Imatges de pÓgina
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had already done all which legislative hostile to the merchant or the manuenactment could do. In excluding facturer, or any wish to obtain a moforeign grain when wheat was under nopoly for the agriculturist. He only 80s. a quarter, it secured to the farm- argued, that the House having in 1815 er all the monopoly which the na- taken the petitions of the agricultution would possibly submit to. Under rists into consideration, resolved that the experienced failure of this provi- some protection should be afforded sion, however, the views of the agri. them; and the committee appointed culturists had taken a different turn. to inquire into the subject reported, The general call was now for a high that, unless a remunerating price of permanent duty, to be levied equally, 80s. per quarter of wheat were secuwhatever the price of grain might be. red to the farmer, it would be imposProhibition had failed, and permanent sible for him to go on. Now, the duty being something different, had prayer of the petitions at present beat least no positive experience against fore the House, with the language of it. It does not seem to possess any which honourable members were sufother recommendation. À complete ficiently acquainted, was, that the peprohibition, so long as it operated, titioners should have such a remunerawas certainly a more powerful instru- ting price as would enable them to ment than any duty could be; and carry on their trade : they did not ask when the price rose to a great height, more at present than the House had it was easy to foresee, that no nation formerly acknowledged that they were whatever, least of all this nation, entitled to ; but they shewed that the would long bear a high duty on its provision which had been made for import. These considerations not- their protection in 1815 was totally withstanding, it was understood that inadequate to the purpose for which the heads of the agricultural interest it had been intended. Nobody, he were determined to make a push for maintained, could be more loyal than the adoption of this new system. They the agriculturists, and no complaints did not, however, advance to support could

be more free from any taint of it with open front, but judged it pru- discontent at the burdens which had dent to make their approach by the been brought upon them by the late slow and circuitous process of a com- arduous struggle. They were grateful mittee.

for the security of liberty and properDuring the early part of the ses- ty which they enjoyed in consequence sion, several desultory conversations of it. It was obvious, however, that took place at the presentation of the agriculture was in a state of rapid desuccessive crowds of petitions; but it cline since 1814, and that it was fallwas not till the 3d of May that the ing off more rapidly than ever. An subject was regularly, and on a great honourable gentleman, whose opiscale, brought before the house. Mr nions on the subject of political ecoWestern was the individual under nomy had great weight, had said, that whose auspices it was understood to if it could be shewn that the agriculbe peculiarly brought forward ; but turists bore a greater proportion of as he then laboured under indisposi- any public burdens, such as poortion, Mr Holme Sumner, a highly re- rates, than other classes of the comspectable landed proprietor, and a munity bore, Parliament should afford moderate supporter of ministers, un- them assistance. Now, could the ho. dertook the task of introducing it. nourable gentleman doubt that there He began with denying ar.y feelings were burdens on the agriculturists from which other classes were ex- Mr Robinson, the member of adempted ? What would the honourable ministration under whose superintengentleman say to the weight of the dance the concerns of trade, and parwhole church establishment, which ticularly of the corn trade, were pewas borne exclusively by the landed culiarly placed, rose to express the interest—to the whole county ex- sentiments of himself and his colpense, to the whole expense of all the leagues. Among the various subjects highways in the kingdom, except that to which the attention of Parliament of the turnpikes ? It was impossible was directed, none required to be that the agriculturists of a country so treated with more reserve and caution, situated could, without the assistance and, he would add, with less frequenof some restrictive measures, competecy, than the question which his howith foreign markets, when corn from nourable friend had this night subthe Black Sea could be brought into mitted to the House. The discussion our ports at half the price at which of all topics connected with the subour own farmers could afford to sell it. sistence of the people gave rise to so Some persons might say, "since grain much apprehension, that in all coun. can be procured from foreign coun- tries the agitation of these subjects tries at half the price, why grow any was thought to involve great danger. here?" If this principle were admit- He regretted, therefore, to find the ted, it was clear that the agriculturist question of the corn-laws introduced must withdraw his capital; and the at present. When it was mentioned consequence would be, that Great Jast session, ministers had unequivoBritain must be rendered wholly de- cally declared their disapprobation of pendent on foreign productions: one any change in the existing law. Adof the most beautiful countries in the mitting that there certainly existed disworld would thus be converted into a tress, he yet conceived it to have been perfect desert, and thrown into a state a good deal exaggerated. He did not of dependence on foreign imports for see the usual symptoms of general agthe necessaries of life. The agricul- ricultural distress; he did not see teturists pledged themselves to prove, nants leaving their farms ; he did not that the bill of 1815 bad left them see individuals taking them on specunearly as unprotected as if it had ne- lation as they became vacant; he did ver passed. In striking the average, not see the poor-rates increasing. a system of fraud and falsehood had The depression appeared to him to been practised, by which the interests arise simply in consequence of the of the agriculturists had suffered most change from a state of war, the cirmaterially; for, since the year 1815, cumstances of which had afforded enthe English grower had not received

