ページの画像
PDF
ePub

Of bounties on the exportation of corn.

rectly contrary to their interest. But this consi. deration, all powerful as it is, will sometimes yield voluntarily to national indignation, and is some. times forced to yield to the resentment of a sovereign. It is of sufficient weight in practice when applied to manufactures; because a delay in their sale is not of such immediate consequence, and from their smaller bulk they are easily smug. gled. But in the case of corn, a delay of three or four months may produce the most complicated misery, and from the great bulk of corn, it will generally be in the power of a sovereign to execute almost completely his resentful purpose. Small commercial states which depend nearly for the whole of their supplies on foreign powers, will always have many friends. They are not of sufficient consequence to excite any general indignation against them, and if they cannot be supplied from one quarter, they will from another. But this is by no means the case with such a country as Great Britain, whose commercial ambition is

peculiarly calculated to excite a general jealousy, and in fact has excited it to a very great degree. If our commerce continue increasing for a few years, and our commercial population with it, we shall be laid sq bare to the shafts of fortune, that nothing

Of bounties on the exportation of corn.

but a miracle can save us from being struck. The periodical return of such seasons of dearth, as those which we have of late experienced, I consider as absolutely certain, upon our present im.. porting system : but excluding from the question at present the dreadful distress that they occasion, which however no man of humanity can long banish from his mind, I would ask, is it politic, merely with a view to our national greatness, to render ourselves thus dependent upon others for our support, and put it in the power of a combination against us, to diminish our population two millions ?

To restore our independence, and build our national greatness and commercial prosperity on the sure foundation of agriculture, it is evidently not sufficient, to propose premiums for tillage, to cultivate this or that waste, or even to pass a general inclosure bill, though these are all excellent as far as they go. If the increase of the commercial population keep pace with these efforts, we shall only be where we were before, with regard to the necessity of importation. The object required is to alter the relative proportion between the commercial and the agricultural population of the country, which can only be done by some system which

Of bounties on the exportation of corn.

will determine a greater proportion of the national capital to the land. I see no other way at present of effecting this object, but by corn laws adapted to the peculiar circumstances of the country and the state of foreign markets. All systems of peculiar restraints and encouragements are undoubtedly disagreeable, and the necessity of resorting to them may justly be lamented. But the objection which Dr. Smith brings against bounties in general, that of forcing some part of the industry of the country into a channel less advantageous than that in which it would run of its own accord,' does not apply in the present instance, on account of the pre-eminent qualities of the products of agriculture, and the dreadful consequences that attend the slightest failure of them. The nature of things has indeed stamped upon corn'a peculiar value ;2 and this remark, made by Dr. Smith for another purpose, may fairly be applied to justify the exception of this commodity from the objections against bounties in general. If throughout the commercial world every kind of trade were perfectly free, one should undoubtedly feel the greatest reluctance in

1. Wealth of Nations, vol. ii. h. iv, c. v. p. 278.

2 Idem.

Of bounties on the exportation of corn.

proposing any interruption to such a system of

general, liberty; and indeed, under such circumstances, agriculture would not need peculiar encouragements. But under the present universal prevalence of the commercial system, with all its different expedients of encouragement and restraint, it is folly to except from our attention the great manufacture of corn which supports all the rest. The high duties paid on the importation of foreign manufactures are so direct an encouragement to the manufacturing part of the society, that nothing but some encouragement of the same kind can place the manufacturers and cultivators of this country on a fair footing. Any system of encouragement therefore, which might be found necessary for the commerce of grain, would evidently be owing to the prior encouragements which had been given to manufactures. If all be free, I have nothing to say ; but if we protect and encourage, it seems to be folly not to encourage that production, which of all others is the most important and valuable.'

1 Though I have dwelt much on the importance of raising a quantity of corn in the country beyond the demands of the home consumption, yet I do not mean to

Of bounties on the exportation of corn.

Let it not however be imagined, that the most enlightened system of agriculture, though it will

recommend that general system of ploughing, which takes place in most parts of France, and defeats its own purpose. A large stock of cattle is not only necessary as a very valuable part of the food of the country, and as contributing very greatly to the comforts of a considerable portion of its population ; but it is also necessary in the production of corn itself. A large surplus produce, in proportion to the number of persons employed, can never be obtained without a great stock of cattle. At the same time it does not follow, that we should throw all the land *that is fit for it into pasture. It is an observation of Mr. Young, and I should think a just one, that the first and most obvious improvement in agriculture is to make the faliows of a country support the additional cattle and sheep wanted in it. (Travels in France, vol. i. p. 361.) I am by no means sanguine however, as to the practicability of converting England again into an exporting country, while the demands for the products of pasture are daily increasing, from the increasing riches of the commercial part of the nation. But should this be really considered as im. practicable, it seems to point out to us one of the great causes of the decay of nations. We have always heard that states and empires have their periods of declension ; and we learn from history that the different nations of the earth have flourished in a kind of succession, and that poor countries have been continually rising on the ruins of their richer neighbors. Upon the commercial system, this kind of succession seems to be in the natural and necessary course of things, independently of the effects of war. If from the increasing riches of the commercial

« 前へ次へ »