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THE CORN LAWS 1825 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume IV - Essays on Economics and Society Part I 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume IV - Essays on Economics and Society Part I, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by Lord Robbins (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967).
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THE CORN LAWS
Westminster Review, III (Apr., 1825), 394-420. Unsigned; not republished by JSM. Appears, presumably without his permission, as an Appendix to Godfrey Higgins, An Address to the Houses of Lords and Commons, in Defence of the Corn Laws (London: Sherwood, Ridgway, 1826), 38-60; Higgins attempts to refute JSM’s argument, and incidentally attacks James Mill. Original heading: “Art. VI. A Letter on the Present State and Future Prospects of Agriculture. Addressed to the Agriculturists of the County of Salop. By W. W. Whitmore, Esq. M.P. Second Edition, with some Additions. Hatchard and Son. 1823. pp. 111. Observations on the Existing Corn Laws. By John Hays. London. Richardson. 1824.” Running head: “The Corn Laws.” Identified in JSM’s bibliography as “An article on the Corn Laws . . . in the sixth number of the Westminster Review” (MacMinn, 6). This article is not specifically mentioned in JSM’s Autobiography, but he refers to “corn laws” as one of his special subjects in the early years of the Westminster (Autobiography, Columbia ed., 68). The article is identified as JSM’s in the Somerville College copy, without corrections or variants.
The Corn Laws
if the task of the philosopher and of the philanthropist were at an end, when the great truths which he teaches have been once demonstrated, and their bearings upon the great interests of mankind once pointed out, it might appear superfluous to return, at the present day, to so hackneyed a subject as the impolicy of our Corn Laws;[*] for, after the thorough sifting which this question has repeatedly undergone, and particularly after the very able manner in which it has so frequently been handled in the Edinburgh Review, it would be vain for us to hope that we could add any thing to what is known on the subject; and we can scarcely aspire even to the humbler praise of presenting in a new light that which is already known. We shall not, however, be deterred from calling the attention of the public once more to so important a subject, because it may be that we shall say nothing which they have not heard before. It is not enough that they should be made to think on the subject; they must be made to think of it continually; there must be “line upon line, and precept upon precept;”[†] and it will then be time to think that enough has been said, when that which has been said shall have begun to be acted upon. We are far, indeed, from supposing, that among the enlightened and thinking part of the public, there are, or will ever be hereafter, two opinions on the question: and if we now revert to the subject, it is not with any hope of rendering their conviction stronger than it is, but because, in order to triumph over the prejudices of the interested and the ignorant, it is necessary that those who are without prejudice should proclaim their opinions with a loudness and perseverance which may overawe those whom they cannot hope to convince.
There is one part of the argument, however, which, at this time of day we hope and believe that we may safely omit. It will scarcely, we imagine, be any longer deemed necessary to demonstrate the beneficial tendency of free trade in general, or to prove that it is for the interest of a nation to purchase its commodities where they are cheap, and not where they are dear. Self-evident as this proposition may appear, it is one of the most modern of all modern discoveries, and has had to make its way against all the resistance which strong interests and still stronger prejudices could oppose to it. It has made its way, however; and has penetrated even to the cabinets of ministers, usually the last retreat of thread-bare and discarded errors. And, unless the honourable member for Sussex be an exception,* we are not aware that there is now any one who stands up for the principle of monopoly in the abstract, or maintains that a nation can grow rich by paying a high price for its goods. It is something gained for enlightened principles, that every one should acknowledge freedom to be the general rule, though almost every one should make an exception in his own favour.
Two things, therefore, may be assumed: that it is desirable that commodities should be cheap; and that the sure way to have them cheapest, is to let the public buy them wherever they please. It may likewise be assumed, that the effect of the Corn Laws is, to make corn dear; since this is the sole purpose for which they exist, and is necessarily implied in every defence which can be set up for them. It remains to be considered, what reason there is why that which would be an evil in the case of any other commodities, should, in the case of corn, be regarded as a good; or, if it be an evil, by what preponderant benefit the evil is compensated.
It is compensated by that which, in the eyes of the landlords, is a benefit far outweighing the evil to the community—high rents. That whatever raises the average price of corn, raises rent, is a proposition so conformable to ordinary ideas, that we are under no inducement to spend much time in proving it. A rise in the price of corn must evidently redound to the benefit either of the farmer or of the landlord. But the farmer is effectually prevented, by the competition of other capitalists, from obtaining more than the ordinary profits of stock. The benefit, therefore, of the increase of price can belong to nobody but the landlord. Or, more shortly, rent is all that portion of the produce of the soil which remains after replacing the capital expended, together with the ordinary profit: and this surplus must obviously be greater when corn is dear (the quantity of corn being the same) than when it is cheap.
So far, then, the question, between the people on the one side and the landlords on the other, would appear to be this—whether it is better that the landlords should submit to a reduction of rent, or that the whole people of Great Britain should pay a high price for their corn: whether, in short, the landlords can make out a case for taxing the community to put money into their pockets? And this, as being the aspect of the question most favourable to the landlords, is that which we shall first consider.
The language which we usually hear from the landlords on this question is not remarkably definite or precise, and presents little that is tangible in the form of a reason why their interest should be preferred to that of the public at large. Instead of proving (what their language implies) that rich landlords are more conducive to the happiness of the community than cheap corn, they talk vaguely about the necessity of protecting agriculture: thus endeavouring to make the public forget that this idol called agriculture, when narrowly inspected, proves to be no other than themselves. This artifice of identifying themselves with an abstract term is not without example. When the Roman Catholic priesthood attempted to establish their supremacy over the civil power, they said it was for the good of religion: it was for the good of nobody but themselves. If Ferdinand the 7th is to be believed, it is for the sake of social order that he is now labouring to clear his country of all the educated part of its inhabitants: and indeed so it is in his sense of the word, which makes social order synonymous with his own despotism. It might, perhaps, be admitted, that the Corn Laws are beneficial to the landlords, but in what sense they can be said to be beneficial to agriculture, unless the landlords be agriculture, it is not easy to see. The artifice, however, is not without its use: “Protect agriculture,” has a better sound than “Give me your purse:” and many a man will readily do for the “protection of agriculture,” that which he would have hesitated to do for the mere purpose of enriching the landlords.
There is a fallacy involved in the phrase “protection to agriculture,” which it is of the utmost importance that the public should fully understand. Under the words “agriculture,” and “agricultural interest,” are included not only the landlords, but the farmers, a class whose gains are of an entirely different nature from those of the landlords, and are governed by different laws. The exclusion of foreign corn may be, and probably is, beneficial to the landlords, though, we think, not to so great an extent as has been supposed. But so far is it from being beneficial to the farmers, that there is no class to whom it is more, and few to whom it is equally, injurious. Not only is the interest of the farmers not the same with that of the landlords, but no two interests are more diametrically opposite.
