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to the ox, that I think there is room to question, whether a great part of mankind has yet been informed that life is sustained by the fruits of the earth. I was once indeed provoked to ask a lady of great eminence for genius, Whether she knew of what bread is made?
I have already observed, how differently agriculture was considered by the heroes and wise men of the Roman commonwealth, and shall now only add, that even after the emperors had made great alteration in the system of life, and taught men to portion out their esteem to other qualities than usefulness, agriculture still maintained its reputation, and was taught by the polite and elegant Celsus among the other
The usefulness of agriculture I have already shown; I shall now, therefore, prove its necessity; and having before declared that it produces the chief riches of a nation, I shall proceed to show, that it gives its only riches, the only riches which we can call our own, and of which we need not fear either deprivation or diminution.
Of nations, as of individuals, the first blessing is independence. Neither the man nor the people can be happy to whom any human power can deny the necessaries or conveniences of life. There is no way of living without the need of foreign assistance, but by the product of our own land, impr by our own labour. Every other source of plenty is perishable or casual.
Trade and manufactures must be confessed often to enrich countries: and we ourselves are indebted to them for those ships by which we now command the sea from the equator to the poles, and for those sums with which we have shown ourselves able to arm the nations of the north in defence of regions in the western hemisphere. But trade and manufactures, however profitable, must yield to the cultivation of lands in usefulness and dignity.
Commerce, however we may please ourselves with the contrary opinion, is one of the daughters of Fortune, inconstant and deceitful as her mother; she chooses her residence where she is least expected, and shifts her abode, when her continuance is in appearance most firmly settled. Who can read of the present distresses of the Genoese, whose only choice now remaining is from what monarch they shall solicit pro- | tection? Who can see the Hanseatic towns in ruins, where perhaps the inhabitants do not always equal the number of the houses; but he will say to himself, These are the cities, whose trade enabled them once to give laws to the world, to whose merchants princes sent their jewels in pawn, from whose treasuries armies were paid, and navies supplied! And who can then forbear to consider trade as a weak and uncertain basis of power, and wish to his own
country greatness more solid, and felicity more durable?
It is apparent, that every trading nation flourishes, while it can be said to flourish by the courtesy of others. We cannot compel any people to buy from us, or to sell to us. A thousand accidents may prejudice them in favour of our rivals; the workmen of another nation may labour for less price, or some accidental improvement, or natural advantage, may procure a just preference for their commodities; as cxperience has shown, that there is no work of the hands, which, at different times, is not best performed in different places.
Traffic, even while it continues in its state of prosperity, must owe its success to agriculture; the materials of manufacture are the produce of the earth. The wool which we weave into cloth, the wood which is formed into cabinets, the metals which are forged into weapons, are supplied by nature with the help of art. Manufactures, indeed, and profitable manufac tures, are sometimes raised from imported materials, but then we are subjected a second time to the caprice of our neighbours. The natives of Lombardy might easily resolve to retain their silk at home, and employ workmen of their own to weave it. And this will certainly be done when they grow wise and industrious, when they have sagacity to discern their true interest, and vigour to pursue it.
Mines are generally considered as the great sources of wealth, and superficial observers have thought the possession of great quantities of precious metals the first national happiness. But Europe has long seen, with wonder and contempt, the poverty of Spain, who thought herself exempted from the labour of tilling the ground, by the conquest of Peru, with its veins of silver. Time, however, has taught even this obstinate and haughty nation, that without agriculture they may indeed be the transmitters of money, but can never be the possessors. They may dig it out of the earth, but must immediately send it away to purchase cloth or bread, and it must at last remain with some people wise enough to sell much and to buy little; to live upon their own lands, without a wish for those things which nature has denied them.
Mines are themselves of no use, without some kind of agriculture. We have in our own country, inexhaustible stores of iron, which lie useless in the ore for want of wood. It was never the design of Providence to feed man without his own concurrence; we have from nature only what we cannot provide for ourselves; she gives us wild fruits, which art must meliorate, and drossy metals, which labour must refine.
Particular metals are valuable, because they are scarce; and they are scarce, because the
mines that yield them are emptied in time. But the surface of the earth is more liberal than its caverns. The field, which is this autumn laid naked by the sickle, will be covered, in the succeeding summer, by a new harvest; the grass, which the cattle are devouring, shoots up again when they have passed over it.
