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The causes to which Mr. Jacob attributes the great increase in the exports evinced by the two periods ending in 1800 and 1805, are the deficiencies in produce which existed generally in Europe during the latter part of the last, and former part of the present century. England imported largely, owing as well to her natural position as an importing country, as to the deficient harvests of 1794 and 1795, and 1800 and 1801, during which, not only was there no impediment to import foreign corn, but bounties to a large extent were paid on its importation. The prices in those years of scarcity rose to an immense height, having at one time attained the extravagant rate of 127s. per quarter. The effect, too, of these deficient years was to work off stocks; and when once such an exhaustion has occurred, it requires some time to replace the deficiency thus caused. With respect to other countries, Mr. Jacob states, "that there was a constant demand in France for foreign corn from 1791 to 1801, owing to several deficient seasons having been experienced at the beginning of the Revolution. The agents of France were employed both in Europe and America in `purchasing corn, and hiring neutral vessels to convey it to France; paying but little regard to the price they gave for it, or to the rate of freight at which it could be transported. Holland, which scarcely has ever grown corn sufficient for its own consumption, felt a great want, owing to its internal sources of supply from Germany and Flanders being diverted from the usual channels by the circumstances of the war." Sweden also participated in the dearth of that period, and took as much foreign corn as her poverty could find the means of paying for. This accounts for the range of high price which prevailed in Europe during the period in question, and sufficiently explains the increase of exports from the mouths of the Vistula. The supplies were drawn from a greater distance; and Mr. Jacob mentions that he was informed in Poland, that in those years of prosperity to Polish agriculture, "wheat was brought by land-carriage to the Vistula from distances far too great to bear the expenses without the enormous price which it bore in the markets of England and France. It was sent, according to these reports, not only from the farthest parts of Gallicia, but even from the vicinity of Brunn and Olmutz in Moravia; and that some of the wheat of Hungary was conveyed over the Carpathian mountains to Cracow, and there shipped in flats for Dantzic and Elbing, whilst Volhynia and Podolia were emptied of their stores."
Mr. Jacob mentions these circumstances as reports; but he adds, "Whether they are true or not to the full extent stated, it is natural to suppose that the very high price which wheat had reached in the years under consideration, must have vastly extended
the limits of the circle from which it could be collected; and would induce the inhabitants to dispatch to the high markets whatever could be spared by the exercise of the mostrigid eco-s nomy." unub
Mr. Jacob further states, that with a duty of 10s. or 12sper quarter, payable on the import of foreign corn into Great Britain, and supposing the price in our markets to be from 60s. to 64s. there would not be such a profit derived as to induce any great exertions to increase cultivation in the districts bordering on the Vistula; and that none but the driest, heaviest, and whitest wheat would be imported. The inferior descriptions would not pay for importation, unless the average in England was much more than 64s.
The whole of the information contained in the report from which these extracts are taken, is so valuable, that I regret it has not been rendered more accessible to the public, by appearing in a more popular form than that of a Parliamentary Report. In one respect, the opinion just quoted appears to differ from the one I have given; Mr. Jacob seems to think that, with a duty of 10s. or 12s., it would require an average price of upwards of 64s. again to re-establish the trade with the Baltic; whereas, I have assumed that that effect would be produced by an average of 55s.-the truth is, that all calculations of this kind are liable to considerable error, and that nothing but experience can decide the exact level at which prices would settle, after the existence of the trade for so long a period as to have produced its full effects. If the opinion given by Mr. Jacob be found correct, I should be disposed to advocate a lower rate of duty than the one above stated, being convinced of the necessity of a regular trade in corn, and feeling some doubts whether, under these circumstances, it would be found to exist. A duty so high as to amount to a prohibition, except in periods of scarcity, would retain much of the evil of the present system; it would equally tend to create that fluctuation of price, and that difference of price between this and other countries, from whence I anticipate so much of injury.
This uncertainty respecting the effect which an alteration in the law would produce, induces me to be of opinion, that it would be desirable, in the first instance, to commence with a graduated scale of duty, by which we should attain our object of re-establishing the trade, without exposing ourselves to the risks contingent on experiments of this nature: this is the more necessary in the first introduction of the improved system, on account of the effect opinion commonly produces for some time after any material change of this description.froy of Jud) 920 x of letter ai by An attentive examination of these effects will show, that grea
caution should be used in the mode in which the change is introduced. Extravagant hopes on one side, and equally extravagant alarms on the other, agitate the public mind on the opening of new sources of supply, and produce stagnation in the demand for home produce. The silk trade exemplifies this: long before the opening of the trade with foreign countries, it had begun to produce effects of an injurious nature to our manufactures; and the result will prove, to all appearance, that the panic created by the alteration of the law was chiefly, if not altogether the result of an unfounded opinion; but the distress was not on that account the less real, and it is most desirable that in amending the corn-laws we should not expose to unnecessary hazard an interest so extensive and so important as the agricultural interest of this kingdom.
