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law which could not lessen, it was a law which could do nothing but augment, the aggregate of the distresses which bore upon the community
The same people who acted as the prime movers in that grand specimen of ignorant and selfish legislation, are again at work. They are endeavouring to increase the same evil. They want to frame other and stronger laws for making corn dear; and the danger is alarming that they will succeed. How can it fail to be alarming, when the people who are called upon to make corr déar, are the sellers of corn-the persons whose incomes are to be increased by every fraction which they add to the price of food!
What these people are loudly proclaiming is, that the farmer must obtain relief. He will otherwise be ruined, they tell us; and then, lo! the ground will wholly cease to be cultivated, and we shall be all left to starve.
When people carry out their arguments to conclusions so extravagant as these, we may rest assured that they are not governed by reason, but hurried on in the pursuit of some ends, by passions which obscure their peason. If there is only a slight falling off in the quantity of corn produced, will not the price rise so high, as to draw capital from every other employment, till the demand is satisfied? Suppose the present agricultural capital to be diminished, this is an event which must of necessity raise the profits of agricultural capital; and the moment these profits rise above the profits of capital in other employments, capital will begin to leave them, and flow into agriculture. This is stated merely to show, that when they try to frighten us with a total loss of food, unless we follow their schemes for relieving (as they call it) the farmers, they only hold up to us an ill-formed scare-crow, which has nothing in
of terror, but the name. When they proclaim the necessity of relieving the farmers, we are ready enough to admit that there is great distress; and wherever there is distress, we would bestow relief, as far as lies in our power. But first let us see clearly what relief to the farmers really
Let us see what it is that distresses the farmers. And let us take care that we are not deceived and abused upon this head. Is it meant to be said, that the price which is got for the produce which the farmer raises, is not sufficient to bring back to him what it has cost in the raising? This is not pretended; and if it were, it could be proved not to be true: for there is this peculiarity in the raising, of corn, that in proportion as the price of it falls, the cost of raising it falls. The cost of raising oorn consists almost entirely in food, or in what is equivalent to food; it consists in the seed, in the food and value of the labouring eattle, and in the food of the agricultural servants; for all that part of their wages which does not consist in food, is a trifle in the amount of agricultural expense.
The fact then is, that the same quantity of food expended in the raising of corn, will produce exactly the same return in corn now, that it did when the price of corn was the most extrava-gant. The farmer, after deducting the quantity, or the value of the quantity, consumed in raising his crop, has the same surplus of corn to dispose of; but this surplus he cannot dispose of for the same price. What then is the consequence? It is very plain, and we entreat the reader to mark it well. It is not that he cannot carry on his business; for his business produces to him, after paying his expenses, the same surplus in corn as ever; but as this surplus cannot be sold for the same money as before, he cannot afford to pay the same money-rent to his landlord, nor the same taxes to the Government. To be sure, ifhe is bound by a lease to pay the same rent, and the landlord compels him to pay it, he will be distressed. But this alone (if the taxes are lessened) is the cause of his distress: this, and nothing else. What then will happen, if the Legislature gives him the relief for which the landlords are calling; that is, makes a law to render corn dear? Why this, and this alone, that the farmer will be able to pay to the landlord the accustomed rent. All that is to be taken from the public, is to be given to the landlord. Turn it which way you will, to this it always comes in the long-run. What the landlords are labouring with all their might to procure, is a tax to be laid upon the rest of the community, of which the proceeds are to be placed in their pockets; a tax, not direct indeed, not taken out of the pockets of the people, and put at once into the pockets of the landlords; but a tax which passes by a few turuings and windings, through a bit of a labyrinth, to the pockets of the landlords; a tax in some measure concealed; a sort of a clandestine tax. If a tax, however, must be raised upon the rest of the community for the benefit of the landlords, far better would it be to levy it directly. There is no way in which they can be enriched at the expense of the community, so detrimental to the community, as by laying duties on the importation, and granting bounties on the exportation of corn. Abolish these duties and bounties ; let us get corn wherever it is cheapest; and in order to satisfy the landlords, lay a tax upon bread, the proceeds of which you distribute among them in proportion to their estates. In comparison with the present system, this will be advantageous to the public. This will not injure the community farther than the money paid. In compelling you to raise corn with a far greater consumption of labour than that with which you can import it, there is a waste of labour, wbich is gain to nobody; which is a loss to the nation conjointly, totally distinct from the loss which is imposed upon the rest of the community for the benefit of the landlords. It is a loss in addition to that oppression; a loss from which you are altogether free, when you only. pay a tax upon your bread, and are preserved from restrictions in your corn trade.
What the landlords modestly deinand, is an absolute monopoly: but a monopoly not of an ordinary sort. All monopolies are mischievous. But if the mischief of all other monopolies were combined in one aggregate, it would be trifting compared with the monopoly of the fruits of the earth. The monopoly of all other commodities affects only the consumer ; and what he pays, very often another gets. A monopoly of the fruits of the earth, affects production, and that through all its departments; devotes a portion of labour in absolute waste (a portion of labour which might otherwise be saved) to every production of human industry. The monopoly of another commodity can, at the worst, consume unnecessary labour in that one commodity solely. The monopoly of the fruits of the earth causes an unnecessary consumption of labour in every thing that is produced.