Agriculture, therefore, and agriculture alone, can support us without the help of others, in certain plenty and genuine dignity. Whatever we buy from without, the sellers may refuse; whatever we sell, manufactured by art, the purchasers may reject; but, while our ground is covered with corn and cattle, we can want nothing; and if imagination should grow sick of native plenty, and call for delicacies or embellishments from other countries, there is nothing which corn and cattle will not purchase.
Our country is, perhaps, beyond all others, productive of things necessary to life. The pine-apple thrives better between the tropics, and better furs are found in the northern regions. But let us not envy these unnecessary privileges. Mankind cannot subsist upon the indulgences of nature, but must be supported by her more common gifts. They must feed upon bread, and be clothed with wool; and the nation that can furnish these universal commodities, may have her ships welcomed at a thousand ports, or sit at home and receive the tribute of foreign countries, enjoy their arts, or treasure up their gold.
It is well known to those who have examined the state of other countries, that the vineyards of France are more than equivalent to the mines of America; and that one great use of Indian gold, and Peruvian silver, is to procure the wines of Champaigne and Burgundy. The advantage is indeed always rising on the side of France, who will certainly have wines, when Spain, by a thousand natural or accidental causes, may want silver. But surely the valleys of England have more certain stores of wealth. Wines are chosen by caprice; the products of France have not always been equally esteemed; but there never was any age, or people, that reckoned bread among superfluities, when once it was known. The price of wheat and barley
suffers not any variation, but what is caused by the uncertainty of seasons.
I am far from intending to persuade my countrymen to quit all other employments for that of manuring the ground. I mean only to prove, that we have, at home, all that we can want, and that therefore we need feel no great anxiety about the schemes of other nations for improving their arts, or extending their traffic. But there is no necessity to infer, that we should cease from commerce, before the revolution of things shall transfer it to some other regions! Such vicissitudes the world has often seen; and therefore such we have reason to expect. We hear many clamours of declining trade, which are not, in my opinion, always true; and many imputations of that decline to governors and ministers, which may be sometimes just, and But it is foolish to sometimes calumnious. imagine, that any care or policy can keep commerce at a stand, which almost every nation has enjoyed and lost, and which we must expect to lose as we have long enjoyed it.
There is some danger, lest our neglect of agriculture should hasten its departure. Our industry has for many, ages been employed in destroying the woods which our ancestors have planted. It is well known that commerce is carried on by ships, and that ships are built out of trees; and therefore, when I travel over naked plains, to which tradition has preserved the name of forests, or see hills arising on either hand barren and useless, I cannot forbear to wonder, how that commerce, of which we promise ourselves the perpetuity, shall be continued by our descendants; nor can restrain a sigh, when I think on the time, a time at no great distance, when our neighbours may deprive us of our naval influence, by refusing us their timber.
By what causes the necessaries of life have risen to a price at which a great part of the people
CONSIDERATIONS ON THE CORN LAWS.*
These "Considerations," for which we are indebted to Mr. Malone, who published them in 1808, or rather to his liberal publisher, Mr. Payne, were,
By agriculture only can commerce be perpetuated; and by agriculture alone can we live in plenty without intercourse with other nations. This, therefore, is the great art, which every government ought to protect, every proprietor of lands to practise, and every inquirer into nature to improve.
are unable to procure them, how the present scarcity may be remedied, and calamities of the
in the opinion of Mr. Malone, written in November, 1766, when the policy of the parliamentary bounty on the exportation of corn became naturally a sub
same kind may for the future be prevented, is an inquiry of the first importance; an inquiry before which all the considerations which commonly busy the legislature vanish from the
The interruption of trade, though it may distress part of the community, leaves the rest power to communicate relief; the decay of one manufacture may be compensated by the advancement of another; a defeat may be repaired by victory; a rupture with one nation may be balanced by an alliance with another. These are partial and slight misfortunes, which leave us still in the possession of our chief comforts. They may lop some of our superfluous pleasures, and repress some of our exorbitant hopes; but we may still retain the essential part of civil and of private happiness,-the security of law, and the tranquillity of content. They are small obstructions of the stream, which raise a foam and noise where they happen to be found, but at a little distance are neither seen nor felt, and suffer the main current to pass forward in its natural course.
But scarcity is an evil that extends at once to the whole community: that neither leaves quiet to the poor, nor safety to the rich that in its approaches distresses all the subordinate ranks of mankind, and in its extremity must subvert government, drive the populace upon their rulers, and end in bloodshed and massacre. Those who want the supports of life will seize them wherever they can be found. If in any place there are more than can be fed, some must be expelled, or some must be destroyed.
