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whole consumption of wheat in England may be doubled, while the portion, which is of home production may be reduced one half. The agriculturists, in fact, do not contend that consumption has not increased ; they acknowledge that it has increased, but they contend that although the consumption of agricultural produce has increased much, still the quantity of this produce in the British market has increased more. They contend farther, that this increase in the quantity of agricultural produce consumed in England, in the year 1820, did not arise from an excess of the average home production, but from an excessive increase in the quantity of foreign corn imported during that and the previous year.
Those who maintain that the difficulties of the land-occupier, arise from an excessive supply of agricultural produce, proceed in their reasoning in this manner: -“We have proved by a document of unquestionable authority, that during the year 1820, an increase has taken place in the consumption of exciseable articles ; and from this increase we infer that a proportionable increase has taken place in the consumption of corn; as the depreciation, which has taken place in the value of corn, does not proceed as some imagine, from a diminution of demand, it must therefore proceed from an excessive supply: your produce then being depreciated in value, because the supply of corn exceeds the demand for it, the only method of remedying this evil is to lessen the quantity which you grow, or to consider the excess of the quan
, tity which you have to sell as an equivalent for the reduction which has taken place in its money price.” To this the agriculturists reply-That they acknowledge the depreciation in the money value of corn to proceed from an excess of supply, but they maintain that this excess of supply is not of home growth, that it is entirely of foreign production. They assert, that the quantity of corn grown in England, in the year 1820, did not exceed an average crop. They prove that a large increase has taken place in the quantity of foreign wheat imported during that and the previous year; and having proved this, they assert that the excess of supply, which was naturally followed by an excess of consumption in 1820, was entirely and exclusively of foreign growth : they therefore conclude, that the depreciation which has taken place in the money price of home agricultural produce, has been brought about solely by the importation of foreign corn. Having thus, as they conceive, pointed out the cause of the distress of which they complain, and the existence of which is universally acknowledged, they petition for the removal of the cause which has produced this distress. They demand of the legislature, the prohibition or at least the further restriction-of the importation
of foreign corn. How those who believe that the distress of agriculture arises from an excessive supply, will parry this request of the agriculturists, I shall be curious to see ; for if this be the real cause of their difficulties, it certainly does not appear that their demand is either ill-timed, or unreasonable : and it is at least an ungracious treatment of the agriculturists of this island, to tell them ;— “You grow too much corn, lessen the quantity which you grow, in order to make room for the corn of foreigners.”
Here then we have three parties, ascribing the present depressed state of agriculture to the operation of three different causes. The first party asserts, that the English agriculturists are involved in difficulties because we have too much to eat. The second may be considered as a cognate of this party, for it agrees with it in believing that we have too much to eat, but differs from it in asserting, that too much of this is foreign. The third of these parties assures the public that both these opinions are erroneous, and that the growers of agricultural produce are distressed-not because my beloved countrymen have too much to eat, but because they eat too little. It will be most delightful to discover, that the honorable member for Cumberland, is correct in ascribing our difficulties to this cause ; as nothing, I conceive, can be either more easy, or if I may judge of others by myself, more agreeable, than the remedy, which we have, not exactly in our own hands, but what is much better, in our own mouths. He has, I trust, made his views known to his friend at the Mansion House, who, it is said, has introduced some culinary reforms into that establishment, which have laid an unseasonable check on the usual civic consumption of wheat and mutton. If he can prevail upon his friends in the city to exert themselves but moderately, (I mean after Easter, for I am aware how impossible it would be to prevail upon them to feast during Lent) with the aid of our good friends the Catholics, whose jaws will then be unlocked, we shall succeed, I trust, before the beginning of August, in eating the farmer into good humor. An old saw, or an old poet, I forget which, says that appetite increases with the thing it feeds on.”
, “ But this, I conceive, must be a pure fiction of the poet's fancy ; for, if the honorable member's theory of the cause of agricultural distress be correct, the appetite for wheat at least must contract in proportion as the thing it feeds on increases. This is certainly a singular fact in physiology, and should be submitted to the consideration of the College
of Physicians, as their superior acquaintance with the nature of the gastric functions may enable them to account for a circumstance which seems to require explanation.
The dispute between those who contend that the distresses of the agriculturist arise from the circumstance of our having too much to eat, and their opponents, who assert that the corn growers are in difficulties because we eat too little, may be safely left to the decision of any ingenious persons, who may be disposed to beguile the tedium of a vacant hour, by debating whether an egg should be eaten by its big or narrow end.
But much more attention is due to the opinion of those who think that the present depressed state of agriculture must be ascribed to the importation of foreign wheat, which, being raised, as they tell us, at less expense than British produce, drives the home grower out of the market, or compels him to sell his corn at a price much below the unavoidable cost of production. This appears to be the bugbear which principally frightens the practical farmer. So much has been lately said of the warehousing system, and of the system of taking the average price of British wheat, that it has made a deep and almost indelible impression on the minds of a large proportion of the agricultural body. They believe, that if a prohibition were laid on the importation of foreign corn, and rigidly carried into effect, their foreign competitor being thus driven out of the market, the price of wheat would advance to the standard at which they can afford to growit, and all their difficulties would consequently vanish.
