Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

there is a prevalence of a general similarity of seasons over the whole of Europe; within certain latitudes.

+

MIL

Mr. Lowe's information is highly important on this subject.

"

$

*

X

The public," says he, "particularly the untravelled part of the public, are hardly aware of the similarity of temperature prevailing throughout what may be called the corn-country of Europe, we mean Great Britain, Ireland, the north of France, the Netherlands, Denmark, the north-west of Germany, and, in some measure, Poland and the north-east of Germany. All this tract is situated between the 45th and 55th degrees of latitude, and subject, in a considerable degree, to the prevalence of similar winds. Neither the superabundance of rain which we experience in one summer, or its deficiency in another, are by any means confined to Great Britain and Ireland; while in winter, both the intensity and duration of frost are always greater on the Continent. Exceptions certainly exist in particular tracts; but in support of our general argument, we have merely to recall to those of our readers who are of an age to recollect the early part of the war, or who have attended to registers of temperature, the more remarkable seasons of the present age: thus, in 1794, the spring was prematurely warm on the Continent, as in England; there, as with us, the summer of 1798 was dry, and that of 1799 wet: again, in 1811, the harvest was deficient throughout the north-west of Europe, generally from one and the same cause, blight; while that of 1816 was still more generally deficient, from rain and want of warmth. In regard to a more remote period, we mean the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries generally, if the temperature has not been so accurately noted, we find, from the coincidence in prices, that it is highly probable that there prevailed a great similarity in the weather of the Continent; thus, in France, the latter years of the seventeenth century, the seasons of 1708 and 1709, as well as several of the seasons between 1764 and 1773, were as unpropitious, and attended with as great an advance of price, as in England."

Similar statements are given by Dr. Adam Smith, as noticed by Mr. Tooke.

[ocr errors]

The forty-two years which you mention, as being remarkable for the prosperity of the country, presented a greater extent of fluctuation in prices, than any which has been experienced since; the lowest prices having been 36s. in the year 1779, and the highest 128s. 6d. in the year 1801. Here was a fluctuation to more than three and a half times the extent; whereas a fluctua

f.

The present State of England in regard to Agriculture, Trade, and Finance, &c., by Joseph Lowe, Esq.

tion to only about double the extent occurred since the year 1815: the highest price, 94s. being in 1817, and the lowest, 45s. in 1822.

Not less remarkable are the fluctuations which have occurred in the price of corn from the year 1646, at which the registry begins, to the commencement of the period from which you date your calculation. A slight inspection of the table of prices will prove this to be the case; and the following are some of the most striking differences :

:

29

7 to 58

8

· 65
36

. 61

. 33

• 22
. 26

S. d. s. d.
From 1648 to 1654, 6 years, the price varied from 75 6 to 23 1
From 1655 to 1659, 5
From 1662 to 1666, 5
From 1672 to 1674, 2
From 1674 to 1676, 2
From 1676 to 1679, 3
From 1687 to 1688, 1
From 1689 to 1693, 4
From 1695 to 1696, 1
From 1698 to 1702, 4
From 1706 to 1709, 3
From 1710 to 1715, 5
From 1716 to 1719, 3
From 1723 to 1725, 2
From 1727 to 1728, 1
From 1728 to 1732, 4
From 1740 to 1743, 3
From 1743 to 1746, 3
From 1755 to 1757, 2
From 1757 to 1761, 4
From 1761 to 1765, 4

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

23

. 69

42

[ocr errors]

47

60

30

·

. 37

·

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

48

45

22

30

53

. 26

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

It seems to be demonstrable, therefore, that no alteration which can be made in the system of corn-laws, no assimilation to what has been regarded as the practice of former periods, will, in any material degree, prevent that fluctuation of prices which, though depending mainly on the season, you are disposed to regard as very much the fruits of the present system. In considering the subject of fluctuations, you are, indeed, a little hard on state doctors, without considering how natural it is for doctors to disagree, and how difficult is a decision as to the judgment exercised, either by the medical or political physician, when it is by the result, not by the means employed in effecting it, that ability is for the most part estimated;" ab eventu, præcipue, honorem aut dedecus reportant." But when you charge the Parliamentary faculty with throwing their patient, the agriculturist, into an ague, you appear to forget that there is such a thing as mistaking an ague, which is generally considered as an inno

cuous and manageable sort of complaint, for a more formidable disease, and thus endangering, by severe or mistaken remedies, the production of a more severe malady.

You seem not to bear in mind, likewise, that the mere difference of feeling, which is experienced in a variable climate; or, perhaps, the little chilliness, or slight cold, to which the most healthy, in our insular situation especially, must be subject, may be conjured up to the most formidable symptoms, calculated to excite alarm through the whole kingdom, and to accumulate prescriptions and exorcisms from every part of the empire.

Et Metus, et inalesuada Fames, et turpis Egestas,
Terribiles visu formæ.

The ague-fit is, however, nothing more, in fact, than the maladie du pays of this and of every other country; and, unless a process can be invented for changing climate, and producing a sort of artificial temperature in the atmosphere, it will be in vain to expect to submit it to Parliamentary authority.

$

In representing the natural progress of nations to be from the agricultural to the manufacturing state, you employ a very common and a very specious view of the subject. America should, therefore, according to this hypothesis, be solely or principally a grower of corn, which she should dispose of to Great Britain for manufactures, which ought to be the chief objects of our attention.

