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our manufactures by increasing the price of labor, and thereby enabling the foreign manufacturers to compete with ours, both in the foreign and the home markets. It is to our manufactures alone that the great landowners are indebted for their princely incomes; but, instead of being content with a fair profit derived from the increased value of their land, in consequence of these manufactures, they incur the risk of losing all by levying an unjust tax on labor, not for the good of the state, but for their own private advantage. England formerly exported corn to the continent; and if the landowners were not only permitted, but even encouraged by a bounty to send their corn to the foreign market when it suited their convenience, why are the rest of the community precluded from going to the foreign market to purchase their corn, when they can get it cheaper abroad than they can at home? But what is the argument made use of by the landowners in support of this monopoly? Do they mean to say that the mere circumstance of their being in possession of the land intitles them and their property to the protection of the state, without their contributing an equal portion to the wants of the state? No man, I presume, will venture to advance such a proposition; and the only argument that is left to them besides, is that with respect to corn it is necessary, as much as possible, to keep the country independent of foreign supply, because a time may come when the whole of the continent (I should say of the three continents of Europe, Asia, and America,) will be shut out from us; and then, in consequence of having thrown all the poor land out of cultivation, there will not be a sufficient stock in hand for the general consumption. In other words, we are gravely called on by these profound statesmen to forego a positive good, because there is a bare possibility of its leading to a distant evil, though the circumstance which they anticipate has never yet taken place, and in all probability never will. The sugarplanters of the West Indies are landowners as well as our landed proprietors in England, but it is their interest to encourage the importation of foreign corn; and the necessity of making those islands grow their own corn, and thereby render themselves independent of foreign supply, has never, I dare say, so much as occurred to a single individual among them, although the danger of their being cut off from all foreign supply in the event of a war is infinitely more apparent. If, by the cultivation of tobacco or sugar in England, our landowners could double their rents, how many among them would retain their present opinions respecting the impolicy of importing corn from abroad? and how would they complain of the injustice of a law that forced them to cultivate bread corn, when they might turn their land to so much better account! How easy would it then be to find arguments in favor of a free importation of corn; and how futile would all those argu
ments appear on which they now lay so great a stress ! were permitted to cultivate the sugar plant," they would say, half the produce would purchase as much corn as would be needful for the annual consumption, and the other half would be so much riches added to the general stock. The resources of the country, the means of carrying on a successful war, would be thereby increased; and, as you could always keep one year's supply of corn in store, if our fleets should be defeated, and the whole country, which is all but impossible, closely blockaded, we should only have to return to the cultivation of corn, and could furnish ourselves with a sufficient supply before the old store was expended." These are the arguments that would be used by the landowners, under the foregoing circumstances, in favor of a free importation of corn; and these arguments may be used with much greater force by the people in general, under the present circumstances, though the landowners are not able to appreciate them. By permitting a free importation of corn, we should increase the power and resources of the state, and the comforts of the people at the same time; and as only the poor lands would be thrown out of cultivation by this law, if ever we should be wholly cut off from all foreign supply, which, as I before observed, is all but impossible, we should, by keeping one year's supply in store, have enough to last us till they were brought into cultivation again.
To prohibit the importation of foreign corn, or to levy any tax on it, is to tax one part of the community for the benefit of the other; and unless it can be shown that the mere possession of land entitles the landowner to superior privileges, it is manifest that such a tax is both partial and unjust. But, while we advocate the just rights of one part of the community, we must take care not to overlook those that belong to the opposite party. When all the corn that was consumed in the country was grown in the country, it was quite fair to make the land chargeable with the maintenance of the poor; because the farmer, by increasing the price of his corn, could always get back the sum he was charged with, and the whole tax was ultimately defrayed by the consumer: but if the free importation of corn should be permitted, this tax ought either to be levied in some other way, or a sum equal to the amount of it should be taken off that portion of the income-tax which the landowners were called on to pay; for otherwise, the whole burden of this tax would fall on their shoulders, which would be as unjust towards them, as a heavy tax on foreign corn is towards all the other members of the community. The most economical way in my opinion to collect this tax, would be to allow the parish-officers, or those whose business it is to provide a maintenance for the poor, to draw on the government for the means, and send up their accounts, well authenticated and countersigned by the minister of VOL. XXVIII. Pam. No. LV.
the parish, to be audited by officers appointed by the government for that purpose; because if the money is to come out of the public treasury, these officers would be much more likely to detect any improper charges than country squires and magistrates, who are in general too much taken up with their own private affairs to give themselves much trouble about those things that do not immediately concern them. Here again, Sir, is another great benefit you would confer on your country, if you would adopt my proposal. By taking off the excise duties, and permitting the free importation of corn, you would take off at least thirty per cent from the expenses of providing for the poor. What the poorrates, throughout the kingdom amount to, I am unable to state; but I am sure I shall be under the mark, when I say that, at the same time that you add more than 3,000,000l. to the public revenue by adopting this plan, you will take off more than 1,000,000l. per annum from the burdens of the people, by so far reducing these rates.
Before I dismiss this subject, I think it right to state, that so long as the excise laws exist, as the price of labor must be considerably greater in England than it is abroad, a free importation of corn would give the foreign grower a very unfair advantage over the home grower; but if these duties should be taken off, the price of labor at home would be reduced very nearly to the same level as it is abroad; and then as the importer of foreign corn would have to pay the freightage and insurance, over and above what would be sufficient to give a fair profit to the grower, our own landowners could very well afford to sell their corn at the same price.'
