said, it was his intention to move that the Speaker should not leave the chair; and was proceeding to speak; when
§ The Speaker
said, that one or two questions of form were to be attended to before the right hon. gentleman could go on to argue on such a question.
§ Mr. Protheroe
appealed to the candour of the hon. baronet, whether it was proper to bring on the question then.
§ The Speaker
here interrupted the hon. gentleman. It was necessary that the question, whether the debate be now resumed, should be disposed of before the debate could be commenced.
§ Mr. Protheroe
said, that the question which he meant to put to the candour of the hon. baronet was, whether he thought it proper that the debate should be then resumed. On Monday last, when the hon. baronet had moved for the resumption of the debate, it appeared to be the opinion of the House, that it was postponed in order to give time to consider the resolutions; and that two days were little enough for that purpose. The hon. baronet had therefore postponed the debate till Thursday, in order to have the resolutions printed. They had not been delivered to members until that morning, and they were now called on to discuss the subject after only a few hours consideration. Indeed, for his own part, having been engaged all the morning in private committees, he had not had time to consider them at all. Under these circumstances, it was really to be wished that the House might have at least two days to think upon the subject; before they were called on to decide on the price at 666 which the people of England were to eat their bread.
§ Sir H. Parnell
replied, that any gentleman who read the resolutions, must see that the alterations proposed in them were of such a nature as to be comprehended with ease. He hoped also he might be allowed to observe, that it was by no means a new subject to the House. Notices had been given on the subject at each adjournment of the House for recess. He denied that there was any thing in the proposed regulations which would at all fix the price at which the people of England were to eat their bread.
§ The question for resuming the debate was then put and carried.
§ Sir H. Parnell
then moved, that the first Resolution, viz. "That it is expedient that the exportation of corn, grain, meal, malt and flour, from any part of the United Kingdom, should be permitted at all times, without the payment of any duty, and without receiving any bounty whatever," be referred to a committee of the whole House. The question having been put,
Sir; as far as the Resolutions now moved by the hon. baronet differ from those he brought forward last year, they are in some degree less exceptionable; but I hope to be able to shew, that the adoption of these would be seriously injurious to the best interests of the country, and that no proceeding of any sort should be founded on the Report made last year.
One of these, to allow the exportation of corn at all times, without any restraint whatever, is offered to us, without even a mention of it in the Report. I will therefore make some observations upon it, before I proceed to comment on that paper, on which the House is now called upon to proceed.
This resolution is not for the repeal of one of those laws that has long been dormant in our statute book, without having been called into notice, but is at once to do away a system very long since established, and invariably acted upon for more than four centuries and a half.
The first prohibition of the export of corn to be found in our statutes is in the 34th Edw. 3d, 1360; and from that time to the present, there has not been one* From the original edition printed for T. Cadell and W. Davies, Strand; and J. Hatchard, Piccadilly.667 reign in which that principle has not been recognized, by some parliamentary proceeding, with the exception of those of Edw. 5th and Richard 2d, who together were not upon the throne two years and a half: and we are now desired, on the sole authority of the hon. baronet, to adopt an entirely new principle, without a suggestion having been offered in favour of it from any quarter whatever. It perhaps may be fit that we should abandon a system acted upon for more than 450 years, and sanctioned by the wisest and most experienced men ever since; but it seems to be too much to require us to do so hastily, and to put to hazard, without full enquiry, the subsistence of the people, in times of the severest calamity and greatest distress.
With proper respect for the talents and judgment of the hon. baronet, it is surely not too much to expect, that he would offer to our consideration, in a matter of such infinite importance, something more than his own opinion. In the Report before us, such as I shall shew it to be, there is not a syllable that has an allusion to the permission for allowing corn to be sent out of the country without any restraint, in times of the greatest scarcity: on the contrary, it is there proposed to act on the long-established principle; and prices are proposed for the regulations of the export.
The remainder of the resolutions certainly arise out of the Report. I feel it incumbent on me, therefore, to call the attention of the committee to the superficial view taken therein of the matter referred to them, and of the inaccuracies which are to be met with, nearly throughout the whole of it.
The subject is a dry one; but as it affects all descriptions of people in the kingdom, I trust I shall be permitted to go fully into it. I promise, however to do that with as little waste of the time of the House, as I can.
It is hardly necessary for me to premise, that I should hold myself inexcusable if I were to convey an insinuation that the hon. baronet meant to mislead the House by any mis-statement: a certainty of detection must have prevented such an intention, even if he had not been restrained by better motives, which I am persuaded invariably govern his conduct. He must, however, permit me to say, that he did not apply such a degree of industry on the occasion as is required from the chairman of every committee to which an inquiry is referred.
668 I will freely confess, that at no time in my parliamentary life was I ever so astonished as at the proceeding attempted in the last session. I was perhaps struck the more forcibly with the Resolutions* then proposed by the hon. baronet, from their having been sudden and unexpected to me; for I had not the remotest apprehension of any innovation respecting the corn laws of this country generally, till I heard, the resolutions moved. I knew, indeed, that a committee had been sitting respecting corn, of which the hon. baronet, was chairman; but I thought the enquiry related only to some internal regulations in Ireland, never having heard, by any accident, that a revision of the corn acts in Great Britain, as well as in the other part of the United Kingdom, was in contemplation.
In former instances, when any material alteration was intended on the subject, the proposals were brought forward early in the session, and full time allowed to deliberate on the propositions.
In 1773, the Bill (after proceedings in the committee) was read the first time December 15th, and was not out of the House till the 2d of April following.
In 1791, the Bill was brought in December the 16th; and it did not pass this House till the 27th of May following.
In 1804, the Report was printed 14th of May; and the Bill was passed 26th of July.
Whereas, in 1813, when the most extraordinary alteration ever attempted was brought forward, the Resolutions were not moved till the month of June, when most, of the country gentlemen, as well as those connected with the manufacturing interests, had left town.
And in the present session, the question is not even stirred till the beginning of May.
I should have thought the late period of the last session would have been a sufficient reason for delay; and on that ground alone I should have objected to the proceeding, even, if I had not been very unaffectedly alarmed at the proposal of a free export at all times, and under all circumstances, as well as at the immense increase of prices, till which importation was to have been allowed.
But when I looked into the Report, I felt great anxiety that it should not be acted upon at all. I could not have conceived it possible, before the Resolutions* See Vol. 26, p. 659.669 were brought forward, that it would have been attempted to increase, to an extent quite unexampled, the prices of regulation; in some instances, on such averments; and on such evidence, as are to be found in that Report; and in the important one above alluded to, without even a mention of it.
The Report sets out with a statement of the value of corn imported in the last twenty-one years, and the amount of bounties paid thereupon; a period in which circumstances, unheard of till then, occurred to raise the prices unnaturally, which, it may be hoped, are not likely to be inflicted upon this country and the world again. In the amount of bounties, too, is included the money granted to indemnify to a certain extent persons who shall import corn in a time of the severest distress ever known.
On the ground of this unexampled and temporary pressure, we are desired to legislate permanently, and to regulate future averages according to prices, freights, insurance, and other charges, beyond all comparison higher than were ever known, and when difficulties were interposed, such as had at no former time ever been experienced.
The committee next allege, that they have examined into the laws which from time to time have been made for regulating the corn trade: with what attention and accuracy they did so, will be judged of by the observations I shall have occasion to make. I will here merely observe, that they refer to no more than seven laws, one of which was repealed; these will be found to bear a very small proportion to the whole; the total number are more than one hundred and twenty; but of those, thirty are from the Rolls of parliament, and one from Scobell in Cromwell's time; there are, however, nearly thirty that are well worthy of notice.†
§ † Acts, &c. respecting the Exportation and Importation of Corn, and such as have relation to the prices thereof.—[The Acts, &c. to which this mark* is prefixed appear to be most worthy of attention.]
