صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Instead of having received from Spain the first sheep that produced fine wool in this island, as hath been often asserted, he shows, from undoubted authorities, that in the time of the Romans our wool was held in such an high degree of estimation, as to be employed for making cloth for the emperor's own peculiar use; that it was equally esteemed by the Venetians, and other Italian states, while the woollen manufacture was in a great measure confined to Italy; that it was held in equal estimation by the Flemings, when the woollen manufacture was established in the Netherlands; that during the 15th and 16th centuries English wool fold at a much higher price, in every market, than Spanish, and was universally a lowed to be more valuable, in every respect; that not an ounce of Spanish wool entered into the fabric of English cloth till after the reign of Elizabeth, but that since the reign of Jamıs I the quality of British wool has gradually declined, till at length it has fallen to such a state of degradation, as to be unfit to enter at all into the fabric cation of superfine cloths.

He next enquires into the cause of this very interesting revolution in arts, and endeavours to show that it ought to be entirely attributed to the law prohibiting the exportation of British wool. This prohibition, he contends, was not enacted into a law either in the days of Edward 111. or of Elizabeth, as historians have asserted, but began first to be introduced in the reign of James I, and his unhappy son Charles, both of whom made some proclamations against it, wiih a view to extort money for licences; but it n ver, Mr A. affirms, received the fanction of law till after the restoration, nor was the law ever attempted to be strictly put in force till the revolution. No fooner did the restraint produced by this law begin to be felt, than the quality of our wool began to decline; and thus continuing to decrease as the law prefred more and more severely, Spanish wool at length obtained a decided superiority over Englith wool, and we were forced either to impori Sisan fh wool, or to renounce our fine woollen manufactures. But as other nations can buy Spanish wool as cheap as ourselves, the Author obferves, that we no longer poilcló any advantage over them in the manufacture of fine cloth; hence, says he, the deciine of our trade in fine cloths to Turkey and other places in the Levant, as well as on the borders of the Baltic, &c. To the same law he ascribes in a great measure the rise of the French woollen manufacture; as the people of that country have been furnished with our wool by a pernicious smuggling rade, at a much lower rate than they could otherwise have obtained it.

The manner in which this law operates in forwarding the French manufactures, he thus explains in a note : B b 2

When

us.

• When a nation adopts any iniquitous plan, to advance its own prosperity at the expence of others, it is impossible to foresee half the bad éffects that may result from it.- It was vainly imagioed by some short-lighted politicians, that in consequence of the low price of wool in England that would result from the law prohibiting the exportation of wool, the English manufaclurer would be enabled to undersell all others, and would thus obrain a monopoly of the wool. len trade to all the world; and it would be no difficult matter to produce many authors who serioufly believed in such a visionary project. How different was the result of that experiment! At that time France had almost no woollen manufacture; and it would have been long before the would have been able to cope with England, had the been obliged to purchase her wools at the former price. But when the prices of wool were so much reduced in England, the French found themselves able to purchase it, by a contraband trade, to much below its old rate, that they were enabled not only to manufacture cloths for themselves, but to export them to others to a great amount. Thus, by endeavouring to grasp too greedily at more than our own, we furnished a weapon to our most dangerous rivals, by the aid of which they were enabled successfully to attack

• Since the former part of this note was written, I find some perfons have a difficulty to comprehend, how it was poflible for the French to purchase their wool cheaper after the exportation of our wool was prohibited than before it, as it now muft come to them loaded with the whole charge of smuggling, which it is imagined will at least be equal to the former duty on exportation. There are, however, several reasons why they should get it much cheaper than before, and even perhaps cheaper than the Britith manufacturers themselves.

