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

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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 14 of 40)
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is very materially increased by another cause — the
inferiority of the roads and the want of water com-
munication. Germany is still more interior to
England, both in numbers and in frequency of inter-
course ; and it is needless to show how much more
the deficiency prevails in the other parts of Europe,
in Spain, Sweden, Poland, Russia. The point at
issue is, to ascertain whether density of population
necessarily tends to raise prices, to render a coun-
try dearer than its scantily peopled neighbour?

That it has in an eminent degree that tendency
is the general impression and report of those among
our travelling countrymen, who found their in-
ferences on a few points most obvious to common
observation, such as the moderate price of labour
on the Continent, and the no less moderate rate of
excise duties ; but they overlook the various con-
siderations on the opposite side of the question,
such as the general inferiority of machinery and
workmanship, the loss of time caused by distance
from towns, and by the necessity of doing })ersonallv
that which, in a busy, commercial coinmunity, is
prepared by others, and obtained by purchase. In
a subsequent publication, when treating of '* Eco-
nomy and lletrencinnent," we shall take occasion
to explain the distinction between real and ap])arent
saving, and describe the habitual waste of time in
j)etty occu})ations by the inhabitants of ])rovincial
towns on the Continent : at present our wish is
merely to lay down the general rule, that a popu-
lation dense, improved, affluent, does not neceS'
sarih/ render a country more expensix e than one
that is poor and thinly inhabited. The diflerence is
tit ilie mode of living, not in the price of the articles.

M 4

lC)H ()i(y Afiricultutr ;

An increase of population, by leading to an abridg-
ment of" labour, and to the transaction of business
en masscy brings with it a dispatch and an extent of
accommodation ; the saving from which is equal,
we believe more than equal, to the enhancement
in provisions attendant on augmented numbers.

It is not in towns of moderate size, however near
each other, but only in the case of an overgrown
capital, such as London, Paris, or Constantinople,
that the real and unavoidable difterence of expence
becomes considerable. Holland and England are,
it is true, dearer throughout all their provincial
towns than the rest of Europe ; but that is owing
partly to style of living, partly to high taxation, — to
the price paid by either country for the rank which
it has maintained in the scale of European })olitics.
Were we to subject individual expenditure to an
analysis, and to keep separate the portion of it
which results from these causes, we should find
that our actual prices, the purchase money of com-
modities at market, are not, on the whole, much
greater than in other countries.


These remarks are general, and apply to all
classes of society. We now proceed to the point
more immediately in question, the situation of our

Comparative Burdens on French and British

That the pressure on our agricidture is greater
than on that of our neighbours is sufficiently known,
or rather, sufficiently believed ; for very few per-
sons have been at pains to analyze the burdens on
either. On our side, they consist of tithe, poor-
xatii, land-tax, along with a participation in the

Dutfi on Foreign Corn. 1()9

assessed taxes, tlie excise duties, and the customs.
To begin with the burdens directly apphcable to
agriculture — tithe and poor-rate — we are inclined,
in consequence of tlie tall of corn, to anticipate that
these charges, as Jar as paid by the landed interest^
and as far poor-rale is dislinct from xcages, will, ere
long, be reduced to a sum of about 7»00(),()0()/. for
both. The amount of the land-tax, adding the
redeemed to tiie unredeemed, is about 2,000,000/. ;
making together a sum of somewhat more than
9,000,000/. To this formidable burden the French
may, with a qualification to be mentioned pre-
sently, oppose their ^owc/er, or assessment on real
property; which, after the ])artial reduction of late
years, still forms a charge of 17 or 18 per cent.,
not on the rent merely, but on the rent and
farmer's profit together. Next come our assessed
taxes, which, in their present reduced state, are ]n-o-
bably balanced by the porles et Jenetres of our
southern neighbours, when added to the mohi^
lierj or tax on the reputed value of furniture. Our
stamps, swelled as they have been during the late
wars, are considered by our landlords as a very
serious charge, whether on leases, sales, or loans ;
and a member of Parliament, remarked for his
acquaintance with such subjects *, went lately
the length of asserting that this charge was the
most heavily felt of any by our agriculturists.
Heavy, however, as it is, even after the modification
granted in 1822, its pressure is equalled, in respect
to sales at least, by the French enregisti-ement, a
duty of no less than 5 per cent, on the })urchase
money, which, added to the other departments of
the stamps, produces an amount of .3,()0(),000/. ; a

* Mr. Frankland Lewis.

170 Otir Agriculture ;

Kun)risiii^ sum to collect from a country never
renmrkiible for its wealth.

So far we may be said to have preserved ecjuaHty
in our com})arisons : we now come to j)oints in
which there necessarily prevails a difference, though
less great than is commonly imagined. Thus, in
regard to the charges incurred in the course of cul-
tixation, \iz. seed, manure, wear and tear, working
cattle, — the difference, very great during the war,
has lost, or is now losing, much of its amount. The
cost, as expressed in money, is still, we admit,
smaller in France ; but in the case of implements,
and, in some measure, in that of working cattle,
the difference means little more than inferiority of
quality ; an inferiority not unlike that whicli would
be exhibited by a parallel between our agriculture
of the present age and that of the beginning or
middle of the last century. A similar remark ap-
plies to the domestic expences of a farmer. The
difference lies in the style of living more than in
the price of the articles ; for in two material points,
clothing and fuel, the cost is not higher in England
than on the opposite side of the Channel. The fuel
of the rural districts of France is generally wood ;
sometimes, though rarely, it consists, as in Ireland,
of turf or peat.

