Imatges de pÓgina
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stimulated the industry of the farmer, so as to make his land more productive than before."

It was further maintained, that, if the reduction of rent, the principal article of the farmer's expence, would be productive of so little effect, still less could be expected from the reduction of other articles of expence. A very heavy article of the farmer's expence consists in the amount of his taxes, not merely direct, but indirect. Of this article of expence no reduction could be expected. It was shewn by Lord Binning, that the taking off the property tax would produce a very inconsiderable effect on the expence of cultivation. He stated the tenant's property tax at 2s. 6d. per acre at the very highest; and, as the average of a wheat crop was at least three quar ters to the acre, it followed, that 10d. per quarter was as much as the property tax affected the price of wheat. Besides, he remarked, the removal of the property tax could not be considered as clear gain to the farmer; as other taxes would be imposed in its place. Lord Binning took occasion to remark on the observations which had been made by Mr Baring on the mode of living of farmers and their families. "It appeared to him," he said, "surprising that Mr Baring should have forgotten the growth of the wealth and magnificence of the tradespeople within the same time. They, too, occasionally indulged themselves with wine as well as the farmers; but he was so far from being displeased at this, that he was happy to see the increasing wealth of the mercantile part of the community." Mr Baring's remarks also called forth the animadversions of Mr Huskisson, who contrasted that gentleman's picture of the present mode of living of the farmers, by a picture of the luxury of our merchants, "who have exchanged their snug dwellings in the city for magnificent mansions in the squares at the west

end of the town; and who, instead of dining at one o'clock, along with their clerks, as their forefathers did, were now to be seen sitting down to a table profuse in its variety of dishes, at six and seven o'clock." Mr Huskisson very properly added, that "he did not complain that it was so; he honoured the industry, and gloried in the success which occasioned it; and, though the comparison might appear invidious, he was driven into it by the equally invidious comparison made by the hon. gentleman."

On the last branch of the question, the amount of the importation price, it was contended that the grounds for fixing on 80s. were perfectly sufficient. Mr Western maintained, that " 80s. a quarter was not a price that ought to give any uneasiness, or that looked like a scarcity price. The average price of wheat during the last twenty years was 83s. During the first ten of these years, it was 78s. If the price of wheat ten years ago was 73s., could 80s. now be considered more than a fair price? During the first ten of the last twenty years, what was our taxa, tion? In 1792, the whole of our taxes amounted only to 16 millions. When wheat was at 73s., the taxes were 34 millions; and at present our taxes exceeded 60 millions. In taking 80s., therefore, he was taking the very lowest rate at which the import price could be fixed." The Earl of Liverpool contended, that " it was erroneous to say, that there was no evidence to justify the price of 80s. The fact was, that the evidence on this point varied from 72s. to 96s. The medium of these prices, according to the weight of the evidence, might perhaps have been calculated at 85s., but under the circumstances of a diminution of taxation and of other burdens upon agriculture, the price of 80s. had been fixed upon; and that, he maintained, was a fair protecting price."

CHAP. IV.

Observations on the Policy of the Corn-Bill.

In forming an opinion respecting the policy of the present system of corn laws, we have had much doubt and hesi tation; and, though the conclusions at which we have arrived are the result of slow and deliberate reflection, and are, consequently, satisfactory to ourselves, yet we are very far from saying, that they must, therefore, be just. We have too much respect for the many acute reasoners whose conclusions have been the reverse of ours, to dogmatise upon the subject; while, at the same time, our confidence is increased by the consideration, that the opinion which we have formed is supported by the au thority of some of the ablest of our statesmen and political economists.

In considering this question, the two great problems to be solved, fare, the causes of the great progressive rise in the price of corn from about the year 1792 to the year 1813, and the prodigious increase in the agriculture and wealth of the country during that period; and the causes of the depression of prices that took place in 1813, followed by an almost unexampled de gree of national distress.

