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furnish any supply of timber to the nary during the present generation, except so far as it may preserve young trees already planted, and promote their advance to maturity. The Commissioners observe, that although the quantity of timber which has been furnished from all the forests during the present reign has not exceeded two thousand loads a year, square measure, they have no doubt that as soon as a settlement shall have been made with the Commissioners, or other effectual means taken for increasing the stock of timber, the annual fall in the forests may be raised to nearly four thousand loads, square measure, and be continued at that rate, without intermission, until the new plantations shall be arrived at maturity.
“Although, therefore, it should be admitted, that by the arrangement proposed, four thousand square loads would be annually secured from the royal forests for the next hundred years, the demand of the navy, if taken at seventy thousand loads a year, (the supposed present consumption,) or even at fifty thousand loads, (the average annual consumption twenty years ago,) would require, in the first case, sixty-six thousand loads, or more than sixteen times the quantity furnished by the royal forests; and in the latter case, forty-six thousand loads, or nearly twelve times the quantity furnished by the forests to be supplied from private property or commerce. But as the Commissioners very justly conclude, that the gradual diminution of the wood and timber in the country is to be expected in any future stage of its improvement,' it is obvious that, for the next hundred years, (even without that increased demand for naval timber, which must as naturally attend the improvement of the country,) the supply from the royal forests being limited, and the supply from private property being gradually diminished, Government must necessarily look to commerce, not only for the motives, but the means, of ship-building; and under these circumstances, it becomes highly important to consider, whether it is not repugnant to the sound principles of Political Economy to adopt a forest system, which will have the effect of continuing sixty thousand or seventy thousand acres of fine land in maritime mortmain, and of forming an experimental farm of that extent, to be managed by the officers of the Crown ; for the immediate object of securing, from the forests, only a twelfth or sixteenth part of the present consumption, and for the remote object of possibly providing, after one hundred years, the whole supply that may then be wanted."*
I have entered into this long discussion, chiefly to have the satisfaction of quoting a very short extract from a note written by the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions of Bury, in the county of Suffolk, in answer to the inquiries of the Commissioners concerning the means of increasing the quantity of timber, and which appears to me to form a very striking contrast to the passages already quoted from their Reports, both in its practical good sense, and in its exact coincidence with the most enlightened views of Political Economy.
“England possessed in the past age a great plenty of oak. Why? Because cultivation was in a barbarous state. It is the improvement of the kingdom, a thousand times more valuable than any timber can ever be, that has wrought the very good and proper diminution of oak; and it is to be hoped the diminution will continue, for if it does not, the improvement of our soil will not advance. While we are forced to feed our people with foreign wheat, and our horses with foreign oats, can raising oak be an object? The average oak of Suffolk of a hundred years growth is worth £5; and let it grow in a hedge, wood, or a field, it has at that age done £10 worth of mischief. There are soils (not in this county) singularly favourable to the growth of oak, and yet yielding not more than eight or ten shillings an acre. On such, oak would pay, but the crop to be timber only, and no cattle ever admitted. But where is the owner who will sow a crop of a hundred years ? Vanity does something : it does at present more than it ought to do, by planting soils not of the right sort.
“The scarcity of timber ought never to be regretted, for it is a certain proof of national improvement; and for royal navies, countries yet barbarous are the right and only proper nurseries. Buy oak, as you buy fir to build your houses. There is oak enough within reach of the Adriatic for a million of ships of a hundred guns each. Proposals were made (as I have been informed) to the Administration concerning those woods, as a supply for England, but no ear given, as they had it elsewhere cheaper."—(End of interpolation from Notes.)
* [Ibid. pp. 94-96.]
[SECT. 11.]—OF THE CORN TRADE.
