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Also to protect the landed interest, and through them the government, from a ruinous depreciation of rental, and the public from the hazard and even the certainty of increasing pauperism and years of scarcity, and from great and frequent fluctuations in the prices of provisions, and still more from the want of employment for the active industry of the agricultural laborers, it will be a measure of absolute necessity, to give to British husbandry a decided preference in the corn market.
To accomplish this object, the late act of parliament regulating the importation of corn, on the warehousing system, without duty, should receive a revision.
In its principle this measure was right. However it has not secured its object. It has not inspired confidence in the cultivator or secured him against ruinous competition. For want of proper regulation, it must destroy instead of advancing British husbandry. It must paralyze industry, and render the country dependent on foreigners for a supply of grain, and must keep the country in its present depressed and ruinous condition.
While the present system of warehousing shall continue, there will not be any regular market or demand for British corn. Those parts of the country which are distant from the metropolis, and from populous districts, constituted principally of manufacturers, must be completely sacrificed, and they already are nearly ruined. They depend for support, and ability to bear their portion of taxation, on corn purchased by those who buy principally for the supply of the metropolis and of large cities,and of manufacturing districts; and who warehouse corn when the prices are low with the certainty that advances in price must occasionally and necessarily occur; so as to afford them a profit on their trade.
Under the present system a very small portion of British corn will be warehoused. Thus the best and most useful market for the farmer is lost to him. It is now obviously for the interest of the merchant to import and warehouse foreign corn rather than to supply himself with British corn; or in the circumstances most favorable to the British farmer, the speculation of the merchant would be to supply himself partly with British, and partly, but principally, with foreign corn.
Not only is the British farmer, and in the result British manufacture for home consumption, or nine tenth parts of our trade, injured by this system; but by the rate of depreciation which will take place from time to time, as often as the warehouses shall be opened and afford a supply of foreign corn, to the British markets, there will be a recurrence of those mischiefs and of those distresses, which have taken place within the last three years, and which now press so severely on the energies of the nation; and British agriculture must decline.
It is to be lamented that corn should ever be at a high price; indeed should ever exceed 10s. a bushel. It is equally lamentable, and still more distressing and ruinous to the great mass of the population, that corn should be at a price below the expense of raising it; and on lands of medium value, in reference to the average of the empire, wheat cannot be raised at less than 10s. a bushel.
Nothing is more important, as far as human wisdom can accomplish this great object, than to keep the price of corn nearly at the same rate, and with the least possible fluctuation. The fluctuation should never, if it were practicable so to confine it, exceed the difference between 80 and 88s. while it has in some districts fluctuated in this year from 48s., being 6s. a bushel, to 112s. or 14s. a bushel.
It is of vital importance too, that an apprehension of famine or of scarcity should never give an unreasonable or artificial price to corn. On the other hand speculation in foreign corn should not be indulged for the sake of a few capitalists, or to gratify the prejudices of the manufacturers, to the ruin of the great bulk of the people engaged in the trading and agricultural interests.
Importat on free from duty, is the best protection against the evil of scarcity, and the proper foundation of a system for making this country the granary of Europe. The warehousing system is on the other hand, and to a certain extent, the safeguard to the farmer, from the competition of the merchant, against the farmer, in the markets of Great Britain, while corn shall be under the limits of the price which the legislature has deemed necessary for the protection of British husbandry. But against the danger, and consequent mischief of speculation by merchants, to the prejudice of British agriculture, no sufficient guard exists. A few capitalists, as was long since predicted, employing one million of money on speculations in foreign corn, may in time to come, as in the three last years, produce ruin to the whole agricultural interest of the empire, employing a capital in land of at least 1200,000,000, and in farming stock, &c. of at least 200,000,000 of money, or 51, an
acre for 40 millions of acres.
In consequence of the importing merchants running the race for preference in the sale of foreign corn, from the moment the warehouses shall be opened, British corn will be excluded from all chance of a fair sale in the British market; and all those British husbandmen, who from the narrowness of their circumstances are obliged to sell early after harvest, at any price however reduced, (and these are the little farmers whom it is of so much importance to protect, and who constitute three-fourth parts of the agricultural community) must be ruined. A remedy, and the only adequate
remedy for the unavoidable mischief of this system; and it is a remedy which it is most confidently believed, would benefit and not injure the public! is to impose a duty, (for example 20s. a quarter,) on all foreign corn imported into this country to be paid at the time of its delivery out of the warehouse. This duty would be the revival of the old and not the introduction of a new system. A protecting duty had existed for a long series of years prior to the late act for warehousing corn. Even the revival of the old duty would be some relief, but to increase the duty to 20s. a quarter, would be the more efficient and salutary measure.
By enacting a protecting duty, a competition of capital in the hands of a few merchants, to the ruin of nine millions of persons including artisans connected with British husbandry, and also those manufacturers who are dependent on them and employed in articles for their consumption or use, would be prevented. This duty would keep the price, except in years of deficient crops, steadily at or about the average of 80s. per quarter. It would effectually guard against a competition which should reduce corn to a price too low; in other terms, greatly below the expense of raising it. It would be an inducement to the merchants to purchase British rather than foreign corn, for the purpose of being warehoused; and it would stimulate those exertions of British farmers by the security of a market (for a certain market is a point of the first importance) and afford that protection from unreasonable depreciation, which would insure an adequate supply from British industry, so as to leave a stock from abundant years to guard against harvests of deficient produce.
