Imatges de pÓgina

always an advantage to the farmer ; but notwithstanding, in forming oor estimates of profit and loss, we should never forget that, if prices be lowered, it is because quantity has been increased, and that the latter to a certain extent at least, compensates the former.

But we maintain, that till last year prices' were not below the scale which is allowed on all hands to yield an ample remuneration to the agriculturist. The average price of wheat for the seven years preceding 1821, was, we repeat, 76s. a fact which proves with irresistible force both that the corn bill of 1815 bas operated with snfficient efficacy, and also, that the landholder has no justifiable argument for the clamour 'which he has been pleased to employ at county meetings, as well as in the face of Parliament.

The agricultural distress then, of which we daily hear so much, bas not been of long standing ; for, till the last year, the prices of corn were considerably above the maximum, or protecting prices of all former times. But, it may be rejoined, the prices of 1821 were very much depressed, and the prices of 1822 are still lower, whilst the capital of the 1. i farmer, which must be expended year after year in the cul

tivation of the soil, cannot long resist the effects of such ruinous operations, and will accordingly be totally and irretrievably lost. Some expedient 'therefore, must be speedily adopted, otherwise the land will be left unploaghed, and the wrecks of our capital conveyed to other countries, where it may be employed with greater advantage. Something in short, must be done to console and relieve the disheartened and embarrassed husbandman.

As the distresses in question, are every where acknowledged to proceed from an excessive production which has for the time deranged the wonted relation between demand and supply, the means of relief are neither very obvious, nor if viewed in the light of correct policy, can any of them be altogether free from objection. The expedient which most

naturally presents itself, is that which is actually adopted by + government, and which consists in affording to the farmer

the means of reserving his stock of produce for the choice of an improved market. A million, advanced at the moderate interest of tbree per cent, upon the security of corn lodged in proper warebouses, may possibly have the effect of extending a temporary relief to such farmers as from their local situation can avail themselves of the arrangement. Aid has frequently been granted to the merchant and manufactører, upon a similar principle, and of course no objection can be urged against the measure on the ground of motive or

usage; still from the very batare of the case itself, and the cumbrous quality of agricultural produce, it may be doubted how far the benevolence of Parliament is likely to prove effectual. It is not difficult to find objections to all such expedients, inasmuch as they necessarily interfere more or les with the natural adjustment of supply and demand ; and most readers accordingly, will admit the justness of the following remarks made by Mr. Ricardo, however little they may be disposed to allow their application in the circumstances now before as.

“ If the cause of the low price of corn be owing to an abundant quantity in the country, and not to an abundant quantity hurried prematurely to market, by the distress of the farmers, the

proposed remedy will be really mischievous, as in that case we must go through the ordeal of low prices, and increased consumption, which is always in a degree consequent on low prices before the supply will adjust itself to the demand, and prices become again Temunerative. By the encouragement thus given to storing corn for a twelvemonth, the period of glut may be retarded, but it must come at last. On the other supposition that from alarm or distress, more than a due proportion of corn is prematurely sent to market, and that before the next harvest, the whole supply will, in consequence, prove deficient, and the price will rise : I must observe, that sharp-sighted individuals, prompted by a regard to their interest can discover this, if it be so, with more certainty than Government. Money is not wanted to purchase the wheat thus unduly brought to market ; nothing is required but a conviction of the probability of a diminished supply or an increased demand, and a probable rise of price to awaken the spirit of speculation. If there were any well founded opinion of such a rise, we should soon witness a more than usual activity among the corn-dealers. When there was a prospect of continued wet weather just before the harvest of last year, did we not see an immediate spring in the price of corn, &c. &c.

In answer to the above remarks, as applied to the particular question of agricultural distress, it will be enough to say that it is just because there is no prospect of a deficiency before barvest, nor even then, that the relief in question is vouchsafed to the farming interest. Could sharp-sighted in. dividuals foresee a scarcity, and thereupon commence extensive purchases of corn, the expedient now proposed would not only be unnecessary, but as he bimself describes it, " really mischievous." As however the gift of prescience is denied to mortals, they must be content to proceed on the ground of probability; holding themselves prepared to turn

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to advantage the contingencies which they cannot anticipate; and little as we know as to what a year may bring forth, the most ignorant requires not to be told that the seasons in this climate are extremely uncertain, and moreover, that years of plenty are commonly succeeded at a certain distance, by years of comparative scarcity. The periodieal ebbs and flows of abundance and want, are not confined to the banks of the Nile, where the lean kine swallowed up those which were fat and well favoured, but are experienced every where, and nay, even subjected to the result of probable calculation, within a given cycle or term of years. The farmer, therefore, who locks up his corn, and accepts pecuniary accommodation in order to meet the claims of bis establishment, proceeds to a certain extent on known ground, and trusts to a ehance of which the value may be roughly estimated if it cannot be accurately determined. There is no Joseph, to certify bini at what period the years of plenty shall be succeeded by years, of less abundance ; but he knows that such years will come at no great distance of time, and it is there. fore by no means anreasonable to rely upon their occurrence for the improvement of his property. Like all other chances however, the one under consideration has its evil as well as its good; and if prices do not rise in the course of the present or succeeding year, the condition of the farmer who may avail himself of the Government loan, will instead of being ameliorated, only prove so much the more depressed.

