Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

1

If, therefore, an unusually large quantity of foreign wheat was imported into England in the year 1819, it should be also remembered that this has produced an increased demand for manufactured goods, which has likewise been felt in the addition which it has made to the demand for agricultural produce.

If this view of the effect of foreign importation be correct, it is clear that, were double the quantity of foreign wheat to be imported, during the five next years, that has been admitted during the last five, the manufactured goods exported would also receive a proportionable increase. The increased demand for manufactured goods, created by foreign orders, would produce an equally increased demand for corn, and thus the equilibrium of the English market would not, at least for any lengthened period, be disturbed. The relative proportion between the demand and the supply would still continue the same, and the money price of corn could not, therefore, be affected. If, on the other hand, foreign corn were rigidly and effectually excluded from the English market for the next twenty years, I cannot persuade myself to believe, that the effect would result from it, which the advocates of this exclusion seem to expect. Instead of giving an additional impulse to our agriculturists, and raising the exchangeable value of the produce of their land, itwould have the injurious effect of throwing out of employment the manufacturers, who are occupied in fabricating that portion of wrought goods which is now exported. These unoccupied artisans would be under the necessity, either of emigrating into foreign countries, or of swelling the number of hands already employed in agriculture. The wages of agricultural labor would become thus reduced to a very low standard, and this reduction, in the wages of the laborer, could hardly fail to add to the heavy burden already entailed on the agriculturist in the form of poor rates. The effect, therefore, of the entire exclusion of foreign corn, would not be felt, as the agriculturists seem to anticipate: it would not raise the exchangeable value of that which is of home production, as the demand for corn would be diminished in proportion to the quantity which the restricting regulations excluded.

For the sake of placing the effect of importation in the clearest view, let it be assumed, that during the year 1820, the consumption of wheat in Manchester was 120,000 quarters, that 110,000 quarters were of British production, and the remaining 10,000 quarters of foreign growth. Let it be farther assumed, that the conversion of these 120,000 quarters of wheat into 120,000 pieces of cotton goods gave employment and sustenance to 120,000 weavers and spinners during the whole year. Taking these postulata as my premises, I shall proceed to argue in this manner: as a return, or an exchange, for the ten thousand quarters of

foreign wheat consumed at Manchester, a twelfth part of the cotton goods manufactured there would be carried away by exportation. In the event of a prohibition being laid on the importation of corn, and the demand for cotton goods, to be exported, continuing the same, there can be no doubt, that the exclusion of the 10,000 quarters of foreign wheat would increase the exchangeable value of the 110,000 quarters of home production; and it is equally undeniable, that an increase, thus taking place, in the exchangeable value of wheat, would stimulate the English agriculturist to replace the 10,000 quarters, which the exclusion of foreign wheat had abstracted from the whole supply wanted for the 120,000 weavers at Manchester. But to assume, that if foreign wheat were excluded from the English market, the foreign demand for British manufactured goods would still continue the same, is, in fact, to assume the very point at issue between the advocates of an unshackled commerce, and the supporters of the non-importation system. Those who disapprove of the imposition of restrictions on the importation of corn, are not so preposterous as to maintain that an abstraction of one part in twelve from the average supply of corn, the demand for it continuing still the same, would not increase the money price of the remainder. But they deny that the demand would continue the same. They assert, that if the foreigner were prohibited from bringing his 10,000 quarters of wheat into the general consumption of Manchester, he would at the same time cease to take out of Manchester one twelfth part of the cotton goods manufactured there: one twelfth part of the weavers would be thus deprived of employment; and, in consequence, the demand of agricultural produce, exclusively British, would remain where it was before, and require no more than 110,000 quarters of wheat to supply it. They represent a twelfth part of the weavers and spinners at Manchester, as exclusively employed in fabricating cotton goods for exportation; and assert that, the British corn grower receives no injury from the importation of foreign corn sufficient to supply the wants of the manufacturers thus occupied: 110,000 quarters of wheat, the quantity of home produce assumed asnow consumed in Manchester, will support 110,000 weavers; and this number of weavers will fabricate a sufficient supply of manufactured cotton, to meet the demands for such goods in the British market. If no supply of cotton goods were therefore required for another market, the additional 10,000 weavers would be instantly discarded for want of employment; but while the foreigner is permitted to bring his 10,000 quarters of wheat to Manchester, he gives them constant employment and support, and the cotton goods manufactured by them, he exports and carries into his own country.

The advocates of the exclusion system assert, that if foreign

corn be imported directly into England, a depreciation in the exchangeable value of agricultural produce must be the consequence; but they think, that if this corn be converted into silk, or into any other manufactured article, no such consequence can be apprehended from its importation. But surely no notion can be more erroneous. Let it be supposed that the restrictions on the importation of foreign wheat into England amount to a virtual prohibition, and that the surplus disposable produce of Poland consists exclusively of wheat; the Polish corn grower wants a supply of cotton goods; he knows that these goods are manufactured in England, at a considerably less expenditure of food and labor than they can be fabricated any where else, in consequence of the natural and mechanical advantages which the English manufacturer possesses, over those of other countries, and which diminish immensely the expenditure of human and animal labor; and that therefore they are sold considerably lower in this country, than he can purchase them in any other place. The restrictions on the importation of corn, the only commodity which he has to exchange for the manufac tured goods which he wants, exclude him from the English market; he must therefore establish a manufactory at home, where the articles which he stands in need of may be fabricated, or he will be driven to some other market, where the goods which he wishes to purchase, may be obtained in exchange for the raw agricultural produce of which he has a surplus. If, for instance, he should want a supply of cloth or cotton goods, he must either manufacture them at home, or carry his wheat to some other country, where it may be exchanged for the manufactured articles which he wants. In either of these cases, the exclusion of the foreigner from the English market can, by no possibility, increase the demand for British wheat. It is no doubt true, that a foreign supply of grain is excluded; but so is also the foreign demand for British manufactured goods: and the absence of this demand for exportation, will more than counterbalance the effects produced on the price of corn by the exclusion of foreign wheat.

