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than 250,000 quarters: And, estimating the total average exports from the other ports of the Baltic at 50,000 quarters, which we believe considerably exceeds the mark, it will be seen that the total exports from all the ports on that sea do not, in ordinary years, amount to 300,000 quarters; which, supposing it were all to come to England, would not be more than equal to eight days supply of our consumption of wheat, or to four days supply of our consumption of all sorts of grain !
It is contended, however, that in the event of the freedom of the corn trade being established, foreigners would regularly calculate upon the demand of Great Britain; and that the extraordinary fertility of the Polish, Prussian, and Russian provinces bordering on the Baltic, would enable their agriculturists to raise a vastly increased quantity of grain, and, by glutting our market with unlimited supplies, to drive all our inferior and middling land out of tillage. But the fact that our ports were open, with scarcely any interruption, from 1795 to 1815, and that, notwithstanding the extraordinary stimulus to importation afforded by the high prices of that period, our imports rarely amounted to one-twentieth part of our entire consumption, show that the apprehensions of excessive importation are altogether imaginary. But in order still better to clear up this point, ministers determined to send a gentleman to travel through the countries in question, to collect authentic information with respect to their present state, and their capabilities for producing an increased supply of corn. Much, it is obvious, of the success of this plan was to depend on the qualifications of the individual selected for the mission; and though we are not sure that it might not have been advisable to have associated two or more persons in so important an expedition, we are persuaded that no one individual could have been found better qualified to undertake it than Mr Jacob—the gentleman sent out. Mr Jacob had already visited the North of Germany and Prussia ; and besides being advantageously known by the attention he had paid to statistical inquiries, he possessed a competent knowledge of the practical details of agriculture. But the Report produced by him, since his return, is the best proof of his fitness for the mission. It is in every respect a most valuable document. Mr Jacob had access to all the best sources of information; and he has industriously availed himself of them, to furnish the most accurate and minute details with respect to the natural fertility of the soil, the agricultural economy, and the actual condition of the rural population of Prussia and the lower provinces of Poland. The faots and observations he has collected and detailed, show that the capabilities of the Northern provinces of Poland, and generally of the whole North of Europe, for furnishing an increased supply of corn, are vastly less than had been commonly supposed. Agricultural science is, almost everywhere, at the very lowest ebb; the soil of the provinces contiguous to the sea is thin, sandy, and unproductive; and though the more distant Polish provinces of Massovia, Gallicia, and Volhynia, are comparatively fertile, and might easily be made to furnish a considerable supply of corn for exportation, their great distance from the sea, and the expense attending the carriage of their produce to Dantzic, amounting on an average to from 12s. to 18s. a quarter, oppose almost insuperable obstacles to their ever becoming great exporting countries.
In 1817 and 1818, when our ports were open, and the average price of wheat in Great Britain was as high as 88s. 10d., the total quantity of that grain exported from Dantzic amounted to only 504,934 quarters, being at the rate of 252,467 quarters a year. And had the price of corn in England been so low as 60s., it is doubtful whether the exports in these years would have amounted to 120,000 quarters. Nothing, therefore, can be more completely without foundation, than the notions so generally prevalent with respect to the excessive importations that would take place, under a system of free trade, from the North of Europe. There is o reason to think, were our prices steady at about 50s. or 55s., that we should be able to import above 550,000, or at most 600,000 quarters of all sorts of grain from the whole of Northern Europe. But on the extravagant supposition that we imported double that quantity, or 1,200,000 quarters, it would, after all, amount to only ONE-FORTIETH part of our entire consumption. And as our greatest supplies must always be derived from that quarter, it is immediately seen how ridiculous it is to suppose that the perfect freedom of the corn trade could ever have the effect of rendering us in any considerable degree dependent on foreign supplies.
Assuming, however, that our imports should, under a system of free trade, regularly amount to 3,500,000 quarters, as in 1818, when the price was as high as 83s. 8d., still it is obvious that, even on this exaggerated hypothesis, they would fall short of one-thirteenth part of the required supply; and, therefore, instead of its being true, as the agriculturists affirm, that a third or a fourth part of the land now under tillage in this country would be converted into pasture in the event of the ports being thrown open, not more than a thirteenth part of our cultivated land could be in any degree affected.
- The misapprehensions that are universally entertained with respect to the price at which foreign corn could be imported, were our restrictive regulations abolished, are if possible still more extraordinary than those entertained with respect to the quantities that could be imported. One would be disposed to conclude, were they to read only the paragraphs put forth by the more zealous advocates of the agricultural or manufacturing interests—for however much these gentlemen may differ in every thing else they agree in this—that were our Corn Laws abolished, we might obtain unlimited supplies of wheat for 20s. or at most 30s. a quarter! The only thing we have to regret is, that these statements should have no better foundation than the hopes or fears of those by whom they are put forth : For whatever Sir Thomas Lethbridge, or Mr Holme Sumner may say to the contrary, it would be a prodigious advantage to be able to obtain sufficient supplies of food at such a reduced rate. But, unfortunately, the perfect freedom of the corn trade would procure us no such boon. It would indeed be a great and signal benefit, because it would seeure us perpetual plenty, and would present an insuperable obstacle to any very oppressive rise of prices in future; but it would not depress them to one half the extent commonly supposed. The stories that are everywhere current with respect to the extreme cheapness of foreign corn, are not really entitled to more credit than those in the Arabian Nights. And though our ports were opened, without duties or restrictions of any sort, we are bold to say that not one tittle of evidence has been produced to warrant the conclusion, that foreign corn could be sold in our markets in ordinary years for less than from 48s. to 55s. a quarter.
