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[SUBSECT. 11.)–Of the Trade carried on by the Merchant
Importer of Grain for Home Consumption. The beneficial tendency of this branch of the Corn-trade to the great body of the people in such a country as Great Britain, by increasing the immediate supply of the home market, would appear, at the first view, to be too obvious to stand in need of any illustration.
It has, however, been imagined by many, that this advantage is only apparent;  that on the most favourable supposition, it is confined to manufacturers and the other classes who, living in towns, derive their supply of provisions from the country; while, in the same proportion, it is injurious to the cultivators of the land, both proprietors and farmers. Nay,  it has been alleged, that even to the mercantile interest it
sumption of the fine bread, as it would go farther, so would it, in a certain proportion, diminish the necessity for so large an importation of foreign wheat, which certainly was an object extremely desirable. Having thus explained the object of the clause, his Lordship moved it, and it was agreed to."
duals, if the fact were true as asserted, changed their taste on coming to town, and nothing, forsooth, but fine white bread could be relished by them, though according to the opinion of many judges, it was a worse and less wholesome bread than the brown bread. His Lord ship said, however, as the assize of bread stood at present, the standard wheaten bread could not be made by the common baker, and therefore the bakers apprehended that the sale of brown bread near their shops would lessen their custom, as it would be substituted in lieu of their fine bread. He owned, he thought, there was some weight in this apprehension, though the effect of it would be trifling indeed, as he had seen from a variety of calculations upon the subject. He would, however, move a clause, enabling the bakers to make the standard wheaten or household bread, in the same manner as the Company were authorized to do by the Bill, by enabling the Magistrates to set an adequate assize thereon. This would add to the competition, and at the same time that the increased consumption of the household bread would lessen the con
“The Earl of Liverpool said, he wished to say but a very few words: and first he declared, that after the fullest consideration of the Bill in every point of view, he was satisfied that the principle was right, and he trusted that under the provisions of the Bill and the clauses that he had moved, not only that all alarm and apprehension of danger from it would be set at rest, but that the effect of the measure would be found to be what the gentlemen who projected sincerely meant it to be, of great use and advantage to the public. He would therefore move that the Bill be read a third time, The Bill was read a third time, passed, and ordered to be sent down to the Commons, with the amendments."-- (Cut from a Newspaper, but no reference given.]
must be prejudicial in the end, by the discouragement it gives to that home agriculture from which the only regular and steady supply of the market can be expected.
With respect to the first of these objections, founded on the supposed injury which a freedom of importation does to the cultivators of the land, it is of great importance to remark, that although it may lower somewhat the average money price of corn, it cannot possibly operate to diminish its real value, or the quantity of labour which it is capable of maintaining. “If importation was at all times free, our farmers and country gentlemen would probably, one year with another, get less money for their corn than they do at present, when importation is, in general, virtually prohibited ; but the money which they got would be of more value, would buy more goods of all other kinds, and would employ more labour. And, of consequence, their real wealth would be the same as at present, although it might be expressed by a smaller quantity of silver."*
In proof of this position, it is only necessary to refer to what Mr. Smith has so ingeniously and satisfactorily established concerning the effect of the money price of corn in regulating that of all other commodities.
“It regulates the money price of labour, which must be always such as to enable the labourer to purchase a quantity of corn sufficient to maintain him and his family, either in the liberal, moderate, or scanty manner in which the advancing, stationary, or declining circumstances of the society oblige his employers to maintain him.
“ It regulates the money price of all the other parts of the rude produce of land, which, in every period of improvement, must bear a certain proportion to that of corn, though the proportion is different in different periods. It regulates, for example, the money price of grass and hay, of butchers' meat, of horses, and the maintenance of horses, of land carriage consequently, or of the greater part of the inland commerce of the country. “ By regulating the money price of all the other parts of the * [ Wealth of Nations, Book IV. chap. vo; Vol. II. p. 311, tenth edition.] . rude produce of land, it regulates that of the materials of all manufactures. By regulating the money price of labour, it regulates that of manufacturing arts and industry ; and by regulating both, it regulates that of the complete manufacturer. The money price of labour, and of everything that is the produce either of land or labour, must necessarily either rise or fall in proportion to the money price of corn."*
It appears, therefore, that although in consequence of a free importation the average money price of corn should fall, neither the circumstances of the farmer, nor those of the landlord, would be in the smallest degree hurt by the change.
