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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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the same protection lor the iiome grower of corn, as for
the home manufacturer of particular commodities : but
these manufactures (such as lace and silk) are protluctive
of no benefit to the public, being all carried on in contra-
diction to natural and inherent obstacles, while our labour
and capital would find a more beneficial direction, if
transferred to the woollen, cotton, hardware, or other
branches ; in which, particularly in the latter, we possess
local and permanent advanUiges over our continental
neighbours.

" It seems extraordinary, that we should be so muchi
alive to the advantages we gain from the division of employ-
ment in the prosecution of our houie industry, and not see
the benefit to be obtained from the more extended ili vision
of employment in the case of nations : a division pointed
out by the separate facilities for carrying them on, which,
from climate, soil, or natural j)roductions, different coun-
tries possess. By keeping up the price of corn, we oblige
ourselves to labour in our manufactures at a great disad-
vantage, when compared with other nations."

Extract from a |>amphlet, by Major (now Colonel)
Torrens, published also in 181G, and entitled " Letter tv
Lord Liverpool on the Slate of Agriculture:" —

" To any persons who will either investigate first princi-
ples, or recur to the experience of countries which, like
Holland, have given freedom to tratle, it must be evitient,
that this natural stiite of things is greatly preferable to any
artificial system which can be substituted in its stejid. As
we extend the area from which subsistence is drawn, the
inequality in the productivetiess of the seasons diminishes.
Hence when, under a free intercourse, a deficient harvest
required an unusual import, abuii(l:nii harvests in some



[34 J On /l^riculiure. [App.

otlior country of the world would supply the deficiency by
an extraordinary export. On the other hand, a succession
of unusually abundant years could occasion no deep de-
pression in our markets, because this extraordinary (juantity
of corn of liome growth could not (as when abundant har-
vests occur in the case of a country forcin*;^ in averaj^e years
an inde))endent supply) much exceed the consumption of
the season."

To these opinions we add that of Mr. M'Culloch, who
has inserted an Essay on the Corn Laws, in the same work
as his Essay on Exchange, viz. the Supplement to the En-
cyclopaedia Britannica. After regretting that the corn trade
was not definitively laid open in 1815, a time when, as at
present, our prices were so low that our agriculture had, in
a manner, felt all the evils of transition, and the public
would have reaped the greatest advantage from a return to
unrestricted freedom, Mr. M. adds, —

" M^hen this happy event" (a free trade in corn) " shall
have taken place, it will be no longer necessary to force
nature. The capital and enterprise of the country will be
turned into those departments of industry in which our
physical situation, national character, or political institutions,
fit us to excel. The corn of Poland, and the raw cotton
of Carolina, will be exclianged for the wares of Birmingham
and the muslins of Glasgow'. The genuine commercial
spirit, that which permanently secures the prosperity of
nations, is altogether inconsistent with the dark and shallow-
policy of monopoly. The nations of the earth are like
provinces of the same kingdom — a free and unfettered
intercourse is alike productive of general and of local
advantage."

Political economists are more accustomed to deal in
general reasoning, than to analyse the circumstances of a
case, or to go through the details necessary to the sug-
gestion of a specific remedy. This blank we shall now
endeavour to supply, and, by way of supplement to the
preceding arguments, add u sketch of the preliminaries
indispensable to freedom in our corn trade. By these we
mean the exemption of our agriculturists from such burdens
as press on them either exclusively, or in a greater degree
than on the rest of the public. Thus : —

Computation of Poor Bate and Tithe. — Of the sums
levied for rates in England and \\'ales, the averaije annual
amount will probably be, ere long, reduced to —



App.] Qitestion of' a free Trade in Corn. [85^

Highway rate, county rate, church rate - j61, 200,000
Law suits, removal of paupers, and expence

of parish officers 300,000

Maintenance and relief of the poor, after as-
suming a reduction from the present charge
of somewhat more than 1,000,000/. - t,500,000

In all - .t 6,000,000



Of this amount what \xirt bears exclusively on agricul-
ture ? To calculate that we begin by excluding