§ 1225. 9 H. 3. c. 25. Only one measure of corn throughout the realm.
§ 1266. 51 H. 3. stat.6. Mode of ascertaining the price of wheat, by which the price of bread shall be regulated.
§ *1315. 8 and 9 Ed. 2. Rot. Parl. Vol.670
§ It is my intention to observe upon the Report in the order in which the points occur.
§ With respect to what is said of the improvement of agriculture in Ireland, I decline entering into any detail, not understanding the subject; but I am ready to concur most heartily in any proposal for the attainment of that object; such a measure (if any is wanting) may, I trust, be accomplished without endangering much mischief to the whole empire.
§ The first instance the committee give of their deep research into those laws, which have from time to time been made for regulating the corn trade, exhibits a most extraordinary misconception: on referring to the 15th Ch. 2. c. 7. they say, that Act gave freedom to the "inland corn trade, and perhaps contributed more, both to the plentiful supply of the home markets, and to the increase of tillage, than any other law on the statute book." The terms and provisions of this Act are so perfectly plain and intelligible, as to render it inconceivable how they could have been mistaken. Instead of giving freedom to the transport of corn in the home market, it actually prohibits the transport of grain at times when it would be most important that it should be free, namely, when the prices shall be high.
§ Not to trust, however, to my own judgment on a matter so perfectly plain as this, let us see what the committee of privy council for the affairs of trade, in a Report presented to this House in 1790, say respecting that same Act; "The ancient laws of this kingdom, which by a false policy restrained the inland trade of corn, have in general been repealed. The 15th Ch. 2, c. 7, which does not permit the buying corn to sell again, and the laying it up in granaries, except when the several sorts of corn are below certain prices therein mentioned, is the only law of this description which will now be found in our statute-book, and ought certainly not
§ 1. 340. Proclamation on account of the scarcity of corn, that no wheat shall be used in the brewery: on a petition from Winchester.
§ 1324. 17 Ed. 2, Rot. Parl. Vol. 1. 458. *Corn may be exported from Ireland into England, on security that it shall not be carried to the Scotch or other enemies.
§ 1335. 9 Ed. 3, c. 1 Corn may be bought and sold freely throughout the realm, as well by foreigners as denizens.—671
§ to remain there any longer." In this opinion the legislature concurred, and the Act was, in consequence, repealed, by the 31st G. 3, c. 30, sect. 2. This law, therefore, which was the subject of the high
§ This is confirmed, 25 Ed. 3. in the Rolls of Parliament, Vol. 2. p. 231. See also Anno 1370.
§ 1339. 13 Ed. 3, Rot. Parl. Vol. 2, 106. *Writs to be directed to sheriffs, and to mayors, &c. at the sea ports, to prevent the exportation of corn, without the king's licence. [In this year there is an entry in the Parliament Roll of a contract by merchants of Hull and Lynne to deliver a quantity of wheat at 9s. a quarter. Rot. Parl. Vol. 2. p. 109.]
§ 1350. Stat. 25 Ed. 3, stal. 5, c. 10. All measures shall be according to the king's standard, and the quarter of corn shall be eight bushels.
§ *1360. Stat. 34 Ed. 3. c. 20. Prohibits positively the exportation of grain, except to the king's possessions in France.—Repealed by 21 Ja. I. c. 28. sect. 11.
§ 1363. 37 Ed. 3. Rot. Parl. Vol. 2, 277. *Proclamation against exporting corn Without licence.
§ 1364. 38 Ed. 3. Rot. Parl. Vol. 2, 237. The commons in the north pray that no corn may be allowed to pass the Marches of England into Scotland.
§ 1371. 45 Ed 3. Rot. Parl. Vol. 2, 305. *Corn may be freely bought and sold throughout the Kingdom.
§ 1376. 50 Ed. 3. Rot. Parl. Vol. 2, 350. *Corn may be exported when not prohibited by the council.
§ 1378. 2 Rich. 2 Rot. Parl. Vol. 3, 47. *Corn may be bought and sold by natives and by merchants aliens wholesale or by retail in any part of the realm freely.
§ *1382. 6 Rich. 2. Rot. Parl. Vol. 3, 141, and 396. No corn to be exported except to Berwick, and to the king's possessions in France, on forfeiture of the grain and vessel, without licence from the council: and those who shall have licence, to produce proof of their having conformed therto.
§ 1383. 7 Rich. 2. Rot. Parl. Vol. 3, 164. Corn shall not be sent into Scotland, either by land or water, without a special licence from the king.
§ 1389. 13 Rich. 2 Rot. Parl. Vol. 3. 269. Horse provender to be charged according to the price of corn.
§ 1390. 14 Rich. 2. Rot. Parl. Vol. 3, 281. The Commons pray that proclamation672
§ eulogium of the committee, fortunately exists no longer.
§ In referring to the average pprices, the committee are equally unfortunate; they state the average of the twenty years preceding
§ may be made for the due observance of the Statute of Measures; and that the houses of brewers and others who buy corn by the measure of nine bushels instead of eight, may be searched for false measures.
§ 1391. Stat. 15 Rich. 2. c. 4. Corn to be sold only by the quarter of eight bushels.
§ 1391. Rot. Parl. Vol. 3, 291. The same provision.
§ Rot. Parl. Vol. 4, p. 14. The same provision.
§ *Rot. Parl. Vol. 3, p. 455. 2 H. 4; 493. 4 H. 4; 546. 6 H. 4; 568. 7 H. 4; 612. 9 H. 4; 635. 11 H. 4; 648. 13 H. 4; Vol. 4, p. 6. 1 H. 5; 16. 2 H. 5; 64. 3 H. 5; Vol. 5, p. 228. 31 H. 6; 508. 4 Ed. 4; Vol. 6, p. 154. 14 Ed. 4; 238. 1 R. 3; 269. 1 H. 7. Corn exempted from duty on importation in all these acts of subsidy; the last for the life of Henry the 7th.
§ *1393. 17 Ric. 2. c. 7. Permits the exportation of corn, on payment of the subsidy: no limitation of prices; but the council may restrain it when necessary.
§ 1425. 4 Hen. 6. c. 5. Almost in the same words as the preceding.
§ *1436. 15 Hen 6. c. 2. Exportation allowed without licence, when wheat is 6s. 8d. a quarter, and barley 3s. (This seems to have established the principle of regulating the export by price.) 20 Hen. 6. c. 6. continues this for 10 years.—23 Hen. 6. c. 5. makes this law of the 15th perpetual; reciting, that the maritime countries cannot have a market for their corn, unless it shall be allowed to be carried by sea.
§ 1463. 3 Ed. 4. c. 2. *Grain not to be imported when wheat does not exceed 6s. 8d. rye 4s. barley 3s. (This seems to have established the principle of regulating the import by price.)—Repealed by 21 Ja. 1. c. 28. sect. 11.
§ 1496. Stat. 12 Hen. 7. c. 5. Act for weights and measures, provides that corn shall be sold by the measure of eight gallons to the bushel, and what the gallon shall weigh; and that all other gallons shall be broken.
§ *1533. 25 Hen. 8. c. 2. Privy Council to regulate the prices of all victuals.—1552. 5 and 6 Ed. 6. c. 14, against en-673
§ 1666, to have been 57s. 5½d. and of the twenty years subsequent to that year, to have been 46s. 3d. on the authority of "Tracts on the Corn Trade." It has not been usual for committees of this House, on making reports, to rely on
§ grossers, altered by 5 Eliz. c. 12, sect. 7.
§ *1552. Stat. 5 and 6 Ed. 6. c. 14. sect. 12. Act against regraters: allows corn to be transported freely from one port to another, by licence from three justices; and that it may be bought up and engrossed when at or under 6s. 8d. a quarter.—And there are other Acts respecting licensing dealers in corn.
