Copyright
Joseph Lowe.

The present state of England in regard to agriculture, trade and finance; with a comparison of the prospects of England and France online

. (page 13 of 40)
Online LibraryJoseph LoweThe present state of England in regard to agriculture, trade and finance; with a comparison of the prospects of England and France → online text (page 13 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


warmth. In regard to a more remote period, we
mean the 17th and 18th centuries generally, if the
temperature has not been so accurately noted, we
find, from the coincidence in prices, that it is
highlyprobable that there prevailed a great similarity
between our weather and that of the Continent :
thus, in France the latter years of the 17tli century.



of ow Agriculturists. 1.53

the seasons of I7O8 and I709, as well as several of
the seasons between 1764 and 1773, were as un-
propitious and attended with as great an advance
of price as in England.

Another observation as yet little attended to,
but whicli has found a place in the Agricultural
Report of 1821, is, that an indifferent season is
not always followed by a favourable one, but that
two, and even more than t^vo deficiencies of crop
occur sometimes in succession. Such was the case
in the latter years of Elizabeth, in the reign of
William III., and in our own time, in 1799 and
1 800. On each of these occasions the consequences
were very serious, leading to a distressing rise of
price, and showing all the importance of making the
plenty of one year conduce to the relief of another.

Less felt in peace than in xvar. — But while in
war, the effect of a bad or indifferent season is
thus severe, its pressure is greatl}' alleviated by the
cheap freight and open communication of a state
of peace. On referring to the record of our ])rices
during a century and a lialf prior to 1/93, we find
that throughout that long period the effect of an
unfavourable season was to carry wheat from 40*.
to 50s. or 55s., rarely to ()0s. Now 55s. or 60s.
in these days were nearly equal to 70.!>'. at the present
value of money, and the latter would probably be
the ciuTcncy of our market in the event of a partial
deficiency like that of 179.5, 1801-, 1809. To carry
our peace prices higher would require a fiiihue as
general as that of 181(), or two partial deficiencies
in succession as in 1799 and 1800. To tliose who
think otherwise, we submit two considerations ;
first, that the increase of our numbers does not much
increase the difficulty of supplying our consump-
tion at home; and next, that the range of foreign



154 Situation and Prospects

territory from which our corn imports may now
be derived is much wider than during last century.
Add to this, that a continuance of peace tends
in many ways to an equalization of price between
difierent countries. The obstacles to emigration
ai'e then removed : the tempting jjrotit attendant
on government contracts and other war specula-
tions no longer detain at home either the individual
or his capital : the charges of farming as of pro-
ductive industry generally, are calculated closely,
and a decided preference is given to the country
where those charges are most moderate. Another,
and a stiJl more substantial cause of equalization of
price is the increased command of capital in peace,
the augmented means of buying up the superabun-
dance of one year as a supply for the demands of
the next. Among other structures of recent date
in the vicinity of the Thames, arc warehouses in
which corn may be preserved during six or seven
years without injury : the expence, which in the
case of wheat was, till lately, '^s. a quarter, would
be materially lessened in purchases made at the
present low prices, as a portion of it arises from
interest on the purchase-money. (See Appendix,
p. [42].)

Re-action of the Market Price of Corn on the Cost
of its Production. — If the influence of the seasons
has not yet been duly appreciated, much less is that
tiie case in regard to another cause of rise and fall
which we admit to be somewhat complicated in its
nature, and tardy in its operation ; we mean the
re-action of tlie market price of corn on the cost of
its production. Our object will be best understood
• by an analysis of the charges of cultivation, as ex-
hibited in tlie subjoined table.



of our Agriculturists.



155



Expence of cultivating 100 acres of Arable Land in England,
at three distinct periods, calculated on an average of the re-
turns made to circular letters from the Board of Agriculture
to farmers in different parts of the kingdom.





1790. 1


1803.


1813.


£ s. d.


£


s. d.


£ s. d.


Rent


88 6 3J


121


2 7i


161 12 7i


Tithe -


20 14. If


26


8 Oi


38 17 3i


Rates


17 13 10


31


7 7|


38 19 2f


Wear and tear


15 13 5\


22


11 lOi


31 2 101


Labour -


85 5 4.f


118


4


161 12 \\\


Seed


46 4 104


49


2 7


98 17 10


Manure -


48 3


68


6 2


37 7 Oi


Team


67 4 10


80


8 0^


134 19 8;^


Interest -


22 11 lU


30


3 8^


50 5 6


Taxes -

Total -










18 1 4


411 15 IVf


547


10 IH


771 16 4i



Note. The article manure is underrated in the last column ;
were it fully stated, the aggregate of 1813 would have ex-
ceeded 800/.