There is no fact in political economy better established than the tendency of every tax on the necessaries of life, to produce a rise of wages. We do not mean that it adds any thing to the comforts and enjoyments of the labourer; on the contrary, its ultimate effect is almost infallibly to diminish them, since by reducing the rate of profit, it retards the accumulation of capital, on which the demand for labour wholly depends. The labourer, however, is not benefited, and the capitalist is injured; the labourer continues to receive the same quantity of commodities, or, as it has been sometimes called, the same real wages as before; for the tax, though it affects the future accumulation of capital, does not alter its present amount, and it is upon the present amount of capital (as compared with population), and not upon its future accumulation, that wages depend. While, however, the labourer continues to receive the same quantity of necessaries as before, corn (the most important of those commodities) has risen in value. He must, therefore, receive a greater value, in order to command the same quantity: his money wages must rise. The manufacturers and other capitalists are thus compelled to give a greater value to their labourers, without having a greater value for themselves. They are, therefore, obliged to forego a portion of their profits. And thus we see that a high price of corn, which is a cause of high rent, is a cause of low profits. It is as prejudicial to the capitalist as it is beneficial to the landlord.
The farmer, however, is a capitalist, and his gains cannot be permanently greater than those of other capitalists. Unless during the currency of a lease, he has no interest whatever in high prices, because competition will effectually prevent him from deriving more than a very temporary advantage from them. He has, however, in common with all other capitalists, a very strong interest in high profits; and it is not possible that profits should be high when a great value is given to the labourers.
A high price of corn, therefore, not only is not beneficial to the farmer as such, but it is positively injurious to him. He is injured in two ways: first, as a consumer of corn, in common with the rest of the community, by having to consume a dear instead of a cheap commodity; and, secondly, he is injured, in a still greater degree, as an owner of capital, by being compelled to give higher wages to all the labourers whom he employs.
Having proved the Corn Laws to be injurious to all the rest of the community, and beneficial to the landlord alone, we might here close our remarks, since this alone, had we nothing else to urge, is of itself sufficient to decide the question. For if, in any case, the principle could be admitted of taxing the whole community for the benefit of a particular class, the landlords assuredly are not that class. To the public, collectively speaking, it is of very little consequence whether rent be high or low. But it is of the greatest importance to the public in general, that profits should be high. Profits are the reward of the industrious—rent, of the idle. It is the rate of profits which constitutes the inducement to accumulation, and, whatever be the advantage of a rapid accumulation, the advantage of high profits is the same. But it is on the accumulation of capital that the advancement of the national wealth is wholly dependant. A policy, therefore, which consists in lowering profits for the purpose of raising rents, must be, at best, of very doubtful expediency.
If, however, there were nothing in the whole process but a transfer; if whatever is lost by the consumer and by the capitalist were gained by the landlord; there might be robbery, but there would not be waste; there might be a worse distribution of the national wealth, but there would be no positive diminution of its aggregate amount. The evil of the Corn Laws admits not even of this alleviation: they occasion in all cases an absolute loss, greatly exceeding the gain which can be derived from them by the receivers of rent; and for every pound which finds its way into the pockets of the landlords, in consequence of the Corn Laws, the community is robbed of several.
Rent, it must be remembered, is only a part of the total produce of the soil, on many lands only a small part. There are some lands which yield no rent; there are many which yield very little; and even on the best of all, the rent, probably, does not greatly exceed one half of the produce.
Now, without disputing that it is the effect of the Corn Laws to give to the landlord a greater quantity of corn, as well as to enhance its value, it must be remembered that all which he receives is still no more than a part; another part is appropriated to the payment of labourers, a third to the maintenance of agricultural cattle and the purchase and repair of instruments of husbandry, a fourth is reserved for seed, and a fifth belongs to the capitalist as his profit. The increase in the cost of the production of corn, which is the consequence of the Corn Laws, operates to the benefit of the landlord only in so far as it goes to enhance the value of that portion of the produce which he receives as rent. Could all the rest of the produce retain its former value, and that portion alone rise which is paid to the landlord, the gain to him would exactly equal the loss to the rest of the community. While, however, it is only from the rise in the value of a portion of the produce, that the landlord derives any benefit, it is necessary, in order to the rise of that portion, that the whole should rise. It is necessary that an increased price should be paid, not only for that portion of the produce which goes to the payment of rent, but also for that far greater portion which goes to replace the capital, and pay the profits, of the farmer.
The able author of the article “Corn Laws and Trade,” in the Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica,[*] estimates the total rent of all the land in the country, compared with the total produce, at one-fifth. Let us make a liberal concession to our antagonists, and take it at one-third. In order then that the landlord may obtain an extra price for a single third of the produce; the purchasers, not only of that third, but of the other two-thirds, are compelled to pay that extra price, for every quarter of corn which they consume!
What, then, it may be asked, becomes of the extra price, which is paid by the consumers of the two-thirds? It does not go to the labourer; for though he receives a greater value, his condition not only is not improved, but, in most cases, it is ultimately deteriorated. It does not go to the farmer; for he, as we have seen, instead of gaining any thing, suffers, in two ways; as a consumer of corn, and as a payer of wages. What, then, becomes of it? We answer, it is entirely swallowed up in the increased expenses of cultivation. By the effect of the Corn Laws, a portion of the labour and capital of the country is diverted out of a more into a less advantageous employment: a quantity of labour is employed in growing corn, which would otherwise have produced, not only cloth, or hardware, sufficient to purchase the same quantity of corn in the foreign market, but much more. That corn which could be obtained abroad, in exchange for the produce of the labour of 100 men, is compelled to be produced at home, by that of 120, 130, or 140; the labour of 20, 30, or 40 men in every 100 is expended in pure waste, and all which they might have produced is entirely lost to the community. The consumer is taxed, not only to give a higher rent to the landlord, but to indemnify the farmer for producing, at a great expense, that corn which might be obtained from abroad at a comparatively small one.
If the landlords were to require, that the whole people of Great Britain should contribute a certain sum annually in direct taxes for their benefit, who is there that would not raise his voice against so impudent a demand? Yet this would surely be a much more modest request, than that, in order to put a certain annual number of pounds sterling into their pockets, the people of Great Britain should consent to pay three, four, or five times as many.
We seriously propose, therefore, as a great improvement on the present system, that this indirect tax should be commuted for a direct one; which, if it still gave an undue advantage to the landlords, would, at least, give them this advantage at a smaller cost to the public: or that the landlords should make an estimate of their probable losses from the repeal of the Corn Laws, and found upon it a claim to compensation. Some, indeed, may question how far they who, for their own emolument, imposed one of the worst taxes upon their countrymen, are titled to compensation for renouncing advantages which they never ought to have enjoyed. It would be better, however, to have a repeal of the Corn Laws, even clogged by a compensation, than not to have it at all; and if this were our only alternative, no one could complain of a change, by which, though an enormous amount of evil would be prevented, no one would lose.