• In the first place, As foreign merchants are now excluded from the commerce of wool, it has fallen prodigiously in its price, being at a medium not above half the price it used formerly to be sold at; --fo that although France should be at the whole charge of smug. gling it, the original purchase is so much below what it formerly was, or ever would have been without that absurd law, that her manufacturers can buy it at home at a much lower price than formerly. But,

. Secondly, France does not in reality pay for the charge of smug-gling our wool. For by the many prohibitory laws against che commerce of France, our smugglers are ready to run the risk, or at least to meet them half way, for the profit they are enabled to make by the goods they receive in return. And,

Thirdly, As the price of those French goods prohibited by the laws of Britain are prodigiously enhanced in our market above their natural value, a very small quantity of these will amount to a much greater price to the smuggler at home, than the home market price of his wool; fo that in this way, by'a very advantageous barter, the *French may, and I believe really do, get our wool, from Ireland especialiy, cheaper than the Britiih manufacturers ibemselves.

. It is by attending to circumstances of this fort, that we are en: abled to explain many seeming paradoxes in trade; among which

the

the fol'owing may be reckoned one. A very sensible manufacturer lately assured me, that for many years past, English wool of equal fi neness may be bought at Amsterdam cheaper than at London; and that he himself would probably have bought it there, and brought it to Scotland, had it not been that the general course of his trade led him more naturally to the London market. - It is thus th-t Avarice almost always counteracts her own purposes; and our endeavours to obtain an unjust ascendency over others, for the molt part turn out in the end to their emolument, and the detriment of ourselves.-Hoping to obtain an ascendency over all others by the monopoly of our wool, we have thus essentially hurt our own manufactures, and encouraged those of our rivals, to a degree that no efforts of their own, unaided by our felly, could ever have effected.'

Such being the consequences of this law, it is no wonder that he warmly presses that it fhould be instantly repealed.

It having been objected that cheapness of living is unfavourable to manufactures, and might deprive Scotland of one advantage he had ascribed to it, he is induced to examine this point at some length. He agrees, indeed, with the advocates for this system, in allowing that a temporary fall in the price of neceffaries of life in any country tends to discourage manufactures; but he, at the same time, shows that if the price be permanently high it must operate as a perpetual bar to their progress. He likewise proves that every variation in the price of the necessaries of life is destructive of. national industry; on which account great care ought to be taken to prevent every such variation; and as he thinks the British system of corn laws tends to keep the grain nearly at one price, he very much applauds the fpirit with which they have been framed.

Finding, however, that he here differs in opinion from the celebrated Author of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, he enters into a very minute examination of the arguments advanced by that writer against the bounty on corn; but is obliged to draw conclusions in every respect the reverfe of what Dr. Smith has done. Whether our Author has misunderstood the doctor's arguments, as he modestly intimates his fear that he may have done, or whether Dr. Smith may, through inadvertency, have advanced arguments in one part of such a long work that are contradicted by his reasoning in other parts of it, we will not at present enquire ; but we think it is incumbent on this ingenious author either to reconcile the seeming contradictions and inaccuracies of reasoning here pointed out, or to give up the argument entirely. In hopes, therefore, of having occasion to resume this subject in future, we shall content ourselves at present with quoting our Author's general conclufion :

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

• To conclude, says he, It is certain, that if no over-raling in Auence had prevented it, the price of grain would have risen in England, in the same proportion with that of all other commodities, in consequence of the general decrease in the value of money :-but the price of grain has not only not risen since the bounty was intituted, as has been the case with all other commodities, but has even fallen Gince that period : therefore it has been kept thus disproportionately low by the powerful over-ruling influence of some cause.

• If ihis effect had been produced by she general security, as to property, that the subject now enjoys in Great Britain, the same cause would have operated fill more powerfully in moderating the price of labour and manufatures - But the price of labour and of manufactures bas encreased lince that period ;--it must therefore be attributed to some other cause.

• If "the bounty had always raised the nominal price of grain, that article of produce must have had its nominal value augmented, not only as much, but even more than that of any or her commodity, since the bounty took place.- But the nominal value of that commodity has decreased since that time, while that of all other commodities has encreased; therefore the bounty on corn has not encreafed iis nominal value.

