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all his proceedings, and he had only to be governed by prudence in the extent of his operations.
It was the foresight, and stability of price, arising from the abovestated cause, that put into the hands of the farmer that powerful engine, which during the war extended and improved the agriculture of the country, with such astonishing rapidity-" credit with the country banker, and with the speculating merchant." That credit in the cases of all the minor farmers (the great mass) rested upon, and was measured by the extent and estimated value of his crop at harvest. It was the moral certainty of the estimate (and that estimate founded upon the prospective estimate of price throughout the year) which formed its basis or corner-stone, and while that course of things remained undisturbed, the credit remained unshaken, otherwise than by its own excess.
Let us now see what change this state of things has undergone.
The influx of foreign corn upon the market, after the peace, (saleable at any price) produced the first violent alteration. The sudden depression which followed, (nay, which preceded the actual approach of influx, from the contemplation of it in prospect) drove the agriculturists to seek protection from Parliament against the ruin with which it was overwhelming them. The Corn Act was conceded to their prayers, in the midst, and in spite of the fury of the mob, instigated by the most unfounded apprehensions of its effects on the price of food.
The consequence of the Act was the exact reverse of the relief sought. It appointed a future day for shutting the ports, if, and so long as, corn should be below the prices it fixed upon each species; till the speculators foreseeing that once shut, it was not likely they should be soon opened again, instantly set to work to import and hold in store, all the foreign corn they could lay their hands on, and get into the kingdom in this limited interval: and the immediate and unavoidable consequence was, such a depreciation of the value of English grain, as caused the annihilation of more than half the capital of the English farmers, and consequently destroyed their credit ; totally ruined vast numbers, and disabled nearly all from paying their rents, whilst probably the speculators themselves were seriously injured.
From the heavy blows thus received, agriculture has never been able to recover and raise its head. By the combined effect of a short crop, and the financial operation of throwing millions of paper into circulation, a temporary elevation of price took place in 1818, which lasted no longer than while supported by that fragile prop. Price sunk as soon as it was withdrawn, under the weight of the immense influx of foreign corn, which its late elevation by opening the ports let in upon the market; while still laboring under this oppression, it was again thrown down by the fraudulent opening of the ports last year, for oats, before remarked upon; and it has now sunk so deep, that it has a necessary tendency to sink deeper, (as do bodies in water which float on and near the surface, but sink when at a certain depth) and it must be irrecoverable, if an helping hand is not immediately extended to raise it. Although part, and perhaps a large portion of the distress, may be attributable to other causes, (such as are noticed in the Considerations) much of what is now felt incontestably arises from a double effect of the Corn Act.
1st. By its exposure of the market, when it opens the ports to the influx of foreign corn, of which it causes and elicourages the overwhelming accumulation, while it keeps them shut.
2nd. By the operation and effect of the warehousing clause. As to the first, enough has been already said. The second will admit of a little further examination.- Until the subversion of the antecedent order of things in the agricultural world, by the leaving open the ports at the peace, to the import of low-priced foreign grain; the speculating merchants and willers, as before observed, invested large capitals iu English grain, which they held in store : thus easing the English farmer, and putting his dead capital into activity. To such an extent was this practised in very productive parts of the island, particularly in Lincolnshire, that the merchants actually bought the crops on the ground, and advanced the greater part of the money which was employed to produce it: the farmer in fact working pro tanto upon the merchant's capital.
From the time of the peace, and ever since the introduction of the Corn Act, all the speculations in English grain have ceased, and the capitals which heretofore used to be invested therein, bave ever since been employed, and even to an increased extent, in the purchase in store of foreign grain. The reason is as obvious 'as the fact is undeniable. If foreign wheat can be purchased at So shillings a quarter, who can doubt whether it is not a better speculation to invest money in it at that price, with the prospect of selling it in the English market at 41. or upwards per quarter; than to buy wheat of our own growth at the current market price, with as great or perhaps a greater chance of its falling than rising?
Admitting that the opening of the ports may not happen for a year or two years, the difference of price will abundantly compensate, when it shall happen, for the intermediate expense and even hazard of keeping. That such is actually the opinion and coufidence of the speculators, is undeniably proved by the fact, that all their capitals are invested in foreign, and vone in home-grown coru.
Need it then be debated or even asked, whether the warehousing system is advantageous or prejudicial to agriculture; the vital interest of the community? To demonstrate the solution of the question, we need only trace the inevitable consequences of the facts above.stated, viz. the withdrawing of the mercantile capital from the home, and transferring it to the foreign market.
To the English farmer they are these:
1st. The unavoidable depression of price caused by the absence of all the great customers from the market.
2nd. The consequent destruction of the credit of the lesser farmers with the country bankers and the merchants.
3rd. The tying up bis hands, and either wholly disabling him, or crippling his operations by leaving his diminished capital a dead weight on his hands; or driving him to part with bis produce at whatever ruinous price it will yield, and thereby, in the earlier part of the season, producing additional depression on the market.
4th. The diminution of the value and contraction of the employment of labor, the necessary consequence of the farmer's poverty and distress; and the consequent augmentation of that distress by the spread of pauperism, and the ruinous swelling of the poor rates.