We have hitherto taken it for granted, that the effect of the Corn Laws is, to force the cultivation of inferior soils; and that, therefore, if those laws were repealed, we should become a regularly importing country, our lowest soils would be thrown out of cultivation, and the cost of production, and consequently, the average price, would be lowered. We have assumed this, because we believe it to be true; although the contrary opinion is maintained in a very able article in the eighty-first number of the Edinburgh Review.[*]
Though it were conceded to the Edinburgh Reviewer, that if the ports were constantly open, the average price of wheat would not fall short of 60s. per quarter;[†] arguments enough would remain, to prove the mischievousness of the Corn Laws, and the necessity of their repeal; a measure which, in that case, no one would have more reason for promoting than the landlords, since they would gain all the advantage of a steady price, without incurring the disadvantage of a low one. Great, however, as the benefit to the community would be, even though the average price of corn should remain unchanged; we are convinced that this is not the whole of the benefit of which the repeal of the Corn Laws would be productive, and that the price would not be steadier only, but lower, under a free trade.
It is admitted by the Edinburgh Reviewer, that when there is no direct foreign demand, a quarter of wheat can, in ordinary years, be put on ship board at Dantzic for 35s.; and that allowing 8s. per quarter for the expenses of freighting, warehousing, &c. the price to the importer would be about 43s. They suppose, however, that a regular demand from this country would raise the ordinary price in the Dantzic market, from 35s. to 50s. which together with the freight and other expenses, would give in this country, a price of about 58s. per quarter.[‡]
The assumption, that a regular demand from this country would permanently raise the price at Dantzic from 35s. to 50s., is wholly founded upon the evidence of Mr. Solly, before the Agricultural Committee of 1821.[§] This gentleman’s evidence is a strange mixture of hypothesis and fact. For matters of fact, coming within the compass of his experience, Mr. Solly’s evidence may be as good as any other; and we have the less reason to doubt the credibility of his testimony, as it is entirely in accordance with the most authentic information which we have been able to procure from other sources. But the rise in price which is expected to be the consequence of a regular exportation, is plainly not a fact, but an inference. The same person may deserve great credit for his facts, and very little for his inferences; and, at any rate, no man’s inferences are entitled to be received, like matters of fact, upon his authority. How far Mr. Solly is qualified to draw correct inferences on subjects similar to the present, the following extract from his evidence may help us to judge:
If the English ports were open for the free importation of corn, at this moment, what rise do you think would take place in the price of wheat in the Prussian ports? I should think about 15s.
Which would make the price in the Prussian ports how much? On board, 50s. for the best wheat; they would make their calculation on obtaining 60s. here for it.[*]
We can easily conceive, that a sudden demand, before there is time to raise a corresponding supply, may raise the price at Dantzic 15s. per quarter, or much more; but what follows?
Supposing the ports to be constantly open for the free importation of corn, do you think the price abroad, on the average, would be above or below 50s. in the Prussian ports? It would be regulated by the price in England.
What is your opinion of the effect which the demand under such circumstances would have upon the price in those ports? I think that the price would rise about 15s. as already mentioned.
Although the demand should be permanent? Even then, the price would be regulated by the price here.[†]
This is true of the market price, but certainly not true of the average. The market price at any given moment in Poland, would doubtless be regulated by the market price in this country, because it is the price here, which by determining the exportation, would regulate the supply in the market of Poland itself; but to suppose that the average price in Poland—which is of most consequence to the producer—would be regulated by the price here, or by any thing whatever except the cost of production, implies an ignorance of the most obvious principles of political economy. On the average, and making abstraction from the temporary fluctuations of the market, it is the price in Poland, which would regulate the price here; not the price here which would regulate the price in Poland. The average price in Poland, with the expenses of importation, and the profits of the importer, would determine the average price, at which wheat could be sold in the English market. The mere unsupported conjecture of one who is ignorant of this very obvious truth, is a very slight foundation for such a conclusion as the Edinburgh Reviewer has founded upon it.
Before it can be admitted, that the repeal of our Corn Laws would raise the average price of wheat at Dantzic from 35s. to 50s.; it is necessary for Mr. Solly to prove, that the cost of production would be increased in that proportion. The only cause (taxation apart) which can raise the cost of production, is the necessity of cultivating inferior lands, or of applying capital with diminished return to those which are already in cultivation. And on this, as a necessary effect of an increase of demand, Mr. Solly lays great stress.
They want their land, [he says,] for the cultivation of corn, for cattle, and fuel for their own inhabitants. They have in Prussia about eleven millions of inhabitants; and it contains sixty-seven millions of English acres, or five thousand square miles; and they require almost all the arable land to grow corn for their own inhabitants; the principal corn that is grown and consumed, is rye; and I question, if they had to supply England with wheat corn, it would be in their power; they have not the soil, and I do not think they would be able to increase the quantity of wheat to any great amount in Prussia. [P. 317.]
This he afterwards accounts for, from the nature of the soil, which he states to be for the most part sandy, and unfit for wheat. That this may be the case in those districts of Prussia, with which Mr. Solly is acquainted, we have no reason to doubt: that it is not the case in the great corn districts of Poland, we have the best possible authority for asserting. All competent witnesses agree in declaring, that so far from needing all their arable land to raise corn for their own consumption, the Polish cultivators have been reduced to the extremity of distress in the last few years, by the cessation of foreign demand. We are informed by Mr. Behrend, of the house of Almonde and Behrend, great corn merchants at Dantzic, that fully one-third of the fertile corn lands are entirely waste, that great tracts of land, admirably fitted for wheat, have been thrown into pasture, merely for want of a market, and that great quantities of corn are consumed by cattle, and in various other ways among the cultivators themselves, which, on the opening of our ports, would be brought to market immediately. So great an effect does Mr. Behrend ascribe to this last circumstance, that Poland, in his opinion, could export three times as much wheat as at present, without raising one bushel more than is already produced (it is true, that her exports have of late years been comparatively small); and if to this we add the great quantity of wheat which could be raised on the excellent lands which are now in pasturage, or entirely waste, Mr. Behrend is of opinion, that Poland could supply this country with from 200,000 to 300,000 quarters of wheat, without any material advance of price, beyond that which is a remunerating price to the Polish cultivator at present, viz. 35s. in the greater part of Poland, and 38s. in Volkynia, from which province the best Polish wheat is chiefly drawn.* Now, if it be considered from how large a surface we should draw our foreign supplies, if we became a regularly importing country, it can hardly be supposed that we should, in ordinary years, import from Poland a greater quantity than 200,000 or 300,000 quarters; say 400,000, and suppose the last 100,000 to raise the price from 35s., or 38s. to 40s., or even 42s., which is an ample allowance; adding 8s. for freight and other expenses, this will give 50s. for the probable average price of wheat in this country, if importation were permitted at all times, duty free.
