nations.
southern coast of England, where the The manner in which a refusal to markets were so overstocked that the grant a protection to the agriculturist English farmer could not get a bidding
for his corn at any price ; that he had lar practice, if they found we dependseen the invoices of those cargoes, and ed on them for food for our populathat after all the charges of convey- tion? Another cause of the precariance were added, the corn so exported ousness of our foreign supply arose could be sold for 50s. per quarter.
from the chance of our going to war In such a state of things as this, with the nations from whom it was with a diminished cultivation at home, derived. “ For the long continuance and an increased importation from of peace with France,” Lord Binning abroad, it was argued, that the price said, “ he placed the firmest confidence of corn would, in the end, become in the wise and virtuous prince who higher than if we had kept ourselves had succeeded our bitter enemy, and independent of foreign supply, and, in the moderation of the government indeed, that the country would gene- of this country.
But should we be rally be in a state of want and scarci- driven into a war with France, her ty. “ For a time," said Mr Robin. hostility would be tremendous when
“ there might be abundance, but she found herself at once our enemy in the long run we should be reduced and our granary. He hoped, indeed, to great want and distress. Suppose that even wars might be conducted on that, relying on the importations of more liberal principles than hitherto, foreign corn, and paying for it, for a but still he could not think of risking considerable length of time, at a lower the entire subsistence of the nation on rate, as we might do,-suppose the such a hope, nor be content to rely on consequence of this to be, that our the precarious generosity of an enemy own produce was diminished. Suppose for that which was most necessary to that, in this situation of things, a scar- our own subsistence. Famine, as apcity occurred abroad and at home ; in plied to fortresses, was one of the that case we could not get corn, and most common, as well as one of the thus we should have to contend with most dreadful means of conducting a double deficiency." But there were hostility; and what was recognized as many other causes besides scarcity a legal mode of warfare on a small which might impede or prevent our scale, might easily be extended to the supply from foreign nations. The na-blockading of whole lines of sea-coast, tions now able to supply us, might, in and the famishing whole nations." the course of time, be prevented from On this subject some striking obdoing so by their own increasing wealth servations were made by Mr Grattan. and population. They might be pre. He remarked, that “much had been vented by the policy, or impolicy of said of the commercial relationship of their governments. It was said by the country, by those who seem to Mr Western, that, in France, the im- have forgotten that her political relaportation would cease by law when tionship was much more important. corn became 49s. per quarter ; and he The existence of the pation depended asked, what security had this country on grain; those who supplied us had for a constant supply from France? our lives in their hands—they were He added, that, in 1764, the French the masters of our very being ; our issued a decree respecting the trade in resources, our finances, our trade, grain, to the effect that all corn ex- must depend on the will of others; ported should be conveyed in French and would it be wise to put the trident ships, navigated by French seamen ; itself into the hands of those who and he asked, what should prevent
would be our enemies the moment it other countries from following a simi
ceased to be their interest to be our
friends ? Instead of continuing a phy. of entailing dependence and famine sically independent, we should become · upon the country ever afterwards ?” a physically dependent people. Sup- Another consequence of the agripose we were morally certain that we culture of the country being allowed could obtain a supply of grain from to fall back, and of the inferior lands abroad, did it follow as certainly that being thrown out of cultivation, was we could obtain that supply at a cheap stated to be, the accumulation of disrate? Might it not at some future pe tress on that large proportion of the riod be the policy of the country from agricultural and labouring community, whom it was derived to lay a heavy who had been employed in cultivating duty on corn? And might not Enge those lands. It was observed by Me land, that had ruined her own agricul- Lockhart, “ that those inferior lands ture, be compelled to pay an exorbi. produced a great deal of sustenance to tant tax for the very subsistence of the country ; and it was asked, where, her inhabitants ? The market at home if those soils were to be taken out of was always certain, the market abroad cultivation, were provisions to be prouncertain. By looking only to the cured for those who were now fed by home market, we should encourage all them, who were employed in tilling branches of trade, as well the merchant them, and who, if they were given up, as the agriculturist; by looking to the would be thrown out of employment? foreign market, we should effectually It was clear that they must be fed throw our own land out of cultivation. from the products of that land which With the assistance of Ireland, the was sufficiently rich to grow corn withempire was independent