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The sons of these wealthy agricultu rists were all fine gentlemen; instead of following the plough, they were following the hounds; and the daughters, instead of milking the cows, were using cosmetics to their hands, that they might look delicate, while strumming on the harpsichord." Mr Baring however admitted, that such a degree of hardship existed as to require some interposition of parliament; and he proposed a temporary remedy, by fixing the importation price at 76s. for a short time, and allowing it to fall back by a gradual diminution.
With regard to the amount of what was called the remunerating price, it was contended, that there was not sufficient evidence to ascertain what it ought to be. It was said, that many of the witnesses who had been examined, had paid no regard to the diminution in the expences of cultivation which must take place in consequence of the fall in the price of corn, but that they had made their calculations invariably upon a high price for labour, and a low price for grain. In consequence of this improper mode of calculating, several persons went much higher than 80s. One witness had stated, that he could not produce corn at less than 96s.; another had stated 120s; a third from 90s. to 100s.; Mr Arthur Young 87s.; Mr Driver 96s.; Mr Turnbull 84s.; and Mr Brodie and some others from 84s. to 90s. A great number of these witnesses were much above 80s. and why 80s. should be pitched upon, it was difficult to conjecture. But, besides that several of these witnesses themselves, when more closely examined, made admissions which were inconsistent with the opinions given by them, a number of other witnesses stated the price which would be sufficient to remunerate the farmer considerably under 80s. Some of them had stated from 70s, to 75s. as sufficient ;—and the general
conclusion to be drawn from the evidence was, that the farmer could afford to sell his grain at a price a good deal below 80s.
In giving an abstract of the reply made by the supporters of the bill to the arguments brought against it, we shall turn, in the first place, to the remarks made by Lord Binning, in an swer to what had been said against the improvement of poor lands. He said, that "if such expressions as had been made use of on the other side were to go forth as the sentiments of the legis~ lature on the subject, it would cut up all improvement by the roots. The light lands would be first thrown out of cultivation into degenerate and inferior pasture. In many districts of the country a want of capital was still strongly felt; so slow was the application of capital to agriculture, even where there had been encouragement. How much slower, then, would be the application of it, if it was pointed ly discouraged by the legislature? When an honourable gentleman (Mr Baring) talked about attempting to cultivate sand and rocks, did he recollect what was the state of the county of Norfolk, before the new and scientific system of agriculture had been introduced there? Had he forgotten what was due to the exertions of the late Lord Townshend? Norfolk was now a pattern to other counties which were more favoured in their soil. From the improvements of agriculture, we might now see the progress of cultivation up the sides of hills, which had never before been ploughed. But what was to become of such land as that of Norfolk, if such employment of capital were discouraged? What, also, was to become of the comparatively poor land of Scotland, which of late presented such a grateful prospect.? Every man who loved his country must be alarmed at the very idea of any retrograde motion in such a flou.
rishing system; yet such was the threatened consequence of rejecting the measure under consideration, not only to England and Scotland, but to Ireland also, the adequate encouragement of whose agriculture was so essentially necessary to the prosperity, the tranquillization, and to the civilization of a great people."
The argument of Earl Grey and Mr Harner, that the bill could afford no protection to the English farmer against the Irish cultivators, who could produce corn at a cheaper rate than in England, was adverted to by Lord Liverpool, who admitted, that grain might be raised cheaper in Ireland than in England; but this, he contended, presented no objection to the bill. "The object was, not the protection of the English or the Irish landlord, but the general interests of the empire, the general interests of its agriculture, and the general interests of the great mass of consumers in the whole united kingdom. Even if the consequence must be to lower the rents of the English landlords, and raise those of the Irish landlords, still this formed no argument whatever, in his view of the question, against the bill, which embraced the whole interests of the empire."
