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Great reliance is, I am aware, placed by some on the supplies we may derive from the Black Sea. There can be no doubt of the large exports which take place every year from that quarter, larger, perhaps, than those which are drawn from the Baltic.
But I have great doubts of any considerable portion of the corn grown on its shores finding its way to the English market. My reasons for these doubts are as follows:-The Black Sea is in the immediate vicinity of countries regularly importing corn. Constantinople, Malta, the Grecian Archipelago, some parts of Italy and Spain, draw their foreign supplies from thence, and commonly exhaust its stores; and it appears by a return presented to Parliament last year, that from the 5th January, 1817, when the imports from the Black Sea were first distinguished in the accounts kept at the Custom-house up to 1826, only 50,155 quarters of wheat have been imported into this country from thence; the year of largest import is 1819, when it amounted to 20,685 quarters. The distance is so great that the expense and risk attending such an import are great impediments to its becoming an extensive traffic.
There is another circumstance likely to create an increased demand for foreign corn in England, and that is, the increasing consumption of the various productions of grass land. It has been already adverted to; but its bearing on this part of the subject, and on the subject of duty on foreign corn, is so important as to require a fuller development.
In proportion as countries become densely peopled, the demand for animal food, for milk in its several shapes, and, consequently, for grass and hay, necessarily increases; the greater part of these cannot be imported from a distance in an uncured state; their bulk and the period of their duration render this impossible: thus it is that a natural monopoly of these products is established, and that all populous countries have so large a portion of their soil devoted either to meadow or pasture. Holland, we know, abounds in grass lands, so does the neighborhood of London and other large towns. It is singular that, while the first effect of increasing population is to convert poor pasture into arable land, the ultimate effect is to reconvert a considerable portion of it into rich meadow or pasture, There can be no doubt that the quantity of grass land in England is on the increase, and that, as its population augments, this species of cultivation will be greatly extended: this, too, is either land of the best quality, or the most advantageously situated; and it absorbs a considerable proportion of the manure which large towns produce. Hence arises a necessity for larger imports of foreign corn; and as grass land of this description is always the most valuable to the proprietor, its increase is one of the causes of the progressive augmentation in the value of landed property. From these considerations it is that I am strongly induced to believe we should,
under a freer system of trade, continue constantly increasing our imports of corn, and that the price would gradually, though perhaps slowly, increase. Such indeed appears to have been the case from the year 1773 to 1820, as appears by the following account of the import of foreign and Irish wheat into England.
'From 1773 to 1779 the annual average import was
1780 to 1789
1790 to 1799
1800 to 1809
Average price from 1773 to 1779
1780 to 1789
1790 to 1799
1800 to 1809
In the price too there may be traced a progressive rise, though the dearth prevalent at the close of the last and commencement of this century, together with the depreciation of the currency, and the interruption to the corn trade in the latter years of the war, caused the prices of the two latter periods to rise to a higher ave rage than they would otherwise have attained.
The fact of the alterations of the corn-law which have already been alluded to, is a further corroboration of this rise in price; we find by the law of 1773, 44s. as the price at which the duty of 6d. per quarter was payable; in 1791 it was raised to 54s., and in 1804 to 66s.; while the law of 1815 fixed 80s. as the import price. I believe these prices were not altogether arbitrary, but that the legislature, at the time of passing the act, took into consideration the average prices which had prevailed for some few years. Indeed, f doubt whether the country would quietly have submitted to these changes unless such a principle had appeared. These laws were all passed at periods of temporary depression of price, which then, as it would be now if the trade were in existence, was attributed to the import of foreign corn, which, however, in fact had little or nothing to do with it; and it is to be remarked that with the exception of the latter period, they never appear to have produced any effect at all. The price rose, as I imagine, by natural causes, after the passing of the act, and gave us virtually a free trade in corn, subject to a small duty.
It remains now to be seen what effect would be produced on our agriculture by the renewal of the trade in foreign corn; and the inquiry is the more necessary, as on this, as on other parts of the
The exports have been deducted.
subject, great exaggerations have prevailed. Both friends and foes of the corn-law unite in one common opinion, namely, that the admission of foreign corn would have the effect of driving the poor land of this country out of cultivation; and they have thus raised an alarm in the minds of the agriculturists, which creates the most serious difficulties to those who advocate an alteration of the law. Nor is such an apprehension to be wondered at; for if that were indeed the effect to be produced, the misery and desolation it would create throughout the county would be such that, deeply as I am convinced of the necessity of a change in the law, I own my zeal would be considerably abated by so dismal a prospect. My opinion, however, is, that no such effect would be produced. I do not believe a single acre, now cultivated with profit, would cease to be cultivated after the alteration of the law. The reasons ́ on which this persuasion is founded are as follows:-In the first place, although the average price of the last three or four years exhibits a great fall as compared with that which existed between 1810 and 1820, the latter being 87s. 10d., and the former under 60s., I am not aware of any quantity of poor land having been thereby thrown out of cultivation. I have neither seen nor heard of it; and being myself an occupier as well as a proprietor of poor land, I can take on me to assert, that if, in some partial instances, such an effect has been produced, it at least has been any thing but extensive. The effect which has been produced I believe to be this, that very expensive manures have not been purchased so largely, and spread with so prodigal a hand on the land; that draining and other expensive improvements have been carried on with less rapidity, and that clover leys have in some instances been allowed to lie down for a longer period than heretofore.