In the midst of suffering and adversity, blame is frequently attached where there is no fault, and relief is as frequently expected where no relief can come, The agriculturist, in the case now before us, ascribes much of the evil which bears opon him, to the operation of Mr. Peel's bill, as it is usually called, and deprecates, of course, the continuance of a system fraught with so much direct ruin and confusion. It is maintained by the opponents of that wise act of legislature that money has been thereby forcibly raised in value 25 per cent., according to some; 50, and even 60 per cent., according to others. These persons, however, as Mr. Ricardo jastly observes, found their statements, not on the condition of things which subsisted when the bill in question passed, but on facts respecting our currency, which had long ceased to exist before that event took place. In 1813 and 1814, the depreciation of paper compared with gold was at its highest point, the market price of the latter being then 51. 8s. and even 51. 10s. per ounce; but in 1819, when Mr. Peel's bill passed into a law, the value of paper was only five per cent below its ancient standard, gold at this period being


41. 26. or at the most 41. 3s. the ounce. The assertion, there. foro, that the measure now mentioned, raised the value of our currency 50 or 60 per cent. is founded in error, and gives a very unfair view of the operation of a statute, which the circumstances of the times had rendered absolutely necessary. It was expedient, as the author well observes, that an end should be put to a state of things which allowed a company of merchants to regulate the value of money as they might think proper: and the only point which, in 1819, could come under consideration was, whether the standard should be fixed at 41. 28., which was the price of gold, not only at the time when Parliament was legislating, but its price for nearly the whole of the four preceding years, or whether the ancient standard of 31. 17s. 10 d. should be restored.

“ Between these two prices Parliament was constrained to de termine, and I think in choosing to go back to the ancient standard, it pursued a wise course. If, indeed, in 1819, or immediately precediog 1819, gold had been at 51. 10s. an ounce, no measure could have been more inexpedient than to make so violent a change in all subsisting engagements, as would have been made by restoring the ancient standard; but the price of gold, as I have already said, was then, and had been for four years, about 4l. 2s., neyer above and frequently under that price: and no measure could have been 80 monstrous as that which some reproach the House of Commons for not having adopted, namely, of fixing the standard at 5l. 10s. ; that is, in other words, after the currency had regained its value within 5 per cent. of gold, under the operation of the bad system, again to have degraded it to 30 per cent. below the value of gold.”

The rise of value in the currency, and the consequent depression of the value of goods, would have been confined to 5 per cent. bad not the Bank, in their anxiety to resume payments in coined gold, raised somewhat the bullion market, and thereby still further elevated money and sunk commodities. We know not to what extent the Bank is chargeable on the ground now stated; for as Mr. Ricardo seems a little effended at that establishment, for not having adopted his bullion scheme of payments, some allowance must be made for the exaggeration of controversy, and for the warmth of personal feeling. At the most, however, the effects of cash payments cannot have extended to more than 10 per cent. in depreciating agricultural and all manufactured commodities; a change which, as it operates equally on all money transactions, and acts for as well as against every one who buys and sells, cannot possibly have produced more than a small share of the embarrassments and defalcations of wbich the landed

interest complains. To repeat the bill of 1819, therefore, would be the most unwise expedient that ever entered into the head of a desperate speculator, intent only upon present relief, and totally regardless of the future. Parliament has accordingly turned a deaf ear to every proposal having that repeal for its object: and the country may congratulate itself upon the comparative impunity with which so important a step as the general resumption of cash payments has been accomplished.

Taxation, a never-failing topic of declamation and complaint, is next laid hold of, as the main source of agricultural calamity, and Parliament has accordingly been dunned with petitions to relieve farmers from their share of the public burdeps, and thereby to re-establish them in their wonted prosperity. This clamoar is likewise founded in ignorance. Taxes which press equally upon all do not press upon the occupier of land in particular; and all such imposts as affect him as a producer, if they have been some time in existence, have found a compensation by raising the price of his commodity to the consumer. Farm produce bas not been lowered in consequence of new taxes, which, meeting with an accidental excess in the supply, have prevented the agriculturist from finding that compensation which every producer looks for in an addition to bis prices. On the contrary, not only are the taxes which more immediately affect the farmer, of considerable standing, but they are such as have been proved by experience to be perfectly compatible with à high price of raw produce; for all that are now in existence, and many more, were exigible in 1812 and 1813, when the average price of wheat was, respectively, 125 and 108 shillings the quarter. In fact, the taxes which bore upon the farmer, as a producer, have been greatly lightened, and several of bis other charges have been likewise diminish, ed, since prices began to decline-a circumstance which ought to have attracted the attention of the most unthinking, and exposed the fallacy of many a plausible argument.

On this part of the subject the reasoning of Mr. Ricardo : is equally just and striking. Were all the taxes which feed the exchequer repealed at one sitting of Parliament, the cir. cumstances of the farmer would not be bettered in the slightest degree ; for, says he, “there is no other rational solution of the cause of the fall of agricultural produce but abundance," and the repeal of taxes would not diminish the quantity of corn. This opinion, however, at once so sound and so obvious, be finds it necessary to defend against the charge that

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