網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

market, the innocent country farmer will continue his usual exertions will continue to toil, to perspire, and slave, utterly regardless of the foreign rival with whom he has to compete. It would be uncivil to say, that the gentlemen in question over-estimate the extent and importance of their own knowledge ; but we may venture to hint that they somewhat overrate the apathy and ignorance of the British farmer. The way in which certain economists argue this subject appears extremely simple, and to them, we doubt not, perfectly satisfactory. They count upon their fingers : 'two and two make four.' * The farmers of England bring forty millions of quarters of wheat to market; allow foreigners to send hither five millions of quarters of wheat; we shall thus have in the home market forty-five millions of quarters, and the price of that commodity will fall in proportion. All this might be very correct reasoning, were it not for a force which perpetually disturbs the systems and calculations of these gentlemen : if we could conceive the British corn-grower to be, as they seem to consider him, exempt from the influence of human passions, the importation of foreign grain would, no question, in proportion to its extent, augment the quantity offered for sale in the English market. But the agricultural classes are yet so far behind the light of the age ; the 'march of their mind' is so slow, that it will take much time, and cost much labour to make them relish these principles of the most exact of the sciences,' and act upon them; nay, so incurably obstinate-so impenetrable to the light of science-do we believe the body of British agriculturists to be on this point, that we are firmly persuaded the free or indiscreet admission of foreign grain would discourage the production of at least an equal quantity, which would otherwise have been grown at home.

• It is well known,' observes a very sensible and temperate writer on this point, “ that the productiveness of land mainly depends on keeping it clean and dry, and in manuring it. If agricultural profits are much diminished, the farmer in the first place keeps down his labour as much as he can. In this way he lessens his growth. He is also able to keep less stock; and then he deprives himself of the very life's blood of production. But does not he likewise diminish the production of the country ? and every one who is the least conversant with agriculture knows how readily this could go to the extent of half a quarter per acre in any description of land; and yet such a diminution would amount to an eighth or a seventh of the whole produce of the country.'— Observations on the Corn Laws, p. 25.

Supposing, therefore, the free importation of foreign corn to be habitually allowed, it would be the interest of the cultivator to relax his exertions, as the production of a lessened quantity would not only require a smaller outlay, but the diminished pro

duce

duce would yield him a larger return of profit. Assume that the demand in the market now amounts to forty millions of quarters of wheat: the home produce is at present sufficient to meet that demand ; and it sells for about 60s. per quarter; the whole amounting to 120,000,000l. sterling. Suppose the introduction of five millions of quarters of foreign coru should reduce the price to 50s, : the forty millions of quarters would then only sell for 100,000,0001. sterling. Imagine the British agriculturists should then gradually relax their efforts, and reduce the growth of corn from forty millions to thirty-five millions : the whole produce in the English market would then be restored to its state before foreign importation ; the price would rise to 60s. per quarter, and the British agriculturists would obtain 115,000,0001. (35 X 3) for the reduced quantity grown at a reduced cost, instead of the 100,000,000l. for forty millions of quarters grown at the expense of an increased outlay. .

That the English farmers should persist in growing their usual quantity of corn for the sake of seeing their granaries filled with produce which foreign competition will inevitably compel them to part with at a loss, is, it must be admitted, one of the most visionary speculations which ever entered the brain of a theorist. And if the view which we have been giving of the operation of an indiscreet tampering with the property of the British corngrower be correct--we really do not see that it can successfully be impugned—it is apparent that a blow might be inflicted upon British agriculture, not to be counterpoised by the slightest advantage to any other of our national interests.

The whole question, then, important as it must be considered, resolves itself into this inquiry: shall we, by interfering injudiciously with the interests,-_or, if the adversaries of the non-importation corn-laws will have it so, with the prejudices of the English agriculturist, discourage native tillage, and encounter the certainty of diminishing the quantity of corn grown in this country, even in a ratio far beyond any supply which we can reasonably calculate upon deriving from foreign importations ?—shall we take ten or twelve millions per annum from the British agriculturists,-not to be distributed among the commercial and manufacturing classes of this country in the shape of increased wages and augmented profits; but to be paid to foreigners for bread, which might have been, which would have been, produced at home, if the British farmer had been adequately protected in our own markets against foreign competition ? " We are quite sure that every reflecting man throughout the whole empire will hold up his hand against so injurious a proposition; we are quite sure that the manufacturers, traders, and mechanics of this country would never wish to see a

measure

measure carried into effect which would discourage British tillage; lessen the capital employed in agriculture; injure the interests of those whose capital is now vested in the land : whilst the whole of the advantage to be derived from this change of system—entailing ruin upon a numerous and valuable class of individuals—would pass by them, and be transferred into the pockets of foreigners.

