Imatges de pÓgina
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do if they were driven from the home market by an unrestricted importation of grain from abroad? Whither was their produce to go? It could evidently find no room in other countries, for the French corn might be sent to any other market as well as ours; and it was not necessary for him to dwell on the consequences which must naturally result to Ireland, when thus circumstanced." Observations of a similar tendency were made by several other members, particularly Mr Ponsonby, who, after enlarging on the mutual benefits to both countries, derived from the intercourse act, which, he said, had done more for the general benefit of the empire than any public law had effected since the navigation act; and after pointing out the great and permanent supply of food which this country had received by that auspicious measure, asked "if any one who heard him would prefer that such a channel of intercourse should take its source in the Baltic, in preference to the nearer and more immediate opening which was presented by the sister kingdom? He was sure no one would;-fully believing that the time when the mis. chievous mode of disregarding Ireland was practised, had at length gone by." As to the amount of the price at which importation should be prohibited, it was thought that this price ought to be made somewhat higher than the price which the farmer must obtain, in order to enable him to cultivate his land: And it was not thought, that the price of corn in the market would necessarily rise to the price thus to be fixed as the importation price. It appeared from the evidence, that 80s. per quarter for wheat was the price which ought to be fixed upon, in conformity with these views.

Such were the principles on which the bill was supported. Its opponents, in the first place, contended, that it was completely at variance with the gene

ral and received principles of political economy. It was contended, that the argument used by the advocates of the bill, that, in adopting measures for the permanent protection of agriculture, it was necessary to look to the actual situation of the policy of the country, and to recollect, that legislative measures had already been adopted for the protection of commerce and manufactures, was entirely fallacious. Lord Grenville said, that "the consideration, whether the duties which had been imposed some centuries ago on the importation of foreign manufactures, were founded on a wise or unwise view of the subject, had nothing to do with the present question, which rested entirely on its own merits. The only consideration at present was, what effect the proposed measure would have on the interests of the community? If the measures which had formerly been adopted for the protection of trade and manufactures were right, let them be continued; if wrong, let them be abrogated;-not suddenly, but with that caution with which all policy, however erroneous, so engrafted into our usage by time, should be changed: But let it be consecrated as a principle of legislation, that in no case should the grounds for advising the legislature to afford any particular protection, rest on the protection which may have been afforded in any other quarter. In fact, he could not well conceive how it could be argued, that measures admitted to have been wrong with respect to manufactures, should be right with respect to agriculture. If there were two great branches of national interest, the one subject to the operation of a system comparatively termed wise, the other subject to the operation of a system allowed to be mischievous, what necessity, he would ask, existed for making these systems uniform? If such a necessity did exist (which he abso

lutely denied), ought not the legislature to endeavour to produce that uniformity, by taking such steps as would bring back to the line of right the system that was acknowledged to be unwise, rather than to distort from the line of right the system which was acknowledged to be wise?" "Let it be considered," continued his lordship, "that our national interests do not form themselves into two great branches. A great majority of the people, as on the one hand they cannot be benefited by any prohibition for the protection of the manufacturer; so, on the other, they cannot be benefited by any prohibition for the protection of the agriculturist, unless, in deed, that prohibition have the effect of lowering the price of corn, which is a subject of separate and subsequent consideration. This great majority, however, uninterested as they are on the subject, are already subjected to great restraint, in consequence of the prohibitions that have been adopted for the protection of the manufacturer; and if the bill before your lordships should pass into a law, they would be subject to further, and much greater restraint, in consequence of the prohibitions that would be adopted for the protection of the agriculturist. It would be an extraordinary mode of doing justice thus to declare, that because a large, the largest part of the community, were already oppressed by favours shewn to one particular class, they should be still farther oppressed by favours shewn to another class." His lordship, however, went on to contend, that, in fact, the restrictive laws for the protection of our commerce and manufactures, were, in point of operation, almost null,—not entirely so, because, as he maintained, the abrogation of some of them would -much benefit the British manufacturers, the greatest part of whom were so far from wishing for the protection

of the legislature against foreign competition, that they were able to undersell their competitors in foreign markets.