That wise man and great legislator, Mr. Western, after a long speech, exhibiting a picture, with the highest colouring which his brush could lay on, of the distresses of the farmers, that is to say, the cruelty with which they had been pressed by their landlords for rent, and by the Government for taxes ; (for that is the name to call it hy; that is the source of the distress, and nothing else ;) comes forward with a long string of propositions for prohibiting, by high duties, the importation of tallow, of hides, of flax, of seeds, of corn, of every thing, in short, which is the produce of the soil; in other words, proposes a law for rendering the produce of the soil a close monopoly iu the hands of him, and his brother landlords! And not content with that, (showing that there is no limit to the sums which they would gladly take from their fellow citizens,) he proposes that the landlords should get a bounty for sending corn out of the country, at the same time that they prohibit it from being brought in: that is to say, they want two sorts of taxes to be levied on the public for their benefit; one, a tax to be paid indirectly through the price of the corn; another, a direct tax, to be paid expressly for the purpose of making the corn dear. Is it possible that such legislation should yet be heard of in a country where philosophy has at any rate a few friends? One of the best of our political economists, meeting in the streets another, on the day subsequent to the delivery of the ever famous speech and propositions of Mr. Western, began by holding up his hands, and asked, if any person could believe that one book on political economy has ever been published in this country? It was not, he said, the speech of a man like Western, that excited any emotion, but the reception it met within the whole of the honourable house. Before this article can
reach the eye of the reader, the question will, for this time, have received its decision; and those who have to decide upon it, will we trust, have given a specimen of wisdom and virtue, which the tone of the assembly, on the first and second nights of the dişcussion, compel us to expect with some misgivings.
The relief which the farmer wants, is relief from taxes, and relief from rent. The landlord, as owner of the soil, is of course entitled to no more than the soil can produce; is not entitled to have the price of what it produces raised artificially for his benefit; if he is entitled to the benefit of all these natural and unavoidable causes which ruise the price, so are the people entitled to the benefit of all those natural causes which diminish it; and if this is not allowed, the price of corn must go on in a course of perpetual augmentation, being always allowed to rise, but never permitted to fall. The Legislature, therefore, ought to tell the landlords, that they must content themselves with a diminished rent. And to afford the only other point of relief which is requisite, they ought to retrench the expenses of Government to a very small proportion of what it has cost for many years, (for the real and useful expenses of Government are very small,) and thus free the farmer from every tax beyond what he paid when his corn was as cheap as it is now. This is the only way to relieve him without injuring the country. If Parliament relieve him in this way, it will do a great deal of good : if it relieve him in any other way, it will do a great deal of evil. We
e are next to remark, that nothing but the mere partiality of selfishness could lead the agricultural people to think that theirs are the only sufferings at this time in the country. Nothing but that narrow feeling wbich leads a man, or a body of men, especially if it is a powerful body of men, to think that the concerns of all the rest of the world, saving and excepting only themselves, are of no consequence at all, could prevent them from seeing that the mercantile part of the community are in a state of suffering, between which and that of the agricultural world, it would be difficult to declare the preponderance. Of the destruction which the property of the country has suffered by the waste of Government, the merchants undoubtedly have borne their share. Of the greater part of manufactured commodities the price has fallen, in a ratio approaching to that of agricultural produce. But what is a great deal worse than a fall of price, the merchants, failing of a market at home, have greedily sent commodities abroad, till they have glutted all the inarkets, and can get froin them either to returns at all, or very inadequate returns, being either obliged to let their goods rot in foreign warehouses, or sell them for one half of what they cost. The quantity, therefore, of mercantile distress, is very great, and the diminution of mercantile capital probably not less than that of agricultural capital; especialty when it is considered, as it ought to be, that the distresses of agriculture have lasted only for two years; the distresses of the merchants have lasted ever since the interruption of commerce by Mr. Perceval's fanious Orders in Council, and Bonaparte's Berlin Decrees; at which time it may be remembered, that Lloyd's Coffee-House was rendered desolate, and a small residue out of the whole body of merchants connected with the trade of insurance, escaped bankruptcy. What was done, in that case, or what could be done? Was a proposition made, or would it have been borne, to tax the rest of the community, by a law compelling every man to insure to a certain amount (for people are compelled to buy bread) and to insure at a certain rate, whether they had goods to send abroad or not; for in regard to the tax, and the object of it, that makes no difference? To relieve them of taxes, along with the rest of the comid unity, would no doubt have been good. To afford them expeditious and cheap procedure at law, for the adjustment of their differences, would have been eminently good. Nothing else could be done to benefit them, wbich would not at the same time operate to the detriment of others, and as regards the community, a still more serious detriment. Not so much as that was done for them. Not any thing was done for them. Why then should the community be injured for the benefit of the owners of land? One thing is to be noticed : the land-owners have the power to do wliat they please; the
merchants have not. Hence, it is the virtue of the laudlords, if they abstain.
But it is not the agricultural and the mercantile interests only that suffer. When the agricultural and the mercantile interests suf. fer,all that part of the community, without exception, whose dependence is upon agriculture and traffic, suf'er along with them. But agriculture and traffic divide the industry of the country. Of the community, therefore, the whole of that part which depends upon industry, that is the industrious part, are in a correspondent state of suffering. Of the whole community, the part which lives upon taxes, is the only part that is happy; the holders of government stock, and the officers of government, whether supreme or subordinate, whether military or civil, whether judicial or administrative. As they receive the same sum of money annually, when that
money has become a great deal more valuable; when it can purchase a great deal more food, purchase a great deal inore of almost all sorts of commodities, maintain more servants, more horses, and more dogs; they are a great deal better off; a great proportion of what others lose, they gain. It is, therefore, clear, that this source of misery should be lessened to the utmost. It is clear that the interest upon the national debt should be reduced. It is still more clear, that the emoluments of the officers of Government should be reduced ; and not less so, that the