« AnkstesnisTęsti »
ral or habitual wants, in that degree they are essential to the welfare of the state. Even when producing articles of expense and luxury,--mere superfluities of civilized and refined society,—they contribute to its health and wealth;—provided always, that neither in the production nor consumption of such articles, evil, whether physical or moral, be unavoidably produced. Trade thrives when agriculture is thriving, and agriculture suffers when trade is depressed. There is no continental government that is not well convinced of this plain truth, and that does not, as far as its means have hitherto permitted, encourage those manufactures which can be carried on by its subjects with any probable advantage. It has already been shown with what success this obvious policy has been attended; that the woollen manufactures of the Netherlands, their mother-country, are successfully competing with ours; and that the cotton manufacture,--that boast of the present generation, which to the misfortune, not to say the curse, of this and of the coming generation, has become the staple trade of Great Britain,if any trade may be so called,—that manufacture is thriving in Frauce, in Germany, and even in the United States.
If the British government were either so far misled or intimidated, that it should consent to sacrifice the real interests of the agriculturists to the unstable interests of the manufacturers, other governments most certainly will not allow their manufacturers to be ruined. They are not so stultified that we should expect this from their policy; are we so stultified that we should expect it from their friendship? Among all foreign nations, where has England at this time a friend ? From their policy, indeed, it might be expected, if they were bent upon effecting the ruin of this country; for what Buonaparte vainly attempted in the plenitude of his power, by closing the continent against British goods, they might accomplish by opening it without restriction—and falling in with our liberal system of free trade, till that system, in its working, had rendered us dependent upon the foreign customer for trade, and upon the foreign farmer for bread. Then, upon the first dispute—for which the party that felt its own power would never want a pretext-an interdict on their part would be more formidable in reality than the papal interdict ever was in imagination. But the continental governments have no such inveterate enmity against us, that they should make a temporary sacrifice of their own manufactures for the sake of accomplishing the degradation and irremediable ruin of England. The French are the only people who would desire it ;-because they alone have an hereditary feeling of rooted hostility, embittered by so many signal defeats ;and because they alone could expect to rise upon our overthrow, and succeed to that dominion of the seas, which, in our hands,
VOL. LI. NO, CI.
has been rendered, under Providence, one great means of preserving other nations from their yoke. The Belgians have, just at this time, exempted from impost-duties any machinery or instruments designed for the improvement of manufactures, and are inviting manufacturers to transfer their establishments thither. Prussia is steadily pursuing the great and patriotic object of promoting the manufacturing and commercial interests of Germany, and will not be diverted from that just object by any sinister or short-sighted views. So little is France disposed to what is called the reciprocity system, (a system of which she reaps the whole benefit as long as she keeps out of it,) that the correspondent of the Times newspaper recommends the most restrictive duties on the productions of France, amounting even to a total prohibition of its wines, as advisable; this,' he says, 'would soon raise such a general outcry there as to bring the monopolists, and those who legislate for their interest alone, to their senses. We may be assured, then, that if the British government, intimidated by the three orders of incendiaries—those of the press—those of the public meetings-and those of the corn-stacks and homesteadshould try the fatal experiment of sacrificing British agriculture by the free admission of foreign corn, the continental markets would not be open to our goods without such protective duties as would defeat the hopes of our eager adventurers and our insatiable capitalists. They would not take from us the surplus produce of our overgrown manufactures ; and they could not supply us with grain to compensate for the deficient produce of our deserted fields. Upon their own heads be the guilt of those who deny the Providence in which we live, and move, and have our being ; but let us, as a nation, beware how we tempt what these men defy!
Look at the consequences of the policy in which the Fitzwilliamites and the Swingites-(an operative orator at the Crown and Anchor * called Swing the greatest philosopher of the age; and when he declared, on the authority of that philosopher, that nothing but an immediate abolition of the corn-laws would do, he was cheered by the auditors !)-look at the consequences in which the theorists, the revolutionists, the free-traders, and the free-booters —the deceivers and the deceived—would involve us.
In 1816, preceding the bad harvest of that year, this country had six months' consumption in store, -recently it has not had more than one ; and were we to have another such deficient harvest, the deficiency could not be supplied from all the world. Four weeks' supply has been the average deficiency since 1814, when agriculture received its first great shock : if, owing to bad weather, it should be deficient one-tenth more, there would then be such a deficiency
* Times,' Saturday, Feb. 1.
as all the world could not easily supply at any price. These are Mr. Jacob's words, whose opinion upon the subject ought to carry with it more weight than that of any other person.
person. •Generally speaking,' he adds, -and this, too, is matter of the gravest consideration,— when there is a failing crop here, there is also a failure in the rest of Europe.'
But were the immediate prospect as hopeful as it is alarming, and could we calculate upon a succession of benignant seasons, even then the consequences of throwing inferior land out of cultivation would be most calamitous.
• If,' says Mr. Jacob, ' a great part of our necessary supply should be wanting from foreign countries, there is no probability that it could be furnished, without such an advance of prices as would be enormously heavy. We must look to our own supplies, if not quite exclusively, at least chiefly. It is on the assiduity, and skill, and economy in cultivation of our own agricultural fellow-subjects, that we must depend, for all other dependence would fail us, in the day of necessity, whenever that day shall arrive. It can only be by due and real protection that the British farmer can be enabled to supply the wants of the community; and if, for want of such protection, he should fail considerably in his annual produce, the void cannot be filled up, except at a cost very far beyond what such protection, expended on the domestic cultivators, would amount to.'-Tracts on Corn, p. 112.