5th. The depression of the spirits of the farmer, and the constant state of uneasy apprehension under which he carries on his cultivation, seeing nothing but ruin before him; whether he looks to a season of plenty, or a season of deficiency. For if the crop shall be plentiful, it will be worth little or nothing; and if there should be a scanty crop, the price would rise so high as to open the ports ; and in that case he can look tu no compensation in price for the deficiency of the quantity of his produce; and the very dispiriting prospect makes him view with fear instead of hope the elevation of the market price; and impels him to sell below the opening price, rather than run the hazard of waiting for the effect of the inundation of foreign grain.
This cause alone must go far to keep down the price; and would probably long protract if not prevent the opening, was it not in the power of the great capitalists to effect it almost at any time by their operations. We have seen in a recent instance, how easy a matter it was to effect this, under the Act as it now stands.
If all these disadvantages to the agriculture of this country arise from the warehousing system, corresponding benefits, the exact converse of each of those disadvantages, must arise to the cultivators of those countries, in whose produce those great capitals are invested, which are withdrawn from the home, and employed in foreign grain.
The immense mass of foreign corn now under lock in this country, and warehoused or held in store on the other side of the water, was so much dead capital when in the hands of the foreign farmer, of which he is now eased ; and its price becomes an active one, and his power of cultivation and re-production is accordingly augmented in the same proportion as that of the English farmer is oppressed by the leaving of his inactive capital on his hands. Thus the foreign farmer enjoys the benefit of that capital, whose absence is the cause of the suffering of the English farmer.
To the candid and practical reasoner we would put these questions :
1st. Was not the warehoused coru a dead capital on the hands of the foreign grower?
2nd. Does it not continue a dead capital while under lock ? 3rd. Is not the money given for it by the speculator active capital in the hands of the seller, and put into a course of circulation through the agriculture and trade of this country?
4th. Was it not therefore an exchange of a dead for a living capital- the latter active abroad and the former sleeping at home; and while it does so, is it not th same with reference to the British agricultural community as if it were non-existent?
5th. Would not the capitals so sunk in foreign, have been invested in home produce, (had the former been excluded from our ports) and passed by the hands of the farmer through agriculture into trade and general circulation in this country? And can it be maintained that more than a portion of it comes back from the foreign countries, through which it is put in circulation, in return for our manufactures ? Is not then the kingdom enriching the foreign farmer and the traders, at the expense of the English ; and is it not proportionably impoverished by every repetition of those transactions ?
Is it not obvious that the only gainers on this side of the water are the speculators and importers ? and is it fit that the well-being and happiness of the country, nay, its very existence, should be sacrificed, or even hazarded, for the emolument of a comparatively small number of individuals ?
It is far from improbable, that had there been no Corn Act, the condition of the agriculture of these kingdoms would have been better than it is, nay, that the operation of that Act is a principal cause of its existing distress.
This opinion is grounded on the following considerations,
rise to the Corn Bill, was occasioned by the sudden great change of circumstances, (produced by the cessation of hostilities) at a period when great quantities of corn were' amassed in the stores on the Continent, and was of a temporary nature. Had there been no Corn Act, after the first flood had spent itself, the prices of English and foreign corn would have found, or gradually settled to, a level or equilibrium; which though it diminished the profit, would still have left a living price to the English farmer.
Had the ports remained permanently open, the prices of grain on the Continent would have been those of the English market; and it was not less the interest of the foreign, than the English grower, to keep up the price. It would also have been equally the interest of the importer, whose profits were also materially dependent on price. It was therefore the obvious interest of the importers, under such circumstances, not to overfeed and depress the market; but to proportion the supply to the demand.
It is true, the accession of quantity must have had the effect, to a considerable degree, to keep down price, but not below a living one to the farmer.
Heavy as was the influx at the peace, it was the Corn Bill which gave it its destructive force. By the shutting the ports at a future day, it forced the import of all that could be got into them before the door was closed, and of course precipitated what would otherwise bave flowed in gradually; and it became the interest of the foreign grower to sell for whatever he could get. But if there was no prospect of exclusion, he would have held back, as long as his circumstances would allow, for the best price; and the speculator, or merchant, taking his place with a capital which would enable hini to wait, would have had the same policy.
It being the common interest of all, not to depress the market, the importing merchants would have regulated their speculations accordingly, and by degrees the foreign growers would have adapted their cultivation to the English demand, which would have been that of the supply of the deficiency of its own growth. The foreign supply would probably have tended to discourage and diminish that growth, which had, during the war, been forced by high prices; but whenever that should have so decreased, as to produce scarcity, price would rise accordingly, and agriculture would revive. If a scarcity were to happen, no foreign supply could satisfy it. Great, undoubtedly, would have been the advantage of the foreign grower, to whom a low price to the English farmer would have been a high price; but the profit would bave reached the grower, and not gone into the pocket of the speculator.
It is the operation of the Corn Bill which gives bim play. While the ports are shut, the foreign grower's stock lies a dead weight upon his hands, and his want of capital obliges him to part with it: he cannot afford to wait the chance of their opening at some future day. The price in the English market is no price to him; he of course looks every way for making the most of his stock; and for what meets no demand on the Continent, the English speculator is his only customer; he therefore has it on such terms as he calculates will indemnify him for holding it, while waiting the chance of the opening of the ports, or the future disposal of it in other countries. In proportion to the length of