It may, however, be objected, that if foreign corn be admitted, it must displace an equal quantity of British growth; and this would be true if our ordinary produce were equal to our ordinary consumption, but of this I entertain great doubts. For forty-seven years, ending 1820, there never has occurred a period of five years in which an import of foreign corn has not existed; and it will be seen by a reference to the account already given of the imports of foreign corn, that, with one exception, each succeeding ten years exhibits an increase of these imports as compared with the period immediately antecedent-this can only be accounted for by sup posing that the ordinary produce had fallen short of the ordinary consumption. The experience of the last six years appears cer tainly at first to lead to a different conclusion; but if there be any truth in the explanation I have given of the circumstances which have enabled us to go on during that time without an import of corn, except indeed that admitted during the last and present year,
namely, an exhaustion of the stock in hand, it will not be found to be such an exception as to invalidate the hypothesis I have adopted. It should also be borne in mind that in 1820 we began with large stocks; there had occurred in the two antecedent years the largest import of wheat ever known, amounting to 1,582,379 quarters, and this was followed by one or two years of extraordinary abundance; the result of which was, that at the harvest of 1821 there was a much larger stock on hand than is usually the case, and which must have required, under any circumstances, a certain period to bring down to the usual level.
I have thus, Gentlemen, endeavored to place before you the leading features of this most interesting and important subject, and if I have been at all successful in explaining to you the grounds of the opinion I entertain on it, I shall, I hope, stand excused from the charge of needlessly agitating so momentous a question. I should indeed feel that had I remained inactive, impressed as I am with the necessity of an alteration of this law, I should have betrayed a most important trust confided to my hands when elected as your representative, that of endeavoring to remove a most serious obstruction to the peace and the future welfare of the community I should have held myself in some measure responsible for the evils which the continuance of the present corn-law must inevitably entail on our country. The effort of combating the prejudice which prevails on the subject has been painful to me in no ordinary degree, and deeply have I regretted the hostile attitude in which it has made me appear to a class so deservedly esteemed as the agricultural body-with whom I am intimately allied, not only by a community of interest, but union of feeling in all save this question. I would implore them to weigh well the arguments which have been advanced on it; and to reflect whether, independent of all pecuniary considerations, the re-establishment of that harmony which used to prevail amongst different classes in this country, and which this question has already done much to weaken, would not be cheaply purchased by conces sions no less demanded by fair argument than called for by the experience of those benefits which have resulted from the former existence of that most important of all branches of commerce, the trade in corn. I would implore them to consider that agriculture, although like other interests subject to temporary derangement, never can be other than permanently florishing in that country where trade and manufactures abound; and that any other advan tages to the agricultural interest than those which naturally arise from the increase of the industry, the skill and capital of the country are purchased at the expense of other classes, and though they may essentially injure, can never promote the real interest of England.
hoppi 4 OBSERVATIONS
1 # 1.
THE CORN LAWS,
W. W. WHITMORE, Esq. M.P.
IN CONSEQUENCE OF
TO THE ELECTORS OF BRIDGENORTH.
YOUR Letter to the Electors of Bridgenorth is distinguished by á fairness and liberality which give it every claim to attention on the part of those to whom the corn question is a subject of interest. Agreeing with you in many of the positions which you support, but being of opinion that there is much danger, in the present state of public feeling, of precipitancy in the alteration of the corn-laws which are now in force, I take the liberty of addressing to you, as one of the most able and candid supporters of the commercial interest, a few remarks on the subject, to which an attentive perusal of your letter to your constituents has given rise. You state, in unequivocal terms, your "fear" of "the immediate effects" to be produced by an alteration of the present system of corn-laws, unless we proceed in the measure "with great prudence;" and that, in amending such laws, it is "most desirable that we should not expose to unnecessary hazard an interest so extensive and so important as the agricultural interest of this kingdom."
When a gentleman like yourself, of independent character and circumstances, and eminently conversant with the philosophy, if not the details of commerce, comes forward as the champion of the mercantile world, and, with a candor and ingenuousness which are highly creditable to you, makes the admission which I have now mentioned, it ought fairly to be expected to curb the impetuosity of those who are disposed to overlook practical considerations of expediency, in their anxiety to conduct legislation on philosophical principles.