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In 1814, however, the current of from the foreign markets, yet had agricultural improvement was sudden. succeeded in throwing great difficul. ly stopped, and soon began to run in ties and obstructions in the way of our an opposite direction with alarming ra. commerce ; the consequence of which pidity. The return of peace, great as was, that our commodities not having its blessings always are to humanity, the same vent as formerly, had begun must certainly be admitted to have, in to accumulate in the hands of our mer. this instance, been attended with a chants and manufacturers. Of this irkgreat diminution in the internal pros- some situation they were, of course, perity and happiness of this country: sufficiently impatient; and when they And the great and leading cause of found the whole markets of Europe this unhappy effect was the sudden suddenly opened to them in 1814, they fall in the price of agricultural pro- threw their commodities into these duce. This depreciation, indeed, took markets with the utmost eagerness. place before hostilities had actually A hasty competition took place, by terminated; but it was not till after which, each endeavouring to be first the battle of Leipsić, in autumn into a market which was not likely to 1813, that the fall became great and afford a large demand, the course of rapid ; and by that time it was confi. trade degenerated into a mere strugdently expected, that the contest would gle for priority,--all being conscious very soon be at an end.
that those who came late into the field The fall in the price of grain arose would lose the sale. Thus the disfrom the concurrence of several causes. tresses of the manufacturers, like those The sudden cessation of the great of men suffering in a crowd, were war-expenditure of government, by greatly aggravated by the desperate diminishing the demand for produce, and violent exertions which each made must have diminished its price. The for his own safety in the moment of unrestrained freedom of importation general alarm. The total failure of from the continent, which took place these speculations, and their conseon the return of peace, must have had quences, are fresh in the recollection a similar effect. Although the crop of every body. The commercial dis1813 was one of the most abundant tress was extreme and universal : mul. ever known, this did not prevent an
titudes of manufacturers were thrown immense importation from taking place out of employment, and the demand in 1814 ; for, great and rapid as the for agricultural produce was still furfall in the price of corn had been, it ther diminished. To add to the accunever fell so low as 63s , the importa. mulation, of evils, the bankers, in contion price by the then existing laws. sequence of the failure of public confi. An attempt was made to restrain this dence, suddenly withdrew their ac. importation,, by a new law, but the commodations, to the utter ruin of bill brougbt into parliament for this thousands who had been going on by purpose in 1814 having been thrown means of their advances, and to the out, the importation went on still great inconvenience and loss of al. more extensively than before ; and most every individual engaged either this importation, by filling our mar. in trade or agriculture. kets with foreign corn, reduced the While these causes combined to prices in a very great degree.
bring down the prices of grain, the For a short time before the conclu. expenses of its production were very sion of the war, Buonaparte, by his little diminished; and it seems to be continental system, though he had not the case that these expenses could not been able to exclude our manufactures have been diminished to any consider
able extent-certainly not to such an of two things : of having speculated extent as would enable the agricultu- too rashly, and of having lived too rist to grow corn at the reduced prices. expensively. In vindicating them from The opponents of the corn bill main. the first of these charges, we shall tain an opposite opinion ; but, after take the assistance of Mr Malthus. what has been said, it will require few “ We have certainly no right,” says words to shew that the opinion now he,* “ to accuse our farmers of rash stated is correct.
speculation for employing so large a The opponents of the corn bill capital in agriculture.' The peace, it insisted loudly on a reduction of the must be allowed, was most unexpectrents of land, which, they maintain- ed ; and if the war had continued, the ed, would be sufficient to relieve the actual quantity of capital applied to farmer when joined to a reduction of his the land might have been as necessary own profits, which, they said, he could to save the country from extreme want very well afford. But if the principles, in future, as it obviously was in 1812, which, according to Mr Malthus, re- when, with the price of corn at above gulate the progress of rent (of which six guineas a quarter, we could only we have already given a view), are import a little more than 100,000 correct, they must be decisive of this quarters. If, from the very great exquestion. If he has established that tension of cultivation, during the four the high rents of land are a necessary or five preceding years, we had not consequence of the great riches and obtained a very great increase of aveextensive agriculture of this country, rage produce, the distresses of that it follows, that rents cannot fall in any year would have assumed a most sericonsiderable degree without a corres- ous aspect.” To this remark we may ponding diminution of our national add, that if, previous to the bad crop prosperity ; and that such a fall of of 1816, our cultivation had been dirents, therefore, is most earnestly to be minished to such an extent as to make deprecated. The liberality of many us rely to a considerable extent on fo. landholders, in allowing their tenants reign corn, and if in consequence of the temporary abatements of rent, is cer. general scarcity over Europe we had tainly most praise-worthy; but it has been unable to supply the deficiency, been demonstrated, that no reduction the distress of the present year would of rent which the landholders could have been more deplorable than it is. possibly afford to give, could effectu. As to the other charge against the ally relieve the tenants; and that, in a farmers, the change of their mode of considerable proportion of cases, the life, they only did what has been in. tenant could not go on to cultivate his variably done by every class of men, ground without a rise of prices, even while the species of industry in which although his rent were taken off cn- they are engaged is in a flourishing tirely. The expence of cultivation, state. It will not be denied that their therefore, could not have been dini- mental improvement has kept pace nished, except in a very trifling degree, with their other comforts, and that if by a reduction of rents.
