Billeder på siden

their sense of this, they have afforded in the substantial objects of agitating decisive evidence by the violent cla- the masses, and inspiring terror in the mour they have raised, or attempted holders of property. They no longer to raise, on the subject in the manu- support“ the Bill, the whole Bill, and facturing districts during the last few nothing but the Bill.” Maxima Charta months. That it is a subject involved has already run its course ; six years in much obscurity, and on which the have done for it what six hundred ablest statesmen and political econo- years had not done for the Charter of mists have long differed, is matter of Runnymede. Discarding altogether universal notoriety. That it is a sub- the ladder on which they climbed up ject on which the great bulk, both of to power, rivalling the most furious the Commons and Lords, are adverse Tories in the invectives which they to any change is proved both by the pour out upon the Reform Bill ; delarge majorities of each house who nouncing their condition, under the have thrown out any measure for any tyranny of the middle classes, as far alteration since the Reform Act pass- worse than it was under the Boroughed, and the general quiescence which mongers, the Radicals now openly has prevailed on the subject until the clamour for the objects which we ail recent rise of prices rendered it an along maintained they alone had at agitating subject to the working class- heart during the Reform mania ; they es. If, then, a branch of our institu- publicly admit that not participation tions, framed with so much care-for- in, but exclusive possession of, supreme tified by such arguments—supported power, is the object of their desire, by such interests, is at once to give and that unless they immediately get way, not before the accumulated weight Annual Parliaments, Universal Suf. of intellect developed among the in- frage, Vote by Ballot, and the Repeal telligent by years of discussion, but of the Corn Laws, all that they have before the fierce passion roused among hitherto obtained is a mere mockery the populace by months of privation, and an aggravation of their sufferings. it will afford an argument against the The people's charter is the best comrecent change in the constitution more mentary on the objects and the effects powerful than was ever broached dur- of the Reform Bili. ing the heat of the contest by its worst The argument which is constantly enemies. How, in the words of the maintained against the Corn Laws is Duke of Wellington's famous question, shortly as follows. is the Queen's Government to be car. Wheat, it is said, can be raised in ried on under the Reform Bill, if a Poland at from twenty-one to twentybranch of our laws, on which, till the five shillings a quarter, and it may be pressure began, both houses of Parlia- Jaid down at any time at any harbour ment were, by large majorities, decid- in Great Britain at from twenty-five edly adverse to any change, is at once to thirty shillings. If, then, the harto give way before a fierce war-cry bours were permanently opened we raised among the masses of the com- should obtain provisions at little more munity? And what security have we than half the price which we at prethat any part of our institutions will sent pay for them. The advantages stand the shock of adverse fortune, if of such a change would be incalculaone of the most important of them- ble ; every poor man would find him. that with which the great interests of self suddenly in possession of double national subsistence and national inde- his income. The large surplus which pendence are wound up, is swept away, would remain at the disposal of all not by the progressive accumulation classes, after providing for their necesof national thought in periods of calm sary wants, would immensely increase consideration, but by the vehement their general comfort, and proportionoutcry or imaginary terrors occasioned ally augment the quantity of the luxby the first rainy season which occur- uries and conveniences of life they red after the passing of the Reform would be enabled to purchase. The Bill?

home market for our manufacturers The Radicals, however, will proba- would thus increase with the prosperity bly care very little for the discredit of all the industrious classes." The which such a precipitate convulsion foreign vent for our manufacturing would bring upon their favourite mea- industry would be equally extended sure of Reform, provided they succeed by the vast impulse which would be given to foreign agriculture by the their farm produce on richer soils, increased demand for its productions under finer climates, or with cheaper in this country, and the increased labour. But would this effect be perwealth which our extensive purchases manent? Would the price of grain, of their produce would diffuse through at the end of five or seven years, reforeign states. The agricultural classes, main at the low standard to which it or labourers, who might be thrown had been reduced by the sudden influx out of employment in the British of foreign competition ? Nothing can islands, in the first instance, would be clearer than that it would not. The speedily find a more profitable occu- depression of price would immediately pation for themselves and their fami- throw a large portion of British arable lies by engaging in the manufacturing land out of tillage; the higher or inestablishments, to whom this auspici- ferior soils would cease to be cultivated, ous change would communicate an because they could not be cultivated unheard of degree of activity and ex- for a profit ; and heath or broom tension. All classes will in the end would resume their dominion over a be benefited who really deserve en- large part of the now cultivated tracts couragement-few, even for a time, in England. This effect would be injured in the disposal of their indus- inevitable ; for although, in the end, try. None, in the long run, will rent and wages might be forced down suffer but the selfish aristocrats who by necessity to the lower level induced have hitherto saved themselves from through the change of prices, yet we insolvency by levying an enormous know by experience that this would tax upon the other classes of the com- only be the case after a protracted munity.

