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80s.; barley 40s.; oats 27s.; and rye, beans, and peas, 53s. They entered into contracts with their landlords and others with this conviction. But, as in every measure passed since 1773 prices had risen above the scale which had been fixed as the prohibitive rate, it happened that they now sunk below it to an extent which they had not anticipated. In 1816, 1817, and 1818, three deficient harvests occurred, that of the former year being below an average crop to a greater extent that in any year since the periods of scarcity at the close of the last century. Prices rose above the rate at which foreign supplies were admitted, and in 1817 and 1818 above 2,600,000 quarters of wheat were imported. In 1821 and 1822 the agriculturists endured the severest season of distress which had been experienced by that body in modern times, and the engagements which they had been induced to make under the fallacious hopes excited by the last Corn Act and the range of high prices during the war, occasioned them to be swept from the land by thousands."
The fluctuations in price under the law of 1815 were extraordinary, and altogether unlooked for by the landed interest.
"The framers of the corn-law of 1815 did not take into account the effect of the years of scarcity which occurred so frequently after 1804, nor the obstruction of foreign supplies caused by the war. It was founded on the supposition that, high as were the average prices of those years, they were only such as resulted from the cost of production, with the addition of the farmer's profit, and the landlord's rent (both calculated on too high a scale). In the interval between 1804 and 1815, whenever a foreign supply of corn was required, the home market rose to an elevation sufficient to command a supply subject to enormous charges, amounting to from 30s. to 50s. the quarter. Freight, insurance, and other charges, which had amounted to 50s. the quarter from the Baltic, have been as low as 4s. 6d. within the last few years, but the difference between a free and obstructed intercourse was taken as little into account as the influence of a series of defective crops. Prices having sunk so much below the amount which had been assumed to be necessary to remunerate the British corngrowers, the law of 1815 was suspended by a new act passed in July, 1822. It enacted that, as soon as foreign wheat shall have been admitted for home consumption under the provisions of the Act of 55 Geo. III. c. 26 [the corn-law of 1815], the scale of prices at which the home consumption of foreign corn, meal, or flour is permitted by the said Act shall cease and determine.' The new scale was as follows:-Wheat at or above 70s., duty 12s.; and for the first three months of the ports being open an additional duty of 5s. per quarter, being a duty of 17s. Above 70s. and under 80s., the first low duty' of 5s. with the addition of 5s. for the first three months; above 80s. and under 85s., the second low duty' of 1s. was alone to be charged."
Many were the schemes which were devised, before the new scale now stated was ordered; the agricultural panic being so great that its cry was heard from every part of the country. But the act which fixed this altered scale never came into operation at all, as
prices never reached 80s. It had become by this time pretty manifest that there was something wrong or rotten in the views which had been adopted both by landlords and legislators. Mr. Canning, therefore, in 1827 introduced the principle of a graduated scale, in place of absolute prohibition under 80s. But his bill did not pass the House of Lords, although some partial modifications and relaxations of the law were adopted to meet the force of temporary circumstances. At length, in 1828, Mr. Charles Grant embodied in a bill Canning's principle, when the measure by which the corntrade is at present regulated was carried, which, however, it is now generally thought, has not operated as any very marked improvement upon the previous state of the law. Says Mr. Platt,—
"The present law has not succeeded in maintaining steadiness of price, the extremes of fluctuation being 35s. 4d. in December, 1835, and 81s. in January, 1839, or a difference of 129 per cent. To this derangement of prices is to be attributed much of the depression which the agriculturists experienced in 1833 and 1836. In each of these years their distressed condition was noticed in the speech from the throne on the opening of Parliament, and select committees were appointed in both years to inquire into their state. Since the commencement of 1836 nothing has been heard of agricultural distress, prices having risen from 39s. 4d. per quarter for wheat in 1835 to 70s. 8d. in 1839; but the commercial and manufacturing interests have been visited with a season of adversity.
"When the harvests have been abundant, the labourer and artisan contented, and trade and manufactures flourishing, the agriculturist has suffered from the depreciation of prices. If abundant crops thus plunge him into distress, there can be no other reason for it than the engagements which he has contracted with his landlord being adapted only for years of scarcity and high prices, such as occurred during the war, when the effect of unfavourable seasons was aggravated by the obstructions to commercial intercourse. The tenant now seems to be dependent upon years of deficiency in order to realise the average rate of profit on his capital; and so long as the price of grain is subject to such great fluctuations as have been already stated, there is no permanent basis on which he can contract with his landlord. His rent must be determined by the rate of prices when he takes his lease, which may turn out in the long run to be favourable either to himself or his landlord."