This document presents materials for reasoning
of equal importance to the agriculturist and politi-
cal economist, exhibiting all the constituent parts
of the cost of corn, and enabling us to explain both
the high prices of a state of war, and the fall
attendant on peace.

War. — The effects of war are first felt in the
price of labour, the interest of money, and the
direct taxes. These all operate to enhance corn :
the price of seed is necessarily augmented by such
a rise : an increase of tithe, as expressed in money,
is a consequence almost equally direct : the ex-
pence of team and manure cannot, under such cir-
cumstances, be long stationary ; and an advance of
poor-rate has, ever since the days of Queen Eliza-



|j(i SiiiKtlion and Prospects

bc'tli, followed, at no distant date, an augmented
price of bread.

Such was the progress of farming cliarges during
the late wars. The early part of the period was
with our farmers a season of complaint, and with
the exception of tenants on lease, the partial rise
in price, accompanied as it was by high charges,
was accounted a disadvantage to agriculturists.
After 1804, their situation improved, but it was not
till 1809 that the advantage of war to the farmer
became great and general.

Peace. — Next, as to the reverse of the picture,
— the unweaving of that web wliicli owed its tex-
tiu'c to a double war and a depreciated currency.
Wages, interest of money, the cost of horses, and,
in some degree, direct taxes, have all undergone
reduction since the peace, in particular since 1820:
a fall in the price of seed is a matter of course,
while a diminution of tithe and a reduced charge
in the bills of tradesmen, are the eventual though
less direct results of a decline in the corn market.
The remaining charges are rent and poor-rate, both
very difficult of reduction, because in the case of land-
lords the diminution of expenditure is not equal to
the fall of corn, while in that of the poor a decrease
in employment retards that reduction of parochial
charge, which would otherwise follow the cheap-
ness of the necessaries of life. These, however,
are only postponements of an unavoidable residt :
landlords must resign in peace the monopoly attend-
ant on war, while to our labouring classes the ex-
tension of manufactures consequent on the fall of
provisions, affords relief, not speedv, perhaps, but
eventually certain.

Wliat then ouscht to bo our inference from the



ojour Agricullurhts. L57

preceding reasoning ? That farming charges neces-
sarily rise with tlie niarket-j)rice of corn, and as
necessarily become reduced by its decline. Now
as the reduction of charge is as yet by no means
proportioned to the fall of })rice, we are justified in
anticipating that the former will become general,
and afford, in any event, considerable rehef to the
farmers.

Evidence before the Agricultural Committee. —
Our reasoning may be somewhat elucidated by a
reference to the answers of the witnesses examined
by the Agricultural Committee of 1821, about the
cost of raising a quarter of wheat. They declared
55s. or QOs. (Evidence, pp.37. 55. 72.) to be indis-
pensable to meet the charges exclusive of rent ;
but that price will be found to supply a fund tor
rent also, if we suppose a general diminution of
twenty -Jive per cent, on farming charges. An
abatement of this nature was, as we have already
remarked, evidently in the view of several of the
witnesses. One of them, a landsurveyor, declared,
(p. 191.) that a price of Gl.v., with 'a proportional
reduction of charges^ would afford a fair rent :
while another, a farmer residing in Suffolk, ad-
verted (p. sn.) to the remarkable fact that 2,000/.
forms as efficient a capital at present as 3,000/. in
1817, iind considered that in the event of an abate-
ment of one-fourth of rent, poor-rate, labour, tithe,
and taxes, 60*. a quarter would afford a fair ))rofit
in his county. The answer of a third witness
(p. 33.5.) is still more remarkable, for it declares a
much lower price to be sufficient in a quarter (East
Lothian) where labour is somewhat cheaper, imd
tithe happily unknown.

