Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

of subsisting them are imported, may be followed with contingent dangers, which counterbalance the advantages which the revenue must derive from the duties levied on the articles consumed by them. But this is not the ground on which the advocates for restriction on foreign importation rest their principal objections. They object to importation, and wish to prevent it-not because of the dangers, which some may be disposed to apprehend from the residence of a body of manufacturers exceeding the number required to fabricate goods for home consumption: this ground of opposition would at least deserve grave consideration, but they are hostile to the importation of foreign grain, because, as they imagine, it reduces the price of British agricultural produce and lessens the profits of the grower. I have attempted to show that importation produces no such effect, and that the supposition that any restriction on the introduction of foreign corn would add to the exchangeable value of that which is of home growth, has no foundation. How far I have succeeded in establishing these propositions must be left to the decision of others : such at least has been my object. We advance at least one step towards the discovery of the true cause of the distress, which, at the present moment, presses upon agriculture, when we succeed in removing out of the way any one of the causes to which it is falsely assigned. Every individual who wishes well to British agriculture, which is certainly the main spring and sole foundation of our prosperity, must be overwhelmed with vexation and regret, when he perceives a very large proportion of our agriculturists acting under the influence of the most fatal delusions, and wasting their time and exertions in attempts to persuade the legislature to grant them additional protection against the importation of foreign grain, which they have been taught to consider as the principal, if not the sole cause of all their difficulties. Were this protection granted them, in the amplest form which they can devise, it would afford them no relief whatever ; an act of parliament prohibiting the importation of foreign wheat would have no more effect in relieving permanently the distress which now presses upon agriculture, than a law prohibiting the tide from flowing above Gravesend.

Instead of prohibiting absolutely the importation of foreign wheat, till that which is of home growth rises to a certain price, some think that a duty should be imposed on its introduction into this country, on a scale regulated, in its gradations, by the price of English wheat. The advocates for the imposition of this duty call for it on the plea that foreign produce bears, at present, no portion of the burden of our taxes. The plea, however, on which the imposition of such a duty is demanded, has no foundation in fact; it has been shown that foreign wheat, when consumed in this country, is already subject to every impost levied upon that which is of home production. Those who ask for the imposition of this duty, require then, in fact, that besides all the fiscal charges to which it is already subject, in common with our home productions, an additional impost should be levied on foreign produce, as a transit or importation duty. It is not enough, therefore, that those who demand the imposition of an importation duty should show that foreign corn ought to pay as much as that which is of home growth; it does already pay as much. They must proceed further; they must show that it ought, and that it can contribute more towards the expenses of the state, than the proportion which now presses on British produce. The point to be ascertained, previously to the imposition of such a duty, appears to me to be this : whether foreign corn, already bearing its full proportion of the taxes now levied upon that which is of home growth, can bear the imposition of an additional impost on its importation into this country? This is certainly a question of great delicacy, and by no means of easy decision. "If, notwithstanding the imposition of such a duty, the foreigner should find it still more advantageous to send his corn into this country, to be consumed in fabricating the manufactured goods which he wants, it would, unquestionably, be a politic, and therefore an advantageous impost-it would oblige the foreigner to defray an extra proportion of our taxes, and, in the same ratio, would lighten the burden which now presses on the produce of the home grower. But the danger to be dreaded here, is the probability that the imposition of an importation duty would act as a prohibition and deter the foreign grower from sending his corn into England to be converted into the wrought goods of which he stands in need ; and thus abstract from the revenue the amount of the duties levied upon the exciseable articles consumed by the manufacturers whom the foreigner now employs. Foreign produce already bearing its full share of our fiscal charges, an attempt to make it bear more than this proportion of these charges would involve us in the danger of keeping it altogether out of the country, and depriving ourselves of the advantage which we derive from the portion of our taxes which it now defrays. By grasping at too much, we may incur the fate of the dog in the fable, and lose what we already have. The advantages to be derived from local conveniences, and from the application of our mechanical contrivances for the abridgment of animal labor, may overbalance the expenditure which the foreigner must incur in the transport of his corn into this country, together with the fiscal charges which he must pay while converting it, here, into the manufactures which he wants ; but these advantages have their limits, and it is possible that a very small addition to his present expenditure would outweigh the motives, which induce him to bring it into this country, and oblige him to take it to be consumed in the fabrication of manufactured goods elsewhere.