For twenty years previous to the commencement of our present calamities, a number of causes combined, in a remarkable manner, to promote the agricultural improvement of Britain. After the breaking out of the war with France, we were gradually ena

bled to diminish and confine the com. merce of the enemy, and, in the same proportion, to enlarge and extend onr own. In proportion as other nations became the allies or vassals of France, we were enabled also to destroy their commerce, and to deprive them of their colonial possessions; and in this manner we, by degrees, acquired a commercial monopoly quite unprecedented. The effect was a rapid increase in our manufactures, and consequently in our wealth; and this increase was necessarily attended by a great addition to our population, and a great extension of our agriculture. It is stated by Mr Colquhoun, that, according to the census taken in 1801, and that in 1811, the increase of the population of Great Britain, in these ten years, was nearly a million and a half of souls. For the subsistence of this increasing population, a great additional supply of corn became necessary; and, in order to procure it, a vast quantity of new land was brought into cultivation, to the extent, it has been estimated, of above two millions of acres. To this must be added the returns of a very large capital employed in improving land, which had been formerly only imperfectly cultivated, but of which the produce was now in many instances more than doubled by the expenditure of money and labour.

This great increase in our national

wealth, and extension of agriculture, were necessarily accompanied by a progressive rise in the price of corn, and in the rent of land. It is a pecu liar quality of the produce of the ground, contrasted with the other products of industry, that its price, besides replacing the capital employed to raise it, with the usual profit of stock, and paying the expence of labour, affords a surplus, or rent, to the proprietor of the ground. This excess in the price of raw produce above the cost of its production, from which it yields a rent, has been noticed by almost all our writers on political economy, none of whom, however, before Mr Malthus, appear to have viewed it in its true light. Most of them, and even Smith himself, in speaking of the high price of produce, which is the cause of rent, treat this as a kind of monopoly price, beneficial to those who receive it, but proportionally injurious to the community, who pay it. But Mr Malthus has demonstrated, that the rent of land has no resemblance whatever to a monopoly, and that its existence is not only inseparable from the cultivation of the ground, but essential to the wealth and improvement of every country. In the earlier stages of society, the cultivation of land would, at first, like any other kind of industry, yield only wages and profit ; for, where good land was in abundance, nobody would pay any rent for it. In such a state of society there is neither tenant nor landlord. The proprietor occupies as much ground as he can cultivate by the aid of his family and his servants, which last are usually slaves or bondsmen. The profit of the capital, and the wages of the labour employed upon it, however, must be high. But as capital accumulated beyond the means of employing it on the most fertile lands, profits

would be diminished, and, as population increased, the wages of labour would fall. But the demand for corn would go on increasing. Part of the accumulated capital would be employ ed on the more expensive cultivation of inferior soils; and, if the cultivation of these soils could afford the usual profit on capital at the time, the cultivation of the more fertile soils would now afford an excess above this rate of profit, the price of the produce being the same, whether raised on the richer or poorer soils. It is this excess which constitutes rent; and its nature is the same, whether it is received by the occupier of the ground, or by another person to whom he has let it. For a time the occupiers of land might themselves receive this excess above the usual rate of profit, or, in other words, might unite the character of landlord and tenant; but it is easy to see, that, in the progress of society, a separation of these characters would take place and that, when this excess became sufficiently large, the proprietors would be satisfied to subsist upon it without trouble, leaving it to others to make the usual profits of capital by the actual cultivation of the ground.

Such being the nature of rent, it is plain, that it must continue to rise along with the progressive improvement of a country in wealth, population, and agriculture. As wealth and population increase, the demand for subsistence increases in the same proportion; to supply this demand, not only the better soils must be rendered more productive by expensive improvements, but also more land of inferior quality must be brought into cultivation. When these poorer soils are progressively brought into tillage, they at first yield little or no rent, but they are cultivated if they can be made to pay the expences of cultivation; and,

Essay on the Nature and Progress of Rent.

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Thus rents must rise progressively, in every case where the agriculture of a country is extending itself. This may take place even where there is no rise in prices, which will happen where the increase of the demand is counterpoised by the diminution in the expence of production, occasioned by the diminution in the profits of stock, or the greater economy of labour. But when a country is increasing rapidly in its wealth, commerce, manufactures, and population, the increase in the demand for corn will tend much more to raise the price than the other causes will tend to keep it down. In a rapidly advancing country, therefore, the price of corn, as well as the rent of land, will continue in a constant state of advancement.

they were thirty or forty years ago, and that this rise appears to be greater than could be accounted for from the fall in the value of the precious metals during that period.