1. The proportion that appears to be raised in
towns, includinj; smaller towns than those
mentioned in the Poor-rale Report of
1821, p. 13., and referring to the assessment
of 181. -5, in which a distinction is made be-
tween the contribution of landholders and
householders - - - .::^1, 500,000

2. A large sum which in fact is but vominalli/
paid by agriculturists, the wages of country
labour being lower than they would be with-
out the rates : this sum we estimate conjec-

turally, in war at 2,000,000/. ; in peace at 1,000,000
Remainder, being the actual burden on agricul-
ture arising from rates, supposing the whole
on a reduced scale - - - . 3,500,000



Total (agreeing with the preceding) i'6,000,000

Now, were all classes equal contributors to
the rates, the quota of the land would be
only a third, or 2,00(),0()()/. making a de-
duction from the 3,500,000/. of - - i£'l,500,«00

Next, as to Tif/w. — Amount of tithe of Eng-
land, Wales, and Ireland, computed at the
reduced price of produce, l)ut including tithe
paid to laymen, about - 5,000,000/.

If tithe also were rendered a national burthen,
thelandoughttopayonlyatliird( 1,700,000/.)
which would form a deduction from its pre-
sent burden of 3,300,000

Total deduction that would then be made frh market. And as to another
point, the amount of supply to be expected from the Con-
tinent at large, Mr. T. concurs with I\Ir. Jacob, (Evidence,
pp. 232. 260.) that it is in general overrated.

la regard to our own agriculture, Mr. T. differs mate-
rially from those who imagine that a continuance of the
present low prices would throw much land out of cultiva-
tion. As a fall in the price of corn necessarily reduces the
cost of production, he sees no great reason (pp. 232. 288.)
why we should not, as half a century ago, raise corn as
cheaply^ or almost as c/icapli/, as on the Continent, particu-
larly now that the agriculture of Ireland is relieved from
restraint.

Mr. T. is also the oidy witness who brings forward
(p. 288.) an argument which we have been at |)ains to
enforce in tlie text, viz. that an inijiort limit, if high, would
induce extended cultivation, and prove injurious to our
fiirmers. We have his concmrence, likewise, in another
important point, in accounting (p. 3 tt.) for the ";reat fall
in the price of commodities since the peace, less hy a re-
currence to cash payments;, than by the application of a
great addition of labour and capital to productive purposes.
Lastly, he is favourable to a protecting duty on corn, pro-
vided" (Evidence, p. 297.) it be no greater than the direct
taxes that operate on our own production.

The opinion, that our corn is likely to be raised at a rate
(between 50s. and GOi'. the (juarter) nearly as cheap as on
the Continent, has a claim to {)ariicuhir alleiilion ; and we
jnoceed to enquire how far it is conliniieil by a consider-
ation of either our past or present circumstances.

[c] 4



[40] On Agriculture. [App.

Prices dnrinp^ last Centurtj. — If in the history of our corn
trade we go back sufficiently far to reach a period of pro-
found peace, we shall find little reason to expect tliat in such
a season our prices can be kept much above those of the
Continent. Throughout the hundred years that elapsed
between the accession of Charles II. and of George III.,
corn was as low, or nearly as low, in England as in France,
the Netherlands, or other adjacent parts of the Continent.
After 1764, the case was different; but of the 85. or IO5.
per quarter of additional price obtained in this country, the
half may safely be ascribed to temporary causes ; we mean
the American war, the extension of our manufactures, and
the general aversion to vest capital in farming, after the
discouraging experience of the preceding age. But our
taxation, it may be said, is greater, compared to that of
continental countries, than it was in the last century, and
France is now exempt from tithe ; — important consider-
ations certainly, but balanced by others of great weight on
our side ; by the fact that the tillage of Ireland is no longer
in fetters, that our machinery and implements have received
much more improvement, our inland navigation a much
greater extension than that of our neighbours. The ad-
vantage of all these to agriculture can be appreciated by
those only who have seen the wretched roads, the clumsy
implements and vehicles of the Continent, or who have
duly weighed the cheapness of our canal carriage; by which
salt, manure, or bulky commodities generally, can, in
many parts, be transported ten or fifteen miles at the insig-
nificant charge of a shilling a ton.