§ 1554. 1 and 2 Ph. and M. c. 5. Prohibition to export without licence, except When wheat shall not exceed 6s. 8d. rye 4s. and barley 3s.
§ 1558. 1 Eliz. c. 11. sect. 11. Corn may be exported from Suffolk and Norfolk, when the prices do not exceed, wheat 6s. 8d. rye 5s. barley 3s. 4d. and oats 2s.
§ *1562. 5 Eliz. c. 5. sect. 26. Exportation allowed when wheat shall not exceed 10s. rye 8s. barley 6s. 8d. See 13 Eliz. c. 13.
§ *1570. 13 Eliz. c. 13. from the original Roll. Corn may be exported on a duty of 1s. a quarter to places in amity, not prohibited by any restraint or proclamation, in square rigged vessels, British-owned, at such times as the prices thereof shall be so reasonable and moderate when no prohibition shall be made either by the queen's proclamation or by order of council, or by order of judges of assize, or at the quarter sessions. When exported hereafter by special licence, and not under this Act, a duty of 2s. a quarter on wheat.
§ *1593. 35 Eliz. c. 7. sect. 23. Exportation allowed when wheat shall not exceed 20s. on a duty of 2s. a quarter.
§ *1604. 1 Ja. 1. c. 25. sect. 26. Exportation allowed when wheat shall not exceed 26s. 8d. on a duty of 2s. a quarter; but may be prohibited by proclamation, either throughout the kingdom, or from any part of it.
§ *1623. 21 Ja. 1. c. 28. sect. 3. Exportation allowed when the price of wheat shall not exceed 32s. on a duty of 2s. a quarter; but may be prohibited by proclamation.
§ 1627. 3 Ch. 1. c. 4. sect. 24. The same as the preceding.
§ 1656. Cromwell's Ordinances, c. 5. * Corn may be exported, when wheat is not above 40s. on a duty of 1s. a bushel.674
§ statements from pamphlets; and we have here a proof that they ought not to do so. In this case such reliance has led the committee into an error, on which the House might have been induced to act. The prices appear to have been taken
§ *1660. 12 Ch. 2. c. 4. sect. 11. Exportation allowed when wheat shall not exceed 40s. on a duty according to the rates in the Schedules to the Act., which appears to be 20s. a quarter on wheat.
§ *1663. 15 Ch. 2. c. 7. sect. 2. Exportation allowed when wheat shall not exceed 48s. on a duty of 5s. 4d.
§ 1670. 22 Ch. 2, c. 8, and 22 and 23 Ch. 2, c. 12. To ascertain the measure of corn; to be only the Winchester bushel of eight gallons throughout the kingdom.
§ *1670. 22 Ch. 2, c. 13, sect. 1. Exportation allowed on payment of the subsidies, although the prices shall be higher than those stated in the Act 15 Ch. 2, on payment of the subsidy.—And Importation, if it shall not exceed 53s. 4d. on a duty of 16s.; and when it shall exceed that, and be under 80s. on a duty of 8s. This Act is explained by 5th Geo. 2. c. 12.
§ 1685. 1 Ja. 2, c. 19. Prescribes the mode of ascertaining the prices in the 22d Ch. 2. And is further explained by 2d Geo. 2, c. 18, and 5th Geo. 2, c. 12. This Act is repealed by 31 Geo. 3, c. 20.
§ *1688. 1 W. and M. Stat. 1, c. 12. Exportation allowed when wheat shall be at or under 48s.; and a bounty of 5s. on wheat when exported. (This is the first instance of a bounty.) Repealed by 31 G. 3, c. 30.
§ 1698. 10 W. 3, c. 3. Exportation suspended.
§ 1699. 11 W. 3, c. 1. Bounty suspended till 1709.
§ *1700. 11 and 12 W. 3. c. 20. Duties on grain exported to cease.
§ 1709. 8 Ann. c. 2. Importation suspended for a year.
§ 1732. 5 G. 2, c. 12; see 2 G. 2, c. 18: To explain the 1st of Ja. 2, c. 19, and 22 Cha. 2, c. 13, as to ascertaining prices of corn, and mode of export.
§ 1738. 11 G. 2, c. 22. To punish persons who shall obstruct the exportation of corn, or the removal of it from one part of the kingdom to another.
§ 1741. 14 G. 2, c. 3; 1742. 15 G. 2, c. 35. Exportation suspended.
§ 1757. 30 G. 2, c. 1. Exportation suspended.
§ 1757. 30 G, 2, c. 7. Importation duty-free.675
§ from an account kept in Eton College of those in Windsor market; according to which they are correct; but the prices there stated are of the bushel of nine gallons, till 1792, when, under the 31st G. 3, c. 30, sect. 82, the measure of eight bushels
§ 1757. 30 G. 2, c. 1, and 9. Exportation suspended, and importation allowed in neutral ships.
§ 1765. 5 G. 3, c. 31: To discontinue bounties on export, and duties on import.
§ Ibid. c. 32. To enable the king to prohibit the export for a limited time.
§ 1776. 6 G. 3, c. 3. Importation from America duty-free.
§ Ibid. c. 5. To prohibit the Export.
§ 1767. 7. G. 3, c. 3. To prohibit the Export, and to stop distillation.
§ Ibid. c. 4. American corn free of duty.
§ Ibid. c. 5. Importation free generally.
§ Ibid. c. 7. Indemnity for order in council to prohibit exportation.
§ Ibid, c. 11. Further allowing importation.
§ Ibid c. 22. Further allowing importation.
§ 1768. 8 G. 3, c. 1. To prohibit the export, and stop distillation.
§ Ibid. c. 2 To allow importation, &c.
§ 1769. 8 G. 3; 1st Sess. c. 1. To prohibit the export, and allow the import, and to stop the distillation.
§ 1769. 8 G. 3, 2d Sess. c. 1. To prohibit the export, and allow the import, and to stop the distillation.
§ 1770. 10 G. 3, c. 1. To prohibit the export, and allow the import, and to stop the distillation.
§ Ibid. c. 39. Regulating the mode of requiring and ascertaining prices of grain.—Repealed, 31 G. 3, c. 30.
§ 1771. 11 G. 3, c. 1. To prohibit the export, allow the import, and stop the distillation.
§ 1772. 12 G. 3, c. 1. To prohibit the export, allow the import, and stop the distillation, as respects export and distillation.
§ Ibid. c. 33. Allowing importation.
§ 1773. 13 G. 3, c. 1 and 2. Allowing importation.
§ Ibid. c. 3. To stop the export and distillation.
§ *Ibid. c. 43. Prohibits the export when wheat shall be above 44s., a bounty of 5s. on the export. Repealed, 31 G.3, c. 30. And explains the mode of ascertaining prices. Under this Act foreign corn may be warehoused for exportation: or may be taken out for home consumption, on payment of the duties due on importation, at the time the corn shall be taken out.
§ 1780. 20 G. 3, c. 31. Corn exported in neutral ships, entitled to half the bounty.676
§ was adopted; to come at the true price, therefore, one-ninth must be deducted previous to that year; the averages then will be 51s. 6½d. and 41s. 2d. instead of 57s. 5d. and 46s. 3d.
§ For the prices in the table that follows,
§ This Act revived and further continued by 21 G. 3, c. 29, and 22 G.3, c. 13, sect.6.
§ 1781. 21 G. 3, c. 50. For further regulating and ascertaining the importation and exportation of corn.
§ 1783. 23 G. 3, c. 1. Corn may be imported in British or neutral vessels, on the low duties and two 5l. per cents. for a few months.
§ 1783. 23 G. 3, c. 53. The king allowed by proclamation to admit the importation into some counties in Scotland for 4 months.