But the effect produced by the importation of foreign corn, on the money price of that which is of home production, is misunderstood, or at least greatly exaggerated; for if this importation did, even permanently, bear the proportion to the amount of British produce, which existed between them, in the year 1819, when the largest quantity of foreign wheat was introduced into England, I shall endeavour to show, that a lasting reduction of the money price of corn could not result from this cause. When a foreigner brings a cargo of wheat into England, he must take in return, a cargo of our manufactures of cotton goods, for instance, from Manchester, or of hardware from Sheffield. If the importation of foreign corn were absolutely prohibited, it is no doubt true, that, at least in that shape, it could not come in competition with the corn of the home grower. But it should be remembered, by those who represent the importation of foreign corn as ruinous to the English farmer, that it is the only production which the fo. reigner has to offer in exchange for the wrought commodities which he exports from England; and that if we do not take his corn he cannot take our calicoes, or at least, can give nothing in exchange for them. It may, perhaps, be said in reply to this observation, that if we refused his corn, he would then take it to another market and exchange it for some other commodity, and bring this commodity to be exchanged here for the cotton goods which he wants. But he cannot go to another market, for the best and most conclusive of all possible reasons-because no other market exists which VOL. XVIII. Pam.
NO. XXXVI. 2G
presents a demand for his wheat. He may search every creek and barbour, from one end of the continent to the other, but he will, in every place, find himself in the situation of a man who, to use an old saw, "carries coals to Newcastle.” If, therefore, he be shut
.“ . out from the British market, he cannot provide himself with gold, or with any other commodity, which our manufacturers would take in exchange for their goods. In such a predicament, the foreigner would be reduced to the necessity of adopting one of the two following alternatives—he would be compelled to devise some substitute for the cotton goods, to which, if they were attainable, he would give the preference; or he would endeavour to establish a manufactory by which his wants might be supplied. In either of these cases it must be evident, that the foreign demand for our manufactures would be, at once, cut off; and I cannot help thinking that the absence of this demand, in the cotton market, would ultimately, at least, be more severely felt by the corn grower, than the effect which is now produced on the corn market by the whole quantity of foreign wheat imported into England.' Those who dwell upon the depreciation produced in the value of wheat by foreign competition, seem to assume, as the basis of their argument, that the foreign demand for English manufactured goods, would be equally extensive if this competition were forcibly removed. They believe, or at least argue as if they believed, that if this importation were prohibited, the demand for our manufactures, for the purpose of exportation, would suffer no reduction. But this is clearly an idle and extravagant expectation, founded on the most absurd and fallacious reasoning, and contrary both to common sense and experience. If foreign corn were excluded from the British market, the demand for British manufactured goods must, and would, be instantly contracted. If the English farmer, for instance, can find no market for his produce, he has nothing which he can give in exchange for the leather, the cotton, or the cloth, which he wants; and the foreign grower of wheat is placed in the same situation. If he cannot sell his corn, he cannot buy cotton goods—he must endeavour to establish a manufactory at home, where it may be converted into the wrought articles, which he wants for use ; or, he must rest satisfied with the most convenient substitute, which he can invent, for these articles.
He wants, for instance, a certain quantity of cotton goods, and possesses a surplus quantity of corn, which he would willingly exchange for it. He imports his surplus grain into England, and purchases, at Manchester, the supply of manufactured goods of which he stands in need. The additional demand for corn, created in Manchester by the manufacture of the quantity of cotton goods which the foreigner has purchased, will be, at least, equal to the addition, which his cargo of wheat has made to the general supply of corn previously in the market. If, therefore, tyo millions of quarters of foreign wheat should be annually imported, manufactured goods, to an equal value, must and would be exported in return--that is, goods, in manufacturing which a quantity of corn had been consumed, equal to the quantity of foreign grain imported; and thus no change would take place in the relative proportion subsisting between the demand and supply, which is the only circumstance that affects the exchangeable value of any commodity. The addition made to the whole supply of agricultural produce, by the introduction of two millions of foreign wheat into the English market, would be counterbalanced and neutralized by the increased demand for this produce, excited by the consumption of the additional number of weavers and spinners to whom employment would be given, in manufacturing the cotton goods which the foreigner takes in exchange for his wheat.' In this case--the demand for corn having increased in a ratio equal to the increase of supply-it appears to me, that the effect generally ascribed to the importation of foreign wheat, on the money price of that which is of home growth, has been greatly exaggerated. I will even venture to assert that the supposition, that the importation of foreign corn depreciates the value of that which is of home production, has no foundation in fact, and that it is an opinion which springs from a complete misapprehension of this subject. · If a reference be made to a table of exports and imports, for a given period of years, it will be found, that they bear nearly the same relative proportion to each other; and that the period of years which, in ordinary circumstances, presents the greatest importation of corn, will also be found to present the greatest exportation of manufactured goods. The foreign grain imported, in the years 1818, 1819, and 1820, exceeded greatly the quantity of wheat imported during any previous period of equal length. But I am much mistaken, if the quantity of manufactured goods exported, during the same period, will not be found, on enquiry, to have equally exceeded the quantity exported during the three preceding years. The quantity of foreign grain imported, during the years 1816 and 1817, was small compared with the quantity imported in the subsequent years: it is also well known, that during the years 1816, 1817, and 1818, the demand for English manufactured goods was unusually contracted. A large proportion of the English manufacturers were, in consequence of this diminution of foreign demand, thrown out of employ, and the whole body reduced to a state of want and desperation, which excited commotions that proved almost fatal to the stability of Government.