The alarm already so industriously spread, and the extremely low price at which foreign corn is now sold, call for peculiar caution in this instance. I have no fear respecting the ultimate effect to be produced on English agriculture by freedom of trade in corn; but I do fear the immediate effects, unless we proceed with greatprudence in the alteration of the law; nor is there any inconsistency in this. All the advocates for a re-establishment of the trade in foreign corn have acknowleged the necessity of a cautious approach to it, and have proposed various modes in which the change might most beneficially be effected. Mr. Ricardo, for instance, recommended commencing with a duty of 20s. per quarter, and reducing it 1s. in each year, until it had reached 10s. The objections I have to this scheme are, that, with moderate prices in the British market, it would be a prohibitory duty for five or six years; and that with a high range of price it would create an uncertainty for so long a period as altogether to paralyse the internal trade in corn; and I am convinced this would be attended with injurious consequences. A fixed duty is now more generally recommended; but I fear it is wholly inapplicable, as well to the case generally, as to our present circumstances. In the first place, they who advocate a fixed duty must be prepared to maintain it in periods of scarcity, which has never yet been attempted, and which would be an innovation pregnant with the greatest peril to the safety of the community at such periods of feverish excitement and severe suffering, they must either contemplate this, or propose that government should be invested with power to suspend the operation of the law at such seasons, or that the legislature should pass a temporary act for this purpose. Great objections present themselves in my opinion to both these modes of proceeding, the first would delegate to government a most invidious power, which no good administration would wish to exercise, and which a weak one might convert to purposesri
injurious to the public interest. The second would be highly inconvenient, and not unattended with danger-it would frequently involve the necessity of Parliament assembling at unusual seasons, solely to discuss and settle this question, and it would add to the heat and irritation which are but too apt to disturb the public mind in times of dearth. Indeed, the more I reflect on this subject, the more I am convinced the law ought to contain within itself an executory principle, which will accomplish the object of protection to our own agriculture, to the extent to which it may be affected by the peculiar burdens to which it is exposed, while it affords no interruption to the freest admission of foreign corn in periods of scarcity. This will most easily be effected by a graduated scale of duty; that it entails the necessity of continuing the system of averages, and that averages have in some instances been productive of fraud and injury to the public interest, I am well aware:-but so long as duty on the import of foreign corn forms a part of our policy, I fear it is impossible to avoid all the inconveniences with which such a system is necessarily connected. Besides when averages are to regulate the amount of duty, they are very different in their effects than when on them depends the question-whether any trade in corn is to exist or not-the temptation to fraud in the first case is so much weaker than in the second, as no longer to be liable to the same objections.
The system of averages, and a graduated scale of duty, has existed ever since the year 1773; and I am not aware of any valid objection having been made to it, until the interruption to the corn trade introduced by the law of 1815. This system, too, would facilitate the alteration of the law much more than a fixed duty could do; few would agree as to the amount of the latter, while the former might be so modified as to meet with general approbation amongst the more moderate and enlightened of the parties interested in the question.
The duties I have recommended on former occasions, were as follows:
When the price was at or under 45
55 and upwards
I should be disposed to add to this, that on the price reaching 65s. the duty should be reduced to 5s., and on its rising to 70s. should cease altogether.
I do not maintain that this is the most perfect system that could be introduced, but it is that which, amidst the difficulties of the case, and the conflict of interests involved in this question,
would, I believe, be found to contain the least of present evil, and facilitate our return to a more wholesome state. It would afford this facility by giving us that experience of the effect of a trade in foreign corn, without which we are now legislating somewhat in the dark. If, for instance, it were found, as I am strongly inclined to believe would be the case, that under this system the higher duties would never be demanded, on account of the price being at or above 55s., and that 10s. became the duty payable at all times except those of unusual deficiency, it would establish the fact now so much controverted by the agriculturists, that a duty of 10s. would be an efficient protection to their interest—and that fact, once established by experience, the legislature would be enabled to alter the law on that foundation, and to do away with the high duties, which would be, as the high duty of 24s. and 3s. formerly was, a mere dead letter. If, on the contrary, it were found, as is far from being impossible, that a duty to the amount of 10s. had a tendency to raise price beyond the average of 55s., there would be an equal facility in lowering it. The grand object is to reestablish an habitual trade, and that object being once accomplished, all further changes which the interests of the country might require, would be rendered comparatively easy.
My own opinion certainly is, that we must approximate in time more nearly to the system of free trade. I am strongly inclined to believe, that the natural price of grain in this country, the price I mean at which, without the payment of any duty on import, wheat would commonly be sold, is higher than is generally ima gined, and that with the progress of society its price would increase. If it be true that with a duty of 10s., and an average price of 55s., we should import 5 or 600,000 quarters of foreign wheat -what would be the effect of a demand for England of double that quantity, a demand by no means unlikely to occur within a few years, on account of the increase of our population? Could it be supplied to us at the same rate? I have great doubts of it, and I know not from whence it could proceed; if a difficulty occurred in obtaining it without an increase of price, such an increase would take place, and the necessity of so high a duty would no longer exist. I am aware that improvements in agriculture, or the discovery of more fertile sources from whence supplies can be drawn, may counteract this tendency to an augmentation in price, and I am far from wishing to dogmatise on a subject necessarily involved in so much obscurity as the future supply of food for the consumption of this country; but I own I do not see any great probability of such increased supplies being obtained without some augmentation of price; and on that must chiefly depend the quane tum of duty to be paid on the import of foreign corn. Hom