course of suffering on the part of both If any considerable proportion even the agricultural labourers and farmers, of the considerations thus urged in and after the destruction of a large favour of a radical change of the Corn part of the capital now employed in Laws were well founded, we should the cultivation of the soil. In the in. be the last to contend for the main- terim, as the prices the farmer received tenance of the existing order of for his grain and other produce had things. But it is just because we are generally fallen, while his rent and convinced that none of these effects expense of culture had undergone little will take place, but the very reverse or no diminution, he would be unable ensue; and that the interests of all to continue his expenditure on the less classes will suffer, and of none more productive soils, and be compelled to than the manufacturers themselves, concentrate his efforts upon those to while the national independence will which nature has been most bountiful. be irrevocably destroyed, and the What, then, would be gained by means of maintaining our maritime su- such a change but an alteration in the periority and foreign exports finally class and the nation by whom our extinguished, that we so strenuously subsistence was to be furnished? The contend against an innovation fraught home-growers would be depressed as with such disastrous consequences.

much as the foreign growers would Is it, then, really certain that an be encouraged in their operations. unrestricted importation of foreign The market would not in the end grain would, in the long run, lower overflow; it would only be compethe money price of provisions to the tently supplied, and depend in part on British labourers ? We apprehend foreign instead of domestic industry. it is extremely doubtful whether it If Poland and Russia produce more would have this effect after the lapse for the British manufacturers, Great of a certain number of years. Nay, Britain and Ireland would produce we have little doubt that the result in less. Farming, to the extent of perthe end would be that the price of sub- haps three millions of quarters annusistence would be raised to the British ally, would be destroyed in the British consumer. It may safely be conceded isles, and farming to a similar extent that, in the first instance, the abolition would be called into existence on the of the Corn Laws would occasion a banks of the Vistula or the Dnieper. considerable fall in the price of British But there could not be any permanent grain, because it would bring into increase of the supply over the decompetition with the British farmer an mand. Foreign competition would extensive class of producers who raise do for British agriculture what British manufactures would do, and have permanent reduction in the price of often done, when so admitted, to the necessaries of life to the working foreign manufacturing industry, viz., classes of Great Britain ? Nothing produce a total destruction of a large seems clearer than that such an expart of the deluged branch of industry. pectation would prove altogether illuWe might, according to Mr Canning's sory.

sory. The impetus given to foreign hyperbole, by so doing call a new agriculture would immediately and world into existence to correct the considerably raise the price of foreign balance of the old ; but would we not, grain, while the same causes would in in the perilous attempt, submerge, as the same proportion lower that of he has done, the one continent, in pro- British. Polish wheat would rise portion as we elevated the other? from twenty-five shillings a quarter to

The fundamental error of the oppo. thirty-five or forty ; British would fall nents of the Corn Laws on this point from fifty-five to forty-five or forty. is, that they suppose two things to But would this effect continue when continue which can never co-exist in the produce of British agriculture, the same country, or even in the same yielding to the effect of a competition district of country, viz., permanently which it could not withstand, was rareduced prices, and a permanently pidly and progressively diminishing ? overflowing supply. Common sense It clearly would not.

The foreign as well as universal experience, de- grower would gradually beat down monstrate that no such result can per- the British, and get the monopoly of manently take place. It may ensue,