How fai- do these conclusions appear to be fami-



1.58 Situation and Prvapccts

liar to the majority of those who have written or
given evidence on tlie state of our agriculture?
Landsurveyors, accustomed to arithmetical calcu-
lation, are aware of these truths in a general sense;
but the majority of them, like the majority of our
farmers, long accustomed to a state of war, have
still difficulty in considering as permanent the low
prices and low charges of peace. Next as to the
Agricultural Report of 1821 ; — that valuable docu-
ment seems to have been composed under a con-
viction similar to that which we entertain, but un-
fortunately it nowhere exhibits a clear and pointed
affirmation of the connexion between the price of
corn and the cost of raising it.

Are loxv Prices likely to continue ?

We are now to follo\v up the arguments on the
\ery interesting question of a rise or fall in the
market price of corn. Those in favour of a rise
are —

1st. The expence of bringing into culture new^
soils of inferior quality to meet the wants of our
increasing numbers. This, the chief argument of
theoretical writers, is already in a great measure
answered by the result of the last nine years ; by
the evidence that the largest additional produce is
obtained from soils already under tillage ; and that
the grand means of increase consist in the appli-
cation of additional labour to such soils. Our in-
closure bills in tlie six years previous to 1815
averaged 11.5 annually ; in the six following years,
during which our produce has increased so largely,
they averaged only -18 ; a decisive proof tliat the
quantity of produce may be kept up and augmented
without bringing much new soil under culture.



of our Agriculturists. 159

2d. The expence of keeping inferior soils in cul-
tivation, and the necessity of abandoning them if
low prices continue. This argument carries much
more w'eiglit than the preceding, and might pro-
duce a kind of revolution in prices were it not
counteracted by a cause of most powerful oper-
ation, — the decrease in farming charges conse-
quent on a decrease in the price of corn. This
fact, joined to the increase of our population, will
probably prevent the abandonment, to any great
extent, of inferior soils. No inference can be
drawn from the present situation of our agricul-
turists who labour under all the evils of transition
and disproportion ; subject at once to heavy charges
and low prices. At a time when we are told from
so many quarters of over-cropping, of decay of
farming stock, and of multiplied bankruptcies, we
must necessarily take tor granted that the plough
will, to some extent, at least, be withdrawn from
the less productive lands. In the parts of Scotland
where tillage was carried farthest, this painful
alternative seems hardly to be avoided : in J^ng-
land, at least in various parts of England, the case
is somewhat different : tillage was not so often car-
ried to an extreme, and tlie solicitude of the land-
lords (Evidence, p. 43.) to prevent the degradation
of their estates by paying for lime and other requi-
sites to the maintenance of good husbandry, will
operate to lessen this and other evils. Add to this
the remarkable fact, that after all the extension
given to our tillage in the present age, the propor-
tion of ground under the plough and spade is
(Napier*s Supplement to the Encyclopjvdia, head
of France, p. 373.) considerably smaller in Eng-
land than in France. Add also another fact hardly
less important, that the practice of drilling corn, so



KJO Si hid hi) II (I IK J rrospects

lately introduced, is particidarly suitable to second-
rate soils.

But su])posing that the tillage of inferior soils
were relinquished to a ceitain extent both in Eng-
land and Scotland, it does not necessarily follow
tiiat the amount of our produce would decrease :
our labour must be employed somehow, and would
be transferred to the riclier soils. A diminution of
production is altogether contrary to the disposition
of our countrymen : an increase of quantity, even
when an article sells for a low price, is more in
correspondence with their active and enterprizing
habits. No decrease of our agricultural produce
took place during the long stagnation of last cen-
tury ; durhig the fifty years that elapsed between
1713 and 17()o. And if we advert to a parallel
case in the present age, that of our West India
Sugar planters, we shall find that during a number
of years, (180^. 1805, 6, 7,) their produce as little
paid the expence of raising it, as corn does at
present. A number of estates were abandoned; in
others, the cultivation was reduced ; but this was
so effectually balanced by the increased produc-
tiveness of the richer soils, that very little, if
any, diminution took place in the total quantity
raised.