With regard to Odessa, the facts adduced by the Reviewer are singularly scanty. The following passage contains all that he says on the subject:—
The prices of wheat at the market of Odessa, on the Black Sea, the only port† in Southern Europe from which any considerable supplies of wheat can be obtained, are extremely fluctuating and various. In 1821, the price of wheat at Odessa amounted, according to Mr. Tooke, to about 30s. a quarter; and we are informed, by the same excellent authority, that the charges necessarily attending the importation of wheat from Odessa to London, would not fall short of 22s. 6d. a quarter. (Report,[*] p. 226.) It must be further kept in view, that if the average price of English wheat was 60s., Odessa wheat would not, on account of its inferior quality, be worth above 48s. or, at most, 50s.: so that it would be impossible to bring Odessa wheat into competition with English wheat worth 60s., unless its prime cost was rather below 27s., which is very rarely, if ever, the case, with such qualities as are fit for exportation.” (Pp. 61-2.)
It appears, however, from Mr. Tooke’s evidence, that the price, at the time of which he spoke, was unusually high, there being a great demand for exportation, and the supply being deficient. The fact is, that whatever may have been the price at the period to which Mr. Tooke’s evidence referred (April 1821), the average price of the whole year did not exceed 25s.
We have received from the best mercantile authority at Odessa, a table of the average prices of hard and soft wheat in that market, for almost every week, from the beginning of 1817 to the end of 1824. From this statement, estimating the rouble at 9¾d. and reckoning 100 chetwerts as equivalent (which is nearly the fact) to 70¼ quarters, we have extracted the following table of the average prices of average Odessa wheat in sterling money for the last eight years:—
The average of these eight years is 22s. 4½d. Allowing 22s. 6d. for freight and other expenses attendant on importation, the price at which Odessa wheat, of average quality, could be sold in Mark-lane, will appear to be rather below 45s. Odessa wheat being inferior to English wheat by about one-sixth, it may be concluded from the authentic statements which we have given, that Odessa wheat would come into competition with English wheat whenever the latter sold at a higher price than from 53s. to 54s. per quarter.
It may be well to add, that whatever foundation there might be for the supposition, that an increase of exportation would permanently raise the price of wheat in Poland; on the side of Odessa, at least, such an apprehension is chimerical. There are vast tracts of fertile land in the Ukraine, Podolia, and the countries adjoining the Crimea, at present uncultivated, or in pasturage; and from which corn might be supplied, perhaps for centuries, at the same low price at which it is now supplied from Odessa. We are even informed by the gentleman to whom we have before alluded, that, in the neighbourhood of Odessa itself, so great is the abundance of fertile soil that the same piece of land is rarely cultivated for more than two or three years together. When one piece of land is exhausted, the cultivators withdraw to another, as was the case among the Germans of old, and as we know to be the case at this day, in the back settlements of North America.
With regard to New York, the Reviewer has given us the prices by which the value of the wheat exported has been calculated at the Treasury Department for five years,[*] the greater number of which, if these prices be correct, were years of unusually high price, and which give an average that even he would admit to be far too high. We know not what degree of reliance is to be placed upon the calculations on which these statements are founded; if they are as inaccurate as the official valuations at our Custom-house, there cannot be a worse authority.
We have received from a great commercial house at Liverpool the following statement, extracted from the New York prices current, of the average price of wheat at New York, from 1820 to 1824 inclusive:—
The average of these five years gives 38s. per quarter.* Omitting 1820, a year of extraordinary depression, the average of the last four years gives 40s. per quarter, for the price of wheat at New York, the dearest port in the Union. In Virginia and Maryland wheat is usually from 16 to 20 cents per bushel, or about 6s. per quarter, lower than at New York. To the price at the latter port, add 12s. or 14s. the expense (as estimated by the Reviewer)[*] of importation, and from 52s. to 54s. will appear to be the average price at which wheat imported from New York could be sold in Mark-lane. In this case no deduction is to be made for difference in quality, average American being fully equal to average English wheat.†
Besides, America exports flour as well as corn, and the carriage of the less bulky commodity being so much less expensive, it is probable that American flour would come into competition with English flour, at a much lower comparative price than American corn.‡
But the facts which we shall now adduce, with regard to the price of wheat at Rotterdam, from 1815 to 1824 inclusive, are perfectly decisive. Holland, as is well known, has long been in the habit of importing a very great proportion of the corn which she consumes. She draws her supplies from a very wide surface; she is at nearly the same distance as Great Britain from the principal exporting countries; and there is, therefore, no reason why we should not obtain corn from those countries at the same price as she does. The following table of the average prices of wheat at Rotterdam for the last ten years is derived from the very highest mercantile authority:—
These prices, being reduced to sterling money at the average rates of exchange for the several years, give the following as the average prices, per Winchester quarter, for those years:—
The average of the ten years is 47s. 9¾d.
It is true that, in these ten years, there were several seasons of very general abundance. It will be observed, however, that there were two years (1816 and 1817) of very general deficiency. In 1815, before the scarcity began, and in 1819, between the end of the scarcity and the beginning of the glut, the price seems to have very nearly approximated to the average that we have assigned; and this circumstance adds to the presumption, that the average of these ten years is a fair criterion of the ordinary price.
The advocates of the opinion which we are combating lay great stress upon the circumstance, that the returns of average prices include all qualities of wheat, and not the best qualities only; forgetting that since it is average English wheat, and not the best English wheat alone, which is our standard of comparison, it would be unfair to ground our calculations on the price, in the Dutch market, of any description of wheat which is of higher quality than average English wheat. It is not with Holland as it is with Odessa. Average Odessa wheat is inferior to average English wheat, by about one-sixth. The average of the wheat which is sold in the Dutch markets is inferior to average English wheat, by three or four shillings per quarter at the utmost. The statements which we have exhibited give something less than 48s. as the average price of the average wheat which is sold in the market of Rotterdam. To this, add 4s. for the difference in quality between that average and the English: and this calculation gives 52s. for the price at which, in ordinary years, wheat equal to average English wheat, could be imported. And this is the same conclusion at which we had previously arrived, from a calculation founded on an estimate of the remunerating prices in the principal exporting countries.