In answer to the argument against the bill, that this country could not be made to furnish a permanent supply for its inhabitants, and that, in at tempting to do so, land must be brought into cultivation at such an expence as must raise the price of corn much above the rate at which it might be obtained from abroad, the following remarks were made by the Earl of Lauderdale: He said, that " the supply of grain from foreign countries was very small, in proportion to that from our own soil. The whole quantity of grain consumed in Great Britain was estimated at 40 millions of quarters, of which only 1,200,000 on
an average were imported. To produce a cheap supply, would it not be wiser to encourage the producers of the greater quantity than those who supplied the lesser quantity? The price of 80s. would be a maximum ; for, if the price rose above that sum for six weeks, there would be a most abundant importation from the opposite side of the Channel. It was a great mistake to proceed on the supposition that the trade in grain was free, while there were so many taxes which pressed on our agriculturists. If the importation were open, there would be a bounty on foreign growers to import into our markets. Five millions of quarters might in that case be imported. Such a state of things laid our subsistence at the mercy of foreign powers; and they might raise a navy against us by limiting the trade to their own ships. If our manufactures were to be destroyed by high prices, foreign states might, in such a state of things, put an end to them at once by stopping importation. On the other hand, we had experience that encou ragement would produce low prices as, for instance, in the cotton trade, the iron trade, and even in the trade of grain itself, the price of which, under a system of efficient protection, and with a bounty on exportation, had continued to fall for a whole century. It was chimerical to suppose, that the farmers could combine to raise the price of corn, when they could not combine in any one thing. The consequence of a free importation would be, that, in abundant years, the mar ket would be overstocked with foreign corn,-in scarce years, foreign nations for their own preservation, would be obliged to hold back their supply. The small quantity which we now im ported might be very well supplied by our own farmers. Capital was no wanting, nor was the capital required to produce 1,200,000 quarters, in ad
dition to the present quantity, great. All that was required was security; for the farmers would not apply their capital without that security being af forded to their occupation, which was given to all other lines in which capital was employed."
On the subject of the effects which it was supposed the proposed loan would have on our manufactures, by raising the price of labour, and thus rendering our mannfacturers unable to compete with foreigners; it was contended by the supporters of the bill, in the first place, that it was quite a mistake to suppose, that the market price of corn would be as high as the importation price. In addition to the remarks on this subject by the Earl of Lauderdale, above quoted, we may select the following observations by Lord Liverpool. He contended, that "it had been most fallaciously argued, that the import price of 80s. would be the minimum price of the market. This was negatived by all experience, it appearing by the returns, that the market price had been uniformly below the import price, except in years of scarcity, and the following year, when the consequences of scarcity were necessarily felt. Instead of be ing the minimum, the import price had been more generally the maximum in the market. There was, therefore, no ground for believing, that the im. port price of 80s. would be generally the minimum price in the market, Even admitting, however, that the price would be 80s., still the price of the quartern loaf ought not to be more than 1s., a price which could not now be felt by the consumer as an
Mr Western denied that the importation price was the lowest at which corn could be sold in England after the measure in contemplation was car ried into effect; and on this subject he referred for proof to the experience
of former times. While 62s. was the protecting price, and while a bounty was given on exportation for a considerable period, the average price of wheat had been as low as 30s. per quarter. A more recent instance of this might be given from the rapidity with which the price of wheat had declined in 1813; when, in consequence of the expectations entertained of a peace, its valus had sunk to little more than half of what it had been. From the papers on the table, this would be seen from the Deptford and Portsmouth contract prices in February and November in that year, The contract price at Deptford for wheat was, in February 100s. per quarter. In November it was 65s. 2d., and during this period it was to be remarked, more corn was exported from, than imported into Great Britain and Ireland. The Portsmouth contract price was in February 102s., in November, 67s. 2d."
Mr Western said, that " if he were to allow, that there was a necessity that grain should be higher in this country than in foreign countries, that necessity arose out of our taxation. But this difference did not need to give that serious alarm to our manufacturers which they seemed to feel. Grain was not higher in proportion in this country to what it was in foreign countries, now, than it was sixty years ago. On this subject he confessed he was not possessed of such ample information as he could have wished. But he would take, with regard to France, the information furnished by M. de Montesquieu, the minister of the interior, who, in his projet of a law to regulate the exportation of grain, went back a considerable way in his examination of the prices in France. According to this projet, the price of wheat in France, from 1756 to 1788, was 25s. 10d. per quarter, English money. During the same period of
market, in consideration of the great advantage of security."