§ 1783. 23 G. 3, c. 81. To prohibit the exportation of corn, with a bounty, during the operation of the two preceding Acts.
§ 1789. 29 G. 3, c. 58. For better regulating and ascertaining the importation and exportation of corn.
§ 1790. 30 G. 3, c. 1. Indemnity for Orders in Council prohibiting exportation of corn; and for the governor of Canada for admitting corn in American vessels. Foreign corn legally warehoused, may be exported from such warehouse.—30 G. 3, c. 42, continues the preceding Act for a few months more.—31 G. 3, c. 4, further continues the preceding Acts.
§ *1791. 31 G. 3, c. 30. This Act makes important alterations; it repeals all the Acts respecting the importation and exportation of corn; and also all the duties thereon, except such provisions as relate to malt: and particularly the 15 Ch. 2, c. 7.—1 J. 2, c. 19.—1 W. and M. c. 12.—10 G. 3, c. 39.—13 G. 3, c. 43.—21 G. 3, c. 50.—29 G. 3, c. 58. When wheat shall be under 44s. a bounty of 5s.: when above 46s. no export. On importation, if under 50s. a duty of 24s. 3d. If at or above 50s. and under 54s. a duty of 6d. With a table of duties for Ireland and Quebec. Corn may be warehoused for exportation; or taken out for home consumption, on payment of the duties due at the time when the same shall be so taken out; with an addition of 2s. 6d. to the first low duty. If at one port the high duties shall be due, a vessel677
§ Chalmers' Estimate and Dirom's Enquiry are quoted; on comparing these with the Eton accompt, the first sum agrees; but as far as I have examined, the remainder, the prices are uniformly lower in Mr. Dirom's statement, who seems in all the subsequent
§ may go to another port where the low duties only shall be due. Maritime counties, and those in Scotland, divided into districts. Mode of regulating the prices according to a six weeks average; except oats, which are to be regulated, by prices during twelve weeks. Inland districts settled. Exportation from, and importation into Scotland, regulated. The King in council, parliament not sitting, may permit importation, or prevent exportation, when the average price of the whole kingdom shall be at or above the price which foreign corn shall be allowed, to be imported at, according to the low duties in table D. of the Act, which is 2s. 6d. and to recall such permission to export and import—[This last is varied by 33 G. 3. c. 65, which provides for prices from Ireland and Quebec.]
§ 1793. 33 G. 3, c. 3. Indemnification for Orders in Council. Foreign corn may be warehoused. The King may prohibit the export, during present session, and permit the importation.
§ 1793. 33 G. 3, c. 65. Mode of taking averages altered. The king's authority to permit export and stop import to be governed by prices formerly settled.
§ *1795. 35 G. 3, c. 4. The king may permit the import, or prevent the export of corn, without regard to prices. Importation in neutral vessels allowed. The King's power extended to other articles of provisions.
§ 1796. 36 G. 3, c. 3. Unlimited importation allowed free of duty, and positive prohibition of export, in neutral as well as in British ships.
§ 1796. 36 G. 3, c. 21. Large premiums given on corn imported, to secure importers having certain prices, in neutral as well as in British vessels, till 500,000 quarters shall be imported; and then the premiums reduced.
§ 1797. 37 G. 3. c. 7. Continues the 36 G. 3, c. 3, to permit importation, and restrain exportation.
§ 1797. 37 G. 3, c. 83. Repeals so much of the preceding Act as relates to barley, oats, &c.
§ 1798. 38 G. 3, c. 10. Continues the prohibition to export, and the permission678
§ sums to have deducted 2–9ths from the Windsor price; 1–9th for the difference of measure would have been correct till 1792, for the reason I have already suggested; but the second 1–9th must be erroneous: if it is deducted on account of
§ to import, according to the Act 37 G. 3, c. 7, as far as respects wheat, &c.
§ *1799. 39 G. 3. c. 87. (This Act has been continued by several laws from year to year, and is now in force during the war. Vide 51 G. 3, c. 14.) The King may prohibit the import, or permit the export of corn generally, without regard to prices, in neutral as well as in British vessels. Extended to other articles of provisions. Continued 39 and 40 G. 3, c. 9, till September 1800.
§ 1800. 39 and 40 G. 3, c. 8, sect. 3 and 5. To stop the distillery, &c. Continued, 41 G. 3, c. 3.
§ 1800. 39 and 40 G. 3. c. 29. Premiums to ensure certain prices.
§ 1800. 41 G. 3, c. 2. To authorize the King, from time to time, to prohibit the exportation of all articles used for the food of man.
§ 1800. 41 G. 3, c. 5. The Act 39 G. 3, c. 87, and 39 and 40, c. 9, for enabling the King to allow the import and to restrain the export, continued.
§ 1800. 41 G. 3, c. 10. Premiums granted to ensure importers certain prices for corn imported, in neutral as well as in British ships. American flour, imported on the bounty, to be sold within two months after landing. Sales of flour to be public. Foreign wheat, not merchantable, may be warehoused. To increase bounties on American flour.
§ 1801. 42 G. 3, c. 13. To continue 39 G. 3, c. 87, authorizing the King to permit import and prevent export, generally, without regard to prices, and to prevent the exportation of all kinds of provisions.
§ 1802. 43 G. 3, c. 12. Further to continue the preceding Act, authorizing the King to permit importation and to stop exportation.
§ 1803. 44 G. 3, c. 4. Further to continue the preceding Act, authorizing the King to permit importation and to stop exportation.
§ *1804. 44 G. 3, c. 109. Repeals the prices at which corn might be exported and imported under the 31 G. 3, c. 30, except the warehousing duties. Export allowed when wheat shall be at or under 48s. with a bounty of 5s. If above 54s. no export. Import, if under 63s. on a duty of 24s. 3d.; if at or above 63s. but under 66s. a duty of 2s. 6d.; if at or above 66s.679
§ the Eton table being made from the best quality of wheat, as I have I somewhere seen suggested it ought to be, it cannot be supported, because the wheat there is what is termed mealing wheat, which is a middling quality. For the sake of comparison, however, the table is sufficient, as-the variations are, in most instances, uniform; let us therefore examine how far the committee are supported by the evidence adduced by themselves:
§ The prices in their tables are as follow;
|In the 5 years ending||1701||42s.||8d.|
|In the 4 years to||1711||49s.||9d.|
§ From that year to 1764 the prices were certainly very considerably lower than that;
|But in the 5 years to 1769||43s.||2d.|
|And in the 5 years to 1774||47s.||9d.|
§ Which last prices were under the regulations continued from 1688; for there was not even an alteration in the regulating price of export or import between that year and 1774; and from that year to 1794 the fluctuations were not to any serious amount.
§ The Act of 1773 (commencing 1774) makes an important alteration in the Corn Laws; it repeals the high duty imposed on importation by the 22nd Charles 2; in lieu of which it allows the importation of wheat when at or above 48s., and prohibits the export when above 44s.; which by the Act of 1688 had been allowed when under 48s.: in both cases a bounty of 5s. was given on the export; and yet we find in the table in the Report,
a duty of 6d. Regulating the intercourse with Ireland as to prices. Under this Act the averages are now regulated, referring to the 31 G. 3, c. 30, and explained by 45 G. 3, c. 86.
1805. 45 G. 3, c. 26. To continue 39 G. 3, c. 87, authorising the King to permit the importation and prohibit the exportation of grain generally. See c. 86.
*1805. 45 G. 3, c, 86. No export of corn when above the limited prices for one week.
1806. 46 G. 3, c. 29. Further continuation of 39 G. 3, c. 87, till March 1808.