The average price of wheat would therefore be reduced eight or nine shillings per quarter, by the opening of the trade. This fall of price, though quite sufficient to give a great relief to the consumer, is nothing compared to that which we were taught by the agriculturists to expect as the inevitable consequence of a free importation of corn. These gentlemen, indeed, in their pathetic appeals to the compassion of the public for protection against the utter ruin in which they would have it believed that the repeal of the Corn Laws would involve them, seem to have forgotten that this kind of argument cuts two ways; that if it tells in their favour, it tells still more strongly against them; that if the price of corn really is kept, in consequence of the Corn Laws, so much higher than it would otherwise be, these laws are only by so much the more insufferable a nuisance, and their repeal only by so much the more imperatively required.
Without disguising our opinion that the repeal of the Corn Laws would lower the average price of corn, we can supply the landlords with topics of consolation which, if duly appreciated, are fully sufficient to make them readily acquiesce in this most important of all commercial reforms. For if it be of consequence to them to have a high price, it is also of very great consequence to have a steady one; and it may fairly be doubted, whether they gain so much, by a higher average rent, as they lose by the constant fluctuations which are the necessary effect of the exclusion of foreign corn.
A country which freely admits the corn of all nations into its market, is scarcely ever exposed to either of the opposite evils of excessive dearth or ruinous depression. If there be a bad harvest in one country, there is a good one in another; and the surplus produce of the latter supplies the deficiency of the former, thus saving the one country from the evils of famine, and relieving the agriculturists of the other from the ruin attendant on an extraordinary depression of price. But a nation which denies itself the power of supplying its wants from the resources of foreign countries, becomes dependent for its supply of corn, not upon the annual produce of the whole world, which may be regarded as tolerably uniform in its quantity, but upon the goodness or badness of the harvest in a particular country, which, from the vicissitudes of the seasons, may vary so much as to occasion the most distressing fluctuations of price.
There is nothing in political economy more certain, than that a small variation in the supply of such a commodity as corn, produces a much more than proportional variation in price: a proposition which Mr. Tooke, who has explained so many of the complicated phenomena of prices, has shown to be as conformable to observed facts, as it is to sound reasoning.
In most other commodities an increase of price induces the purchasers in general to restrict their consumption, and the rise of price, therefore, is little more than proportional to the falling-off in the supply. But corn is a commodity of which, whatever may be its price, all are desirous of consuming the same quantity as before; being willing to renounce almost every other comfort, rather than diminish their consumption of so important a necessary of life. They bid, therefore, against one another, until the poorer competitors are driven out of the market from mere necessity. If the deficiency be considerable, the amount of misery produced baffles all calculation. Wages do not rise in proportion, for wages are affected only by permanent variations in price; the whole weight of the evil is, therefore, thrown upon those who are least able to bear it. The poorest class of labourers are deprived of the food which is absolutely essential to well-being, and the class immediately above them are compelled to sacrifice almost all their other comforts, in order to obtain their usual quantity of bread.
Though the farmers, in bad seasons, have less corn to sell, yet if foreign supplies be excluded, the value of their produce is increased, more than its quantity is diminished, and it is more profitable to them to sell a million of quarters, at 100s. per quarter, than 1,200,000 at 60s. These accordingly are the halcyon days of agricultural prosperity. If the high prices, from a succession of bad seasons, continue (as during the late war) for a number of years, the farmers grow rich, rents are punctually paid, new leases are granted at increased rents; both farmers and landlords are tempted to increase their domestic expenses; the farmers, allured by the prospect of high prices, continue to apply additional capital to the soil; commons are inclosed, new and expensive modes of cultivation are introduced, and a foundation is laid for that ruin which necessarily follows on the successive return of two or three abundant harvests.
For it is not more certain that a small deficiency produces a great enhancement of price, than that a trifling excess often occasions an inordinate depression. No doubt, when any class of the community was before insufficiently provided with food, an increased consumption is the probable consequence of a fall in price; the increase of consumption, however, is rarely, if ever, proportional to the excess of supply, since they, who already had food enough, are under no inducement to consume more. In a state of freedom the surplus produce would find a market abroad, as soon as the price had fallen sufficiently to indemnify the exporter for the expenses of transit. But, when by a system of restriction the average price of corn has been raised in any country much above that which is the average price in other countries, an abundant harvest becomes not only a curse to the farmer, but a curse from which there is no relief. His corn is raised at an expense far exceeding the cost of production abroad, and that which is a remunerating price to the foreigner, would to him be absolute ruin. If he exports, he must submit not only to the payment of the expenses of exportation, but to the loss of all the difference between the cost of production at home, and the price abroad. If the average home price is, by the effect of the Corn Laws, kept 10 per cent above the price abroad, he can obtain no vent for his surplus produce in the foreign market, but by a sacrifice of 10 per cent and the cost of carriage in addition.
To a period, therefore, of dearth and agricultural prosperity, succeeds a period of plenty and agricultural ruin. The inferior lands are thrown out of cultivation, and the capital which has been expended on them is utterly lost; the poorer class of farmers become insolvent; the landlords receive no rent, or if they receive any, receive it out of the capital of the tenants; the provisions for children, and other fixed charges, which were a moderate burden upon their former incomes, now swallow up the whole; and the ruin both of landlords and of tenants is accelerated by their inability to renounce in adversity those expensive habits which the former high prices had encouraged them to contract.
As if it had been resolved that all possible varieties of absurdity should meet together in a single enactment, even the subordinate arrangements are nearly the worst which could be derived, for that very class whose interests they are intended to promote. If importation were permitted at all times, subject to a high duty, the evils of great fluctuation would indeed be unavoidable; the agriculturists would be ruined in periods of abundance; but they would at least be assured of prosperity in periods of scarcity. But now, when importation is prohibited until corn shall have attained a certain price, and even then permitted only for a few months, the importers being compelled to hurry their corn into the country, without having time to form a judgment as to the causes of the scarcity, its extent, or probable duration, have no means of ascertaining how much corn is wanted, and much more than is wanted is frequently brought; the price is proportionally, or more than proportionally depressed, and at a time when the farmer, having an unusually small quantity, has the greatest occasion for a high price, he is forced to content himself with what would not perhaps be an adequate remuneration even in an average year.*
If the landlords would attend a little to these, and some other effects of the restrictive system, we should no longer hear them clamouring, as so many of them have done, for a protecting duty of 20, 30, or 40 shillings. Can it be doubted that a steady price, though at a somewhat lower average, is better for the landlord than an alternation of famine and glut, of exorbitant gains and absolute ruin?