We come next to a highly important part of
agricultural disburse, the price of labour ; a point
in which the balance is greatly in favour of France,
the wages of an able-bodied labourer not exceed-
ing (Chaptal sur ITndustrie Fran^aise, vol. i.
p. 245.) six shillings a week without victuals, a
rate considerabl}' below any reduction that we
can reasonably expect from the lall in the price of
provisions. Nor is this advantage lessened, as
some of our countrymen may imagine, by any

DuU) on Foreign Corn. I7I

personal inferiority on the part of the French pea-
santry, who repair to their work at as early hours,
and continue enn-aged in it with as much steadi-
ness and activity as our own labourers. Add to
this, that the saving we have mentioned is en-
joyed by the French farmer equally in the case of
domestic servants, whose diet is plain and whose
habits are sober. In what, then, shall we be able
to find on our side of the Channel a counterpoise
to this essential advantage? — First, our imple-
ments, particularly those of iron, being much
superior, enable men of the same bodily power to
do more work, or to do it better. Secondly, the
use of machinery, such as thresliing-mills or drill-
ing-implements, is almost totally unknown in
France. Thirdly, our farms are of appropriate
size ; while those of our neighbours, limited often
to such petty occupancies as those of our an-
cestors of the l()th and 17th centuries, aiibrd no
field for the beneficial employment of either capital
or machinery. Lastly, our farmers, in borrowing
money, pay an interest less by one or two per
cent, than is required in France, six or seven per
cent, being still a very common rate in that

A long list of tiie agricultural disl)ursements of
the two countries is thus made to balance, and tlie
remainder of tlie parallel is brought within a com-
paratively narrow coiiqiass. It may, in fact, be
considered as reduced to two points : on the one
hand, the contingency of beueHt to the English
agriculturist from a protecting duty; on the other,
the heavier excise and customs to which he is sub-
jected. A protecting duty is not unknown in
France ; and, under the provisions of the late
acts of 1819 and 18^21, the price of l(i.y. or I7.V.

172 Our Ae?ierally i!;rows its full consuni})tion, regulations
affecting import must be of rare and temporary

We pass over, therefore, this frail su})port, and
proceed to the permanent and substantial points
of difference in the condition of the British and
French farmer. These will be found in the mag-
nitude of our taxes on consumption. Our custom
duties, being chiefly on luxuries, do not very
greatly affect our agriculturists ; but, among our
excise duties, the tax on leather, which, after the
late reduction, still forms a burden of nearly
1. '50,000/. on our peasantry, is unknown in France;
while our duties on malt, beer, and corn-spirits,
amounting, after the abatement made in 182'2, to
the surprising sum of 9,000,000/. sterling, are
feebly met by the French taxes on wine, cider,
and malt. In years of over-stock of corn, as since
1820, the whole of the very large sum w^e have
mentioned may be said to form a charge on our
agriculturists, exactly as the tax on sugar, in a
season of over-growth, falls on the West India
planter. These, however, are happily extreme
cases ; and we shall at present suppose them out of
the question, calculating that of such duties no
more usually falls on our agriculture than the
portion paid for the consumption of the farmers
and peasantry. Even then, it will exhibit a sum
of 8 or 4,000,000/. sterling ; a sum which, added
to the 1,000,000/. by which our tithe and poor-rate
exceed the French, /o//r/V'r, may be said to represent
the greater share of public burdens (1 or o, 000,000)
borne by the British agriculturist.

If we brino- these charo-es into the fonn of a

Dutij on Foreign Corn, I73

comparative per centage, we shall find that the
Jbncier in France nia\, after making allowance lor
all abatements and omissions, be computed at 18
per cent, of the rent and tanning profit ; while in
England, tlie amount t)f Umd-tax, tithe, poor-rate,
and additional excise-duties, tbrm a tax on rent
and farming income to tlie extent of ^Z5 })er cent.
The result is, a heavier burden on the English agri-
culturists, to the extent of 7 or 8 per cent., except
in as far as it receives an occasional counterpoise
from the duty on tlie import of tbreign corn.*

What then, it may be asked, has been, during
the present age, the respective situations of the
agriculturists in France and this country? The
war was productive of a rise of rent in both ; but
w^hile in France that rise was comparatively slen-
der, in this country it doubled, and in many "cases
more than doubled, the payments of 179- ; so that
in 181-i the landed rental of Great Britain and Ire-
land considerably exceeded that of their southern
neigh])our. The rental of Fiance, however, was
much jnore secure : the price of corn in that coun-
try is little lower in peace than in war ; and the
travellers who passed o\er her departments did
not, until last year, hear nnich of those reductions
of rent and wages which among us have been re-
quired on so large a scale since the peace.

The price accounted sufficient to enable French
farmers to make a livelihood and ])ay taxes is
about IJ.v. the Winchester quarter, in j)eace.

We shall now suspend oiii- continental parallel,
and bestow a few paragraphs on one of a tlifierent

• In Scotland tlic burden is much k-ss, tin- iigriculturist-; of
that part of the kingdom being comparatively exempt from
tithe, poor-rate, and land-tax.

171 Our Aixriculturc ;


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 14 of 40)