Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

nation has been, for a series of years, in the habit of importing corn from another, it must have exported some more acceptable produce as an equivalent. The farmers of the corn-growing country will, after this commerce has been established, calcuJate as much upon the demand of the importing country, as on that of their own citizens--they will cultivate an additional quantity of land, raise larger crops, and consequently pay higher rents, because they are assured of this vent for their produce. The benefits of such an intercourse are reciprocal; and the corn-growers, as much as the corn-buyers, are interested in a continuance of the traffic, and would suffer as much by its cessation. When we consider,' says Mr Ricardo, the value of even a few weeks' consumption of corn in England, it is evident no interruption could be given to the export trade, if the Continent supplied us with any considerable quantity of corn, without the most extensively ruinous commercial distress--distress which no sovereign, or combination of sovereigns, would be willing to inflict on their subjects; and, though willing, it would be a measure to which, probably, no people would submit.-It was the endeavour of Bonaparte to prevent the exportation of the raw produce of Russia, more than any other cause, which produced the astonishing efforts of the people of that country against the most powerful force, perhaps, ever assembled to subjugate a nation.'

Were the intercourse between Great Britain and Poland unrestricted, we should be able, by exporting manufactured goods of the value of 10001., to import as much wheat as it would cost 20001. to raise on the poor soils now under cultivation in this country. Surely then, it cannot be doubted, that it would be most for the general advantage, that capital should be withdrawn from the cultivation of such soils, and invested in some more productive employment, and that the corn which is now obtained from them, should be imported.—Such a measure would materially increase the command of the labouring classes over the prime necessary of life, and would go far to double the rate of profit, and consequently to prevent the efflux of capital to other countries.

In almost all the discussions which have hitherto taken place respecting the Corn trade, the interest of the farmer has been always considered as the same with that of the landlord. Nothing, however, can be more completely different. Whenever the real price, or the cost of production of raw prodụce, is increased, the profits of agricultural and of all other stock are reduced; and, on the other hand, when the price of raw produce falls, profits are augmented. The average price of corn in Britain, is more than three times its average price in Kentucky; but a Kentucky farmer, with a capital of 1000l., would, notwithstanding, dėrive from it at least as much profit as he could derive from a capital of 3000l. or 40001. employed in farming in this country. It is landlords, and not farmers, who reap advantage from a high real price of corn, and from the cultivation of bad lands. The interest of the latter is precisely the same with the interest of the consumers; and, however paradoxical it may at first appear, it is unquestionably true that a permanently high price of raw produce is as certainly ruinous to the farmer as to the manufacturer.

But, although we are thus decidedly of opinion that the abolition of the restrictions on the importation of foreign corn, is not merely called for on the ground of their forcing a very large proportion of the capital and industry of the country into a comparatively disadvantageous employment, but also as a means of relieving the country from the most oppressive and ruinous of all possible taxes, we think the abolition ought to be cautiously and carefully brought about. Time ought to be given gradually to withdraw capital from the poor soils now under cultivation. And, for this purpose, it would be proper that a diminishing scale of duties should be adopted. The price at which foreign grain should be admitted duty free, might be made to decline from 80s., its present limit, by 2s. or 3s. per quarter annually, till it reached 50s., when the ports might safely be thrown open, and the restrictive system for ever abolished.

But, besides the many advantages that would result from the increase of trade, and the reduction of taxation, consequent on a repeal of the Corn-Laws, a very great diminution of taxation might be effected, by retrenchments in other branches of expenditure. For example, the military peace establishment of Great Britain and Ireland in 1792, was fixed at 27,000 regular troops; and the whole aggregate force employed at home and in the colonies, only amounted to 44,000, and the expense to about two millions. Now, however, exclusive of a yeomanry force of between 60,000 and 70,000, which had no existence previous to the late war, we maintain 60,000 regular troops in England and Ireland only; and the entire expense of the military department is at least equal to seven millions ! Here, certainly, à radical reform is imperatively necessary. We do not think it too much to affirm, that the army expenses might be reduce ed a full half, without occasioning the least injury to the public service. It is a monstrous absurdity to contend, that four times the force which sufficed to preserve the tranquillity of the country, in very critical circumstances, and when the pube lic mind was powerfully excited by the French Revolution, should be necessary in a period of profound peace, and when

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

legitimacy is everywhere triumphant. · Such an excess of force
is not only uncalled for and unnecessary, and in the highest de-
gree unconstitutional, but is altogether incommensurate with
the means of the country.' A rigid economy is in every go-
vernment the first of virtues; and in ours, it is also the most
pressing of duties.
: In addition to the retrenchments which might be effected,
not in the military only, but in every other branch of the pub-
lic expenditure, it cannot be doubted that a very great reduc-
tion of the duties affecting various commodities might be made,
without occasioning any diminution of the revenue. When the
real price, or the cost of production, of any commodity, is so
great that it can only be purchased by the rich and wealthy
classes, no reduction of duties could greatly extend its consump-
tion. But it is otherwise with those commodities whose prime
-cost does not exceed the power of the great body of the people
to become purchasers, and which are, besides, in very great re-
quest. In such circumstances, a reduction of any heavy duty
by which they may be burdened, would prodigiously extend
their consumption; and, without diminishing the revenue, would
add to the comforts and enjoyments of all..