their families have been expensively Neither could the expense of culti. brought up and educated, the state vation have been lessened by a reduc- has had the advantage by having men tion on the profits of agricultural ca- of enlightened minds, capable both of pital. The farmers have been accused understanding and arguing upon their
Grounds of an Opinion on the Policy of restricting the Importation of Foreign Corn, p. 6.
own interest, substituted for the un- the price of corn falls, supposing this hewn and ignorant boors, whom pover. event to take place without any great ty and obstinacy rendered incapable of stagnation or distress, such as the preadopting any change or improvement sent, the price of labour will not fall in their system. In some respects, in- in proportion to the price of corn, till deed, the families of the wealthier far. the other articles necessary for the submers may be said to supply the order sistence and comfort of the labourer of the middling class of country gen- have fallen in that proportion. The tlemen, the loss of which has been so effect of the rise or fall of grain upon often regretted. Their situation and wages is, at first, diametrically oppoprofession lead them to exercise a sa. site to that which it ought to produce, lutary and patriarchal influence over and does produce in the long run. the labouring classes ; and their fami- Economists reckon too much, as if all lies have supplied not only their own, the springs and counterpoises of the but all other professions, with a race political machine wrought mechanical. of well-educated candidates for suc- ly and without human volition. The cess, who are taught to seek it in their moral effects are left out of view enown patient exertions, instead of look- tirely ; and because it is reasonable that ing up to family interest or patronage. plenty of subsistence should produce We do not mean to say that the far- cheap labour, it is held to have that in. mer should ape the gentleman of for- stant effect. But it is not so. At the tune ; but it would be a heavy calami- first burst of plenty, the labourer bety for the country which should com- comes indifferent about labour (as all pel this useful and honourable class to men do,) on finding he can for a time retrograde into that of a rude and ig. subsist without it ; and the farmer is borant peasantry. But, be that as it obliged to bribe him by a continuance may, the profits of the farmer were in of his high wages, for a time at least, the same situation with the rent of the thongh his own means of affording landlord, in this respect, that, even them are diminished. On the other were they reduced to the most mise- hand, an increase of the price of grain rable subsistence, this reduction, in a alarms the labourer with the prospect great variety of cases, would be insuffi- of want, and he becomes eager to work cient to enable the farmer to cultivate even at low rates, to avoid it. In the his land. In fact, it is perfectly well dear years, labour might have been known, not only that a great propor. had very cheap indeed. It is also to be tion of farmers ceased to derive any considered, that in such seasons villaprofit whatever from their capital, but gers and manufacturers are drawn to that the capital itself was swallowed take spade work, and compete for emup in their vain attempts to go on with ployment with the ordinary and prothe cultivation of their farms.
fessional labourer. But these contraAnother branch of the expense of dictory appearances ultimately give cultivation, the wages of labour, could way to the influence of the more pownot bave been reduced so soon, or to erful causes which regulate the price such an extent, as to give any material of labour by that of subsistence. The relief to the cultivator. That the price fall in the price of labour did not take of labour is regulated, to a certain ex- place till the low price of corn had tent, by the price of corn, is certain ; given an unexampled check to culti. but it is as certain, that the effect apon vation ; and it was the sudden-stage wages, produced by a fall in the price nation of agricultural employment that of corn, is slow and gradual. Where produced the fall of wages. This fall,
therefore, could not have taken place must be ruined, and the nation left to before the distresses of the country depend for subsistence on foreign sup. commenced, and consequently could plies. With this view, the corn bill of not have prevented them.