couragement to the cultivation of inan average price of 72s. The honour- ferior lands, such as could be renderable gentleman declined mentioning ed productive only at an expense any specific measure; at the same time, which prices in time of peace could he gave it to be understood, that the no longer pay. The law of 1815 was success of the present application said to be ineffectual, because it did would be followed up by a request to not produce to the farmer a constant adopt some such measure for their price of 80s. for his corn. It was said relief.

at the time, by some honourable genMr Gooch, in seconding the motion tlemen, that if the bill were brought of Mr Sumner, went over very nearly in, then 80s. would be the minimum ; the same ground.

but he had contended, on the contrary, that it was calculated rather to sessing landed property, need not demake 80s. the maximum price ; and sire to see him situated otherwise than so the event had proved. But as to the beneficially : if, he said, that price observation of the honourable gentle- had been sufficient to enable him to man, he could only say, that if the cultivate his ground with spirit, and bill in question had failed to produce with advantage to himself and to its a price of 80s. to the farmer, it had owners, he really saw no ground for failed to do that which, in truth, it contending that it was not calculated never was intended to do. He did to produce, during the last five years, say, that the advantage contemplated something like the same beneficial was that of removing from the farmer results. They had heard a great deal the terror of an influx of foreign corn of the existing distress as connected at all times, which it was hoped would with this measure in some degree, lead to such an extension of capital but how could that distress be possito be employed in agricultural objects bly charged upon the corn laws ? No -he did not mean to say an unwise foreign corn had been imported since or extravagant extension-but such February 15, 1819, and he supposed an increased cultivation of land, that there was scarcely a quarter of fothe quantity of corn raised in this reign corn now in a private warecountry should be adequate to its house. However low the price of consumption. It was strange, that corn might now be, he conceived that those who expected that the corn-bill it was impossible to change that prewas to produce a price of 80s., and sent low price by legislative enactdeclared that the agriculturists were ments. The honourable member (Mr ruined because it had not done so, Holme Sumner,) in his opening, had would find that the price in the last said, that the petitioners asked for no five years averaged not less than 78s. specific remedy. He hoped that they 10d. If they looked at the imports of did not : it gave

him

great satisfaca corn from the year 1792 to the year tion to find, that the specific reme1812, they would find the average dy, which every agriculturist had been importation (of wheat) to have been, told was the only one that could save as nearly as possible, during those 20 him, had not been touched upon by years, rather less than 500,000 quar- his honourable friend-he meant that ters annually ; and it so happened enormous, that monstrous, that outthat the average price, for the same rageous proposition, the laying on a period, was about 78s. 6d. It did permanent duty of 40s. per quarter therefore appear, that during the last upon corn imported. On the subject five years the annual average price of averages, he was convinced that a had been much the same with that of great delusion prevailed. He had the other period he had mentioned. particularly examined the different If, then, the average price of corn, inethods which it was proposed to taking it from 1793 to 1812–a term substitute, and had ascertained that of 19 years—had been sufficient to none of them would make

any

sensiinduce the employment of additional ble difference. He would not object, capital in agriculture, and to place however, to an inquiry into this subthe farmer, in point of his price, in ject, as there might prevail, he beliethat situation which they must all ved, some local abuses. The best perwish to see him stand in; and he, in sons were not always chosen for the common with every other person pos- office of inspectors'; for instance, in

VOL. XIII. PART 1.

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one of the Welsh counties a lady had system on which a great country been appointed. If any measure could moves and acts. It had now proved :: be proposed, which would render the totally inadequate to its objects, and existing law less liable to abuse, he, had shewn the inipossibility of putting for one, would give it his support. a permanent artificial price on a neBut he really felt that he should aban- cessary of life by any legislative exdon the duty which he owed to his periments. In what situation would country, to that house, and to the the poorer, the industrious and lacharacter of the office with which he bouring classes, find themselves, if the was connected, if he did not protest price of corn were now at 40.or 50 against every change in a law which, per cent higher than it actually was ? while it could extend no relief to this His honourable friend (Mr Western) class of the community in the present had not stated to what extent he instance, was calculated to occasion would wish the price to be carried ; much general inconvenience and in- but what, he would again ask, must jury by being unnecessarily altered. become of those multitudes, those