One thing is clear. It is unquestionably and most urgently needful that we should have the laws regulating the admission of foreign corn placed upon a steady and permanent basis. The farmer now hires his land under the impression that the ports will remain closed until the price of wheat rises to 80s. per quarter; and under the influence of this, he makes his contract with his landlord. However, for some years past a bill has been introduced at the close of almost every session, permitting the sale of bonded corn; the effect of which is, to admit annually into the English market at least 500,000 quarters of foreign wheat. The corn thus released from bond is instantly replaced by a new importation, which, in its turn, is sent into the market by a subsequent temporary act of the legislature. Such a system of shifts and expedients is unworthy of an enlightened legislature; and it is also highly injurious to the occupying farmer, as the loss arising from the reduction of price caused by this foreign supply falls exclusively upon him. The landowner exacts the rent which was agreed upon, on the supposition that the ports should remain closed until English wheat should sell for 80s. per quarter; and he actually derives an advantage as a consumer from this circumstance; he does not reduce the amount of rent exacted from the tenant; but having exacted a rent calculated upon a high price of corn, he comes into the market to buy his bread, his beef, his oats, and his other articles of consumption, on the scale of prices to which they have been reduced by foreign competition. Whatever advantage the consumers of corn may derive from this temporary supply, it is derived at the expense of the actual occupiers of the land. It, therefore, concerns this class above any other, that some permanent and invariable system should be adopted in regulating the importation of foreign corn.

It ought either to be excluded altogether until the price in the homemarket reached a fixed amount, or admitted upon some invariable plan, which would enable the British grower to know what he is about, and to form his plans and calculations under the protection of some certain and steady policy. He is now totally ignorant what laws may pass from one year to another, which may produce the most important alteration in the value of his property; he is not only exposed to the variableness of the seasons, from which

nothing

nothing can exempt him, but likewise to the fickleness of human caprice.

Upon the most mature consideration which we have been able to bestow upon this most important subject, that system appears to us to be the best adapted to secure permanence to the happiness and prosperity of the people among whom it prevails, which tends most to augment the quantity and improve the quality of the surplus produce of the soil, and which offers the most powerful encouragement to abridge the amount of labour expended in the conversion of this surplus produce into wrought commodities. The increase of the quantity of food raised in any country provides a new fund for the sustenance of an additional number of people; and all expedients devised for the purpose of diminishing the quantity of this food consumed in the manufacture of a given quantity of wrought commodities, improve the comforts and enjoyments of this population. The energy and skill with which agriculture has been prosecuted during the last fifty years, have made an inconceivable addition to the annual produce of land in this country. And from the impulse thus given to the most valuable of all occupations—the cultivation of the soil-we may look forward even to a greater increase within the next halfcentury. Our population will thus admit of a gradual addition to its number, without a reduction in the quantity of food which falls to the share of each individual. Subsisting on the growth of our own territory, we shall not experience the disastrous reverses to which a people that draws a considerable portion of its subsistence from foreign countries is unavoidably exposed. A country which thus depends for a supply of food upon its own resources will not, it is true, experience sudden fits of brilliant prosperity ; but its progress, although not dazzling, will be gradual, steady, and safe. Under this safe system, the population of Great Britain will never, perhaps, reach the density which once constituted the ephemeral pride and boast of the Lombard and Hanseatic cities; but as long as her agriculture, adequately protected from the injurious influence of foreign rivalry, continues to flourish, the period will never arrive when the grass shall be seen growing in the streets of her deserted towns—when the palaces, once occupied by her merchants, shall present nothing to the

eye

of the beholder but a mass of ruins.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Art. VI. - A Pilgrimage in Europe and America, leading to

the Discovery of the Sources of the Mississippi and Bloody River, with a Description of the whole Course of the former, and of the Ohio. By J.C. Beltrami, Esq., formerly Judge of a Royal Court in the ex-Kingdom of Italy. 2 vols. London,

1828. 'THE "HE schoolmaster is abroad,' says Mr. Brougham, and the

primer' (with the help of the birchen rod, we hope) - will prove more powerful than the iron bayonet—the horn-book and the primer, those primitive rudiments of the more shapely octavo and the portly quarto! Much blood has been shed, and many a fair region made desolate, by the man of the bayonet; but what oceans of innocent ink will hereafter be spilt, and what millions of acres of spotless foolscap be sacrificed to this man of birch, when horn-books swell into octavos, and primers into quartos, heaven only can tell !—Is there no danger, lest, from a nation of shopkeepers, we shall become a nation of book-makers ? Some two generations ago, the market for intellect was a monopoly, chiefly confined to the garrets of Grub-street; but now that the schoolmaster is abroad,' and the march of mind follows in his train, the book-making trade, like all other trades, which political economy has set free, will spread unshackled far and wide. Hints and crude sketches, when put into the hands of a skilful craftsman, will suffice for a volume, and by a judicious division of labour, the real author may be relieved from the drudgery of composing his own book.

We are induced to consider the two volumes before us as a joint production of this kind. An Italian could not have written them. We mean not to say that M. Beltrami has not travelled, (there is internal evidence that he has,) or that there is anything new in books of travels being written by persons who never travelled. On the contrary, that excellent book, known as Marco Polo's, is supposed to have been compiled from conversations and scraps of memoranda of the traveller while in prison. The travels of honest John Bell of Antermony are said to have been compiled by Professor Barron, of the University of Aberdeen. It is still a matter of doubt whether Gemelli Carreri, who has published an entertaining account of his travels round the world, was ever out of Italy. The adventures and discoveries of Mungo Park are said to have been drawn up by Bryan Edwards. The enterprising Belzoni could not write English; and the amusing travels of M. Le Vaillant among the Hottentots, full of fiction and romance, are the production of a French abbé, who

had

« 上一頁繼續 »