Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

period, exceed the price of 80`shillings per quarter, fully warranted by the experience of all time, through the history of the country? Let the statesman keep his eye steadily upon that point, and weigh its consequences.

!

The experience of the last 6 years leads with certainty to a knowledge of the result. The granaries or depots of foreign corn, loaded as they are, will be emptied of their grain, and the ports will be open to further importation. The markets will be deluged with foreign corn. The merchant and the miller, and all who have the command of capital, will be supplied with stock to operate for two years on the produce of a short harvest at home, and distressed tenantry. The race of depreciation, (oppression as it now is) will recommence on an overcharged market, in which (for all useful purposes,) merchants will be the only sellers, and the farmers will be excluded or forced to sell at prices below the cost of production, and thereby complete what remains to be done to effect their total ruin, and the coup de grace will be given to the agriculture of the country. The fall of the farmer, and a consequent failure of the source of taxation, will be certain. A taxation already equal to the rental of the kingdom, will become opposed to a rental of one half, or possibly one fourth part of its present amount; and then it will be lamented in vain, that our agriculture is destroyed, and that the Parliament now assembled should have separated without having while in their power, (and perhaps-nay, it is far from improbable on well founded calculation, that power will not continue beyond the present session), prevented the country from degradating into irretrievable ruin. Can statesmen calmly look on, and with such tremendous consequences before them, leave that to chance against which wisdom might have provided? Do not Government perceive, that it is through the agriculture of the country that the levelling system of the ruin of cur finances is to be accomplished. Let not the French revolution, brought into action by that cause, be so soon forgotten.

Will it not be too late to legislate, when a deficient crop shall have insured the opening of the ports?

A gentleman, who is looked up to by some as a master in the science of political economy, has expressed an opinion, that we mistake our interest and character, in remaining an agricultural country. That as corn can be grown so much cheaper on the Continent, we should draw our food from thence, and abandon so much of the agriculture as would be no longer profitable, and turn the capitals employed therein into other channels of employment. What is the nature of the undertakings and objects in which the capitals are to be invested or engaged, he has left to

Mr. Ricardo.

conjecture, and we know not therefore what they are, and are wholly at a loss to guess. We conclude, however, they must be in some branches of trade and manufacture, or commercial speculations. To incline a farmer to turn his capital from agriculture, which he understands, into trade, or manufacture, or hazardous adventures of commerce, of which he is wholly ignorant, will be no very easy matter: and how he is to find out such speculations, and with whom to confide his money, is not at first sight very apparent. If all the farmers' capitals were to be so employed, where are the undertakings to be found to absorb them? Again: if agriculture is to be abandoned, where are to be found the ships to transport the corn, to feed the nation? Those of Europe would not be half equal to the task. If war should take place, such as that we so recently put an end to, how must the empty stomachs of England be satisfied? The same question might be asked, if there should be a failure of crops on the greater part of the Continent. Where are the present inhabitants of the villages, now occupied in the fields, to reside? how are the hands of those 5 millions and a half to be employed? The face of England, now a garden from one end to the other the admiration of foreigners-must of course become a waste, or wilderness; and her bold, moral, peaceable, and healthy peasantry, their country's pride and best defence, must be converted into the sickly, enervated, and riotous operators in manufacture. Into what garrets, in the manufacturing towns and districts, are they to be crowded? and who are to be the consumers of their fabrics? With such an enormous accession of numbers and combustible matter, to the present overgrown, turbulent manufacturing population, now so difficult to restrain; where is to be found the power to hold them in subordination? How all this is to add to the stability of the throne, or the happiness, honor, and welfare of the empire, will require all the ingenuity of the projector to demonstrate. Who are to be the gainers. by all this change? We shall of course really become what Buonaparte falsely denominated us, "A nation of shopkeepers :" but the gains of all these great undertakings and adventures, must centre in a comparatively small number of enormous capitalists, whose concerns stretching over the world, they would probably not confine their residences to this island. As the employment of the millions, to be thrown out of agricultural labor, unqualified as they are for manufacture, must be impracticable in this country, it is presumed they are to be disposed of by emigration. But where, whither, and by whom are they to be transported? What is to become of the nobility, gentry, landholders, and the clergy, who subsist on land revenues derived from agriculture? must they also turn shopkeepers and mercantile adventurers? or must they, to save themselves, emigrate to some other country, less intent on its own destruction?