On the other hand, it is abundantly manifest, that a free importation of corn, accompanied with a freedom of exportation, is the only effectual expedient for preventing those fluctuations in the money price of this article which take place under the present system. And it is surely more beneficial, both to the landed and commercial interests, that corn should be always at a steady and medium price, than that it should sometimes greatly exceed, and at other times fall greatly below that medium.
The steadiness in the money price of corn is beneficial to the landed interest ; for, as the prices of labour and manufactures are regulated by the price of corn, the first would soon become uniform if the last were rendered so; and the value of corn would thereby be ascertained by a steady medium price of labour, instead of a money price subject to perpetual variations.
The same steadiness is for the interest of the manufacturers, as it prevents equally that poverty and distress to which their workmen are subject in dear years; and that dissipation and idleness which are the consequences of an extraordinary plenty.
At present, however, we shall confine ourselves to the freedom of importation, with respect to which it may be laid down as a self-evident proposition, that to prohibit the importation
* (Wealth of Nations, Book IV. chap. v.; Vol. II. pp. 268, 269, tenth edition.)
Report of the Committee of the Town Council of Glasgow on the Corn Bill, &c. &c., 1791.
of corn, when it is at such a price as to disable a part of the community from buying a sufficiency, is to increase the misery of the poor, in order to add to the nominal opulence of the rich. In truth, a measure of this sort, adopted with a view to raise the price, is nearly the same as prohibiting the improvement of land, and consequent multiplication of the means of subsistence, in order to serve the owners of those lands that cannot be farther improved, or converting the half of the kingdom into a forest, in order to serve the proprietors of the other half.
There are strong reasons for believing, that a considerable part of the people in Great Britain are obliged to content themselves with a very scanty allowance of food when the prices are far below what admits of importation ;' and that as corn turns dearer, a greater and greater number must lessen their quantity. Indeed, if after a deficient crop, the whole people continued to subsist in the same liberal manner as in a year of plenty, provisions would rise beyond all bounds. The fact however is, that as provisions advance in price, more and more people lessen their allowance and give up the competition; and thus prevent prices from rising in proportion to the deficiency. It is owing to this that the price of butcher meat seldom varies above a half, while bread is often double or triple of its ordinary price. As the former article is a sort of luxury, the competition for it is sooner given up by the lower classes ; whereas bread must be had by every person, though in small quantities, whatever the price may be. Hence, too, it happens, that in poor countries butcher meat is generally cheapest when corn is high, the lower classes not being then able to purchase any; and that in London, where the richness of the inhabitants keeps up the competition, the variation in the price of butcher meat is much greater than in the remote provinces.
The inference which I draw from these considerations is, that the variations in the price of corn, however great, are not always such as might be expected from the difference between a plentiful and a deficient crop; that, on the one hand, a very great rise of price may be occasioned by a very trifling deficiency
1 See Dawson's Thoughts, &c.
in the harvest, accompanied with a general alarm; and, on the other hand, that there is reason for believing that numbers of people in Great Britain are sometimes obliged to put themselves on short allowance long before corn has risen to that rate which permits importation.
Let us now consider what effect a freedom of importation is likely to have on the agriculture of the country.
It has been already shewn, that in proportion as the money price of corn falls, the real value of silver rises, and that this must necessarily lower somewhat the money price of all commodities, so as to give the industry of the country, where it takes place, some advantage in all foreign markets. The tendency, therefore, of this fall in the money price of corn, is, so far, to encourage and increase that industry. It is evident, also, that the extent of the home market for corn (which, as was formerly observed, is, in every country, by far the most extensive and important market for that commodity,) must be in proportion to the general industry of the country where it grows, or to the number of those who are employed in producing something else, which they may give in exchange for this great necessary of life. That rise, therefore, in the real value of silver, which is the effect of lowering the average money price of corn, tends to enlarge the most extensive market for corn, and thereby to encourage instead of discouraging its growth. It encourages cultivation in the most effectual of all ways, by increasing the number of inhabitants upon the land; or, in other words, by providing customers to buy the produce at home, free of the expense of carriage, and who can furnish the proprietors with the manufactures which they may want, also free of this expense. Even the money income of the farmer (and, of consequence, the rents of the landlord) may, in this way, rise instead of falling, as the greatness of the quantity which he sells may do more than compensate, in point of pecuniary profit, the reduction in the price.
Nor is this the only circumstance that may operate in favour of the money income of the farmer and landlord, while the nominal price of corn is lowered; for, in so far as this reduc