Granting that his rents will be higher; granting that, for a few years, he may receive a larger sum than he would have done if no such monopoly had existed; still it will be difficult of proof, that a system by which his tenant is injured can be a beneficial one to him. Let us look at his situation; he has a large income, perhaps, and lives in a corresponding style of splendor and comfort; his establishment is upon a proportionate scale; his agencies, his allowances to his children, his subscriptions, in short, all the various charges of this description are settled accordingly. During the period of deficiency, his rents are paid; but the period of abundance is as alarming to him as to the farmer, for then his account is made up of small actual receipts and a long column of arrears; but his expenses remain for some time undiminished; and as he also considers this state of things temporary, he is not willing to make such an alteration, as, if permanent, he would be compelled to do. Some of his out-goings cannot be diminished; if he before lived up to his income, it is quite clear, this year, he must live much beyond it. The frequent recurrence of such periods would place the landed interest of this country in the same situation as the West-India planter; and whoever really wishes to promote their welfare, would choose any other state than that, to which to assimilate theirs.* —But supposing a proprietor to have his land thrown upon his hands; supposing it beggared, impoverished, and exhausted; supposing his buildings without repair, his hedges and gates neglected, to all which the distress of the farmer must tend; how can the system be a permanently beneficial one to him? (Whitmore, pp. 58-60.)
It should also be remembered, that the corn which we might import, would not be gratuitously bestowed upon us by the foreign producers: it would be well if it were, but unhappily they are not so generous. They demand our manufactures in exchange; and if the raw material of those manufactures be of home growth, the production of that material would open a new channel for the profitable employment of agricultural capital. Suppose that we were regularly to import corn from Dantzic or Odessa, and pay for it in Yorkshire cloths, the produce of English wool; much of the land, which they tell us would lie waste, might be profitably laid out in sheepwalks for the production of this wool. Not to say that it would all be ultimately employed in this or some other way equally advantageous to the landlord, since the repeal of the Corn Laws could not fail, by raising profits, to stimulate accumulation and promote the increase of population to such a degree, that all but our very bad lands would speedily be wanted for pasturage, and for the growth of such products as must necessarily be grown at home, though every quarter of corn which we might require should be imported. The free importation of corn in this respect resembles an improvement in agriculture, which, though it may lower rent for a time, is ultimately beneficial even to the landlord himself.
The landlord should consider, that if he has an interest opposed to that of the community, he has also an interest in common with them: that, if, on the one hand, he may prosper at their expense, he cannot fail, on the other hand, to be a sharer in their prosperity also. It is his interest, as well as theirs, to eat cheap corn; it is his interest, as well as theirs, not to be burthened with a heavy parochial assessment, to provide for the starving labourers in seasons of dearth. And if all these considerations should fail of convincing him that he would not be to any great extent a loser by cheapness of corn; let him throw the happiness of thousands and millions of his countrymen into the scale.
To those landlords, however, in whose minds inveterate habit has created so intimate an association between the robbery of the public and gain to themselves, that if they can but make others pay, they find it not possible to conceive that they should not be gainers by it, we have only to say, if they will have it, that if what is a blessing to all the rest of the community, is an injury to them, they must even pocket the loss, and make the best of it that they can. For the stale sophisms, which answered very well formerly, will go down with few people now; so few, that it is scarcely necessary for us to notice them: since, however, this inquiry would not be complete, were we not to make some mention of the more prominent among these sophisms, we will trespass somewhat longer upon the patience of the reader for that purpose.
They say, then, that there is danger in depending for any part of our supply of so important an article as corn upon the will of foreigners, with whom we may be at war, and who would have it in their power, by prohibiting exportation, to involve us in all the miseries of famine. “This argument,” says Mr. Mill (Elements of Political Economy, 2nd ed. pp. 197-8), “implies an ignorance, both of history and of principle; of history, because, in point of fact, those countries which have depended the most upon foreign countries for their supply of corn, have enjoyed, beyond all other countries, the advantage of a steady and invariable market for grain: of principle, because it follows unavoidably, if what, in one country, is a favourable, is in other countries an unfavourable season, that nothing but obtaining a great part of its supply from various countries can save a nation from all the extensive and distressing fluctuations which the variety of seasons is calculated to produce. Nor is the policy involved in this argument better than the political economy. It sacrifices a real good, to escape the chance of a chimerical evil; an evil so much the less to be apprehended, that the country from which another derives its supply of corn is scarcely less dependent upon that other country for a vent to its produce, than the purchasing country is for its supply. It will not be pretended that a glut of corn in any country, from the loss of a great market, with that declension of price, that ruin of the farmers, and that depression of rents, which are its unavoidable consequences, is an immaterial evil.”
Mr. Whitmore makes on this subject (p. 87) the following very pertinent observations:—
Upon this subject, however, we may proceed upon proof and experience, and need not, therefore, trust to general reasoning. It is well known that this country constantly imports nearly all the hemp it uses; it is equally clear, that, if deprived of it, the consequences to us, a maritime and commercial people, would be to the last degree injurious. If there be one article more than another, of which an hostile country would wish to deprive us, it would be this very article of hemp, which may fairly be considered the sinews of naval warfare. But were we ever deprived of it? Was there ever any serious obstruction, either to our naval armaments or to our commercial speculations, arising from a deficiency of this important article? If not, it is chimerical to imagine that we should ever be deprived of the corn we are in the habit of importing.
It is further alleged, that the various classes of manufactures are protected from foreign competition, and for this reason it is contended that the landlords ought to obtain a similar protection. To this objection also we shall reply in the words of Mr. Mill—Elements [2nd ed.], pp. 198-200.
In the first place, it may be observed, that if this argument is good for the growers of corn, it is good for every other species of producers whatsoever; if, because a tax is imposed upon the importation of woollens, a tax ought to be imposed upon the importation of corn, a tax ought also to be imposed upon the importation of every thing which the country can produce; the country ought, in short, to have no foreign commerce, except in those articles alone which it has not the means of producing. This is a reduction to absurdity which appears conclusive. The argument moreover supposes that an extraordinary gain is obtained by the manufacturer, in consequence of his supposed protection; and that a correspondent evil is sustained by the corn-grower, unless he is favoured by a similar tax. The ignorance of principle is peculiarly visible in those suppositions, in neither of which is there a shadow of truth.
The man who embarks his capital in the woollen or any other manufacture, with the produce of which that of the foreign manufacturers is not allowed to come into competition, does not, on that account, derive a greater profit from his capital. His profit is no greater than that of the man whose capital is embarked in trades open to the competition of all the world. All that happens is, that a greater number of capitalists find employment in that branch of manufacture; that a portion, in short, of the capitalists of the country employ themselves in producing that particular species of manufacture, who would otherwise be employed in producing some other species, probably in producing something for the foreign market, with which that commodity, if imported from the foreign manufacturer, might be bought.
As the man who has embarked his capital in the trade which is called protected, derives no additional profit from the protection; so the grower of corn sustains not any peculiar loss or inconvenience. Nothing, therefore, can be conceived more groundless than his demand of a compensation on that account. The market for corn is not diminished because a tax is laid upon the importation of woollens; nor would that market be enlarged, if the tax were taken off. His business, therefore, is not in the least degree affected by it.