The same gentleman argued, that if we should lay heavy duties on the importation of agricultural produce, operating towards its exclusion, the nations on the Continent would exclude our manufactures. Our exclusion or admission of foreign grain, our loading it with imposts, or admitting it free of duty, would have no effect on the countries on the Continent. The governments of all those countries from which corn can be brought to this kingdom, are most tremblingly alive to the increase of their own manufactures, and nearly, if not quite, as jealous as their subjects, of the introduction of English goods. Our cottons, woollens, and much of our iron goods, are totally prohibited in France, Prussia, and Austria, and loaded with heavy duties in the Netherlands and Russia. It is not within the limits of probability, that any of those governments would be induced, by our taking when it suits us their corn, to allow the introduction of our manufactures, which would always be sold for lower prices than their own subjects can produce them. If the absurd supposition could be indulged, that by withdrawing our capital from agriculture, and investing it in manufactures, we should be enabled to render our goods considerably cheaper than they are at present, the only effect would be, that those powers which now admit them, would increase the duties; and those that exclude them would more sedulously guard their frontiers, to prevent their contraband introduction.

It has been recently stated in the upper house of Parliament, that the system of warehousing corn under lock, is highly beneficial to the country; and that those members of a late committee on the subject, who entered upon the examination under the influence of a contrary persuasion, came out of the committee convinced of their

error.

If the mere profit and loss of the holding corn in store, on this or the other side of the water, was the question, it is not difficult to conceive that the advantage may lie on the housing it on this side the water. Because the amount of the rents of the warehouses, and expenses of the transit, and the labor in the deposit and delivery, and keeping it in order while in store, are expended here, and the amount consequently circulated in this country, in which the deposit rests. But this is an object of minor consideration. The question is not the comparative quantum of the profit or loss of warehousing the foreign corn, on this or that side of the water; but whether the encouragement given by the Corn Act, to the buying and holding it in store at all, is or is not injurious to the agricultural interest of the country.

If the depression of price of English corn below the cost of its

By Lord Liverpool.

produce, is a prejudice, instead of (as manufacturers would contend,) a benefit to the country; it is clear to demonstration, that the holding an immense stock of foreign corn, ready to be poured on the market, whenever by fraud, or natural causes, its price shall reach the opening limit; must have the unavoidable and undenia ble effect of depressing the price of the home-grown corn; and that not only after the flood-gates shall be thrown open, but even while they remain shut, and that in proportion to the length of time they have remained shut, for very obvious reasons. It may be worth while to bestow a little consideration on the various ways in which the system operates to produce this effect.

It requires no argument to show, that while corn lies in the stack-yard of the grower, it is to him a dead stock, productive of loss instead of profit; it is consequently clear, that its conversion into money, is the turning of the dead stock pro tanto into a living or active capital; and the sooner it is so converted the greater the profit arising, not only from the exercise of the capital, either by employing it, or putting it at interest; but by relieving the farmer from the loss, by keeping in stack or granary. If then a quick 'sale is profitable, a protracted sale must be the contrary, and that not only by the loss and expense of keeping, but by the crippling the hands of the farmer, in those operations to which the active capital would be applied if in hand.

Till the influx of foreign corn after the peace, it was the habit of the speculating merchants, and the great millers, to buy English corn on speculation, in the earlier part of the season, and hold it in store to its latter end. This gave life and strength to all the lesser farmers, by not only putting them in present possession of their capitals for payment of their rent and taxes, and carrying on their operations for the ensuing crop, but by keeping up a living price throughout the year. The greater agriculturists could afford to speculate for themselves; and they also held back their grain from the market, till the lesser farmers had nearly quitted it. Thus was kept up a constant steady supply, without over or under feeding the market, and all went on smoothly and beneficially, no less to the country than to the husbandman. At the commencement of each season, while the corn was on the ground, the speculator sent his emissaries through the land, took a survey of the crop, and fixed in his own mind the price of the ensuing year, and made his specu lative bargains accordingly; and the price was very early prospec tively adjusted; and the farmer was early taught what he had to look to, and depend upon; and he had only to consider the quantity of his produce, to know pretty well at the beginning, how he should stand at the end of the year. This gave him confidence in VOL. XVIII. NO. XXXVI. 2 M

Pam.

« ZurückWeiter »