3d. A protecting Duty on Foreign Cor?i. — The
efficacy or non-efficacy of such a measure is, in a
great degree, matter of opinion. Without as-
suming a decisive tone on either side, we shall
have occasion to show in the next section that a
high duty would by no means cause a permanent
rise in our corn market, and that the only safe
course is to regard the last thirty years as a period
peculiar in its circumstances, and altogether dif-



oJ'oLir Agriculturists. 161

i'erent from a season of j)eace. We ought in tlie
next place, to cany l^ack our view to the period
preceding IJOS, and ascertain whether tiie increase
of the charge of raising corn arising from taxes or
otherwise, exceeds the saving attendant on the im-
provements adopted in our luisbandry. In that pro-
portion only would it be j)racticable to maintain an
increase of price : any attempt to carry it higher
would be defeated by the extension of our home
growth. Agriculture, like trade, has its projectors ;
men ready to transfer to it capital from other
pursuits, and wlio would find, })articularly in Ire-
land, many rich tracts open to tlieir speculations,
now tiiat there remains so little inducement to keep
them in pasture. The only method, therefore, of
giving the established farmer a fair chance is, to
be very s})aring of bounties, protecting duties, and
other stinudants ; the effect of which is unnatural,
temporary, and eventually pernicious to those who
receive them.

4th. Conti/igciic// (>/' a bad Season. — On this
bead we liave already attempted a calculation,
showing that in former })eriods of peace the extent
of rise varied from 10.y. to "^O.y. on the (juarter of
wheat, according to the degree of failure in the
harvest. Under present circumstances, this limited
advance is much more likely to characterise our
markets than the greater fluctuation that took place
in the late wars.

That our prices of wheat are not likely to exceed
55 or ()0.y., is confirmed bv some arguments of a
more consolatory nature ; viz.

IVie increase of our groxi'lli from the di/fhsiofi of
the improved ITushandrj/. Under this head we
are disposed to class the more general introduction
of drilling ; the farther consolidation of small farms ;

M



H')''2 Situation and Proapects

and the more frequent a(loj)tioii of leases when
the changes in our money system shall have reach-
ed their termination. For her pasturage England
is deservedly celebrated, but her tillage is only par-
tially good. In no branch of our national industrv
has improving exam])le been as yet less generally
followed : in none has it a wider field to occupy.

The reduced Interest of Moneij The fall of

interest on public securities since the peace is
about one per cent., and the prospect is in favour
of some farther decrease ; or rather, that the reduc-
tion, at present partial, will become general, and be
communicated to private as well as public securi-
ties. No line of business oilers at present a tempt-
ing return ; nor is any likely to withdraw money
investments from agriculture. Add to this, that
from the reduced price of all farming stock, the
appropriation of 1000/. to farming (Evidence, Agri-
cultural Committee, p. 86.) is likely soon to be equi-
valent to that of SOOO/. in the time of high prices.

Such are the principal arguments against any
material rise in our corn market ; and if their
conjunct effect be merely to give us the supply of
a three weeks' consumption above the average of
our crops in war, the result will be a prevention
of high prices, so nearly did our growth approach
even in former years to our consumption.

Contingency of War. — In the event of war, all
these anticipations would be overturned : our ca-
pital would no longer be abundant ; our naviga-
tion no longer cheap ; while fiom no branch of
our industry would labourers be more generally
withdrawn for cjovernment service than from as-ri-
culture. At present, however, we leave this for-
midable contingency out of the question: in France,



of our Agriculturists, Ifi^

the only country which immediately affects our
foreign politics, there exist the strongest reasons
for adhering to a j)acific course ; and if that govern-
ment be induced for a time to deviate from it, the
recurrence of a state of war so general as that
which followed the French Revolution, is certainly
not to be expected in the life-time of the })resent
generation. Or, if we admit it to be impracticable
to reason with confidence on so wide a question,
there is at least one point which we may safely take
for granted, viz. that our public men, in the event
of a new appeal to arms, will abstain from two of
the measures, which, more than any other, contri-
buted to raise our corn market, — interference
with our currency, and the stoppage of neutral
navigation.

" These they will shun through all the dire debate,
And' dread those arms whose force they felt so late."'

Prospect of Relief to Fanners. — This question,
though a]:)parently identified with that of lise of
])rice, will be ibund on examination to rest on very
different grounds, and to present, happily, a less
imfavourable prospect. Tlu' reasons for this opi-
nion are, —

1. The interest of all farmers wlio are not tenants
on lease (Evidence, Agricultural Committee, pp.
49. 1*^0.) is to ha\e not a hii;'h, hut a stead ij price.
Taken in a ])ermanent view, that ])rice is most
desirable which gives stability to our manufactures,
and prevents our continental rivals from Inning
too great a superioHty over us in the nuiiii point
of subsistence.

