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course the high-priced years of 1817 and 1818, or more than Ss. or 9s. a quarter below the average prices of the last eight years.
We feel pretty confident that the statements we have now made cannot be controverted; and they show, conclusively, how miserable an error it is to suppose that the repeal of the existing Corn laws, and the opening of the ports for importation, under a duty of 5s. or 6s., could have the effect of throwing a large proportion of our cultivated lands into pasture, or causing a ruinous decline in the price of corn. The average price of wheat in Eng. land and Wales in 1802, 1803, and 1804, years of decided agricultural improvement, was exactly 6ls. a quarter, being only 75. or 8s. above its probable future average price under a system of free trade; while the greater cheapness of labour, and the various improvements that have been made in agriculture since 1804, would enable corn to be raised from the same soils at a much less expense at this moment than in that year. It cannot be justly said that even 1823 was by any means an unfavourable year for the farmers; and yet the average price of wheat was then only 51s. 9d., being Is. 3d. a quarter less than its lowest possible average price under the system we have ventured to propose. The landlords and farmers may, therefore, take courage. Their prosperity does not rest on the basis of an odious restrictive regulation; but is the effect of the fertility of the soil which belongs to them, of the absence of all oppressive feudal privileges, and of the number and wealth of the consumers of their produce. The unbounded freedom of the corn trade would not render it necessary to abandon any but the most worthless soils, which ought never to have been broken up; and would, consequently, have but a very slight effect on rent.
But while the abolition of the Corn laws would be productive of no material injury to the farmers and landlords, by reducing the average price of raw produce, it would, by giving greater steadiness to prices, be no less advantageous to them than to the other classes of the community. Were the freedom of the corn trade established, our prices would be governed by the average price of Europe: And it is plain, inasmuch as the weather that is unfavourable to the crops raised in a district having a particular soil or climate, is most commonly faa vourable to those raised in districts having a different soil or climate, that the average price of a great Continent, or rather of the whole Commercial world, must necessarily be incomparably more steady than that of a single kingdom. It is observed by Mr Gibbon, that those famines which so fre. quently afflicted the infant Republic, were seldom or never ex
perienced by the extensive empire of Rome. The accidental • scarcity of any single province, was immediately relieved by the • plenty of its more fortunate neighbour.' (Decline and Fall, I. p. 86.) Holland, during the days of her greatest prosperity, was chiefly fed on imported corn; and it is an undoubted fact, that prices in Amsterdam were always comparatively moderate, and fluctuated less than in any other market of Europe. * The experience, in a word, of all ages and nations proves, beyond all question, that it is freedom, and freedom only, that can put an effectual stop to those sudden and excessive fluctuations in the price of corn which are so extremely ruinous to all classes of the community, but most of all to the farmer. When a comparatively rich and highly populous country like England excludes foreign produce from her markets, she is compelled to resort to very inferior soils for supplies of food. İn consequence, her average prices are raised far above the common level of surrounding countries; and therefore, when an unusually luxuriant crop occurs, no relief being obtained from exportation, the whole surplus produce is thrown on her own markets, and a ruinous depression of price necessarily and unavoidably follows. The avowed object of the Corn law of 1815, which prevented all importation of foreign wheat for home consumption until the home price rose to 80s., was to keep the price steadily up to that level. But the slightest acquaintance with the most obvious principles, would have taught the framers of this Act that it could never attain that object. By preventing importation, except in years when the home crops are deficient, we necessarily prevent the establishment of any regular and systematic intercourse with foreign countries. Since 1815, no Polish or American cultivator has ever been able to calculate on a demand from England: In consequence, no corn has been raised in these countries for our markets; and when our crops have been deficient, the inadequacy of the foreign supplies has allow
*Que la disette des grains,' (says M. Luzac, the well-informed author of the Richesse de la Hollande), . regne dans les quatres parties • du monde ; vous trouverez du froment, du seigle, et d'autres grains ' à Amsterdam; ils n'y manquent jamais.' An attempt has recently been made to controvert the principle stated above, by referring to the variations that have taken place in the price of wheat at Amsterdam during the last ten or twelve years. But these variations are almost wholly owing to our corn laws. Whenever our ports are opened, the prices in the markets in the vicinity suddenly rise to nearly our level ; and when they are shut, they as suddenly decline. Our system is not only a nuisance to ourselves, but to all our neighbours.