*1806. 46 G. 3, c. 97. To allow a free intercourse of grain between Great Britain and Ireland. Explained by the 47 G. 3, to extend only to corn the growth of each country. Previously to the passing this Act, there had been temporary laws for680
§ that the average of five years to 1779 was only 40s. 9d.; much lower than in the two preceding periods of the same length.
§ The Act of 1791 repeals in a sweeping clause the regulating prices of 1688 and 1773; and many other Corn Acts as well as the 15th Charles 2, ch. 7; and establishes a new principle: no wheat could, under that law, be exported when above 46s. (still something lower than those at the Revolution): but with respect to importation, a further protection was given to the grower of corn; none could be brought into the country when the price was under 50s. without payment of a duty of 24s. 3d.; if at or above 50s. and under 24s. a duty of 2s. 6d.; and if at or above 54s. a duty of 6d. On this Act the committee make no comment, and their table being brought down only to 1794 (for which no reason is assigned) I am prevented from drawing any inference from that instrument. I have, however, anthentic information from another source, to which I shall refer presently.
§ By the Act of 1804 the export is allowed with the bounty when wheat is at or under 48s.; if above 54s. no export. If under 63s. a duty to be paid of 24s. 3d.; if at or above 63s. but under 66s. a duty of 2s. 6d.; if at or above 66s. a duty of 6d. Here then is a further protection of 13s. a quarter on importation at the end of 13 years only, above the limitation in 1791.
§ The committee in the face of these facts, however, proceed to observe, "That their review of the Corn Laws shows that
§ regulating the intercourse between the two parts of the empire; 42 G. 3, c. 35.—43 G. 3, c. 14, and 78.—44 G. 3, c. 65.—45 G. 3, c. 80.—46 G. 3. c. 29.
§ 1809. 49 G. 3, c. 23. To continue the 39 G. 3, c. 87, authorising the King to permit importation and to restrain exportation generally, without regard to prices—till March 1810.
§ 1810. 50 G. 3, c. 19. To continue the 39 G. 3, c. 87, authorising the King to permit importation and to restrain exportation generally, without regard to prices, till March 1811.
§ *1811. 51 G. 3, c. 14. To continue the 39 G. 3, c. 87, continued till the end of the war; and for six months after a peace. Various Act allowing sugar to be used in the distillery.
§ Acts for regulating the mode of taking averages.—2 G. 2, c. 18.—14 G. 3, c. 64. — 17 G. 3, c. 44, sect 2.—21 G. 3, c. 50.—26 G. 3, c. 53.—29 G. 3, c. 58.—31 G 3, c. 30;—33 G. 3, c. 65.—41 G. 3, c. 10.—44 G. 3. c. 109.—45 G, 3. c. 86.681
§ so long as the system of restraining importation and encouraging exportation was persevered in, Great Britain not only supplied herself, but exported much; and that the prices were steady and moderate and that since that system was abandoned and during the whole period of the continuance of the system that was substituted in its place, of encouraging importation and restraining exportation, that is from 1765 to the present time, Great Britain has not only supplied herself, but has imported vast quantities from foreign countries; and also that the price has been progressively advancing, from an average of 33s. 3d. for 68 years under the old system, to an average of 88s. 11d. for the last nine years under the new one."
§ That this observation should have found a place in the Report; must astonish gentlemen who will take the trouble of attending to the statement now submitted to them. In the first place, there was no change of system whatever in 1765. The permanent laws regulating the export and import of corn at the prices established by the 22d Ch. 2, as to the importation, and by the 1st of Wm. and Mary as to exportation, remained unaltered till 1773. The Acts passed from 1765 to that year were merely temporary, intended only to meet existing scarcity.
§ This allegation of the committee must have been made upon mere rumour, which I know had been prevalent; for it is directly contrary to the fact, of which the committee had the means of informing themselves. It has certainly been a received opinion, that we became a considerably importing country, in consequence of a change of system in 1765; but it will be seen by the annexed account,* that in the 28 years from 1765 to
§ *An ACCOUNT of the Quantity of British Wheat and Wheat Flour exported from England, and of Foreign Wheat and Wheat Flour imported into England, in the following years:
|YEARS.||British Wheat and Flour exported.||Foreign Wheat and Flour imported.|
§ 1792, when our difficulties commenced, there were 14 years in which the exports of wheat exceeded the imports five in which they were nearly equal, and nine
|YEARS.||British Wheat and Flour exported.||Foreign Wheat and Flour imported.|
§ only in which the imports exceeded the exports.
§ The assertion that the prices have been progressively advancing for 68 years, is too loose to admit of a correct examination, as the period alluded to, shewing the commencement and termination of that number of years, is not stated; but it may safely be insisted upon, that in no term of that duration has there been a progressive advance of price; which will appear from
|YEARS.||British Wheat and Flour exported.||Foreign Wheat and Flour imported.|
§ the accompts from Eton College.† The assertion is indeed plainly contradicted by the tables in the very page of the Re-
|† Prices of Wheat per Quarter at Windsor Market.*|
|YEARS.||Prices of Wheat at Windsor, 9 Gallons to the Bushel.||Prices of Wheat reduced the Winchester Bushel of 8 Gallons.||Average of 10 Years according to the Winchester Bushed of 8 Gallons.|
|* These are the Prices of Mealing Wheat; which is understood, at Eton College, to be of a middling quality.|
§ port (6) opposite to the one in which it is made, and in page 5, the one being a continuation of the other.
|YEARS.||Prices of Wheat at Windsor, 9 Gallons to the Bushel.||Prices of Wheat reduced to the Winchester Rushel of 8 Gallons.||Average of 10 Years according to the Winchester Bushel of 8 Gallons.|
§ The accompt recorded in Eton College is the most correct authority that can be found on the subject; on reference to
|YEARS.||Prices of Wheat at Windsor, 9 Gallons to the Bushel.||Prices of Wheat reduced to the Winchester Bushel of 8 Gallons.||Average of 10 Years according to the Winchester Bushel of 8 Gallons.|
|1812||-||6||8||0||Average of 8 Years|
|* From this Year, inclusive, the Account of Eton College has been kept according to the Bushel of Eight Gallons, under the Provision of the Act of 31 G. 3, c. 30, sect. 82.|
§ that, the mistake the committee has fallen into respecting the progressive advance of prices will be most apparent and striking. The record begins with 1646.
|Wheat, 10 years to||1655||51||7¾|
|8 years to||1813‡||101||9¼|
§ The averages thus brought out relieve me from any further comment on the unfounded assertion of the committee, respecting the progressive and advance in the prices of wheat; because they, shew that wheat was cheaper at the end of a period of 140 years than at the beginning of it, namely, from 1646 to 1785, in no part of which had there been a progressive increase after the passing that mischievous Act (as it has been called), in 1773 the average fell to 47s. 8½d. which is below that of the 20 years from 1646 to 1665.
§ The year 1812 is produced as an instance of our becoming an exporting country, from the prices which continued advancing, and a statement is made to prove that. Wheat was that year 128s.; to what part of the world (except to Iceland, and Norway in small quantities) could it be sent at that price: in truth, little or none was, exported any where, with that exception, but for our armies in the peninsula, as will be seen in the separate account for that year presented from the Customs.
§ That the importation was greatly short
§ * In this interval the scarcity was so great, as to have been the occasion of 20 laws having been passed for relief in different ways.
§ † In this period our unexampled difficulties began.
§ ‡ Three of these were years of almost famine, and during the whole, such interruption as were without example.688
§ of what was wanted for our home consumption, is most evident from the prices; for corn was never at any time so dear here as in the last year, not even in the years of dearth 1801 and 1802.
§ To consider that year therefore as one of great export is most extravagant. But this year of plenty, when the average price of wheat was, as has been observed, 128s. is however proposed to us as an instance of the advantage of a restricted importation, and to prove, beyond all doubt, which of the two systems, a free or a restricted trade, is the best; and to corroborate most conclusively the general inference from the review of the corn laws and the corn trade from 1670 to the present time.