the British market into his own hands. and often does ensue for a time, but The moment this auspicious state of such a state of things never has been, things arrived, the competition being and never can be, lasting. The manu- practically at an end, prices would facturing classes are well aware of this gradually rise again ; the foreign on their own side of the question. grower, finding himself relieved from Give us, they invariably say, a free the competition with the British one, importation, and we will, by the su- would at once raise his prices. The perior greatness of our manufactures, banks of the Elbe and the Vistula extinguish the production of every would wave with abundant and luxu. competing state. The main ground riant harvests, while those of the of their numerous and at present well. Thames, the Mersey, and the Clyde, founded complaints against the British would in great part be restored to the Government is, that they have ne- wilderness of nature; but it is by no glected to stipulate for the advantage means clear that the operative of of importation at moderate duties with Manchester or Glasgow would eat the other countries with whom we his bread cheaper, because he had have concluded reciprocity treaties. practically come to depend upon the Yet, strange to say, they do not see, wheat growers of Poland instead of or affect not to see, that a similar re- those of his own country. sult must ensue from the unrestricted Instances of the practical working importation of foreign grain into the of this principle are of every day's British harbours, and that the same occurrence in the neighbourhood of necessity which would compel the one every great town. If some essential half of the iron-masters of France to article of consumption, such as coal, blow out their furnaces, if the hard- is raised in its immediate vicinity, as ware goods of Birmingham and Car is the case in Birmingham, Newcastle, ron were admitted duty-free into the or Glasgow, and by the opening of a French harbours, must compel the railway or canal, the same article is British farmer to consign large part suddenly thrown into it in vast quanof his fields to the heath-fowl and the tities from a more remote mineral displover, if Polish grain is admitted duty- trict, where the cost of production is free to the British harbours.

not a third of what it is in the crowded Holding it, then, as clear that the avenues to the city, the ultimate effect necessary effect of the repeal of the is, not that both parties continue their Corn Laws would be a great increase operations, and the citizens obtain the of foreign, and a great diminution of undiminished benefit of their continued British agriculture, the question is, competition, but that, after a short and would such a state of things afford severe struggle, one or other is driven any guarantee for a considerable or out of the field. The party who can


2 T

produce the article cheapest in the as Gibbon has remarked, came to end prevails, and the moment that he depend for her subsistence upon the finds himself relieved from the pres- floods of the Nile. sure of his antagonist, he immediately But suppose this effect not to take raises the price upon the now defence. place : suppose that, in consequence of less consumer. Numerous have been the unrestricted admission of foreign the instances in which similar distant grain, the price of subsistence is percompetition has been introduced by manently lowered to the British conthe steam communication of late sumer, we deny that any benefit whatyears, in the supply of great cities ever would in the end accrue to the with the staple articles of their con- working classes of Great Britain. If, sumption, and a great reduction of indeed, they could succeed in mainprice has often, in the first instance, taining their money-wages at their been the consequence; but no perma- present level, they would be very great nent alteration in the price of these gainers indeed by the change; alarticles has taken place. Eggs, poul- though the withering effect of the try, and vegetables are brought in destruction of the agricultural classes profusion to the Glasgow market, by would, in the end, come to react on the steam-boats from Ireland and the this temporary prosperity of the maHighlands ; but these articles are just nufacturing classes. But could the as dear in the Glasgow market now as manufacturing operatives, or any class they were before steam-power was

of labourers, keep their money-wages applied to the purposes of navigation. up at their present level, if a perma