of the world. out a very expensive system of agriBy discouraging the farmer, we not culture. Would not this raise the only made the whole world independe price of corn produced on those fine ent of us, but we actually degraded soils ? And would not the poor rates, ourselves into supplicants and petition, which the bad soils bad hitherto helpers to those who had been our bitterested to defray, be thrown entirely on enemies. Let us employ and foster our those of a different description ?" own means, and we should have more “ In Great Britain," said Mr Brand, corn than any amount to which even “ half the population was engaged in the imagination could extend. Give pursuits of agriculture, and what would to Ireland the encouragement to which be their situation were things to reshe was entitled, and the question would main unaltered? What was their state not be, whether we wanted corn, but at the present moment ? The labourers how we should dispose of our abun- were unable to procure employment dance : then, indeed, would arise ano- from the farmer, and they were conther care for the government, for the sequently thrown upon the poors’-rates. grower might be smothered in his own By the refusal of the farmer to give plenty. How many thousand acres employment to the labourer, he was were there in Great Britain yet uncul. thrown upon the overseer, who again tivated ? How many thousand more in sent him back to the farmer; and an Ireland, that might, by due encourage. immense number of those unfortunate ment, be converted into the best land individuals were now actually convertfor the production of wheat ? And ed into what are called roundsmen, bewould the House consent to cast away ing handed round from farmer to farmfood placed in our own power, for the er, who was to endeavour to find them miserable and mistaken policy of pro- some employment, that they might curing grain cheaply in one year, and not become complete burdens upon the parish. By these means, perhaps, they Intercourse Act which had been passearned half their usual rate of wages, ed in 1806, and in what proportion and how was the other half to be sup. Britain had been benefited by her inplied but from the poors’-rates ?” The tercourse with Ireland since that peconsequence of the agricultural popu. riod. “ During the three years, lation being thus thrown out of em. 1804, 5, 6, which preceded the passing ployment would be, that they would of the Intercourse Act, Ireland exe endeavour to find subsistence by crowd. ported to England 975,000 quarters. ing into the towns, and endeavouring In the three subsequent years, 1808, to find subsistence by manufacturing 9, 10, the exportation reached under employments. But, even supposing the Intercourse Act 1,800,000 quar. that there would be a demand for la. ters; and in the three last years it had bour of this kind, (which was not pro- amounted to 2,170,000 quarters
. In bable) how was it possible to trans- answer to this, he presumed it would form all at once a country labourer to be said, that Ireland was sufficiently a skilful mechanic ? And was it not benefited by this exportation, but was evident that such a violent change in she benefited alone? No,-precisely the habits and mode of living of so in the same proportion of the increase large a body of the people must be at. in the demand for corn upon Ireland tended with much misery? The evil from Great Britain, had been the ineffects of this change in the state of crease in the demand for woollens upthe population would not be merely on Great Britain from Ireland. The temporary ; • If the people now em- export of woollens from Great Britain ployed in agriculture," said Mr Bankes, to Ireland in the years which he had is could be withdrawn from the coun- already mentioned, when speaking of try, and cooped up in towns, to follow the increasing exportation of corn manufactures, we should no longer from Ireland to Great Britain, had have that brave and hardy peasantry increased from 2,100,000 yards to which was the boast of this country, 2,300,000 yards; and from 2,300,000 Gens patiens operum, studiisque asper- to 3,700,000 yards.” It was further rima belli.
stated by Sir Frederick Flood, that Instead of having a peaceable, easily Ireland had sent to Britain in 11 years governed society, the population of corn to the value of 11 millions; and the country would be placed in such in 1812 alone, to the value of three a state, that the peace of the commu. millions. “The population of Irenity would depend upon their being land,” Mr Robinson said, “ would constantly kept in employment. How probably be found greater than was seldom was any combination or fer- supposed, and it was decidedly agriment heard of in the country from the cultural. They possessed no capital stoppage of agricultural labour ? But to invest in manufactures. That counhow frequently and how recently had try grew more than it could consume. the peace of the country been disturb. Even if the inhabitants consumed the ed from manufacturers being out of same species of food which was made employment?"
use of in England, still he believed the The consequences to Ireland of the country produced more than enough adoption or rejection of the bill, were for their support. The Irish did not, particularly adverted to. Sir John however, consume the produce of their Newport made a statement of ex- oil: They reared it up for sale, and tent to which Ireland, as an agricultu- if we did not purchase it what would ral country, had been affected by the become of them? What were they to