A variety of objections have been urged against the practical character of the fluctuating scale. The following extract exposes some of its defects; Mr. Platt in the second paragraph forcibly correcting certain exaggerated notions which widely prevail relative to the prices of foreign corn:
"Another defect of the fluctuating scale is to limit the radius of supply, which, instead of comprising the north and south-east of Europe, the Black Sea, Egypt, the United States, and other distant corn-growing countries, is confined chiefly to the markets of Hamburg, Dantzic, and the
Baltic ports, to which buyers rush, and, by their competition within a narrow circle, raise the prices to an unnecessary height, relying upon the profits to be obtained under the fluctuating scale amply indemnifying them for the extra charges which the necessity of despatch and expedition occasions. Purchases are made with bills drawn on England; as the unsteadiness of the trade does not encourage that demand for our manufactures which would spring up to the advantage of both parties if it were less subject to impulsive starts. The derangement of monetary affairs is a necessary consequence of a trade conducted under these circumstances; and the value of merchandize of all kinds declines from sales being forced in order to meet engagements at a time when money has been rendered scarce by the drain of remittances for corn. Neither does the present sliding scale work beneficially for the farmer, since it renders prices unsteady. The farmer with large capital may derive advantage from it, as he can select his own time for the sale of his produce; he can act in tacit co-operation with the importer of foreign corn, and, taking advantage of the highest rise of prices, get it off his hands before the markets have been temporarily glutted with a foreign supply. In 1838 this influx of foreign grain took place just before the harvest, and the great majority of farmers had to dispose of their produce when the markets had been lowered from the large foreign supply admitted just when the produce of our own harvest was coming to market. Another disadvantage of the sliding scale is experienced in those years when the crops are of inferior quality. There is an excessive scarcity of good wheat, but the quantity sold of an inferior quality depresses the average prices, and raises the duty so as to exclude a supply of sound wheat from abroad. In this case the holders of English wheat which happens to have been favourably harvested enjoy an exclusive monopoly of the market; or, if it be disturbed, it is not until the price of the best wheat has risen so high as to enable the importer to pay a duty, probably exceeding 20s. per quarter, in addition to all other charges.
"A very exaggerated notion prevails in this country respecting the prices of foreign corn in the principal markets from which we obtain a supply when our own crops are deficient. The average price of wheat in Dantzic during the ten years ending 1831 was 33s. 5d. per quarter, and during the twenty-two years ending with 1838 it was 34s. 4d. the quarIt is to no purpose to refer to the prices in Volhynia or in Podolia, which are of course very low compared with the prices in this country; but the competition is not between the growers of England and those of Poland. The question is at what price wheat from these districts can be introduced into the English market, for the competition of the English grower is with the foreigner after his produce has been charged with all the costs of conveyance to the ports of shipment and with the profits of intermediate dealers both foreign and English. Mr. Porter, of the Board of Trade, says :-'The charges, in ordinary times, of merely transporting a quarter of wheat from the north of Germany and the lower ports of the Baltic to England, are stated, on good authority, to be 10s. 6d. in addition to all the charges of shipping; and I am assured that in order to get back in London the cost of a quarter of wheat bought in the Dantzic market
with the lowest rate of mercantile profit, it must be sold at an advance of 18s. upon the original cost.' Another eminent authority estimates the cost of importing wheat from Dantzic, warehousing it here, and keeping it six months till sold, including insurance, but without profit, at 18s. 3d. per quarter. Mr. M'Culloch, in the appendix to a pamphlet published by him in May, 1841, gives an account of the charges on 100 quarters of wheat imported from Dantzic for sale on consignment in London, in May, 1841. This includes the expenses of its importation, its landing, its retention for three weeks, and its delivery to the buyer, which amount in the aggregate to 45l. 13s. 8d., and, with an allowance for waste, the cost would be raised to 50l. One hundred quarters of fine high mixed wheat, weighing about 61 lbs. per bushel, 'would cost, by the latest advices, 40s. per quarter,' so that this parcel of wheat could not be sold at less than 50s. per quarter, and to this has to be added the profit of the importer, which at 10 per cent. would raise the price to 54s. the quarter; and a fixed duty of 8s. would further increase it to 62s. Wheat is always cheaper in Dantzic, quality considered, than in any of the continental ports nearer London; and Mr. M'Culloch states that, whenever there is a demand from this country for 150,000 or 200,000 quarters, the price uniformly rises to 40s. the quarter; and in 1839, when 384,369 quarters of wheat were shipped at Dantzic for England, it cost the shippers 45s. to 55s. per quarter. If the ports of this country were always open, it may be concluded that the price of good wheat in Dantzic, in ordinary years, would not be under 45s. the quarter. 