Of this dreadful scene there is no immediate danger; but there is already evil sufficient to deserve and require all our diligence, and all our wisdom. The miseries of the poor are such as cannot easily be borne: such as have already incited them in many parts of the kingdom to an open defiance of government, and produced one of the greatest of political evils-the necessity of ruling by immediate force.
Cæsar declared after the battle of Munda, that he had often fought for victory, but that he had that day fought for life. We have often deliberated how we should prosper; we are now to inquire how we shall subsist.
The present scarcity is imputed by some to the bounty for exporting corn, which is considered as having a necessary and perpetual tendency to pour the grain of this country into other nations.
ject of discussion. The harvest in that year had been so deficient, and corn had risen to so high a price, that in the months of September and October there had been many insurrectious in the midland coun. ties, to which Dr. Johnson alludes; and which were of so alarming a kind, that it was necessary to repress them by military force.
This position involves two questions: whether the present scarcity has been caused by the bounty, and whether the bounty is likely to produce scarcity in future times.
It is an uncontroverted principle, that sublatâ causa tollitur effectus: if therefore the effect continues when the supposed cause has ceased, that effect must be imputed to some other agency.
The bounty has ceased, and the exportation would still continue, if exportation were permitted. The true reason of the scarcity is the failure of the harvest; and the cause of exportation is the like failure in other countries, where they grow less, and where they are therefore always nearer to the danger of want.
This want is such, that in countries where money is at a much higher value than with us, the inhabitants are yet desirous to buy our corn at a price to which our own markets have not risen.
If we consider the state of those countries, which being accustomed to buy our corn cheaper than ourselves, when it was cheap, are now reduced to the necessity of buying it dearer than ourselves, when it is dear, we shall yet have reason to rejoice in our own exemption from the extremity of this wide-extended calamity; and if it be necessary to inquire why we suffer scarcity, it may be fit to consider likewise, why we suffer yet less scarcity than our neighbours.
That the bounty upon corn has produced plenty, is apparent,
Because ever since the grant of the bounty, agriculture has increased: scarce a session has passed without a law for enclosing commons and waste grounds:
Much land has been subjected to tillage, which lay uncultivated with little profit:
Yet, though the quantity of land has been thus increased, the rent, which is the price of land, has generally increased at the same time.
That more land is appropriated to tillage, is a proof that more corn is raised; and that the rents have not fallen, proves that no more is raised than can readily be sold.
But it is urged, that exportation, though it increases our produce, diminishes our plenty: that the merchant has more encouragement for exportation than the farmer for agriculture.
This is a paradox which all the principles of commerce, and all the experience of policy, concur to confute. Whatever is done for gain will be done more, as more gain is to be obtained.
Let the effects of the bounty be minutely considered.
The state of every country with respect to corn is varied by the chances of the year.
Those to whom we sell our corn, must have every year either more corn than they want, or less than they want. We likewise are naturally subject to the same varieties.
years of scarcity."
When they have corn equal to their wants, or "But perhaps, if exportation were less enmore, the bounty has no effect: for they will couraged, the superfluous stores of plentiful not buy what they do not want, unless our ex-years might be laid up by the farmer against uberance be such as tempts them to store it for another year. This case must suppose that our produce is redundant and useless to ourselves; and therefore the profit of exportation produces no inconvenience.
When they want corn, they must buy of us, and buy at a higher price; in this case, if we have corn more than enough for ourselves, we are again benefited by supplying them.
But they may want when we have no superfluity. When our markets rise, the bounty ceases; and therefore produces no evil. They cannot buy our corn but at a higher rate than it is sold at home. If their necessities, as now has happened, force them to give a higher price, that event is no longer to be charged upon the bounty. We may then stop our corn in our ports, and pour it back upon our own markets.
It is in all cases to be considered, what events are physical and certain, and what are political and arbitrary.
The first effect of the bounty is the increase of agriculture, and by consequence the promotion of plenty. This is an effect physically good, and morally certain. While men are desirous to be rich, where there is profit there will be diligence. If much corn can be sold, much will be raised.
The second effect of the bounty is the diminution by exportation of that product which it occasioned. But this effect is political and arbitrary; we have it wholly in our own hands: we can prescribe its limits, and regulate its quantity. Whenever we feel want, or fear it, we retain our corn, and feed ourselves upon that which was sown and raised to feed other nations.
It is perhaps impossible for human wisdom to go further, than to contrive a law of which the good is certain and uniform, and the evil, though possible in itself, yet always subject to certain and effectual restraints.
