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Art. XI. The Agricultural State of the Kingdom, in February,
March, and April, 1816; being the Substance of the Replies of many of the most opulent and intelligent Landholders to a Circular Letter sent by the Board of Agriculture to every Part of England, Wales, and Scotland. 8vo. 158. Boards. Clement. T 'He publication of this work was retarded, during several
months of the last year, from an apprehension that a promulgation of a series of distressing statements could be productive of no good, but might have the effect of aggravating the general distress. The consequence was that the volume did not come into our hands until the deficiency of the last year's crop had raised the price of corn, and altered materially the situation of the farmers; not by affording any immediate relief to their distress, but by bringing the country into a situation which gave them the full benefit of the provisions of the late Corn-bill. That act had for some time been a nullity, our prices having been much below the average of 80s. : but the effect of the failure of the harvest was to consume forthwith our redundant stock, to raise prices above the regulationstandard, and to oblige us to look for supplies partly from abroad and partly from an extension of cultivation at home. The farmer cannot now complain of the low prices which prevailed in the two extraordinary years that elapsed between the autumns of 1814 and 1816; years in which it was clearly shewn that an extreme reduction of the value of corn is replete with injury even to the mercantile and manufacturing interests, by putting it out of the power of their best customers to make good their engagements. Matters being thus altered, the volume before us is to be considered only historically, and as applying to a state of things which, however recent, possesses no langer the interest that we attach to “ existing circumstances.” This is the consideration that induced us, some time ago, to postpone our notice of it, and which now leads us to be comparatively brief in our report. It opens with a circular letter from the Vice-president of the Board of Agriculture, dated 13th February 1816, and addressed to several hundred correspondents of the Board, who are farmers and country-gentlemen residing in different quarters of the island, from Cornwall to the North of Scotland. These queries relate to the following points :
• Are farms unoccupied in your neighbourhood ? Have tenants given notice to quit on next term-day? Have rents been considerably reduced?'
Is the present distress greater on arable than on grass farms ? Have flock farms (meaning farms for the pasturage of sheep) suffered equally with others ?'
• What is the state of the labouring poor ? and what is the proportion of poor-rates compared with the years 1811 and 1812
So far the questions of the Board were very proper, their correspondents being likely to possess the means of giving clear and explicit answers to matters of fact that came within their personal observation: -- but what are we to think of a grave appeal to a farmer on so coinprehensive and so difficult a question as. Does your quarter suffer from a diminished circulation of paper?' or the still more vague inquiry, What remedies' occur to you for alleviating these difficulties ?" If a committee of legislators, sitting in the metropolis, with access to all the information that can be furnished by public documents, intelligent witnesses, and a reference to the experience of ages, are obliged to express themselves with much hesitation on inquiries of this nature, we could not be justified in expecting a satisfactory answer concerning them from an insulated individual; who is necessarily confined, in his sphere of observation, to circumstances that pass in his own immediate neighbourhood, and who is wholly unaccustomed to exercise his mind in general comparisons. The consequence was that, while the Board received very satisfactory answers to the earlier questions, they experienced the greatest fluctuation, vagueness, and inconsistency with regard to the last-mentioned topics; some of their correspondents lamenting, in pitiable terms, the diminution of bank-paper; while others were of opinion that the existing amount was entirely adequate to the purpose of buying and selling at the present reduced prices. Again, as to the proposed remedies, we find that some claim a reduction of taxes and a regulation of poor-rates;' and others, anabolition of tythe, a regulation of brewers, or a loan of public money. Some gentlemen are disposed to demand, briefly and decidedly, a higher price for produce;' while others claim a bounty on export, accompanied by its worthy associate a prohibition of import.' Some exclaim strongly against a revival of the property-tax, while one gentleman does not scruple to call for an abolition of all taxes except the property.' We were amused with a Cheshire farmer, who looks to a duty on foreign cheese as the grand palliative for the distress of his agricultural brethren: but the main and general object of attack is that provision in the corn-bill, which enables the corn-merchant to import and ware-house foreign grain at all times, even when our currency is below the rate at which he is at liberty to sell it for home-consumption.