I now come to consider in what way a free importation of all goods indiscriminately, would affect our own manufactures, both in the home market and abroad.
On a first view, it may possibly be objected to this system, that, whatever advantages it might produce, it could never be brought into practice, unless all the other commercial nations would consent to take off their custom duties as well; for, otherwise, it may be urged, it would be giving great advantages to that nation that still retained them; and, moreover, it would set aside all our treaties of commerce, by which our manufactures are supposed to be highly favored in particular countries.
No person who has come into possession of landed property by grant or inheritance, could have any right to complain of this change in the mode of collecting the revenue, because it would only deprive him of an unjust monopoly which he never ought to have possessed; but I think it right that all those who have become possessors of landed property by purchase, and who at the time could not have anticipated such a change, should be repaid out of the public savings so much of the purchase-money as exceeded what they would have given, if such a change had been in contemplation at the time.
As to our commercial treaties, it must be conceded that all nations are only concerned about their own interests, and favor us only so far as it is advantageous to themselves. Portugal, for instance, stipulates to lay lighter duties upon our manufactures than upon those of France, on which account it is pretended, that we are enabled to engross her markets, to the exclusion of that state; and for which boon we stipulate in return to deprive ourselves of a nearer and better market by laying heavy duties on the wines of France. This is considered by Portugal to be a great boon, but if France were made the favored country instead of us, what would be the consequence? France is a wine country and has no need of Portuguese wines, while Portugal has no means of purchasing French manufactures, except by the disposal of her wines. By excluding our manufactures, she would deprive herself of the best, if not the only market for her own, and therefore would very soon be glad to come back to us on our own terms. If we were to equalize the duties of Portuguese and French wines, or, what amounts to the same thing, take the duties off altogether, the Portuguese would be just as willing to sell their wine to us as before, but we should get it much cheaper. As there would be a considerable reduction in the price of French wines, in consequence of equalizing the duties, there would be an increased demand for French wines, and a diminished demand for the wines of Portugal. Portugal in consequence would be obliged to sell her wines at a cheaper rate, while France, for the sake of securing so good a market for her wines, would seek out some of our manufactures, which are either cheaper or better manufactured than she can procure at home, to purchase in return for them; and thus, at the same time that we were enabled to purchase wine from Portugal at a cheaper rate, we should open a fresh market for our manufactures in France. To lay heavier duties on the wines of France than we do on those of Portugal, is to tax our own countrymen for the benefit of the Portuguese. It is in fact to throw the monopoly into their hands, and offer a bounty for the benefit of the vine-growers in Portugal. At present, the great bulk of the people who drink wine in England cannot afford to drink French wines, on account of the heavy duty that is laid on them; and the Portuguese, like all other monopolists, very naturally take advantage of this circumstance to charge a bigher price for their wines, than they would be content to take, if there were a fair competition between the two countries. It can hardly be necessary, Sir, to state to you, that whatever duty is laid on the importation of foreign goods is paid by the English importer, and not by the foreign merchant. If all the duties were taken off foreign goods, the importer would pay no more for them to the foreign merchant than he does at present, and he
would be obliged to sell them so much cheaper, for if he did not, he would lose all his customers. Other importers would immediately start up, who would be content with a more moderate profit, and thus, as is always the case where a fair competition is allowed, every article would be reduced to the same rate that it now is, exclusive of the duties; or, in fact, rather lower, because at present all the presents and perquisites that are usually paid by the importer to the custom-house officers, are charged on the consumer, in addition to the regular duties. By permitting the goods of all nations indiscriminately to be imported duty free, that is, by favoring all nations alike, as should at once increase the number of sellers and the number of buyers, we should buy cheaper and sell dearer; we should increase the riches and resources of the country, while, in addition to the great saving in the expense of collecting the revenue, every penny that is now lost to the state by the frauds of smugglers, would be so much revenue thrown into the public treasury.
So far as the foreign trade is concerned, the throwing open our ports to all nations indiscriminately, and substituting an incometax for the excise and custom-house duties, would be attended with immense benefit to the country. We should buy cheaper, and (making allowance for the diminished price of labor) sell dearer than before, while this reduction in the price of labor would enable our manufacturers to set all foreign competition at defiance. The next point to be considered, is, how far our home market will be affected by the free importation of foreign manufactures. It can hardly be necessary to premise, that the free importation of foreign goods cannot affect those articles that are manufactured for exportation. We export woollen cloths to Spain for the sake of making a profit. If the French clothiers could afford to sell their cloths cheaper than we can, they would rather send them to Spain than to England, because they would undoubtedly get a better price for them there than they could here; and consequently it is only in the sale of those goods that are manufactured for home consumption alone, that our manufacturers can possibly be injured by the free introduction of foreign goods. The system of bounties has long been exploded, though, in some instances, still persisted in. A manufacturer that can only be supported by bounties, keeps so much capital from being employed in such a way as would produce a revenue to the country, and, though it enriches the individuals concerned in it, takes so much money out of the pockets of the state, and consequently is injurious to the community. A manufacture that can only exist by laying a heavy duty on the importation of similar articles from abroad, is, in fact, protected by a bounty, and the duty on this article, is nothing more than a tax which is levied on the consumer, not