Similar views, on this subject, were taken by Mr Philips and Mr Horner. Mr Philips argued, "that where the granting of exclusive privileges, or protections, had occasioned the establishment of manufactures which would not have been erected without them, these privileges had operated to the public injury. They had misdirected capital to trades, in which so far from being able to rival other countries, we were, and must always remain, naturally inferior to them. They had compelled us to buy fabrics of worse quality, and at a higher price, from our own manufacturers, which we might have had of better quality, and at a lower price, from foreigners, who, in return, would have received from us, with a material increase of our commercial wealth, those fabrics in which we have the means of surpassing them. Instead of thinking, therefore, that our commerce had flourished in consequence of these exclusive protections, he thought it more correct to say, that it had flourished in spite of them. Where they had operated they had done mischief; but luckily for the country, they had in general been inoperative." Mr Horner, after maintaining that this question must be judged of according to the principles of political economy, as received and sanctioned by our best writers on tha science, contended, that the proposi tion, that, because the manufacturer enjoyed some protecting duties, the agriculturists were entitled to a simila protection, was merely a kind of argu mentum ad hominem, and quite unte nable on any principle. He observed that "it was not asserted on the othe side, that the agriculturists suffered b the protecting duties granted to th manufacturers; and in what instance

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he asked, could the British agriculturists be conceived to suffer? From what country could they obtain any article of manufacture necessary for their consumption at a cheaper rate than they could purchase it at home, supposing trade perfectly free, and that protecting duties, as to manufactures, were totally done away? Could coarse woollen cloths, for instance, be purchased cheaper any where than in England? Or could any other article be had on better terms elsewhere? The only article, indeed, which could be supposed cheaper elsewhere, was linen, which was the manufacture of Ireland. For himself, however, he had no difficulty in declaring, that all the protecting duties (as they were called) at present in existence in this country, were but so many clogs and impediments to our commercial prosperity; and that whatever might be the gain, which must be partial and comparatively insignificant, derived probably to the most insignificant in trade, the effect of the whole system must be, that the produce of our national wealth was considerably diminished." The opponents of the bill next conL tended, on several grounds, that it was more expedient to adhere to the system of procuring a regular supply of corn by means of importation, than to endeavour to make this country depend for its subsistence entirely on its internal resources. Although they admitted, that, in the progress of agriculture, the produce of our soil was greatly increased, and was probably capable of being increased still further, yet they denied, that this country could be made to furnish a permanent supply, equal to the consumption of its increasing population. It was contended, that, as our agriculture cannot be farther increased, without bringing into culti་ vation poor and barren lands, which cannot be cultivated but with great ex} pense, the consequence of this must

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be, that the price of corn would be unnecessarily raised much above the rate at which it might be procured by importation. Mr Baring observed, that "if land would not produce corn without greater sums being expended on it than the corn was worth, it might be made to furnish a supply which would make us purchase our bread at eighteen-pence the loaf, when, if we exerted our industry on that same land to raise that which was congenial to its soil, by exchanging its produce against that of the corn lands of other countries, we might get our loaf for a shilling. The whole mass of the country ought not to be compelled to pay a high price for bread, that the experiment of cultivating barren lands might be tried. In nothing were the dispensations of Providence more admirable than in the care displayed, that the different soils of different countries should yield productions which might be advantageously exchanged for each other. It was much better, then, that we should employ ourselves in raising that which we might so dispose of, instead of labouring to produce that which other lands were destined to supply.”— "If," said Mr Baring on another occasion, "Malta and Norway had in this manner taken it into their heads to make themselves independent of foreign countries for a supply of food, they might long have scratched their barren rocks and barren hills, before they could have produced one-tenth of the subsistence which they procure in exchange for their fisheries, and the other branches of industry which nature had placed within their reach. Undoubtedly they might, in this way, have forced some land into cultivation, which would otherwise have been neglected. In Malta the people even go so far as to bring soil from Egypt and lay it on their rocks. There is no limit to the perseverance of human in

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either wise or politic to realize the visions of some theorists, to rest only on ourselves for the supply of all our wants, to cut off all foreign commerce, and neither to buy nor sell, could such a sytem be adopted in all other commodities, still it could not be done with respect to corn, without the greatest danger, because every country must, at some time or other, depend upon foreign countries for a proportion of its food, or suffer the most aggravated miseries; and these aggravated miseries, he feared, would be the certain effect of the proposed mea