§ But before I quit this paragraph in the Report, I must call the attention of the House to the assertion here made in another shape of the invariable insufficiency of supply from our home growth from 1764 to 1812.—If the hon. baronet would have consulted the accounts of the exports and imports, to which I have already alluded,* he would have found that in 1765, 1766, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1776, 1778, 1779, 1780, 1782, 1785, 1786, 1787, 1789, and 1792, the exports exceeded the imports.—And that in 1772, 1773, 1781, and 1788, the balance against the imports was trilling. In the remaining eight years of the period the imports certainly exceeded considerably the exports.
§ In the concluding observation respecting corn, the committee say it appears to them, that if the regulating price form allowing importation is made a very high one, it is the best possible protection the grower can have." Here I agree with them (almost the only instance in the whole Report).
§ The committee were not satisfied with the attempt to make wheat very dear; but in the conclusion of their Report, they recommend a measure which would deprive the consumer of his best resource in a time of great scarcity, by prohibiting altogether the importation of flour; thereby intending to put us entirely into the hands of the miller.
It is perfectly well known that our supply from America is nearly confined to flour, as wheat is too bulky an article to admit of importation, except in very inconsiderable quantities; and that in times of great scarcity we have had an abundant supply of flour.
* See Table in p. 681.
But we are told that such a prohibition of exists in Ireland.—Why, Sir, such a measure may be very innocent, or even an useful one, in a country where the supply of grain is so abundant as to render it unnecessary almost at any time to import; but it would be a most mischievous one here. It is said, however, the millers would like it; of that there can be no doubt; but without running into the common-place prejudices against them, I do not think they are the class of his Majesty's subjects who stand most in need of the protection of the legislature.
§ To support this proposition, however, the committee insert in the appendix a paper from some millers in Lancashire, stating gravely that a prohibition of the importation of flour is necessary, in order to ensure a supply of bran for the manufactures. Sir, I should be ashamed of wasting the time of the House in attempting to prove that we should not incur the risk of starving the men who work in the manufactories in order to ensure a supply of chaff. I should indeed be inexcusable if I were to do so, as the resolution is not yet again brought forward.
§ I come now to the Resolutions, which are as extraordinary as the facts and arguments on which they are founded.
§ The one for allowing a free export is not in the Report, as has been already observed.
§ The 1st proposes the repeal of the 44th of the King.
§ The 2d, that the averages shall be taken and returned in Ireland as in England.
§ The 3d, that the exportation of grain shall be regulated by the aggregate average price of grain in England, Scotland, and Ireland; a very considerable innovation, calling for particular attention; the effects of which, if adopted, I shall have occasion to examine presently,
§ The 4th and 5th excited a great degree of alarm; and I think with very just cause. It was by these proposed, that there should be no restraint upon the export till wheat should be 90s. 2d. a quarter, and other grain in proportion; and that till wheat should be 105s. 2d. a quarter, and other grain in proportion, the importation should be subject to a prohibitory duty. This is reduced in the present Resolutions to 84s. both excluding the the Irish average, which would add 6s. to each.
§ I have already stated, that a great rise in the prices fixed by parliament for re- 690 gulating exportation and importation appeared to me highly objectionable; and I know Mr. Pitt was prevailed upon reductantly to concur in those which were enacted in 1804: but here is a proposition at once nearly to double the amount of the protecting price for exportation, and nearly to treble that for importation, instead of increasing by a few shillings a quarter, as in former instances.
§ The import prices now proposed, it is admitted, are more moderate, but appear to me to be still much too high, and ought not to be adopted, as before observed, without a patient enquiry; these are 27s. a quarter higher than in 1804, and 40s. higher than in 1791. Arise to that extent in 23 years!
§ By the Act of 1804, wheat could not be exported when above 54s. By the Report, it was proposed, the export should not be restrained till it should be 90s. 2d. which, in effect, would be under the proposed regulation, of including Ireland in the average, till it should be 96s. 2d. a quarter. This is demonstrable, because the average of Ireland in the last 21 years was 66s. and in England 78s.* The importation is to be subject to a duty of only
§ * An ACCOUNT of the Average Prices of British and Irish Corn per Quarter, from 1792 to 1812, inclusive.
|YEARS.||English Wheat per Quarter.||Irish Wheat per Quarter.||Average of Great Britain and Ireland per Quarter.|
|Average of Ireland||66s.|
|Great Britain and Ireland||72s.|
§ 6d. by the Act of 1804, when the price shall be 56s. By the Report it would not be importable at the lowest duty till it should be 135s. 2d.; allowing for the Irish average, which would at least be 141s. nearly three times the limit of 1804.
§ It is true, that the prices here quoted were to be in force only till February in this year; from which time the averages were to be taken according to the prices in the preceding twenty years, which, for the present, would have made very little difference. The average of the last twenty years is 77s. 4d. to which adding one-seventh, as proposed by the committee, the price for allowing export would be 88s. instead of 90s. 2d. and for import, adding five-sevenths to 77s. 4d. as proposed, it would be 132s. 7d. instead of 135s., which prices would not certainly be lower for some time to come; probably never, if the proposed measure should be adopted; as in many years of the period of twenty years they were lower than even in the late plentiful season, and the immense prices proposed would infallibly raise them in future: but any further comment upon that proposition is unnecessary, as it is not again brought forward.
§ Not satisfied with the powerful effect of their own statements to induce us to adopt a measure calculated to allow a free export, and to prohibit an import of grain to the extent of the prices stated, they call to their support the testimony of four witnesses, very respectable in their characters I am persuaded, and three of them appear to be intelligent on the circumstances with relation to which they speak, deserving certainly of great attention if the enquiry had been confined to Irish agriculture; but not bearing on the general corn trade of the whole empire, it will be necessary for me only to call the attention of the House to the opinions they express about protecting prices, and to a few of their statements.
§ Mr. Wakefield, when asked, what advance in the importation price would be sufficient to secure a adequate preference to the grower of corn in any part of the United Kingdom over the foreign grower? answers, "I hardly think I can answer that question, not having considered it lately."
§ Mr. Killaly thinks 42s. a barrel, about equal to 70s. a quarter, when delivered in Dublin, would be a fair protection to the grower. Let it be remembered, that the protecting price proposed was 692 141s. In another part of this gentleman's evidence, he says, the price of labour is little increased, but that rents have been doubled in ten years; to pay which he thought 70s. a quarter sufficient. The proposal, therefore, of 141s. as a protecting price, is utterly inconceivable. In Tullamore, land increased 50l. per cent. in ten years.
§ Mr. Callaghan was not prepared to say what would be a protecting price, but thinks, what would have been a protecting maximum in 1804, would be a starving price now.* In another part of his evidence, he says, however, that the advantage derived to tillage, by a free export of grain from Ireland to foreign countries, might be purchased too dearly under certain circumstances.
§ Mr. Grierson thinks, that the price in the Dublin market should be 50s. a barrel; equal to about 83s. a quarter, for the best sort of wheat.† He is also of opinion, that the land now in tillage might be made to produce one half more. And all the witnesses agree that the growth of wheat has increased, and that tillage hat been extended.
§ I here close my observations on the Report; which, from the detail I have felt myself compelled to enter into, I am afraid may have been tiresome to the House. But it appears to me to be of high importance that the mis-statements of the committee (made involuntarily I am persuaded) should be corrected, not only as they may otherwise influence the conduct of members of this House, but for the purpose of counteracting the mischief which has been done by their having been adopted as correct throughout the country.
§ What occurs to me further upon the general subject, I will state as briefly as I can.