'But taking it at the lowest limit, or 35s., and adding to it 10s. or 12s. for the freight and other charges attending its conveyance to England, and its sale to the consumer, it is obvious it could not be sold here, even if there were no duty, for less than from 45s. to 47s. a quarter;' and if it were charged with a fixed duty of 8s. its prices would be raised from 53s. to 55s. a quarter. Now, during the ten years ending with 1840 the average price of wheat in England and Wales was 56s. 114d. a quarter. In five of these years the price was above this average, and in the other five years the average price was 48s. 64d. per quarter. Thus, since the law of 1815, which assumed the average remunerating price of wheat at something under 80s. per quarter, the question of protection' has been considerably narrowed, and in abundant years in this country the importation of wheat could scarcely be profitable, while in years of scarcity the demand would raise prices abroad and check them here only in the degree in which they had risen beyond the ratio of the deficiency. In the ten years ending 1820 the average price of wheat in England was 86s. 3d. the quarter, and in the ten years following the average was 56s. 114d., and yet the improvement in agriculture has been so great as to provide food for one-third more population. Mr. Tooke says, that during the three years (1834-5-6) when the price of wheat in this country was on an average under 45s., there was no apparent tendency to diminished or deteriorated cultivation."
It remains for us now only further to quote from Mr. Platt's History some of his observations relative to Lord John Russell's announcement made on the 7th of May, with regard to the importVOL. III. (1841.) NO. I.
ation of foreign corn, a system of fixed duties being proposed by the Melbourne government :
"The proposed alteration in the import duties on corn and grain has been brought forward in connexion with plans of fiscal reform, which, if carried, will lead to a complete revision of our commercial policy, with a view of placing our relations with other countries on a more satisfactory foundation, and of enabling our manufacturers to preserve their footing in some of the principal markets of the world. The effect of the present competition is to reduce profits and wages to the same level, whether on the continent or in England, with this disadvantage to ourselves,—that the cost of food is artificially raised in this country. Had our commercial policy been placed on a proper basis at the peace, we should still have had customers where we have now rivals. But duties have been placed on British manufactures in retaliation of our attempt to exclude raw produce sent in payment for them. This is the argument with which our diplomatists are met at every foreign court, from Berlin to Cairo. Mr. M'Gregor, Secretary of the Board of Trade, related to the Committee on the Import Duties the appeals which were made to him as the commercial representative of this country at Berlin, and at the two congresses held at Munich and Dresden :-'You compelled us,' they said to become manufacturers; we have not mines of gold and silver, and you will not take what we have to give you; but if you had taken what we have to give, we should have continued to produce it; but as you would not take it, our people were intelligent enough to turn their attention extensively to manufactures.' Dr. Bowring's Report to Lord Palmerston on the Prussian Commercial Union' is to the same effect. 'We have rejected,' says he, the payments they have offered,-we have forced them to manufacture what they were unable to buy.' 'We should not have complained,' says a distinguished German writer,' that all our markets were overflowing with English manufactures,-that Germany received, in British cotton goods alone, more than the hundred millions of British subjects in the East Indies,-had not England, while she was inundating us with her productions, insisted on closing her markets to ours. The English Corn Law of 1815 had, in fact, excluded our corn from the ports of Great Britain: she told us we were to buy, but not to sell. We were not willing to adopt reprisals; we vainly hoped that a sense of her own interest would lead to reciprocity. But we were disappointed, and we were compelled to take care of ourselves.' With reference to the United States of America, Mr. Addington, the British Minister at Washington, in a despatch to Mr. Canning, said :-'I have only to add, that had no restrictions on the importation of foreign corn existed in Great Britain, the tariff would never have passed through either House of Congress, since the agricultural states, and especially Pennsylvania, would have been opposed to its enactment.'
"The reconsideration of our commercial system (in which the corn-trade forms so important a part) would, sooner or later, have been forced upon us by the change which has for some time been going on in our foreign trade, and by the fact that the exports of our manufactured goods, in