Not only is the existence of other monopolies no reason why the corn monopoly should be kept up, but the mutual support which every monopoly lends to every other, is one of the strongest reasons why they should all be destroyed. Every monopoly annihilated, takes one member from the confederacy; leaves one restriction less to be appealed to as a justification for others; adds something to the number and strength of those interested in freedom of trade, and takes something from the mass of interest enlisted on the side of restraint. The Corn Laws are not merely to be viewed as the cause of those evils which directly and immediately flow from them. They are to be judged, not only by the evil which they do, but by the good which they prevent from being done. If the landlords had no longer a monopoly of their own, they would no longer, perhaps, uphold the monopolies of others. It is no more their interest than it is that of the public, to pay dear for their goods; and the protection of manufactures might find fewer supporters in a certain honourable House, were it not for the necessity of conceding something to those who might be dangerous enemies to the protection of agriculture.
Nor are the mischievous consequences of our Corn Laws confined to this country. Who can know to what extent they may have served as a motive or as an apology for equally pernicious monopolies in other countries? But for the parliamentary slang of protecting agriculture, America might never have conceived the ridiculous idea of protecting manufactures; since this is the cant word which custom has appropriated to those measures by which a nation renounces the benefit of all the peculiar advantages which nature has bestowed upon her in the production of particular commodities. The late Russian Tariff is believed to have been partly intended as a measure of retaliation upon us; and the last Corn Circular of Messrs. Almonde and Behrend observes, “It has been rumoured that our government intends to retaliate, or at least to meet the present prohibitive system of the Western countries by a similar measure as regards several expensive articles of importation which are not in the number of the immediate necessaries of life; but little good,” they add, “is expected from such a measure, as it would, perhaps, tend to annihilate trade altogether.”
Were the exclusion of foreign goods a real advantage instead of a positive evil, it would yet be expedient for a commercial country to sacrifice this advantage, in order to obtain in its turn a similar concession from other countries; on the same principle on which every man would find it his interest, even if there were no laws, to refrain from picking his neighbour’s pocket, lest by so doing he should provoke his neighbour to perform a similar manœuvre upon his.
We are continually calling ourselves a trading nation; and we boast of our commerce, no doubt very justly, as one of the grand sources of our wealth. Yet, who ever heard of a commerce which was not mutual? How can we expect to export without importing?* or of what advantage would it be to us if we could? since, demonstratively, it is the imports alone, from which the benefit of foreign commerce is derived. Nobody is enriched by giving any thing away. Should we grow rich by exporting all that we have, and importing nothing? How truly, then, do we misunderstand our own interest, if we attempt to sell our own commodities to foreigners, and yet refuse to take theirs in exchange!
We wonder that it has never occurred to those governments, from whose territories we draw our foreign supplies of corn, to punish us for refusing to take their corn regularly, by not permitting us to take it at all. The foreign agriculturist, as he can never reckon upon our demand, of course never produces a corresponding supply; and we, if our price rises to 70s. rush in and carry off part of a crop which was not more than sufficient, perhaps was not sufficient, for the supply of the country from whence it was drawn. The extent to which this evil may be carried is little conceived in this country. Mr. Behrend informs us, that the cessation of our demand for Polish corn, since 1818, has caused such a falling-off in the supply, that were it suddenly to become known that 600,000 quarters of wheat would be speedily wanted for importation into England, he should expect the price in the Dantzic market to mount up at once to 120s. or 140s. And at no price, he says, in the present state of cultivation, could Poland furnish us with as much corn as she did in 1816. Thus, if our Corn Laws should not be repealed, two or three bad harvests may be expected to bring on us all the evils, not of dearth alone, but perhaps of actual famine.
It has been said, that although the home-growers have no claim to be more favoured than the importers, they have a claim to be equally so: that the home-grower is subject to many taxes, from which foreign corn is exempt; and that a countervailing duty ought, therefore, to be laid upon the importer, equal to all the taxes which fall on corn of British growth.
If, in this country, raw produce were the only article subject to a tax, this argument would be perfectly just. It is now acknowledged that taxation should be so regulated as to disturb as little as possible that distribution of capital, to which the interests of individuals would lead in a state of perfect freedom. A premium should be given neither on importation nor on home production. A law which forces us to import our corn is as bad as a law which forces us to grow it at home. In both cases, the effect is, that we pay dearer for it than we ought.
But when other commodities are taxed as well as corn, we think, with the writer of the article already referred to in the Edinburgh Review, that the agriculturists are not entitled to a countervailing duty, unless they can show that they are more heavily taxed than other classes of producers; nor ought the duty even then to exceed the difference between the burthens of the agriculturists and those of others. The reason is, that if all commodities of home production are taxed exactly alike, even without countervailing duties, it is the same thing, with respect to trade, as if they were not taxed at all; since prices are not higher than if there were no tax, and there is no motive therefore to import any thing, which there would not be a sufficient motive to import in a state of perfect freedom. A protecting duty, in that case, would be a premium on home production, and, therefore, injurious. But if commodities are taxed unequally, those which are most highly taxed, rise in price, and there is an immediate motive to import them from abroad, paying for them in those which are less heavily burthened. To prevent this, therefore, there is need of a countervailing duty, equal to the difference between the two rates of taxation.
Should it appear, then, that agricultural produce is subject to higher taxation than manufactured goods, a countervailing duty would be required. The Edinburgh Reviewer is of opinion, that an ad valorem duty of 10 per cent would be amply sufficient.[*] This would be equivalent to five or six shillings per quarter. But a fixed is obviously preferable to an ad valorem duty, as the latter, increasing with the price, falls heaviest in dear years, when it is of the greatest consequence that importation should be free. Should the time come, as come it must, when the tithe-tax shall cease to exist, the import duty may be totally discontinued.
Mr. Ricardo, who concurred in Mr. Whitmore’s recommendation of a fixed duty of 10s. per quarter, advised, however, as a measure of indulgence to the agriculturists (to give them time for gradually withdrawing their capital from the land), that the duty should be originally fixed at 20s. and lowered 1s. every year until reduced to 10. We shall be believed when we say, it is with the greatest hesitation we presume to differ from so great an authority; but we fear, that, in general, these gradual changes, which are intended as a boon to the producers, are felt rather as an evil than as a good, even by those for whose benefit they are designed. On a recent occasion, when, to save the silk manufacturers from loss, the period of the reduction of the silk duties was postponed for a year, the silk manufacturers themselves very generally complained, that they would have suffered less from the immediate operation of the measure, than they did from the stagnation of business which was the consequence of the delay; and we suspect, that if the gradual reduction, proposed by Mr. Ricardo, were adopted, the anticipated fall of price would occasion so general an indisposition to lay in any quantity, beyond what was wanted for immediate consumption, as might involve the producers in all the evils of a glut. We believe, therefore, that the introduction at once of that system which is intended to be permanently established, is the most desirable course for the agriculturists, as it certainly is for the rest of the community.