• Jf's the price of co n bad absolutely regulated the price of all other comm dities,” the price of every ocher commodity mult by consequence rile or fall, as th general average money price of corn rises or falls in any country, But the average money price of corn in England has been lower fince the bounty took place, than it was befuse tha: period, al hough the price of all other commodities is now higher than firmerly ; therefore the price of corn does not ab. solutely regulate the price of labour and of all other commodities.

• If " it is impoffible to alter the real price of corn by any contrivance," and if the real price of any commodity be the quantity of labour it can maintain or procure;" it must follow, that the price of one determinare quantity of corn will, at all times, and in all places, be capable of purchasing an equal quantity of labour :--but as it requires a much grea'er quanuity of money now to purchase the same quan'i y of manufactures, or of labour, than it did fitiy years ago; and as the same quantity of corn cannot at this time purchale so much money as before the bounty took place ;-it follows, that the rcal price of corn is much lower at present than it was at some former period ;-therefore it is possible to augment or diminith the real value of corn, as well as of every other commodity.'

• Bilt if the nominal valu' of corn has deerealed tince the bounty was eitablished ; and if, in confeque ice of that, its real price be not now much more than one hall of what is formerly was ; and if no other probable cause can be alligned for this but the speration of the boun y, and the other corn laws; and if these laws explain in a fatisaciory manner all the phenomena above enumerated; we shall

* The pallages inclosed wichin inverted double commas are quoted from Dr. Smith, and have each of them been answered more fully in the preceding parts of this effay.

then

then be obliged to acknowledge, that instead of being “ an absurd regulation of commerce,” it is perhaps the wiseft and the best political institution that has ever graced the annals of any nation.'

He closes this very interesting digression with some severe animadversions on the spirit of the corn laws of Scotland, which he says have been evidently framed with an intention to advance the interests of agriculture at the expence of the fifter arts. But to aim at separating the interest of manufactures from that of agriculture, is in his opinion like endeavouring to separate the shadow from the substance. He deems it both foolish and unjust; he thinks that it must end in the disappointment of its projector, and prove detrimental to the interests of those very persons whom it was most intended to serve.

In order to obtain a more equitable system of corn laws for that country, he ascertains what are the circumstances that ought, in all cases, to regulate the amount of the bounty, as well as the price at which it ought to be granted. This we do not remember to have seen attempted before; and therefore we are sorry that as our limits are insufficient for any satisfactory extracts from this part of the work, we can only, in brief, observe, that the corn laws are here discussed on a more liberal, more enlarged plan, than any that we have met with in other treatises, on the subject; and we doubt not that if Dr. Smith Mall resume the argument, it will be the means of our arriving at a greater degree of certainty, with regard to this very important branch of civil polity than has ever yet been obtained: for we agree with our candid Author in thinking that it is of no moment to the public who it is that shall be right, or who wrong, but it may be of high importance to the nation that the truth in this case should be with certainty discovered.

This digreffion being finished, the writer animadverts on the vulgar English for their abfurd prepoffeffion against the Scots ; and thows what little cause there is for their entertaining any jealousy of that part of the country, as a rival in manufactures. He proves that by encouraging the plan of improvement proposed, England might regain her former superiority in the woollen manufacture, which she cannot hope to recover by any other means.

• You cannot, says he, but have remarked, that as England has already lost a great part of her trade for fine cloths to many parts of the world, in consequence of having lost her fine wool, and runs a great risk of loong that thare of it which still remains ; if she continues to depend on Spain for that ne vessary article, it becomes necessary to look around her to try if she can obtain it elsewhere at a more moderate rate.- From the present political situation of England, there is bue little hope that ever the could regain such a pre-eminence in rearing fine wool as the once enjoyed. But every thing concurs at present to favour the attempt in Scotland; and Bb 4

should

« السابقةمتابعة »