The letters of the different correspondents are given in abstract, and arranged by the alphabetical succession of the counties. We have then the replies of the Scotish farmers and land-holders; which, particularly those from East-Lothian, are well intitled to the attention of all agricultural investigators. Much stress is laid by the Board on the recommendation of the Earl of Winchelsea, Lord Brownlow, and others, that land should be attached to cottages, so as to enable the poor to keep cows. A labourer, who has once made money enough to buy and support a cow, is said to become proverbially industrious and economical; so that, in a village in which the number of such persons is considerable, the poor's rate is not above six-pence in the pound. Without questioning the accuracy of these statements, it is evident that this system must have a limit somewhere; and that the number of cows. cannot, under any circumstances, be made to approach to the number of labourers. The plan is besides at variance with those principles which teach us that the great means of rendering labour expeditious, cheap, and productive, is to divide it as much as may be possible, and to direct the attention of the individual to one uniform object. Is it not to the absence, or at least to the very limited application, of this division of 'employment to agriculture, that we are to attribute the greater difficulty of appropriating capital and managing an extensive concern in that great branch of industry, than in trade and manufactures ? The plan of enabling the married peasantry to keep cows, or a cow, has certainly several recommendations ; among the foremost of which may be reckoned its conduciveness to the health of children: but the ultimate and general superiority of our agriculture over that of other countries will be found to rest on a wider basis ; -- on the application of those rules which have succeeded so eminently in our other branches of industry; - we mean, the extensive investment of capital; the progressive division of labour; the general adoption of the husbandry of the improved counties; a reform of the present system of tythes and poor-rates; and an eventual modification of our taxes so as to prevent them, as. far as this can be done, from impeding the developement of individual industry,
With these observations we take leave of the volume before us, in the hope that any future appeal by the Board to their country-correspondents will be marked by an abstinence from the very unsuitable questions on which we have been at present obliged to animadvert.
MONTHLY CATALOG U E,
FOR MAY, 1817.
Art. 12. Poems, by Miss D. P. Campbell of Zetland.
los. 6d. Boards. Baldwin and Co. 1816. The laudable motive, which is assigned in the introduction for the publication of these poems, would be sufficient to disarm criticism of its severity: but, independently of this consideration, the fair writer will be found to have displayed fancy in the choice of her subjects; and a poetical imagination as well as an amiable mind may be traced in all these compositions. We take one specimen in the address
· TO THE EVENING STAR.
The dewy ev'ning to adorn;
Shalt usher in the morn ?
Still must these barren plains and hills,
My narrow prospects bound?
Be never, never found ?
Or lurks amid the broom;
The primrose scarcely bloom?
And scatters charms around;
With leafy forests crown'd;
Soft murmuring rivers glide ;
The mountain's woody side.
< But, ah ! this ocean's liquid round
And fancy dreams in vain
Beyond the stormy main.' : Some verbal incuriæ, harsh elisions, defective rhymes, &c. might be easily corrected in a revision of the several productions. Art. 13.
The Home of Love, a Poem. By Mrs. Henry Rolls, Author of “ Sacred Sketches,” “ Moscow,” &c. 8vo.
28. 6d, Lloyd, &c. 1817,
Without having much originality, the present poems are polished and harmonious, displaying virtuous sentiments and commendable feelings. We copy one of the short adjuncts to the principal composition :
Seems scarce to heave the bosom fair
The first faint dawn of tender care.
It breathes not from the lip of woe ;
Whilst, yet untold, young passions glow.
That on the lip of rapture dies ;
When meet the fond consenting eyes.
Yet seems scarce conscious of its pain;
Of bliss chat ne'er must wake again.
Bespeaks the bosom's secret woe;
the flowers that love had wreath'd,
Then deeply breathes its load of care ;
That last worst pang, fond love's despair.' Art. 14. The Infant-Minstrel ; or Poetry for young Minds, by various Female Writers.
Is. 6d. half-bound. Darton and Harvey. 1816.
The subjects of these compositions are sufficiently diversified, and, though the poetry is simple, it is not inharmonious. The whole seems to be well adapted to the taste of children.