Our jnrsevt Prospect. — The arguments in favour of
Mr. Tooke's opinion derived from our present situation
are as follow : —

1. During the war, rents rose without care or exertion
on the part of our landlords; at present land affords a rent
of consequence only when cultivated with skill — the most
substantial of all arguments for the diffusion of the improved
husbandry.

2. The evils that now bear so hard on our agriculture
are evils of transition ; the degree of pressure w ill be ma-
terially different when farming charges shall have been
reduced (as reduced they must be) in proportion to the
market price of corn.

3. As to the comparative burdens on our agriculture and
that of other countries, we have in the text taken France



App.] A Protecting DiUy. [4 1 ]

as a fair specimen of the Continent generally: if in Poland
and Russia the burdens are less heavy than in France, hus-
bandry, as an art, is far more backward, and the charge
of freight to England is heavier. A reference to the pas-
sage (p. 168.) containing the comparison with France, will
much simplify the present statement, enabling us to leave
out of the question the advantage of cheaper labour on
the part of the French, and on ours of better machinery,
lower interest of money, a more advantageous size of farms,
&c. After enumerating the respective burdens, we found
the difference confined to a portion of our excise duty on
malt, beer, and corn spirits ; a difference which, when, as
at present, the corn laws are in a manner inoj)erative, left
a sum of 4- or 5,000,000/. to the disadvantage of our
countrymen. This difference forms a charge of 7 or 8 per
cent, on the rental of our landlortls, and the income of our
farmers taken collectively.

Competition of continental Agriadturists. — Supposing
that the effect of a protecting duty is merely to keep our
market from 6s. to 85. a quarter above that of France, or
the Netherlands, would there be reason to a})prehend that
English capital would find its way abroad, and be applied
to the extension of culture on the Continent, with a view to
import into this country ? To such a question our answer
three years ago might have been in the affirmative ; but our
charges are now so much reduced, and the advantages of
Ireland in regard to chea}) labour, conunaiul of water
communication, and fertility of soil, are ibund to approach
so nearly to those of the most favoured tracts of the Conti-
nent, that we much df America. The great distance of that
country from Euro})e has long led to the practice of ship-
ping its produce in the form of flour, rather than of grain;
thus accomplishing a saving in freight, and avoiding the
shifting and heating to be apprehended in a long and tem-
pestuous passage. Among other recent discoveries, we are
apprised (p. 437. Revue E?icyclopedique, for August, 1821,
printed at Paris,) of a method of preserving flour during
several years in perfect condition, by means of air-tight
casks ; but whether theexpence of this or oiher methods of
the kind be not too great for the chance of profit, remains
to be ascertained.

Compared to these, what means are possessed by our own
agriculturists in regard to keeping corn in the granary, and
making the plenty of one season conducive to the supply
of the next ? They have the connnand of better buildings ;
they pay a lower interest on capital ; and are exempt, in
a great measure, from the charge of conveyance to mar-
ket : their chief disadvantage lies in the prime cost of their
produce.

Iniprovcme?ifs in Husbandrij. — Those who are inclined
to subscribe to the efficacy of some lately-promulgated
methods of penetrating more deeply into the soil, whether
by the plough or spade, may consider the Continent
likely to benefit more largely from them in consequence of
its cheaper labour, its greater agricultural population. But



App.] Our Agriculture. [43]

in any improvement arising from such a process, this coun-
try can hardly tail to share equally, superior as we are in
horses, ploughs, and iron-work generally : while, in regard
to labour, Ireland is as cheaply and iihundantlv supplied
as any part ot" the Continent.

Probable Amount of hnport. — A low rate of duty on
foreign corn would doubtless prevent any considerable rise
in our market; but it by no means follows that our tillage
would be materially circumscribed, or that the amount of our
import would be large. Of barley, our growth is in general
equal to our consumption : a considerable iuij)ort takes place
only in particular years, and after seasons unfavourable to
this kind of grain, such as the sununers of 181(j aiul 1817.
In oats the case has hitherto been different, our growth being
habitually below our consiunjition, and large imports being
required both from Irelanil antl the Continent: the amount
has varied, of course, in different years, Init has not for a
long time averaged so little as half a million of cjuarters
from either. In future our import of oats, at least in



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 34 of 40)