§ I have brought under the notice of the House the protecting prices recommended by the committee, and have shewn not only how disproportionate they are to any former instances, but how much higher they are than the witnesses examined by the committee think would be sufficient.
§ If we refer to another authority, which the advocate for high prices trill not object to, it will appear, that those in the Report are higher than are sufficient to
§ * Which can be accounted for only by the rapid rise of rents.
§ † Probably not exceeding 80s., for middling wheat.693
§ meet the great and rapid increase of rents. I allude to Mr. Curwen, who I may be permitted to name, as he is no longer a member of the House; a gentleman whose attention to every part of this subject has not been exceeded by any one; nor do I believe there is an individual in this country who values more highly than he does the importance of encouraging agriculture, as opposed to promoting manufactures; under an impression on his mind, that the latter should not for a moment be put in competition with the former; persuaded that the stoppage of manufactures, generally speaking, would have no important consequences, nor would be lastingly felt, conceiving, as he did, that the individuals engaged in the manufactories would in a short space of time fall into other channels of employment. He has stated those opinions both in parliament and in print, for which no blame can be imputable to him, because I am sure they are sincere; nor do I refer to them for the purpose of combating them, which it would not be fair to do in his absence; but I think it a duty to shew, that the views of a most zealous agriculturalist are more limited than those of the committee, for protecting the growth of corn. In his Address to the Workington Society in 1811, he tells them, "that the exorbitant rents which have been given for land, do not appear to be warranted, as long as the corn laws remain as they are. Sixty-six shillings, the rate at which importation may be made, is now greatly too low; it ought at least to be 80s."
§ Where there has been any alteration in the rents in the last two or three years, I believe they have fallen; the exorbitancy alluded to by Mr. Curwen must, I think, have prevented any rise in them. We see, then, the price he thought would be a protecting one against importation, was 61s. a quarter below that of the committee, as their 135s. would have become 141s. by including Ireland in the average. It is now proposed to be 90s. including the Irish average; which is still 27s. higher than 1804, and 40s. higher than in 1791, when the whole subject was most fully considered, first in the privy council, and afterwards in parliament.
§ My own view of the subject is, that the grower of corn should be very effectually protected, to the extent of the price being high enough to ensure his being able to pay a fair rent, and to have a reasonable profit to himself; but when that object 694 shall be secured, the consumer should then have every possible facility of supply at a price not exceeding the protecting one.
§ In this I have the good fortune to agree with the committee of privy council, who, in the conclusion of the Report to the King in 1790, afterwards presented to this House, say, "That in forming the regulations then suggested by them, they had endeavoured equally to provide for the prosperity of the grower of corn, and the necessities of the consumer. The interests of the grower and consumer are supposed by some to be at variance: to reconcile them as much as possible, is the end which every wise government should endeavour to attain. The interest of the consumer is entitled to the first consideration, so far as to preserve him, in every possible contingency, from scarcity and distress; and as distress for want of this necessary article of subsistence cannot long exist in any country without exposing it to those commotions which frequently happen in times of dearth, it is not likely that the grower of corn would enjoy the fruits of his industry in safety, unless due attention is paid to this first and capital object: but this point being once secured, the interests of the grower should, in the next place, occupy the particular attention of the legislature. The production of corn is the first and most important occupation of the subjects of every country, and on its success rests the main support and prosperity of every other trade: for the sake of the consumer, therefore, the most liberal encouragement and protection should be given to those employed in it; for without offering proper incitements to their industry, plenty can never be procured; for these reasons it will be found, perhaps, on due consideration, that the interests of the grower and consumer, well understood, are less at variance than at first they may appear. In the advice which the committee have thought it their duty to offer to your Majesty, they have aimed at discovering the point of union at which these interests meet; and they humbly refer to the judgment of your Majesty how far they have accomplished the object they had in view."
§ Consistently with these opinions, it appears to be desirable in the first place to come to a determination what the prices should be at which importation should be allowed and exportation restrained; taking it for granted that no one now entertains the remotest idea of an entirely free 695 trade in corn, which would be equally mischievous to the grower and consumer.
§ Whatever deference may be due to the opinions of eminent writers on this subject, I do not believe that in the present state of things any one will be found to recommend that measure. The low value of land and wages of labour in the northern parts of the continent, occasion the prices of corn, to be generally so much, cheaper there than here, as would enable the merchant, after paying ordinary freight and insurance (especially in peace), to sell at prices here below what the British former could afford to pay his rent at; this is decisive against a free import. There have been no importations from Dantzig for a considerable time, but the last average price I have seen was 36s. 3d.; and the charges from thence into the port of London are now 26s. which in the war were 82s.* I am however not aware how the present measure of allowing a perfectly free export, and creating additional difficulties in the way of import, can be considered as consonant with the opinions of authors who recommended a free trade in corn.
§ If there shall be no restraint on export, corn may in a time of scarcity be sent out of the country to some other places where, the want may be more urgent than here, and so the price be enhanced beyond all possible means of the labourer and manufacturer purchasing. We are told, however, that this is not likely to occur, because such places may be supplied from the north of Europe; but we know from experience, that a scarcity had not unfrequently happened at the same time throughout this quarter of the world.
§ Without regarding that consideration, it is proposed that the export shall be completely free, but that the Import shall remain fettered with difficulties and disadvantages as at present, and under prices greatly increased.
§ The determination respecting prices should of course defend upon the rents the farmers pay; but whether that should be according to the exorbitant rents alluded to by Mr. Curwen, or according to more moderate ones, I am afraid it will be
|* In War.||Now.|
§ difficult to settle; even it hose should be insisted upon, I am inclined to believe, on enquiry of the most intelligent and experienced surveyors in valuing estates at the time Mr. Curwen wrote, that the price of wheat at 80s. a quarter, would afford a sufficient protection to the grower.
§ Under the existing laws the export is free from all embarrassment as soon as the price falls below the prescribed limits; but it is not so with regard to importation; in the way of that there are great discouragements and difficulties, even with ports in Europe: and impossibilities respecting supplies from the Black Sea, from whence quantities to almost any extent may be had, when the navigation is not interrupted by the Turks.
§ This arises from the system established for regulating the import; the prices are taken according to the averages of the preceding six weeks, and the returns, which are to guide the importation, are sent to the ports every three months; after which the importers are exposed either to a prohibition or a high duty.
§ The supply of wheat in time of scarcity is principally from Poland. The foreign market is governed chiefly by the London prices. We have been considered as the consumers of the surplus produce of that country; and when England has drawn deeply, it has been procured from the interior: the quantities to be had at the shipping ports on the continent at any given time, are seldom considerable. The proprietors of the great estates in Poland are not in the habit of sending large supplies to the coast in quest of buyers; preferring to keep their produce on their own estates to hazarding a precarious sale for it at the sea-side. Corn cannot therefore be had immediately on its being written for from hence, when the demand is pressing.
§ In late years it was hardly possible to write to Dantzic, Bremen, or Koningsberg to get the cargo here in time; the uncertainty of doing so must indeed at all times be considerable. From Odessa, and neighbouring ports, through which immense supplies might be derived from Poland, by the Bog, the Dniester and the Dnieper, it would be hopeless to attempt an importation. It would therefore require that the period should be extended.
§ It may be worthy of consideration, whether the averages should not be taken annually in the latter end of December to govern the importations for a year; because, 697 by the close of the year, a judgment might be formed of the scantiness or abundance of the preceding harvest.
§ That may be objectionable, but some extension of the time seems to be necessary. It would also be a highly beneficial measure to permit corn to come here freely at all times from all places, and in ships of any country with which we are in amity, as other provisions may now be brought, instead of being restrained to British ships, or ships of the country from whence the importation is made; for however friendly I have been throughout my public life to the interests of our navigation, I think the supply of the people a higher consideration than a temporary suspension of the 12th Ch. 2, to an inconsiderable extent.