But, because we have extensive manufactures in this country, is this a reason why farming is to be a secondary consideration with us, when, according to your own estimate, we are to depend for twenty-two parts out of twenty-three of our consumption of wheat, and of course for an equal, or even greater degree, of many other articles of growth, on the production of our own country, or of Ireland?

[ocr errors]

Would it be politic, likewise, in America, because she is a new country, to lend herself to this hypothesis, and to give up to old Europe all claims to commerce and manufactures, and trust to the sale of her corn for procuring manufactures, colonial produce, and the luxuries of the East?

America has good ports, and an active enterprising people; and it would be bad policy in her not to direct part of her energies to the production or procurement of various articles of importance in life with which to exchange, as we do in this country, for the product of her own soil.

You state the various circumstances which prevent America from exporting much corn, and England from receiving much; and to what use therefore, unless the hypothesis can be applied on a large scale, is the hypothesis at all? England ought to be,

by calculation, the largest corn-importing country in the world; and yet you consider the importation of one twenty-third part of the produce necessary for her subsistence, as carrying your views into effect. The general experience of the world, indeed, seems to indicate, that no country which has soil enough, and that of sufficiently good quality to grow corn to feed its inhabitants, will depend for any large supply on foreign countries.

I know that with many, however, it is a common notion, and particularly with the political economists of large towns, that the cultivation of corn in this country should be entirely a subordinate consideration; and that it would be the best policy for a nation such as ours is, which is largely concerned in manufactures, to trust for our principal supply of grain to other countries, which could grow it at a cheaper rate, and which would at all times be glad to exchange it for our manufactures.

[ocr errors]

If we consider your statement, and that of Mr. Jacob, as to the probable amount of importation of corn into this country, to be at all correct, and compare this with the greatest importation which has taken place, under every temptation of gain to the foreign grower, it will be seen that this view of things is of a very extravagant nature, and is a deduction of mere theorists.

It would be difficult to define the precise kind of land to which alone the attention of the farmer ought to be directed in producing corn in this country.

During the very high prices of grain which existed some years since, all sorts of artificial manure were employed, at a very heavy expense which could not at present be borne, in increasing the productive powers of every description of land; but we may, I think, safely infer, on the subject of cultivation, that if a farmer depends for his manure on stock which he is able to support by hay, natural or artificial grasses, or green crops grown in rotation with white ones on his own ground, without having recourse to oil-cakes, or to the production of other farms, he will not be carrying on his husbandry at such a rate as will require exorbitant prices to remunerate him. There is unquestionably a value of production, at which land of an inferior quality will not only afford no rent, but not pay for any sort of cultivation bestowed on it; and of the policy of reducing prices, so as to throw such land out of cultivation, you express your decided disapprobation. You doubt, indeed, whether a single acre, now cultivated with profit, would cease to be cultivated, after such an alteration of the cornlaws has been made as you consider necessary; but, at the same time, you very forcibly and feelingly observe, that if the consequence of the admission of foreign corn would be the driving the poor land of this country out of cultivation, your zeal for a change

of law would be "considerably abated," by the dismal prospect of the "misery and desolation" which must be produced throughout the country by such a measure.

Some of our modern political economists consider the devastating principle against which you so properly contend, as a trifling little occurrence in society; a mere balancing of accounts between agriculture and commerce, in which the one or the other may happen, as the case may be, to be the debtor or the creditor.

*

66

It must unquestionably be from an ignorance of the extent of the evil, that such gentlemen could view it with indifference, either as far as individuals or the public are concerned. Theorists will go far in support of their opinions, and ultra-economists further than most men; but it would be difficult to conceive, that any could be found of such imperturbable coolness of mind, as to console themselves amid the misfortunes of any class of society, by the consideration that they may have been produced according to true principles of philosophy, and with due regard to the symmetry of hypothesis; and that they ought, therefore, to be cheerfully submitted to, as necessary and unavoidable dispensations of Providence. Such politicians may be classed with those described by Bacon, as gerentes se pro centro mundi, ac si omnes lineæ in se suisque fortunis debeant concurrere;" but it is not the good cheer, or the fascinating discussions of Political Economy Clubs, those noctes cœnæque Deorum, which, I am persuaded, will induce any Englishman when it comes to the push practically to concur in opinions which would lead to that extent of evil which you have so strongly deprecated. During the years 1813 and 1814, we are told by Mr. Jacob, that an eighth part of the produce of the country in wheat arose from cold clay and light sandy soils, which had recently been brought into cultivation. But an eighth part of the wheat consumed by the country is not less than 1,700,000 quarters; and this is equal to the whole amount of importation, even including the corn from Ireland, which has ever been produced from every stimulus which extravagant prices have given; and it exceeds, by three times, the quantity on which this country, according to your view of the matter and that of Mr. Jacob, is able permanently to depend for its supply of the prime necessary of life. Government, fortunately, form a third, and independent party, between those who push agricultural claims to an inordinate extent, and those who set them at nought, as antiquated and obsolete, and as being out of fashion in all good society; and, I think, we may fully depend on their discretion and judgment, for not making near 2,000,000 of the population of this country dependent on other countries for their principal sub

sistence.

« PředchozíPokračovat »