Mr Western, notwithstanding his beehives of population, that were to indisposition, made a short speech in be found in our manufacturing towns, support of the motion. He insisted if any considerable addition were to particularly on the dependence of the be made to that price? Already we manufacturing interest upon the agri- stood at double the price of the rest cultural. It might be proved, by fair of the world, but with this some horeasoning, supported by facts, that nourable gentlemen were not satisthe depressed state of agriculture was fied : would they then wish it to be the primary cause of the distresses of trebled ? It was true that the farmer the manufacturer ; in all cases the was now suffering ; so was the manufarmer first had been embarrassed, facturer, and indeed every class of the and the difficulties of the manufac- community. His honourable friend turer had followed as a consequence. seemed to think that the cause of all He need refer no farther back than the evil was, that the farmer could to 1815 and 1816 for proof of what not purchase from the manufacturer ; he had advanced; while, in the begin- but so it might be represented the ning of that period, wheat was 120s. other way, that the manufacturer was per quarter, the manufacturers were not able to deal with the farmer, or Hourishing; and when the price fell find consumption for his produce. It to 65s. or 70s., then they began bit- had been recently shown to the house terly to complain. In 1817 it was by a great proprietor at Birmingham known that agriculture began to re- (Mr Spooner, that there had been vive, and with it, of course, the ma- a falling off from 56,000 to 48,000 nufacturing districts felt the allevia- cattle in the consumption of that tion.

town. The great decrease in the Mr Baring, a leading representa- demand for landed produce, arose tive of the commercial interest, ex- from the inability of people to pay

for pressed his high satisfaction with the it. He admitted that there was much view which had been taken of the suffering, particularly among the class subject by Mr Robinson. He himself of smaller landed proprietors, but had opposed the corn bill in the first conceived it was in vain to look for a instance, but had said no more on the remedy. Prices had been forced up, subject since, being convinced of the and they must inevitably come down. general impolicy of disturbing the Mr Frankland Lewis was inclined

to support the plan of a protecting They could not shut their eyes to this duty, but on a principle opposite to fact, and declare that that which was that adopted by the agricultural lead- right in 1815 ought, under very difers. He wished a duty moderate in forent circumstances, to be consideramount, as a milder measure, and as ed right now. He could not but peraffording less obstruction to trade than suade himself that the time was not an absolute prohibition. The mode in far distant when it would be found which protection was at present given necessary for them, in some degree, was very inconvenient. He concei- to retread their steps, and to adapt ved that the adoption of a prohibition the protection to the altered state of was a worse course of proceeding, expense; when, instead of increasing with reference to the protection of that protection, they would feel a sinthe agriculturist, than a positive duty. cere desire and an anxious wish to The existing system operated as a examine this question, with a view to prohibition to a certain extent; and, the alteration and amendment of the as it so operated, it must occasion a existing system. sudden alternation from a prohibition Lord Milton generally concurred to an unlimited supply-a state of in Mr Robinson's views, but could things the most mischievous that could not agree in the expediency of that be imagined. The country was not limited inquiry to which he had shewn now in a situation, with regard to cul- a disposition to assent. If there was tivation, including rent, perfectly dif- an inquiry at all, it ought, he conceiferent from that in which it stood in ved, to be on the broadest and most 1815, when the corn law passed. He extensive scale, and to include the believed the expense of cultivating a employment of the people, the means farm was diminished nearly one-third of subsistence, trade, the currency, This he stated as the result of inquiry; and all the means of national subsistand he was in the hearing of those who could contradict him if he erred. Mr Curwen was for a fair and full If the fact wanted corroboration, it inquiry, which should take into conwas to be found in the manifestos of sideration the general interests of the the agriculturists themselves, where community, and the mode of equali. the reduced price of labour was sta- zing the burdens upon each class. ted over and over again. That, how- He wished the fundholders to bear ever, was not all; there was likewise the public burdens equally with the the reduced price of horses, and of landholder, and would therefore be almost every thing necessary for farm- inclined to support a modified ining. This created a very essential come tax, instead of the taxes on salt, difference. Then what was the re- leather, soap, &c. which pressed disult? It was this—that those who had rectly on the poor. invested capital when the prices were Mr Ricardo opposed the bill, and high, must be nominally losers at this all restrictions on the corn trade in time; but that, if any persons now in- general, upon those principles of povested fresh capital in agricultural litical economy which he had so propursuits, they would stand at a charge foundly studied. It became the leone-third less than they formerly could gislature, not to look at the partial do. The protection recommended in losses which would be endured by a 1815 proceeded on the expense of few, who could not cultivate their cultivation, including rent. That ex- land profitably, at a diminished remupense was now every way diminished. nerative price, but to the general in.

ence.

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