In the prosperity too of the farmer and of his landlord, the agrieultural laborer, and all those who are engaged in manufactures for home consumption, would find regular and beneficial employment; and on an average of every three years corn would, beyond all doubt, be cheaper under this system, than it can be under that which has been adopted. Hence the benefit to the manufacturer and to the public. Hence the benefit to the artizan and laborer by keeping wages at steady rates.
This system would never advance corn to very high prices. The importing merchant would guard against that mischief, and corn would never be at such low prices as are ruinous to the farmer, The duty would guard against that evil. Thus there would be a just balance and counterpoise between the farmers and the public, and a standard so much wanted for a just estimate of rents.
It must be obvious to every well-informed mind that some change is imperiously necessary. The present system is leading most rapidly to the decline of British husbandry, and of consequence, there must, in a few years, be a deficient supply to a very great amount, of the food necessary for the sustenance of British
population; at least from the production of our own soil; and to be obliged to purchase a large proportion annually for a series of years, would add to our distresses and render them overwhelming. The diminution which will take place in seven years, under the present system, will in all probability amount to one-third part of, the usual supply of late years.
The produce of the tax, as a tax, is of no importance. It may even be fair and beneficial to give to the importing merchant of fo-, reign corn, by whom the duty shall be paid, a debenture for the duty, entitling him or the holder of that debenture, (so that it would be saleable and transferable,) to a drawback, at the same rate for any quantity of sound marketable corn either of British growth, or of foreign growth, and not exported immediately from the government warehouse, and consequently not having paid the duty, which he should export to foreign parts, within the succeeding two years.
This drawback is neither a measure of absolute necessity or of justice, in case the duty should be imposed on such corn only as should be delivered from the warehouse for sale in Great Britain; while it would be a measure highly expedient and even necessary if the duty were imposed on corn at the time of importation; and if the duty were so imposed, the drawback should be given as well on foreign as on British corn, to be exported. The duty of 20s. a quarter cannot be considered as equal to that which constitutes a part of the expense, in direct and indirect taxation, of raising British corn; or as an impediment to the sale of foreign corn at, or even under, 80s. a quarter; nor can this drawback, as under former systems, be any expense to government. The money paid under the debenture will merely be a restoration or return of duty actually received, and may be less, but cannot be more than that duty. The avowed object of the duty is to secure to British husbandry a Market to the extent of all the corn grown in the country, and requisite for the consumption of the country, while the price shall be at or under 80s. per quarter, which in effect is only 72s. to the grower, though the price in London, &c. may be 80s. Its object is also to encourage merchants engaged in the corn trade, to provide importation against scarcity, and on the other hand to find a market for British corn when it shall, in years of abundance, be at prices corresponding with those of other countries after the restoration of the duty of 20s. per quarter. These would be the countries in which, by the difference of taxation, corn car, on an average of years, be raised cheaper than in the United Kingdom.
Even in the last two years, low prices have not been the conse quence of redundancy, as some very sensible men have supposed These prices have been caused by the want of a market; and that want was occasioned partly by the supply of foreign corn to the metropolis, the great cities, and manufacturing towns and partly,
and, in no small degree, from the distresses of the farmers, their necessity to force the sale of their corn in an overcharged market; and in places distant from markets of extensive demand, from a competition between themselves, arising from their distress; ren-dering it necessary for them to become sellers in a market not only of diminished demand, but also of overcharged supply.
The present state of the market for cattle, sheep, and pigs, fully demonstrates the accuracy of this exposition of the causes of low prices.
The reduction is from 50 to even 66 per cent, in the price of cattle, &c.; and yet at the close of the war, there was a deficient, and not a redundant supply of animals for the market,
That Great Britain can, under a system of fair protection, grow its own supply of corn and of animal food, cannot be questioned by any except mere theorists; men of no solid information; men who have no accurate data on which to found their calculations but in the present state of British husbandry-languid, involved in great and general distress, and without any confidence to revive its spirit, except among rich farmers who in truth profit by the system, the quantity of corn grown or the quantity of animal food provided, will not be equal to the demands of the British population, if each person be allowed a just portion of food.
Computing the British population at 18 millions of persons, and the number of culturable acres within the united kingdom to be even 54 millions, which is allowing only six millions of acres of land for wood, water, fences, roads, wastes, and for other purposes altogether foreign to the production of food, there are not more than three acres for each individual; and a well-fed population requires that in the ordinary and hitherto deficient cultivation of the soil, such as Britain even in her improved husbandry has exhibited, and making just allowances for the food of cattle, and for beasts of labor, there ought to be at least two acres and an half for each individual; and after deducting inferior soils which supply little food, there are not 45 millions of acres; the number requisite at two acres and an half, for each individual.
Nor let it ever be forgotten that as you diminish cultivation, you diminish the sources for employment for labor in Agriculture, and in all those manufactures which depend on cultivation. You also diminish, though this may appear strange, the quantity of ani mal food, and the general means of sustenance.
By those who have no experience or only a limited knowledge on the subject, and who will not attend to that which is passing, at the present critical period, before their eyes, it cannot be easily understood that the strength and welfare of a state consist in a liberal expenditure in its cultivation. The lands which require most