2. Our growth, if it equal, does not, in ordinary
seasons, exceed our consumption ; a situation a
good deal different from that of our agriculturists



I(j4 Situation and Prospects

after the peace of Utrecht. This fact, it" it does
not justify the expectation of a rise of price, affords,
when considered along with our increasing num-
bers, a kind of guarantee of the past ; a security
against the abandonment, to any great extent, of
the inferior soils.

3. The tendency of agricultural charges to de-
crease with the market-price of corn, and of the
rate of profit in every line to approach to a common
standard.

4 Tithe. — Since war and high prices can no
longer enter into the calculation of our agricul-
turists, it becomes indispensable for them, as for
the equally unfortunate sugar planter, to seek relief
in a reduction of expence. In this by far the
most effectual step would be a commutation of tithe,
an exchange of a crude, unequal, and at present
oppressive, mode of providing for the clergy, for a
contribution from the public generally ; a change
which would be facilitated by the growing nature
of our financial resources, and for which, as shall
be showni in a subsequent passage (p. 185), the
landed interest would be able to make an adequate
return to the public.

5. Poor-rate. — To this subject we shall shortly
appropriate a chapter, and take occasion to show
how little information is as yet possessed either by
government or individuals, in regard to various
essential points, such as the different modes of
distributing relief, the number of poor in work-
houses, the allowance granted for children, and
finally, the proportion of disburse for law charges,
removals, and other outlay, distinct from the relief
of the poor. With such evidence of imperfect
information, (acknowledged in the Report on Poor-
rate, July 15. 182^,) is it too much to question, whe-
ther we act an equitable part in continuing the pre-



of our Agriculturists. 165

sent mode of assessment ? Without at all entertain-
ing the proposition of rendering poor-rate national,
we may claim attention to the arguments for a
more limited change, for rendering it an equal
tax on the parish or district, the levy being made
not on rent but on income generally, and extending
to other classes besides the farmer and householder.
These considerations confirm the hope that,
eventually, the situation of our agriculturists will
alter, and our tillage be carried on without the im-
poverishment of a most useful and respectable body
of men. Still tlieir distress must, under any circum-
stances, continue some time longer, and be shared
by the numerous persons resident in towns whose
livelihood depends on ministering either to the
wants of tlie farmer or the luxury of the landlord.
Every feeling mind must sympathize with those
industrious classes, whether in town or country,
whose ])rivations, very different fiom those of their
superiors, too often imply the renunciation of real
comfort. They have, however, already experienced
considerable relief from reduction in their expen-
diture ; and a cheering, though somewhat indirect
prospect, is opened to them from the improved
condition of other classes. All must allow that the
sum withdrawn from agricultural income has been
far too great in its amoiuit and too sudden in its
deduction ; but it is a consolation that it does not,
like shi})Wrecked merchandize, or the expence of
an indecisive cainj)aign, form a total and absolute
loss to the community : it is compensated, as tar
as the evil of sudden transition admits of compen-
sation, by the cheaper maintenance of our manu-
facturers, the prevention of their emigration, and
the ultimate benefit arising to our agriculturists
from their consumption on a more liberal scale.

M 3



lOCi



SECTION III.

A Protecting Didy.

We come now to the portion of our subject which
caused so much discussion in tlie session of 1822 —
the imposition of such a duty on fbreifj^n corn as
shall afford protection to our agriculturists. Our
reasoning on this head will be found materially
different from that of the majority of parliamentary
speakers, the amount of duty appearing to us a
secondary object to the public at large ; while to
our agriculturists, it would, if raised to an undue
height, be replete with as pernicious consequences
as the bounty act of last century. Without further
preamble, we proceed to examhie the following
points : —

The comparative burdens on agricidture in
France and England.

How far our manufactures receive protection
from our custom duties.

The danger of over-extending our tillage.

The tendency of oiu' commercial legislation to
the abolition of all restrictions.

A populous Country not necessarily ejrpensive.

England is, after tlie Netherlands, the portion of
Europe in which population is both most dense as
to numbers, and most closely connected by roads
and canals. Compared to us, the inhabitants of



Duty on Foreign Conu I67

France, on an equal surface, are in the proportion
of only two to three ; and the degree of separation



Online LibraryJoseph LoweThe present state of England in regard to agriculture, trade and finance; with a comparison of the prospects of England and France → online text (page 13 of 40)