This principle, then, will go a good way in explaining why the price of corn has risen so much higher in Britain than in France, or any other country. France is a great agricultural country, but not a wealthy one. She has not made nearly such great advances as Britain in manufactures and population; her agriculture, therefore, has advanced much more slowly, and, consequently, the operation of the principle of increase in the rent of land, and the price of corn, has taken place in a comparatively small degree. That it has taken place, however, is evident from the circumstance, that the prices of grain are now permanently higher in France than

Although, however, it thus appears, that we could not have risen to our present pre-eminence in national wealth and prosperity-we say present, notwithstanding the distress under which we now labour, because we believe this to be merely a cloud on our horizon, which will soon pass away-without the price of corn rising much above the level of prices in the surrounding nations, yet we do not be. lieve that prices would have reached the height they did, without the concurrence of other causes. The accidental occurrence of several bad seasons, particularly those of the years 1799 and 1800; and the great scarcity and consequent high prices which they produced, were the means of forcing a great quantity of additional land into cultivation. The scarcity at that time was increased by the difficulty of obtaining corn by importation; and the effect of the great additional home production proved to be, not to occasion such an overflow in the market, or such a depression of prices, as to throw out of cultivation any of the additional land which had lately been taken in, but merely to render us more independent than formerly of foreign aid, which became more and more difficult to be obtained. Accordingly, our agriculture increased so rapidly, that, notwithstanding the immense increase of population, the supply began to come pretty near the demand. This appears from the circumstance, that, although the crop 1812 was a very deficient one, yet all that we could obtain from abroad to supply the deficiency was 100,000 quarters. Had that crop been an abundant one, it would have supplied the demand; and it may be

further inferred from this circumstance, that the crop 1813, which was a very abundant one, was sufficient for the whole consumption of the country.

The depressed state of our currency is assigned by many writers, as one great cause of the high price of grain. As this very difficult subject enters essentially into the merits of the question before us, it is necessary to examine it with considerable care. We do not think that the alleged deprecia tion of our currency has been established by sufficient evidence. There seems, indeed, little reason to doubt, that a considerable diminution has within these last fifty or sixty years taken place over all Europe, in the value of the precious metals, owing to the great increase in the produce of the American mines, and the diminution in the use of those metals, arising from the substitution of paper; but we see no sufficient reason to believe, that our paper currency has ever been in a state of depreciation.

The circumstances on which the opposite opinion is founded are, that since the suspension of cash payments from the Bank of England in 1797, a great increase progressively took place in the issues of paper from the bank; that a difference then began to take place between the market price and mint price of gold, which increased along with the quantity of paper in circulation; that, at the same time, the foreign exchanges became more and more against this country; and that these circumstances were attended with corresponding rises in the price of corn. It was observed that, in 1813, when the Bank of England paper had increased to twenty millions, bullion was sold for 5l. 10s. per ounce, instead of 31. 17s. 10 d. the mint price; the course of exchange with Hamburgh was above twenty per cent. against this country, and wheat was 111s. per

quarter. It was observed, that, on the abdication of Buonaparte, the price of bullion sunk to nearly the mint price, the price of exchange be came much more favourable, and the price of grain rapidly fell. These circumstances have been stated as affording complete evidence of the depreciation of our paper currency, and of the effect of this depreciation in raising the price of grain.

But we cannot admit, that our paper currency underwent any depreciation, without supposing that this depreciation proceeded either from a want of confidence in the credit of the national bank, or from an excess in the quantity of the circulating medium. The first of these suppositions is plainly absurd; for there was no want of public confidence at the period of the alleged depreciation in the currency. The whole of the enormous money transactions of the country were performed by means of this paper currency, without the smallest hesitation or feeling of insecurity; and the cir cumstances from which a depreciation in its value was inferred, might have proceeded from a rise in the value of bullion, in place of a fall in the value of paper. If bullion, from any cause, became scarce, its price would rise like that of any other commodity. An ounce of it might sell for five or six pounds sterling, and a guinea might be exchanged for 25s. or 26s. But it must be observed, that it would be only as bullion that a guinea would be so exchanged. No person, who meant merely to put the guinea to its proper use, would give more than the standard value for it: and accordingly, guineas were bought up at the high rate of 25s. or 26s. solely by persons whose object it was to convert them into bullion. There never was an instance of

a

difference being made in our markets between the prices of commodities in paper, and in specie. This is the great

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