Mr. Jacob says, lower down:
• The preference to articles of the first necessity of domestic growth is natural and almost universal. The chief articles of subsistence in each country are almost wholly of home produce; and in a country with a great density of population may be only procured in sufficient quantity to supply the demand of the inhabitants at a considerable cost. In such a case, a foreign interference, which would lower the home price, so as to check interior production, might, in a few years, cause that domestic industry and application of capital, which are the chief sources of supply, so far to decline, as to afford
less quantity, and thus elevate the price to the consumers higher than it would be raised by trusting to, and by duly fostering and protecting its home growth.
It is on this ground, and this alone, that the protection, as it is called, to agriculture, will admit of defence. It is to protect the consumer against a price too high, which would take place if a portion, by no means a large portion, of our supply depended on foreign growers of wheat, that any restriction on the trade in grain can be justified. If it cannot be grown with profit at home, the home supply will diminish to an extent that no foreign supply can replace, without a sacrifice of more money than would have ensured a sufficiency from our own soil. It becomes, in this view, simply a question whether it be better to yield some benefit to the home grower, at the expense the consumer at first, rather than leave the latter to rely for such a s 2
portion of his supply from foreign countries as must reach him at, ultimately, higher prices, whenever a slight diminution in the fruitfulness of a season may compel him to require a demand a little beyond what he usually wants. If the producers are to be protected, it should be chiefly with a view to the protection of the consumers. They form he far larger part of the community in this country, and theirs is the paramount interest in society. It has been estimated, that if our own growth of wheat were so reduced as to compel us to depend on foreign countries for a constant supply of one-eighth part of our consumption, such a quantity would be furnished, if it could be furnished at all, (which is very doubtful,) at a greater expense than any sum which it would have cost in protecting our own growers so as to encourage them to raise enough to make it unnecessary.
• A season of scarcity may be looked for at some, perhaps no very distant period. It may extend, as it usually has done, to the countries which commonly export corn hither. In the occurrence of such seasons formerly, there was always a reserve stock in store, distributed amongst dealers, mealmen, bakers, and in small quantities among a variety of other traders. It is not too much to reckon that the store in the hands of the three great trades, taken one with the other, amounted to one month of each of their sales. To say nothing of the growers,—who, from their more prosperous circumstances, formerly held a larger portion of their growth than they have lately done, there must have been constantly food for three months' consumption in reserve against unpropitious harvests. At present, when the speculative trade in corn is nearly extinct—when the millers and bakers have on hand not more than half their former quantity—a harvest slightly deficient, coming on us with so short a reserve, would be felt with great severity. The
difference of the whole, or nearly the whole, of the usual stock of the speculators, and half that of the mealmen and bakers, is a quantity far beyond what we conld ever draw from all the world by the attraction of the highest prices that were ever offered, and at a time when much corn had been pent up by the operation of the laws of England and France in the continental depots. At the present time (1828), had the harvest of 1827 required it, it is doubtful if ten days' consumption of wheat could have been drawn from the whole continent, even at one hundred per cent. advance on the prices of that period.'
Mr. Barton, in his very able pamphlet, says,
• It has been argued, that we should be no more dependent on foreigners, if a great part of our annual supply of corn came from abroad, than they upon us. That the inconvenience resulting to them from our ceasing to buy would be as great as the inconvenience to us from their ceasing to sell. This, I confess, I do not understand. It seems to me that the obtaining an adequate supply of food is not matter of convenience, but of necessity. The cessation or great diminution of foreign importations, supposing any considerable proportion of our people to depend on such importations, would be equivalent
to a sentence of death against many thousands of the poor. To such disasters we should be continually exposed, if the trade were thrown open. Without supposing any hostile design towards ourselves on the part of foreign governments, the duty of providing first for the wants of their own population, would compel them to lay restrictions on the export of corn, in the event of a general failure of the harvest; and even if those governments should feel indisposed themselves to resort to such a measure, they would probably be compelled to adopt it by a fear of popular tumult. Nor is there any reason to doubt that they would gladly avail themselves of our necessities to enrich their own exchequers, even in times when the scarcity might not be so great as to compel them to prohibit exportation altogether. During the extreme scarcity which prevailed in this country in the years 1800 and 1801, a duty, amounting to about 10s. per quarter, was laid on the export of corn from the Prussian dominions ; and it was expressly declared that the continuance or removal of this tax would depend altogether upon the continuance or cessation of the wants of this kingdom.'*
A case, which is precisely in point, occurred in 1831, when it was in contemplation to reduce the duty upon Baltic timber : • the foreign producers were so ready to raise their prices, that contracts were either made, or proposed to be made, at such a price if the law remained as it was, and at so much higher if that act had passed the British Parliament. This was stated by Mr. Powles, whose clear and forcible evidence before the Committee might well make the framers of the reciprocity act pause in their insane career. That gentleman instanced another case, still more directly applicable:
" I remember,' said he, urgent application to the government to repeal the duty on foreign rape-seed, which amounted to about 200,0001. per annum; and the government did repeal the duty. They were told beforehand, “ If you do, in the course of a few years the whole of that duty will find its way into the hands of the foreign grower.” In the course of six or seven years, the English grower of rape-seed was driven wholly out of the market, and the price of the article itself got up to what it was before the duty was taken off; and the whole of that 200,000l. went to the foreign growers of that article.'
Being, upon this, asked if he was of opinion that abstract principles of improvement do not always work, in operation, in the manner contemplated by the projectors, he replied: - I really see so little harmony between abstract principles and the practical business of life, that I have the greatest possible distrust of them as a man of business.'! There is further proof of this, in another point, inferior in importance only to the corn-laws. • The effect of the reciprocity act,' says Mr. Powles, “in throwing * Inquiry into the Restrictions on the Importation of Foreign Corn, p. 36-38. + Report on Manufactures, p. 385. | Ib. p. 389.