MR. WHITMORE’S MOTION RESPECTING THE CORN LAWS 26 February 1823 - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 5 Speeches and Evidence 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 5 Speeches and Evidence 1815-1823.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
First published by Cambridge University Press in 1951. Copyright 1951, 1952, 1955, 1973 by the Royal Economic Society. This edition of The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., under license from the Royal Economic Society.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
MR. WHITMORE’S MOTION RESPECTING THE CORN LAWS
26 February 1823
Mr. Whitmore moved for leave to bring in a bill for lowering the price, at which the importation of foreign corn was permitted, by 2s. a year, until it was reduced to 60s. Mr. Huskisson (the new President of the Board of Trade) opposed the motion.
Mr. Ricardo said, that the right hon. gentleman, in all the arguments which he had brought forward for postponing the consideration of the corn laws, had in reality given a reason for proceeding at once to amend them. What was the danger which his hon. friend, who brought forward the present motion, apprehended? It was the danger of those very high prices, to the recurrence of which the right hon. gentleman looked forward, as the conjuncture when the corn laws might be amended. He apprehended the danger of capital being again drawn, by the temptation of high prices, to the land (and the right hon. gentleman agreed that the danger existed)—that there would again be a succession of low prices, and another loss of capital. This evil it was the object of the present proposition to prevent; yet the right hon. gentleman would wait till the evil came upon them, before he would provide the remedy. As to the motion of his hon. friend, he would not oppose it; because he should be glad of any approach to a free trade in corn. But he thought his hon. friend did not go far enough; he had left the mischief of a fixed price. Both his hon. friend and the right hon. gentleman had laid down the true principles of a corn law; namely, that a protecting duty should be imposed on foreign corn, equal to the peculiar burthens borne by the grower of corn in this country. But, when this was done, a fixed price should be done away altogether. In fact his hon. friend had seemed a little uncertain as to his fixed price. He had taken it at 60s.; but he had stated, that if foreign corn could be imported at 55s., he should have reduced it to that. He thought he had committed a great error in taking any fixed price at all. A duty should be imposed on corn imported, equal to the peculiar burthens borne by the grower of corn; and, in his opinion, a drawback or bounty to nearly the same amount should be allowed on corn exported. Then, and then only, would corn be kept at a price nearly equal in this, to what it was in other countries. If there was an abundant harvest, it would find a vent by means of the bounty; and, on the other hand, if there was a deficient supply, under the influence of the duty, corn would be introduced as it was wanted, and not in the enormous quantities poured in under the existing law, when the price rose to a certain height. The right hon. gentleman had objected to the proposition, because of the agitation it would create out of doors. But his hon. friend’s proposition did not interfere with the present law, until the price of corn was as high as 80s. In this, also, he differed from his hon. friend; because, before corn was so high, that encouragement might be given to extensive cultivation, which it was his object to avert. He (Mr. R.) should recommend, that the law for the amendment of the corn laws should come into operation long before corn had reached 80s.; and he should then recommend a system of duties and bounties, at first[,] in deference to those prejudices of which he thought they were too tender, higher than the amount of the peculiar burthens of the agriculturists; and gradually diminishing to an equality with the computed amount of those burthens. He could not in any way agree with his hon. friend, the member for Cumberland, nor with the hon. member for Wiltshire, who had entered into some strange calculations, to show that the agriculturist paid taxes to the amount of 67 per cent. But, on what did the hon. member reckon this per centage? Not on the expense of growing corn, but on the rent. This was a most unwarranted mode of calculation. They had it in evidence before the agricultural committee, that there was some land in England which did not pay above 2s. an acre rent; yet, no doubt, as the cultivation of that land was heavy, there were in truth taxes on the producer which did not affect the landlord, and taxes on the landlord which did not affect the producer. If a tax was imposed directly on the production of corn, the grower would remunerate himself, not by a deduction from the landlord’s rent, but by getting more from the consumer. And as to general taxes, they pressed alike on all classes; on the labourer who worked at the loom, as well as on the labourer who worked at the plough. He hoped his hon. friend would not withdraw his motion. The greatest good would be done by bringing the question before the House. His hon. friend’s speech abounded in excellent principles, which could not fail of producing an effect upon gentlemen in that House, and removing the delusion which prevailed out of doors. He therefore urged his hon. friend to take the sense of the House on this most important question. The object of the approach to a free trade, which he recommended, was to keep prices steady and low. He did not mean such low prices as would not remunerate the grower; for when the manufacturer ate his bread at all cheaper than the price at which the farmer could be remunerated, the greatest injury was done to the general interests of the country.
The House divided on the motion: Ayes, 25; Noes, 78. Ricardo voted for the motion.