The small farmers of Renfrewshire nent reduction in the price of the neand Lanarkshire have been as much cessaries of life had taken place? depressed by the change as those of Nothing is clearer than that they Ireland and Argyleshire have been could not. The money-rate of wages, benefited. And it has been proved, wholly independent of the price of in one memorable instance, running provisions from year to year, is enthrough a course of centuries, that a tirely regulated by it, other things great people derive no permanent be being equal, from ten years to ten nefit in the form of a reduction of the years. If by the free importation of prices of the necessaries of life, by a foreign grain the money price of it free importation of grain from distant is reduced one-half, the ultimate result states. By the extension of their will be, that wages will fall one-half power over all the nations adjoining also. It is impossible it can be otherthe Mediterranean, as well as by the ways; for even if the reduction did incessant clamours of the Roman po- not ensue from any other cause, it pulace for cheap bread, the Roman would inevitably be brought about by Government was early obliged to ad- the great impulse given to population, mit a free importation of grain from and consequent multiplication of laSicily, Lybia, and Egypt, the great bourers, under the influence of undigranaries of mankind in ancient times. minished money-wages and augmented And what was the result? Exactly ease of circumstances, and an increaswhat we contend would ensue from the ed durable fall in the price of the application of a similar principle to necessaries of life. the British islands. The Italian cul- Past history and present experience tivation was destroyed as much as the alike concur' in demonstrating this African or Egyptian was increased; important fact. In the time of the the price of grain underwent no dimi. Norman Conquest the price of wheat nution to the Roman populace, but was from three shillings and sixpence was fully higher, on an average, than to five shillings a quarter : but neverit has been in England for the last ten theless the labourers had not half the years, while the small arable farms of command of the necessaries and conItaly, the nursery of the legions, were veniences of life they have now, for absorbed in great sweeps of pasture; the money-wages of labour were a the race of independent cultivators halfpenny a-day during the remainder was destroyed; the strength of the of the year, and a penny in harvest. vitals of the state was consumed ; and Provisions are incomparably cheaper at longth the independence of the cen- in Poland and in Russia than in this tral provinces of the empire was de- country; but are the Polish or Rus. stroyed, and the Mistress of the World, sian peasants half as comfortably fed, lodged, or clothed, as the correspond- which will be more readily conceding classes in this country ? Every ed by the well-informed, and more one knows that, so far from being so, obstinately resisted by the ordinary or obtaining any benefit whatever mass of observers. And the difficulty from the cheap price of provisions in of acquiring just views on this subject their own country, they are, in truth, is much increased by the fact, that, the most miserable labourers in Eu- though the money-wages of labour in rope, and feed upon miserable rye. the long run necessarily sink with the bread, in the midst of the splendid fall in the price of provisions, and, wheat crops which they raise for the consequently, the well-being of the more opulent consumers in this country. population in the end has no connexIn the southern provinces of Russia, ion with the money price of proviwheat is often only ten shillings à sions,-yet the density of the populaquarter, from the total want of any tion, and the capacity of the state to market. But what is the consequence? maintain in comfort an increase of Why, that wages are so low that the inhabitants, are in a great degree deCossack horseman gets only eight pendent upon the fertility of the soil, shillings and sixpence a.year of pay and the money-price at which provifrom Government. Wheat and pro- sions can be obtained for the people. visions of all sorts are much cheaper Other things being equal, unquestionin Ireland than in Great Britain; but, ably the plain of Lombardy, or the nevertheless, the Irish labourers do provinces of Brabant, will be more not enjoy one-half of the comforts or populous than the sands of Bourdeaux, necessaries of life which fall to the or the heaths of Old Castile. But, lot of their brethren on this side of the without disputing that the capacity Channel. Provisions of all sorts are of the soil to yield an increase gub. extravagantly dear in all parts of sistence is the most important eleAmerica, Canada, and Australia ; but, ment in considering the means of high as they are, the wages of labour, future increase which are afforded to from the rapid growth of these colo. the people, there is nothing more nies, are still higher, and the condition certain than that such capability is no of the labouring classes is beyond all test whatever either of their present precedent prosperous and comfortable. or future prosperity. No further The mere necessaries of life are sold proof of this is necessary than is almost for nothing in Hindostan and afforded by the Irish Catholics swarmChina, but, so far from obtaining any ing in rags and poverty in one of the benefit from that low rate of prices, richest and most abundant soils in the labouring classes are so poor as Europe, while the Scotch peasantry to taste hardly any thing but rice and are living in comparative affluence water; and wages are so low, seldom and comfort on the churlish soil, and exceeding twopence a-day, that every under the clouded skies, of Caledonia. sea-boy, foot-soldier, and horseman, As little is there any foundation for has two, and every native three at- the opinion which commonly passes tendants to wait upon his person. as an axiom incapable of dispute with Examples of this sort prove how ex- the opponents of the Corn Laws, that tremely ill-founded is the common a free trade in grain with the Contiopinion, that permanent low prices nent would immensely extend the must necessarily produce comfort to market that would be opened for our the working classes, and tend to show manufactures in the states benefited that Mr Smith was much nearer the by our purchases of grain. For, in mark when he said, “ High prices and the first place, what security have we plenty are prosperity, low prices and that these great grain countries, parwant are misery."

ticularly Russia, Poland, and Prussia, So much habituated are ordinary which are at this moment entirely subobservers, however, to consider low ject to the influence of the Czar, will prices as the invariable concomitant of ever make any concessions in return for prosperity, and so true is it that for a the favour of their produce? All past season, or even a course of seasons, experience demonstrates that they which are particularly fine, the work will gladly accept any relaxation on ing classes obtain the full benefit of our part in favour of their agriculture, the reduction of prices, that there is but as strenuously resist any relaxano one proposition in political economy tion on their part in favour of our

« ForrigeFortsæt »