1814 was proposed, but not carried ; The last branch of the expense of and in 1815, the corn bill which forms cultivation which we shall notice, the the subject of this discussion, was public burdens on the cultivator, could passed. Dot at that time have been diminished We shall not repeat any of the ar. to any considerable extent. Though guments which were advanced in the our war expenditure had ceased, yet debates of which we have given an there remained the enormous interest outline. The supporters of the bill of the national debt, and the expences painted in such powerful colours the of our peace establishment, which could general misery that must infallibly take not at that time have been reduced so place, not merely among the agricullow as to admit of any considerable tural, but the manufacturing classes, remission of taxes. Those who are
from a great part of our land being eager at all times to censure the mea. thrown out of cultivation, that it is sures of government, of course availed impossible not to deprecate this as the themselves of the opportunity of ca- greatest evil that can befall us. Their villing at the extent of the establish- views of the advantages of preserving ment that was still kept up, and at. this country independent of foreign tempted to persuade the people, that nations for the means of subsistence, our expenses ought to be as low as if and of the consequences of an opposite we had been in a state of profound line of policy, appear to be correct and tranquillity of ten years. But the peo. conclusive. Some of the advocates of ple were, happily, not misled by such the bill, however, seem to have fallen representations, but continued to pay into an error in supposing that its efthe taxes, which they saw were still fects ever could be to make corn cheap; necessary, with the same admirable and this attempt, joined to the obvious equanimity with which they had all intention of the measure, to prevent along borne them. The nation, how. the ruin of the agricultural interest, ever, now has the satisfaction to see by keeping up the price of corn, gave that the government is taking every an air of inconsistency to their argu. measure to reduce their burdens ; and ments, of which their opponents did we may hope, that the restoration of not fail to take advantage. Mr Mal. permanent tranquillity, will render it thus has demonstrated that prices can practicable to diminish very greatly never be low so long as we continue the national expenditure.
rich and prosperous ; and that “a As it was impossible, therefore, to nation which very greatly gets the reduce the expense of cultivation to start of its neighbours in riches, with. such an extent as to enable our agricul- out any peculiar natural facilities for turists to raise corn at the reduced growing corn, must necessarily subprices, it became the alternative, either mit to one of these alternatives either that they must be enabled by some a very high comparative price of grain, measure of government to obtain such or a very great dependence
other a price as would remunerate them, or countries for it," * that the agriculture of the country It is objected to the corn bill, that
* Grounds of an Opinion on the Policy of restricting the Importation of Foreign Corn,
it has been found, by the experience mers continues, because their grain, of two years, to have failed in its ob- besides being excessively deficient in ject, for it has not relieved the distress- quantity, is in general of such bad es of the farmers ; but the salutary ef- quality, that it will hardly sell at any fects which it ought to have had have price. It cannot reasonably be doubtbeen counteracted by several circum- ed, that, had the importation been stances. It was, in the first place, too stopped in 1814, before it had time to late in being passed. We do not blame glut our markets, prices would not the legislature for the caution which have fallen nearly so low as they did ; they shewed in 1814, when they would that an immense amount of agricultunot take this measure without further ral capital would have been saved, enquiry into its necessity; but we are which is now irrecoverably lost, and persuaded, that, had it been adopted that much of the distress of the counat that time, it would have prevented try would have been averted. Nor much of the distress that has taken can it be reasonably doubted, that, place. When it was proposed in 1814, had the crop of 1816 been tolerably immense importations of corn were good and abundant, our farmers would taking place, though the price was so have been much benefitted by the sale low as 675.; and upon its rejection, of this crop, without any competition the importation went on even more from foreign growers; and there is rapidly than before. The consequence good ground to hope, that we shall was, that an enormous accumulation soon be aware of the salutary effects of foreign corn took place, which of this protection from foreign comwould not have happened had the petition. ports been shut by the operation of a Those who make it a system to dislaw prohibiting importation at prices turb, as far as they can, the peace of under 80s. Though, therefore, the the country, by inflaming the people ports were shut in March 1815, when against the government, have found ihe corn-bill was passed, this measure our national distresses a fruitful theme. was rendered ineffectual ; for the mar- They have endeavoured, and do so kets were so glutted with foreign corn, still, to persuade the nation, that these that prices still continued to fall. In distresses, which are plainly the result December 1815, the price of wheat of causes which no human wisdom was only 55s. 9d. per quarter. In could have foreseen, nor human power January 1816, it was still lower, being prevented, have been brought upon only 528. 6d. In April following, it the country by the folly and wickedbegan to rise, but this was occasioned ness of our ministers. They attriby the extremely bad appearance of bute them, in the first place, to an the season, and the prospect of a unnecessary war, carried on for the deficient crop. Prices continued to hopeless purpose of delivering Europe rise, and the harvest being very bad, from the sway of Buonaparte ; and the average, in November, was above when they were compelled, by the ac80s. and the ports were opened. complishment of this object, to admit Since that time to the present, * though that it was no longer hopeless, they the price of the best corn has been were obliged to hazard the wild asvery high, yet the only gainers by sertion, that it was not beneficial. it have been the importers of foreign They attribute them, in the next corn. The distress of our own far- place, to the depreciation of our
* The period at which we write-March, 1817.