These conclusions do not rest on theory only. Previous to 1744, the East India Company's sales of Teas amounted to no more than about 600,000 pounds weight annually; producing a revenue of about 140,0001. In the early part of 1745, an act was passed, by which the tea-duties were very greatly reduced ; and, in 1746, the sales amounted to nearly two millions of pounds weight, and the revenue to 228,000).. But this unanswerable demonstration, of the superior advantages resulting to the revenue itself from low duties, was unable to restrain the rapacity of the Treasury. In 1748 the dutics were again increased; and fluctuated between that epoch and 1784, from 64 to 119 per cent. In the last mentioned year, however, the Government, having in vain tried every other means to prevent the smuggling and adulteration of tea, reduced the duty from 119 to 12 per cent.: And the revenue, instead of falling off in the proportion of one to ten, owing to the increased consumption, only declined in the proportion of one to three. The shortsightedness of ministers, and the narrow and contracted policy on which they have almost always acted, put it out of our power to refer to many such conclusive instances to prove the superior productiveness of diminished taxation: there are, however, one or two others which deserve to be pointed out. In 1787, the duty on wine and spirits was lowered 50 per cent. ; but the rei enue was, notwithstanding, considerably augmented. The a

verage annual produce of the tax on coffee, for the three years previous to 1808, amounted to 166,0001. In the course of that year, the duty was reduced from 2s. to 7d. the cwt.; and the average annual produce of the reduced duty for the next three years, instead of being diminished, rose to 195,0001.! -showing that the consumption had been increased in a quadruple proportion, and that the comforts of the people had been mates rially increased.

It is plain, therefore, that a very considerable deduction might be made from some of the most oppressive duties, without occasioning any diminution of the revenue. Nor do we think that it is too much to expect that, although 50 per cent. were deducted froin the duties on salt, tea, leather, soap, 'spirits, beer, French wines, &c., the revenue, instead of being diminished, would be increased. This, however, is a matter of very inferior importance. Whether these anticipations should be realized or not, it is indispensable that Taxation should be diminished. Instead of attempting to raise the revenue to the level of our present unmeasured expenditure, we must reduce our expenditure to the altered circumstances of the country, and make it quadrate with our diminished income. Subsidiary measures for facilitating and encouraging emigration, and for giving every possible freedom to the circulation of labour, might also be advantageously adopted. But it is only from a Reduction of Tax ation, and a total Repeal of our barbarous Restraints on the Trade in Corn, that we are to expect adequate and effectual relief. Neither should it be forgotten, that we have now reached a period when it is no longer possible to commit faults with impunity; and, that the longer the work of retrenchment is de layed, the more difficult it will be to restore prosperity to the country.

Art. X, 1. Substance of the Speech of the Right Honourable

Lord GRENVILLE in the House of Lords, Norenber 30th, 1819, on the Marquis of Lansdowne's Motion, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the State of the Coun, try, and, more particularly, into the Distresses and Discontents prevalent in the Manufacturing Districts, and the Execution of the Laws with respect to the numerous Meetings which have

taken place. pp. 62. Murray, London. '1820. 2. The Substance of the Speech of the Right Honourable W. C.

PLUNKET in the House of Commons, on Tuesday, 238 No vember, 1819. pp. 24. Bancks, Manchester. . 1819. THESE two Speeches have been, for various reasons, and with

very different views, extremely praised, both within and

THES

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

without the walls of the illustrious Assemblies where they were delivered. Lord Grenville's authority is deservedly high, from his great experience of public affairs, long official life, intercourse with many parties in the State, commanding, statesmanlike talents, indefatigable industry, great information, and unimpeached integrity. Mr Plunket's reputation as an orator stands justly among the most exalted of the age; and as he rarely takes part in debates, and hardly ever except upon questions connected with Ireland, the fame of his eloquence has been better preserved than that of almost any speaker in Parliament. To obtain the sanction and the active cooperation of two such persons, on any question, was of great importance to the rash but feeble placemen who now rule this country: But infinitely more valuable was this piece of good fortune, upon an occasion when every friend of Liberty-every man whose judge ment was neither warped by ambition, or the less noble failing of impatience for promotion, or bewildered by a momentary alarm, was certain to be found in ardent opposition to the pernicious and slavish policy of the Court. The liberal and enlightened views which have hitherto directed both the emi. nent individuals in question, and their avowed connexion, both in the sunshine of Court favour, and in the less cheering shades of retirement from office, with the great body of the Whig opposition, rendered their unfortunate concurrence in the measures of the Government a consummation, perhaps more devoutly to be wished, than readily to be expected. Unhappily for the country, and, we will add, for the future fame of those distinguished personages themselves, this rare felicity was in store for the Ministers, among many other pieces of good fortune not to be expected in the ordinary course of events : The administration which had subdued France, and sent Buonaparte to St Helena, was destined, before its close, to invade the most sacred parts of the Bill of Rights, and begin a censorship of the English Press; and the Cabinet of Messrs Addington and Bragge Bathurst, and Jenkinson and Pole, after marching to Paris, where Mr Pitt and Mr Fox could only send a spy or a flag of truce, have likewise achieved the glory of frighting two of their stoutest and most contemptuous adversaries, at home, into an alliance for the alteration of that Constitution which had survived all the corruptions of the last age, and the violence and delusions and panics of our own disastrous times.

Thus happy in their new confederates, like skilful generals, these placemen turned their forces to the best account, by crying up their value in the most extravagant terms. Lord Grenville's name and weight in the country were perpetually in their

« PředchozíPokračovat »