Dantzic is, of all the Continental markets, that from which we must always derive the greatest supply of corn. But we have already seen, that in 1817 and 1818, with a price of no less than 88s. 10d., we were not able to import more than 252,467 quarters a year! This is certainly very unlike the current reports about the excessive abundance and cheapness of Polish wheat; but, lest it should be said that, owing to our ports being shut in 1815 and 1816, the Poles, not calculating upon our demand, had no corn raised for our markets, we shall endeavour to ascertain what may be considered as the lowest price for which any considerable quantity of wheat, as 100,000 or 200,000 quarters, might, in ordinary years, be obtained for from Dantzic. It is not, of course, possible to determine such à point with perfect accuracy; but the statements we are now about to lay before our readers are sufficiently precise for all practical purposes.
The first authority to which we shall refer is that of Mr Oddy, the intelligent author of the work on European Commerce, published in 1805. Mr Oddy visited Dantzic, and most other ports on the Baltic; and, having carefully inquired into the facts of the case, he states, that 32s. 6d. a quarter is the lowest price for which any considerable supply of wheat could be purchased at Dantzic. (p. 250.) In like manner, Mr Solly, an extensive corn merchant, who was formerly in business at Dantzic, stated to the Agricultural Committee of the House of Commons in 1821, that when there was no direct foreign demand, a quarter of wheat might be put on board ship at Dantzic for about 35s.; that the freight to London would be about 4s. 6d. or 5s, more; and that the expense attending its unloading and warehousing there, would be an additional 3s.; making its price to the importer about 43s, a quarter. (Report, p. 316.) Mr Solly further stated, that when the foreign demand was considerable, the price was much higher; and, according to the data given in his evidence, it is plain that fine Dantzic wheat could not be imported into London, in ordinary years, in the event of our ports being opened, at less than from 50s. to 55s. a quarter.
Perhaps, however, we shall be able to draw a more accurate conclusion with respect to the probable future price of corn at Dantzic, from observing what it has actually been for the last fifty years. And, therefore, we beg to call the attention of our readers to the following Table furnished to the Committee of 1821, by Mr Grade of Dantzic, of the average prices of corn at that city, free on board, in decennial periods from 1770 to 1820. Average Price, from ten to ten years, of the different species of
Corn, free on board, per quarter, in Sterling money, at Dantzic.
Aggregate Average price 45 4 27 2 20 10 13 10
Now, if to the average price of wheat at Dantzic during this period, we add 7s. or 8s. a quarter, on account of freight and insurance to London, and warehousing there, we shall have 52s. or 538. a quarter, as its minimum cost in England during the same period.
But we shall be told, that whatever prices may have been at Dantzic five or ten years since, they are very different at present; and that the official returns made by the British Consul of the price of wheat in that city in 1824 and 1825, show that it did not exceed 21s. a quarter, or 24s. free on board. But while we admit the accuracy of this statement, we deny that it affords the shadow of a reason for doubting any of the conclusions we have been endeavouring to establish. It is true that, during the last two or three years, there has been, owing to the shutting up of the English and French ports, and the consequent cessation of a large proportion of the foreign demand, a great decline in the price of Polish wheat. We are not, however, to confound the accidentally low prices, caused by the occurrence of such circumstances, with their common and
average level: For we may be assured, that if the present prices are below the sum for which corn can be raised for exportation in ordinary years, the depression cannot be permanent. There is no doctrine in economical science, or indeed in any science, better established than that which teaches, that production must cease when its expenses are no longer paid : And, though we have no very high idea of the penetration of the serfs of Poland and Russia, we apprehend they have sagacity enough to cease sending corn to market, when they find that the price they obtain for it is insufficient to remunerate them for their outlay. It is obvious, therefore, that the determination of the question with respect to the permanence of the present low prices, hinges upon the point, whether they are or are not sufficient to defray the expenses of the cultivators: If they are, we may expect to be able annually to buy from them about as much wheat as would furnish a single breakfast for the city of London for 24s. a quarter, exclusive of the expenses of carriage; but if they are not, we need not flatter ourselves with the expectation of getting so great an advantage.--Let us see how the fact stands.
To begin with native authorities:-Mr Grade of Dantzic states, in a letter printed in the Appendix to the Report of the Agricultural Committee of 1821 (p. 364), that · From a calcu• lation made out by an eminent practical land proprietor in
the adjoining province, it appears, that if land could be had ' for nothing, and reckoning upon no casualties, such as a failure of the crop, extraordinary taxes, requisitions, quartering of
troops, &c. the mere producing prices of grain would be• 300 F. Prussian currency per load of wheat, or 31s. 9d. per quart. 150 f.
per do. of rye, or 15s. 10d. per do. 6 120 f. per do. of barley, or 12s. 8d.
do. 6 90 f. per do. of oats, or 93. 6d.