To this the supporters of the restriction system would probably reply by asserting, that the Polish corn grower would not attempt to convert his wheat into cotton goods at home, because he would find it a more economical plan to carry his wheat to some other market, and there exchange it for some commodity-for gold, or for silk, which he could import into England, and exchange for the manufactured articles which he wanted. This point deserves to be examined with careful attention, as it appears to be the "ignis fatuus" which leads most people astray, and is at the bottom of all the absurdities which are vented and believed on the subject of foreign importation. Let it be supposed, then, that the Po

lish corn grower finds it more advantageous to carry his corn to Lyons, and exchange it for silk, which, being afterwards imported into England, may be exchanged for cotton goods, than to attempt, without the aid of the local and mechanical advantages possessed by the British manufacturer, to fabricate, in his own country, the manufactured articles which he wants. Would not this exchange of silk for cotton goods, it be may asked, keep up the demand for such goods in the English market? Undoubtedly it would. But it would at the same time keep down the demand for agricultural produce in England, in the same degree that the direct importation of the wheat carried to Lyons, in exchange for the silk imported hither, would have done. This effect would be brought about in the following manner :-The supply of silk at present manufactured in England, is equal to the demand for silk in the home market. I take silk as an instance, since the same reasoning will apply to all other manufactures. Let this demand be taken at 100,000 pieces, and let it be assumed, that the fabrication of this quantity of silk gives employment to 10,000 manufacturers. The ports of England being closed against wheat, and open for silks, the foreigner would either establish a manufactory where it did not exist before, or add to the quantity manufactured in one already in existence; and would thus convert into silk the whole of his surplus produce of wheat. This silk, being afterwards imported into England, would soon annihilate the home silk manufactory, and throw the 10,000 British silk weavers out of employment; and the demand for agricultural produce would be soon diminished in consequence of the decrease of consumption by this class of artisans. The foreign demand for cotton would, no doubt, in this case, continue the same, and the demand for agricultural produce, to supply the wants of cotton weavers, would also remain the same. The home silk manufacture, however, being thus entirely destroyed by the importation of foreign silk, the demand for agricultural produce, to supply the silk weavers, would also of necessity cease. And thus the whole demand for agricultural produce of home growth, would still bear the same relative proportion to the whole supply, and no effect on its exchangeable value would be felt in the market. The same result will inevitably follow, if he convert his corn into any other manufactured commodity, for the purpose of being imported into England in exchange for the cotton or any other wrought goods which he wishes to procure.

It may, perhaps, be said, that the importation of all manufactured goods may be also prohibited, and that in consequence of this prohibition, the Polish corn grower would be compelled to take his corn to some other market, where he might exchange it for another description of raw produce, or for gold, which he might

carry into England in exchange for the manufactured articles which he wants to purchase. The English agriculturist thinks that if the foreigner be allowed to import his corn into this country, unshackled by any check or restriction, the home grower of agricultural produce must inevitably be ruined; but he conceives, that if the foreigner be compelled to pay in bullion, for the articles of British manufacture of which he stands in need, the fortune of the corn grower will be made, the difficulties under which he now groans will instantly vanish, and the magical touch of this bright metal, will restore him to that affluent and prosperous condition which he enjoyed some ten years ago. The British agriculturist says to the manufacturer-"If you take from your foreign customer, in return for your manufactured goods, corn, wine, oil, or silk-any thing which you can eat, drink, or with which you may be clothed-I am ruined; but if you compel him to pay you in gold which is valuable merely as the representative of these things, my fortune is made." One might imagine that the agriculturist entertains the opinion of the properties of gold, which drunken Barnaby, or drunken somebody else did of Hull ale, who maintained that it was at the same time drink, food, and clothing. Let it be supposed that a wall was built round the island, through which nothing was permitted to pass except this much desired gold-would the affluence which many expect with so much confidence from this exclusion, be the consequence? Would not this rigid and complete prohibition of foreign importation prove highly beneficial and advantageous to the grower of agricultural produce? Those who form this expectation should be reminded, that gold is the representative, or the measure of the value of commodities, that the foreigner cannot create gold, and that he must, therefore, take his surplus produce to some market where this gold may be purchased, on which the English corn grower wishes to lay his fingers. But the foreigner can find no such market for his raw produce; he cannot sell it for the gold which he would, if he had it, exchange for cotton in England; and, therefore, the foreigner must keep his corn, or convert it into the manufactured state in which he can use it, and thus provide a substitute for cotton goods; and, in consequence, the English manufacturer must look in vain for the appearance of foreign gold. The only circumstance which can create a market or demand for this raw produce of the foreigner, is the establishment of the manufactories, in which his corn may be converted into the manufactured articles which he wants for use; but when these manufactories are once established, and have created a demand for agricultural produce, the motive 'which alone could induce the foreigner to bring his gold to purchase English cotton goods, will directly cease to operate; he can effect his purchase nearer home, and thus the gold, after which

« ZurückWeiter »