This is the true state of the bounty upon corn: it certainly and necessarily increases our crops, and can never lessen them but by our own permission.
That, notwithstanding the bounty, there have been from time to time years of scarcity, cannot be denied. But who can regulate the seasons? In the dearest years we owe to the bounty that they have not been dearer. We must always suppose part of our ground sown for our own consumption. and part in hope of a foreign sale. The time sometimes comes, when the product of all this land is scarcely sufficient; but if the whole be too little, how great would have been the deficiency, if we had sown only that part which was designed for ourselves.
This may be justly answered by affirming, that, if exportation were discouraged, we should have no years of plenty. Cheapness is produced by the possibility of dearness. Our farmers at present plough and sow with the hope that some country will always be in want and that they shall grow rich by supplying Indefinite hopes are always carried by the frailty of human nature beyond reason. While therefore exportation is encouraged, as much corn will be raised as the farmer can hope to sell, and therefore generally more than can be sold at the price of which he dreamed, when he ploughed and sowed.
The greatest part of our corn is well known to be raised by those who pay rent for the ground which they employ, and of whom few can bear to delay the sale of one year's produce to another.
It is therefore vain to hope that large stocks of grain will ever remain in private hands; he that has not sold the corn of last year, will with diffidence and reluctance till his field again: the accumulation of a few years would end in a vacation of agriculture, and the husbandman would apply himself to some more profitable calling.
If the exportation of corn were totally prohibited, the quantity possible to be consumed among us would be quickly known, and being known would rarely be exceeded; for why should corn be gathered which cannot be sold? we should therefore have little superfluity in the most favourable seasons; for the farmer, like the rest of mankind, acts in hope of success, and the harvest seldom outgoes the expectation of the spring. But for droughts or blights, we should never be provided; any intemperature of seasons would reduce us to distress, which we now only read of in our hist ies; what is now scarcity, would then be famine.
What would be caused by prohibiting exportation, will be caused in a less degree by obstructing it, and in some degree by every deduction of encouragement; as we lessen hope, we shall lessen labour; as we lessen labour, we shall lessen plenty.
It must always be steadily remembered, that the good of the bounty is certain, and evil avoidable; that by the hope of exportation corn will be increased, and that this increase may be kept at home.
Plenty can only be produced by encouraging agriculture; and agriculture can be encouraged only by making it gainful. No influence can dispose the farmer to sow what he cannot sell ; and he is not to have the chance of scarcity in his favour, he will take care that there never shall be plenty.
The truth of these principles our ancestors | though nominally the same, has, in effect and in discovered by reason, and the French have now reality, gradually diminished. found it by experience. In this regulation we It is difficult to discover any reason why that have the honour of being masters to those, bounty, which has produced so much good, and who, in commercial policy, have been long ac- has hitherto produced no harm, should be withcounted the masters of the world. Their pre-drawn or abated. It is possible, that if it were judices, their emulation, and their vanity, have reduced lower, it would still be the motive of at last submitted to learn of us how to ensure agriculture, and the cause of plenty; but why the bounties of nature; and it forms a strange we should desert experience for conjecture, and vicissitude of opinions, that should incline us to exchange a known for a possible good, will not repeal the law which our rivals are adopting. easily be discovered. If by a balance of probabilities, in which a grain of dust may turn the scale or by a curious scheme of calculation, in which, if one postulate in a thousand be erroneous, the deduction which promises plenty may end in famine;-if, by a specious mode of uncertain ratiocination, the critical point at which the bounty should stop, might seem to be discovered; I shall still continue to believe that it is more safe to trust what we have already tried; and cannot but think bread a product of too much importance to be made the sport of subtilty, and the topic of hypothetical disputation.
It may be speciously enough proposed, that the bounty should be discontinued sooner. Of this every man will have his own opinion; which, as no general principles can reach it, will always seem to him more reasonable than that of another. This is a question of which the state is always changing with time and place, and which it is therefore very difficult to state or to discuss.
It may however be considered, that the change of old establishments is always an evil; and that therefore, where the good of the change is not certain and constant, it is better to preserve that reverence and that confidence which is produced by consistency of conduct and permanency of laws.
That, since the bounty was so fixed, the price of money has been much diminished: so that the bounty does not operate so far as when it was first fixed, but the price at which it ceases,
The advantage of the bounty is evident and irrefragable. Since the bounty was given, mul. titudes eat wheat who did not eat it before, and yet the price of wheat has abated. What more is to be hoped from any change of practice? An alteration cannot make our condition better, and is therefore very likely to make it worse.