We cannot conclude these observations without again reminding our readers, that if ever there was a time when it was of importance that the public opinion should strongly and loudly declare itself upon this question, it is now. Mr. Whitmore has pledged himself to bring the subject before parliament in the present session.[*] The good disposition of a portion of the ministry on this question is well known; of that enlightened portion to whom we are already indebted for the abolition of that worst of taxes, the duties on law proceedings; for the opening of the silk trade; for the free, or virtually free exportation of wool; for the partial abandonment of that ludicrous policy, which forms the basis of our navigation laws; and (in a great degree) for the repeal of those barbarous statutes, which were expressly designed to keep down the wages of labour.[†] Ministers who have done thus much, will do more; and on the subject of the Corn Laws, they have already expressed the soundest opinions. Unfortunately, however, they are not all powerful in the cabinet; they will not always be in office, and should they continue as long in power as it is our wish that they may, they will need all the support which public opinion can give, to carry the repeal of the Corn Laws against half the cabinet, and the whole of the landed aristocracy.
We have given our praise, as we shall always give our censure, where we feel it to be deserved; nor is there any inconsistency in praising ministers, and censuring those institutions, under which such men are prevented from wishing all the good which they might do, or from doing even all that which they wish. Measures, not men, is our motto; and, had we a government constituted as we desire, we should not wish its administration to be placed in better hands. Freed from the trammels of sinister interest, they would then follow where their better inclinations would lead. And when we consider what is the ordinary effect of power upon the human mind, and what sort of beings ministers usually are; that persons situated as they are should have the smallest sympathy with the public, is a degree of merit which we scarcely know how sufficiently to praise. Should they succeed in relieving the community from the intolerable scourge of our Corn Laws, they will be justly considered as the wisest and best ministers whom this country has ever produced.
[[*] ]See 3 George IV, c. 60, and related statutes.
[[†] ]Isaiah, 28:10-11.
[* ]See Morning Chronicle for May 22nd, 1824—“In this measure” (the bill for permitting the exportation of wool) “and in the consequences it was calculated to produce, he (Mr. Curteis) saw the first fruits of the new philosophy of free trade, at the shrine of which they were all called upon to bow down and worship, but to which he was determined to offer no incense.” [P. 2.]
[[*] ]McCulloch, John Ramsay. “Corn Laws and Trade,” Supplement to the 4th, 5th, and 6th Editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Edinburgh: Constable, 1824, Vol. III, pp. 342-73.
[[*] ]McCulloch, John Ramsay, “Price of Foreign Corn—Abolition of the Corn-Laws,” Edinburgh Review, XLI (Oct., 1824), pp. 55-78.
[[†] ]Ibid., pp. 56-63.
[[‡] ]Ibid., p. 57.
[[§] ]Solly, Edward, “Evidence taken before the Select Committee on the Depressed State of Agriculture,” Parliamentary Papers, 1821, IX, pp. 315-19.
[[*] ]Solly, “Evidence,” p. 316.
[[†] ]Ibid., pp. 316-17.
[* ]In corroboration of Mr. Behrend’s opinion, and in contradiction to Mr. Solly’s assertion, that there is comparatively little land fitted for wheat in Poland, we extract the following passage from the conclusion of Mr. Jacob’s evidence: “Are you of opinion, that if the price of corn did rise materially in Poland, there is a very great extent of country there, which might be made to produce very good corn, if they had a more encouraging price for it?—Yes; and if they had capital.—Would they not be tempted to bring that which is now under cultivation for rye, under cultivation for wheat?—Probably they might.”—Report, [Parliamentary Papers, 1821, IX,] p. 376.
[† ]Odessa is the only port in Southern Europe from which a considerable supply of wheat can be at present obtained. It is impossible to say, however, to what extent corn might be supplied from the countries adjoining the Mediterranean, were any tolerable government introduced into those countries. Sicily, Egypt, Asia Minor, and the African coast, were once the granaries of the world; and might be so again, under any government which would but afford tolerable security to person and property.
[[*] ]Tooke, Thomas, “Evidence taken before the Select Committee on the Depressed State of Agriculture,” Parliamentary Papers, 1821, IX.
[[*] ]McCulloch, “Price of Foreign Corn,” p. 62.
[* ]During these five years the dollar has gradually sunk in value from 4s. 6d. to 4s. 1d. or 4s. 2d. sterling. We have made our calculations at the rate of 4s. 3d., being that assumed by the Reviewer.
[[*] ]McCulloch, “Price of Foreign Corn,” p. 62.
[† ]See the Edinburgh Reviewer himself, [ibid.,] note to p. 62.
[‡ ]When the immense line of country on the banks of the Mississippi River comes to be in full cultivation, it may be expected, from the amazing fertility of its soil, and the facilities of water carriage which it enjoys, that it may be able to supply the western countries of Europe with corn at a much lower price than it is possible to calculate upon at present.
[* ]On the other hand, the complicated and intricate provisions of the present law afford such scope to fraudulent artifices, that importation is often prevented, even when corn is selling to bonâ fide purchasers at a price exceeding that at which it was the intention of the legislature that the ports should open. Of the fraud and trickery which it is the inevitable tendency of the system of averages to produce, the pamphlet of Mr. Hays (himself an eminent corn-dealer) affords a most instructive display; and we regret that want of space prevents us from doing more than directing the attention of the reader to the pamphlet itself, which, though short, is valuable, and will reward him well for the trouble of its perusal. [Hays, John. Observations on the Existing Corn Laws. London: Richardson, 1824.]
[* ]“The property in the West Indies is said, upon the average, to change hands every twenty years.” [Whitmore’s footnote.]
[* ]Messrs. Almonde and Behrend, in their circular already quoted, observe, “It is generally thought that the consumption of British colonials and manufactures does not, at present, exceed one half of what it was before this unfortunate crisis of the corn trade took place.” The crisis alluded to is the glut of agricultural produce, which has been principally occasioned by the cessation of demand from this country since 1818.
[[*] ]McCulloch, “Price of Foreign Corn,” pp. 72-4.
[[*] ]See Whitmore, William Wolryche. Substance of a Speech delivered in the House of Commons on the 28th April, 1825. London: Ridgway, 1825.
[[†] ]The statutes referred to are: law, 5 George IV, c. 41; silk, 5 George IV, c. 21; wool, 5 George IV, c. 47; navigation, 6 George IV, cc. 105, 109; and wages of labour, 6 George IV, c. 129.