30 years, it was 46s. in England. At present, the average price of wheat in France was 45s.; and he would take it in England at 80s. It was obvious, therefore, that the proportion between the prices of the two countries had not increased; and if the difference for merly did not prevent the success of our manufactures, he did not see why it ought to produce that effect now." Mr Western went on to quote some remarks on this subject of M. de Montesquieu, who said, that "the manufacturer, if he pays a little more to his workmen, can lay it on his goods, and he ought therefore to be indifferent to a slight augmentation. The internal consumers being the proprietor who has sold his wheat to advantage, and the workman who has received better wages, they are all enabled to augment their enjoyments, and consume more manufactured goods. If grain were to fall so low as some manufacturers would wish, who would purchase their goods? Certainly neither the proprietor, the farmer, nor the labourer.""These observations," said Mr Western," are certainly deserving of the most serious attention:" "My honourable friend, (Mr Philips,)" continued Mr Western, "seems to have contemplated with great composure, the absolute destruction of the agriculture of a great part of the country. According to him, certain poor districts of this country ought to give way to certain rich districts of France and Flanders. I, for one, confess that I do not well understand this policy. Do not, I would ask, these poor districts afford a market to our manufacturers? Does not Ireland, for example, take our manufactures in return for her produce? Is it not safer to rely on such a market, than on one in other countries? Of the one we may be deprived, but of the other we cannot. We ought therefore, in fairness, to give way something in extent of
On the subject of the injury, which it was alleged that our manufactures would suffer from the high price of labour, which would be a consequence of the high price of corn, Mr Elliot said, that "he was far from denying the influence of the price of corn on that of labour; but it must be admitted, that the degree of this influence might be very much varied by circumstances. In Ireland, for example, it would have very little effect, because corn was not the general subsistence of the country. In countries where subsistence formed the principal part of the expenditure of the labourer, the effect would, of course, be much more considerable. In England, much of the expence of the labourer consisted in articles of luxury, which, however, were become essential to his comfort, and were, therefore, to be reckoned among the necessaries of life. Now, the operation of the price of corn must be chiefly confined to that part of the price of labour which belonged to sub. sistence. It might, to be sure, affect, in a slight degree, some other articles but several it could not affect at all, and in these articles consisted the differ ence between the prices of this and other countries." He continued say, that "the real source of the dear ness of England was the weight of it taxation; and that the operation this cause cannot be expected speedil to cease."-Lord Liverpool contend ed, that "the success of our manufa tures did not depend upon cheapne of labour, but upon capital, credi and fuel. The superior advantag we derived from capital and cred were well known; and our abundan of fuel was an inestimable advantag The importance of this latter artic was clearly shewn by the thriving e tablishments of manufactories in the counties where coal was plentiful O
great excellence in machinery gave us likewise a decided superiority. Cheapness of labour was, therefore, a secondary consideration, and they had the evidence of the manufacturers themselves at the bar of the House with regard to the Orders in Council, that they considered cheapness of labour as comparatively of little importance. As to the labourers themselves who were employed in manufactures, he had no doubt, that, if they had to chuse between cheapness of bread and a reduction of wages, and bread at its present price with the present wages, they would not hesitate to prefer the latter. With regard to the effect in the rise of the price of grain compared with that of wages, there was no doubt that though wages, particularly of labourers by the day or week, had risen in proportion to the rise in the price of grain, the wages of those who worked by the piece had not risen in the same proportion."-His lordship, however, contended, upon the authority of a report made to the French legislative body by a member of the executive government, that for a long period the price of corn had risen in France in the same proportion as in England.
gued, that any diminution of rent which was at all practicable, would have a very trifling effect on the price of corn. On this subject Mr Western stated, that he had made some calculations. He calculated, that every 10s. which were added to the rent or expences of land, made an addition of 36. to a quarter of wheat, and vice versa. Taking, then, the whole rental of the country at 30s. per acre, (and this, he said, he was satisfied was above the rate at which it ought to be taken,) it would be seen, that the an nihilation of the entire rent would on ly diminish corn 10s. per quarter. Even after this reduction of his expence, therefore, by an entire annihi lation of his rent, the English farmer could not compete with the foreign grower. If a reduction of 10s. per acre were made in the rent of land, this would only diminish the price of the quarter of corn 3s. 4d., and this would only make a difference of hardly three-farthings in the loaf. Mr Western, therefore, held the consideration of rent to be a very immaterial part of the subject. Mr Whit bread (in a very ingenious speech, which contained a statement of his difficulties on the question, without coming to any definite conclusion,) contended, that "the clamour which had been raised against high rents was a most unfounded, and a most unwise clamour, and always excited his indignation. Taking the country through, the rents had not been raised beyond what they ought to be, according to existing circumstances; and it should never be forgotten, that the landed interests were inseparable from our commercial prosperity. The rise of rents had been a fair increase, resulting from the depreciation of money, and the rise of prices. A considerable part of the capital of landlords had been expended on inclosures, on roads, on draining; and an increase of rent had generally
It was strenuously contended by several of the supporters of the bill, that no advantage would be derived from a reduction of rents, but that, on the contrary, it would produce very serious evils. It was contended, that the consequence of the diminished in comes of the landholders would be a diminished expenditure, and consequently a great diminution in the home market for manufactures and commodities of every kind. Manufacturers and tradesmen, it was said, would find themselves in a much worse situation, with cheap bread, and a want of demand for their goods, than with a high price of bread and a brisk trade. But it was further ar