to rise calamitabundant sd. ll the night of impor before
Whthat the ports Wear being 655.ts importations, for example,
ed our prices to rise to an exorbitant height. Had the corn trade been free, the calamitous harvest of 1816, for example, would have been met by abundant importations, the average price in April that year being 65s. 5d.; but it was not ascertained that the ports would open at 80s. till the 15th of November, when the season was too far advanced to admit of importation from the great corn ports of Europe ; and in consequence, before the spring shipments could arrive, the average price of wheat had risen to 103s. 11d., being little short of double its price only twelve months before! Owing partly to the unprecedented destruction of agricultural capital that had taken place during the low prices of 1814, 1815, and 1816, partly to deficient harvests, and, more than all, to the restraints on importation, the prices of 1817, 1818 and 1819, were oppressively high. But mark the effects of this increase of price. It led the farmers to suppose that the Corn law was at length beginning to have the effects its supporters had anticipated from it; their drooping spirits were in consequence revived; fresh capital was applied to the land; and this increase of tillage, conspiring with favourable seasons, again sunk prices to such a degree, that they fell in October 1822 so low as 38s. Id., the average of that year being only 43s, 3d.!
It is thus that the restrictive system is productive of double mischief. By preventing importation, it aggravates all the evils of scarcity when the home crops are deficient; while, by forcing the cultivation of poor soils, and raising average prices, it prevents exportation in a year of unusual plenty, and renders the bounty of Providence a curse to the farmer! So long as we support the existing Corn laws, we shall have the same incessant alternation of ruinously low and oppressively high prices which we have experienced since 1815. At one time our ears will be stunned with the complaints of the agriculturists; and when these have subsided, they will be assailed with the louder and more piercing and menacing cries of the manufacturing population—with the noise of radical rebellions, and fresh suspensions of the Habeas Corpus Act! The low prices of the restrictive system cannot be otherwise then ephemeral opulentia mox paritura egestatem ;--for these low prices, by destroying agricultural capital, and driving bad land out of cultivation, necessarily diminish the supply, and occasion an unmeasured increase of price on the occurrence of the first unfavourable harvest. But it is material to observe, that while this increase of price is fatal to the great mass of the consumers, it is of no real advantage to the agriculturists; for, by attracting additional capital to the soil, and extending cultivation, the supply is again increased; and, instead of their extravagant expectations being
realized, the first luxuriant harvest again plunges them into
. The corn law of 1822 is a second, though certainly not an im-
By the 3d of Geo. IV., cap. 60, the Act of 1815 was repealed,
Attempts have frequently been made to form a pecuniary estimate of the actual loss which the existing restrictions on the corn trade entail on the country in ordinary years. But it is evident that the whole mischief to which they give rise, and their disastrous influence upon the public tranquillity, do not admit of being measured by a pecuniary standard. We think, however, that we may assume, as a point fully established by the previous investigation, that in the event of
By 7 Geo. IV. cap. 70. Foreign Corn, Meal, and Flour warehoused, were permitted to be taken out for Home Consumption, until the 16th day of August 1826.
At the following rates of duty, viz. Wheat - - - - 12s. per quarter. | Barley, Bear, or Big 6s. per quarter, Beans, Peas or Rye 8s. - do. | Oats - - - - - 4s. do.
Wheat Meal or Flour 3s. 3d. per Cwt. 7 Geo. IV. cap. 71. An Act to empower his Majesty to admit Foreign Corn for Home Consumption, under certain limitations, until the 1st of January 1827, or for 6 Weeks after the Commencement of the next ensuing Session of Parliament, if Parliament shall not then be Sitting. The following is the detail, viz. : Whereas it may become expedient, for a time to be limited, to admit a further quantity of corn or flour for home consumption, in addition to the foreign corn, grain, meal, or flour, which had been warehoused, or reported inwards to be warehoused, on or before the 2d day of May 1826 : Be it therefore enacted, by the King's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that at any time after the end of the present Session of Parliament, and until the 1st day of January 1827, or for six weeks after the commencement of the then ensuing Session of Parliament, if Parliament shall not then be sitting, it shall be lawful for his Majesty, by any order or orders to be by him issued, by and with the advice of his Privy Council, to admit to entry for home consumption any quantity of warehoused wheat or wheat flour not exceeding 500,000 quarters in the whole, on payment of such duty as shall be declared in any such order to be payable upon the entry of the same : Provided always, that no such order in Council shall continue in force for more than two calendar months from the day of the date thereof; and provided also, that no such order shall extend to admit to entry any wheat or wheat flour which had been warehoused, or reported inwards to be warehoused, before the said second of May.
• Provided always, That the duty so to be declared in any such order shall not in any case exceed the duty enacted by 3 Geo, IV., cap. 60.'
The fact of such acts as those now quoted having been passed, sets the impolicy of the existing system, and the necessity of its abo.