The imposition of a duty on the importation of foreign corn, as the means of compelling the foreigner to bear a greater share than he bears at present, of the burden of our internal taxation, would not therefore be impollitic, provided we could ascertain, with certainty, that it would not act as a prohibition, nor tend to lessen the quantity of such produce imported into this country. In transporting his corn into this country, and in defraying the fiscal and other charges which fall upon it, while consumed by the manufacturers to whom he gives employment, the foreigner now sacrifices a large portion of his whole produce; but he finds that the quantity of goods which he can manufacture with the remaining half, while his operations are aided by the machinery of this country, exceeds the quantity which he could fabricate with the consumption of the whole of his produce in a situation destitute of this advantage. If, however, we insist upon his sacrificing more than this portion ; if in addition to all his previous expenses, we impose a transit duty on the admission of his produce, as the condition on which alone he shall be permitted to send his corn to be converted into manufactures in this country; the case may be altered-he may then find it more advantageous to establish a manufactory at home or in some other situation, although he must, in consequence, forego the application of the mechanical expedients which counterbalance a given expense of sending his produce, for this purpose, into England.

Those, however, who recommend the imposition of an importation duty on the foreign corn admitted into this country, look to such a measure as the means of raising the price of that which is of home growth. But it could not, by any possibility, have the effect which they anticipate. An attempt has been already made, to show that the free importation of foreign corn cannot affect the money value of British produce; and the admission of the same corn, subject to the payment of an importation duty, canpot surely have a different effect. The imposition of such a duty would certainly add to the revenue, provided it did not operate as the means of lessening the quantity which is now imported, and would thus indirectly lessen the expenses of the British corn grower, as it would lighten the burden which now falls upon him in the shape of taxes; but it would produce no alteration whatever in the market price or exchangeable value of his produce.

The imposition of a duty on the importation of foreign corn into this country, on a graduated scale, regulated by the price of that which is of home production, would be found perfectly nugatory

as the means of raising the money price of British agricultural produce. And such a measure, as a source of revenue, would be a delicate, and let me add, a dangerous experiment; it is certainly possible, and but barely possible, that foreign corn might bear the imposition of a small importation duty; but it is more than probable, that what the Customs would gain on one side, would be lost by the Excise on the other that is, it is more than probable, that the duty imposed at the Custom-house on the importation of foreign wheat, would lessen the quantity of such grain introduced into this country; and a consequent diminution would necessarily take place in the amount of the duties levied on the exciseable articles into which this foreign corn, if admitted, would have been transformed for the purposes of consumption. .

Those, therefore, who are anxious to alleviate the distress which now presses upon and almost overwhelms the British farmer, must look to some other cause, than the importation of foreign grain, as the source of their difficulties ; and to some other measures than the prohibition or restriction of this importation, as the remedy of the evils of which they complain, and as the means of affording them the relief for which they petition. Nothing can be more unfortunate than the delusive hopes of relief, which the agriculturists of this kingdom have been taught to expect from the operation of prohibitory enactments and restricting duties on the importation of foreign corn. They are not only encouraged to indulge sanguine expectations of relief, which must end in bitter disappointment, but, what is much worse, relying upon the effect which they believe the exclusion of foreign corn will have, on the money price of their own produce, they are diverted from attending to the real cause of their distress, and consequently from devising the measures which may, in some degree, afford them the relief which they require.

Having thus endeavoured to prove that the distress which now presses upon agriculture cannot, justly, be ascribed to the influence which the importation of foreign corn is supposed to have on the market price of that which is of home production ; and that the British agriculturists would, therefore, derive no relief from the restricting and prohibitory regulations which they petition the legislature to enact for their protection, I shall, in the subjoined letter, attempt to show the real source from which their difficulties spring, and point out the means by which alone they can be alleviated.

AN ACCOUNT of the QUANTITIES of several ARTICLES charged with Duties of Em

in each of the last four vears, ending 5th January, 1821: and a Compare of the (1821) with the average of the three preceding years.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Bushels. 1818

21,514,677 1819

25,405,925
1820 23,276,941

lbs.
1818
1819 from 5 July

1819
1820 238,828

Bushels.
1818 1,967,652
1819

1,040,857

SALT.

[blocks in formation]

Salt and Rock

{ {

1,948,682 1820 1,892,977

Salt

1,936,437

1,982,191

45,754

Hock Salt for Ex

portation

1818 1819 1820

227,560 1,338,099 1,023,084

861,247

1,199,700

358,455

« ZurückWeiter »