In the slight view which I gave, at our last two meetings, of Mr. Smith's reasonings in favour of an unlimited freedom of commerce, I purposely avoided all mention of the Corn Trade, as I was anxious to confine myself as much as possible to an illustration of general principles, without entering into the peculiarities of those cases, which, in the opinion of some, require an appropriated system, of regulations. Of this important subject, Mr. Smith has treated very ably in a long digression, which he has introduced in his Chapter on Bounties.* It appeared to me, however, to be more consistent with a distinct and systematical arrangement,-First, to state the general doctrine; and afterwards to consider what limitations of it may be necessary in particular combinations of circumstances. The Corn Trade, besides, being the most important of all the branches of commerce, seemed of too great magnitude to be considered merely as an appendix to a disquisition concerning one particular article of the Commercial system; more especially, as it has no peculiar connexion with this article, but what arises from the accidental and local policy of Great Britain. I propose, therefore, to consider this branch of commerce separately; flattering myself that, by this deviation from Mr. Smith's plan, I may indulge myself, without impropriety, in some illustrations which might have been regarded as tedious, if introduced in the course of an incidental or episodical discussion.
The trade of the corn merchant is divided by Mr. Smith into four different branches, which, though they may sometimes be * [Wealth of Nations, Book IV. chap. V.; Vol. II. p. 263, seq., tenth edition.]
all carried on by the same person, are in their own nature four separate and distinct trades. These are, first, the trade of the inland dealer; secondly, that of the merchant importer for home consumption; thirdly, that of the merchant exporter of home produce for foreign consumption; and, fourthly, that of the merchant carrier, or of the importer of corn for future exportation.
[SUBSECT. I.]—Of the Inland Corn Trade.
Of the different branches of the Corn Trade, that which is carried on at home is incomparably the most important. According to the computation of the author of the Tracts upon the Corn Trade, [Charles Smith,] founded on a statement of imports and exports, during a long course of years prior to 1765, the proportion of the average quantity of all sorts of grain imported into Great Britain, to that of all sorts of grain consumed, does not exceed that of one to five hundred and seventy.
The average quantity of all sorts of grain exported from Great Britain does not, according to the same author, exceed the one and thirtieth part of the annual produce. Even in the highest year ever known, the year 1750, when the amount of the exports was 1,500,220 quarters, it did not exceed the seed onetwelfth part, supposing it one-tenth of the growth.
These proportions, indeed, can by no means be relied on as perfectly accurate; and, in general, as Mr. [Adam] Smith remarks,* little stress ought to be laid on the results of what is commonly called Political Arithmetic. There can, however, be no doubt that the difference in point of extent between the foreign and the home trade in Corn is immense; and the numbers I have quoted may at least serve to convey an idea of the opinion of a very judicious and well-informed writer on the subject.
That in the case of the inland trade of Corn, the accommodation of the whole community is most effectually consulted by
1 Pp. 144, 145. [Edition 1766.)
permitting an unlimited liberty of transportation, appears from this,—that even in years of the greatest scarcity, the interests of the inland dealer, and of the great body of the people, must be one and the same. The truth of this principle, it must be owned, is not self-evident; on the contrary, it is very strongly opposed by popular prejudices. But this only proves how expedient it is for a wise Government, not only to sanction by law the liberty of this branch of commerce, but to employ the most vigorous measures to render it effectual, by protecting the just rights of individuals against those unenlightened descriptions of men, who, from a partial or mistaken view of their own interests, may be disposed to infringe them.
The interests of the inland dealer (it was just now said) and that of the great body of the people, how opposite, soever, they may at first sight appear, must be at all times, even in years of the greatest scarcity, exactly the same. In proof of this, it is sufficient to observe, that the most effectual way in which the dealer can in a year of scarcity serve the public, is by raising the price of his corn as high as the real scarcity of the season requires, without raising it beyond this limit; and that this is the general principle on which he will act to the best of his knowledge, we have complete security in that prudential regard which we may presume every trader has to his own emolument.
It is abundantly obvious, that in a year of scarcity it is the interest of the people that their daily, weekly, and monthly consumption should be proportioned as exactly as possible to the supply of the season; and for this purpose, what means so simple and infallible as those which the corn dealer naturally employs ? “Where the produce of an year,” says Mr. Hume, “falls so far short as to afford full subsistence only for nine months, the only expedient for making it last all the twelve, is to raise the prices,-to put the people by that means on short allowance,—and oblige them to save their food till a more plentiful season.”
By raising the price, accordingly, the corn-dealer discourages the consumption, and puts everybody, more or less, but par