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dustry: but, on the principle of forcing a supply from your own soil for your own population, your population never can exceed your own produce; and the consequence, therefore, would be, that you must cut down your population to suit your corn, instead of regulating the supply of corn by the population. This is not lengthening the bed to the man, but shortening the man to the bed." Farther evils were anticipated from the operation of any attempt to make the country independent on foreign supply. Lord Grenville remarked, that" by preventing importation, it was calculated that the farmers would be induced to grow enough of corn for the consumption of the country; but in order to do so in an average of seasons, they must grow too much in a plentiful season; and how were they to dispose of the surplus? That surplus could not, in fact, find a market in any other country, and therefore must remain in the hands of our farmer. Thus the object of the bill was likely to be defeated, and the farmers become more distressed than they probably were at present. They would be rendered unable to sell cheaper, while they would be also rendered unable to export, through the operation of this measure, for forcing an encreased price of corn."Another evil to be anticipated from this line of policy was deduced from the principle as to population first established by Mr Malthus, and now received by all writers on the subject, that the population of a country does not increase in the same ratio with the increase in the means of subsistence, but increases in a much greater proportion. On this principle, it was contended by Lord Grenville, that "a country whose population was progressively enlarging itself, must, at some given period, be in a state that it could no longer supply food for its increasing population; consequently, if it were

As to the apprehended danger of this country becoming dependent on those foreign nations from which we derived our supplies of corn, this danger was considered by the opponents of the bill as altogether visionary and chimerical. The great apprehension was, that we should sink into a state of dependence upon France. But Lord Grenville stated, that our import from France was insignificant, not exceeding 145,000 quarters, while our national consumption was from 13 to 15 millions of quarters. He therefore inferred, that the idea of such dependence was quite nugatory. "We had, indeed," he observed, "usually a much larger supply from Poland and Hol land; but was it therefore to be inferred, that we were dependent upon either of these countries? They were entirely ignorant of the principles of commerce who could entertain such a notion, for it might be as well said that those countries were dependent on us. But every commercial trans action was an exchange of equivalents in which both parties were equally in terested. It could not be pretended that we were dependent upon Russia because this country afforded the prin cipal market for her produce. Or the contrary, Russia was, by that cir cumstance, so dependent on us, tha

this dependence notoriously occasioned that effort on the part of Russia which had led to the deliverance of Europe. The fact was, that the interest which the Russian landholders felt in their commercial intercourse with this country, was the great cause of the restoration of the pacific relations of Rus. sia; and why should not the landed interest of France feel equally well disposed towards this country, if our market were opened to their produce, through a free trade in corn? Such a circumstance must, indeed, serve to excite a strong interest in France in the maintenance of peace with this country. But could it be supposed, that, because France could thus feel an interest in selling her produce to us, we should therefore become de pendent on her? The idea was absurd; quite as absurd, indeed, as the wild maxim prevailing among some politicians on the continent, that we were dependent on those nations to whom we sold our manufactures; the buyers, in such cases, being just as dependent as the sellers. Yet from this absurd maxim it was often assumed, that this, or the most independent nation in the world, was dependent on its customers, who were its customers only to supply their own wants. But if it were maintained that we were dependent, because we brought commodities from other countries, then we must contrive to supply all our wants at of home, in order to guard against the imaginary danger of dependence. This supply was, however, impossible. Some of our most essential articles must be had from other countries, 15 naval stores for instance. But, the apprehension of dependence upon other nations, because we purchased from 晶 them, was quite a new notion. We

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must, in fact, buy, or we could not sell; we must import, or we could not export. The old maxim, that the baC lance of exports over imports consti

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tuted the wealth of a country, was quite fallacious; that wealth being, in fact, created by the profit arising out of the exchange of those articles which one country could produce cheaper than another; and which exchange must, of course, be mutually beneficial. But if this country endeavoured to supply herself both with corn and manufactures, she must possess a double capital, enough to supply the loom and the plough, or one or the other must be neglected. Now, the question was, whether it would be wise on our part to abandon or to hazard the loom, which was found so productive of national wealth, on the speculation of becoming a great agricultural country. The country had been hitherto found incompetent to grow sufficient corn for for its consumption; and the question was, whether, by pursuing our prosperous system of manufacture, we should not be able, through the disposal of that manufacture abroad, to procure corn considerably cheaper than we could procure it at home."

Mr Horner also treated the apprehension of danger from our dependance on a foreign supply as altogether visionary." It had been," he answered," most tenaciously maintained by the advocates for this apprehension, that it would be impossible for the whole navy of England to import any very large proportion, much less an adequate supply of corn for our subsistence. This, however, these gentlemen seemed to feel an admission hostile to their own proposition; and therefore, in order to take off the weight of such admission, they asserted, that even a small quantity of imported corn would have a material effect upon the market price. This, however, he could not admit. A comparatively small quantity of imported corn might affect the market price upon a particular day, or for a few days; but the price must ultimately

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