§ Any new facility of this sort, or of additional protection to warehousing, could not be said to be Injurious to farmers, while it would be the best protection against monopoly, and the best security against the ill consequences of a scarcity.
§ Nor would such regulations be likely to operate against our exchange, as the grain would probably be sent here on foreign account, and would not be paid for by us, except in the event of necessity obliging us to take it out for home consumption: we should likewise derive considerable advantage from various sources, of commission, landing charges, warehouse rent, re-shipping, &c: &c. In which case it would possibly be prudent not only to give up the duties on warehousing, but to give further encouragement to it.
§ The committee of privy council in 1791 strongly recommended the measure of warehousing; they say, "There is no regulation in our system of the corn laws that is more beneficial, and more deserves therefore to be extended and improved, than those provisions that permit the warehousing of foreign corn. This regulation tends to secure to us a very important branch of commerce; it enables our merchants, who receive corn from the Americans in payment of their debts, to lodge it here, either for the home or foreign market, as occasion may require; it is also the only method of forming magazines of a public nature in this country against times of distress and scarcity, without prejudice to the British farmers and growers of corn." The report then goes on to recommend that the measure shall be carried into effect by the public defraying the expence of warehouses and 698 officers. What the committee of privy council allude to with respect to the Americans, applies to all foreigners who our manufactures*. This has been carried into effect by the law of 1791, except as to relief from warehouse rent and low duties.
§ As the Irish average, as now proposed, is to be included, it will be worthy of consideration, whether provision should not be made for putting the British and Irish consumer on the same footing; to compensate the difference of the average, which, in a period of 21 years selected by the committee has been shown to be 12s. in Ireland below that of Great Britain.
|The average in Great Britain||78s.|
|Do in Ireland||66s.|
|Average of United Kingdom||72s.|
§ The adoption of that average would necessarily operate very unequally upon the respective countries; as in Ireland when wheat would be cheaper by 12s. a quarter than to Great Britain, no more duty would be chargeable than in England while the effect of including in this measure the Irish average with the British would deprive the English consumer of the advantage of importing foreign corn at a low duty.
The committee tell us "that if the regulating price for allowing the importation of corn is made a very high one, it will be the best possible protection the grower can have;" and they at the same time recommend most strongly, that the free
* In another part of the same Report there is the following passage: "In other countries magazines are formed by their respective governments, or by the principal magistrates of great cities, as a resource in times of scarcity. This country has no such institutions. The stores of corn are here deposited in the barns and stacks of wealthy farmers, and in the magazines of merchants and dealers in corn, who ought by no means to be restrained, but rather encouraged, in laying up stores of this nature; as, after a deficient crop, they are thereby enabled to divide the inconvenience arising from it as equally as possible through every part of the year; and by checking improvident consumption In the beginning of scarcity, prevent a famine, which might otherwise happen before the next harvest. The inland trade of corn ought therefore to be perfectly free," &c.
exportation "of it should be allowed to all countries till the price becomes what may be considered a very high one."
§ All this is very good for the grower, but what becomes of the consumer? The labourers and manufacturers, and not only those, but others in the lower ranks in life, and a large proportion in the middling ranks also, have endured, with patient resignation, the most severe and trying privations in unexampled years of scarcity; looking forward, with hope, to better times; ought we then by any measure of ours to frustrate that hope? Or ought we not rather to give them every possible facility of supply, consistently with the interest of the grower, where that shall be necessary and attainable? I am compelled to say, that their interests appear not to have been sufficiently attended to in the Report.
§ Independently of considerations of humanity, we should not be carried away by the arguments in favour of agriculture exclusively, however important it is to attend to those, and with all due respect for the opinions coinciding with Mr. Curwen's, it must be admitted that the manufacturing interests in this country deserve the most attentive and watchful care of the legislature, not merely for the sake of the industrious and meritorious work-people, a sufficiently strong one, but to counteract as far as we can the cheapness of labour in other countries, arising principally from more moderate prices of corn.
§ In the Report of the Committee of Privy Council, before referred to, it is observed, "that the condition of the country labourer certainly requires that the price of corn should be low, that he may be enabled by his wages to purchase what is necessary for his subsistence as soon as the price of wheat passes 48s. The legislature have thought it their duty to attend to the necessities of the poor, and to encourage the importation of foreign wheat by allowing it at very low duties." This statement was in 1791; and in 1813 it was proposed to give them no protection by importation till the price (including the Irish average) should be 141s. a quarter! ! nearly three times the limit previous to 1791. The present proposal of 90s. appears to be still much too high; it is considerably higher than the witnesses examined by the committee, and Mr. Curwen, thought necessary.
§ Now I have a firm persuasion, as I have before stated, that the interests of the grower and of the consumer, rightly un- 700 derstood, are by no means incompatible; but in the Report of the committee, all consideration is for the grower; high prices were their leading, if not their sole object; and the mode of obtaining it is subject to very little uncertainty, which, we may learn from experience.
§ The limits for exportation and importation were not altered from 1688 to 1773: From 1715 to 1765 the averages taker at ten years were below 40s.; during the greatest part of that time below 36s. as has been shewn; whereas in the eight years previous to 1773, till which year the new system did not take place, the average became so high as 2l. 10s. 10d. in the two years to 1765 it bad risen to 44s. 6d. inclusive*. In 1773 the price limited for export, as has been shewn, was 44s., which, in 1688 was 48s. and in the eighteen years from 1774 to 1791 inclusive, when the next alterations took place, the average was 2l. 9s. 8½d., something less than in the eight years preceding.
§ In 1791 the complete revision of the corn laws took place, aided by the report already alluded to by the committee of privy council for the affairs of trade; the whole subject was then most fully considered; many of the laws which had long been in force were repealed, several new provisions were made; and it was enacted, that when wheat was under 44s. it should be exported on a bounty of 5s. and that when it was above 46s. there should, be no export; and if under 50s. there should be a prohibitory duty on importation; but if above 50s.;. and under 54s. on a duty of 2s. 6d.; and if at or above 54s. on a duty of only 6d.
§ These regulating prices continued till 1804, during which period the average of the thirteen years was 3l. 14s. 5½d.
In 1804, the last Act, regulating prices, was passed: under this law, there was a restraint of the exportation of wheat when it should be above 54s; here was an increase of 8s. above 1791, a greater advance than had ever before been made; and the average, from 1805 to 1813, inclusive, was 5l. 0s. 3d. In these two last periods there certainly were years of scarcity, and most unusual difficulties in the way of importation; but with all due allowance for those occurrences, the increase of the averages were most extraordinary. May it not then be asked, if it took place to that amount, on a rise of a few shillings on the
* See Note to p. 684.
export price, as fixed by law, what might have been expected from a rise of 42s. at once; that is, from 54s. to 96s.; 90s. nominally, but becomes 96s. by adding the Irish average? And may I not still ask, what may be now expected from the operations of the resolutions moved by the hon. baronet this afternoon?
§ Hitherto I have confined my observations to the care of the immediate consumer; but ought we to exclude from our minds the effect that would inevitably be produced on our poor rates, and the price of labour; in truth, no very small proportion of the latter is in many instances paid out of the former; I mean when the labourer has more young children than it is possible for him to maintain from his weekly wages; the allowance made to paupers out of the work-house is generally according to the price of the quartern loaf.
§ The whole charge incurred for the poor would, I think, be estimated low at 6,000,000l. The money actually expended for their support in 1803, was 4,267,000l.*, since which, in many parishes, the rates, from the pressure of the times, have been nearly doubled. It mast be apparent, therefore, that the price of bread is of considerable importance to those who contribute to the maintenance of the poor, as well as to the lower and middling classes of society. The effect of that on the price of labour is not less evident, the one ought to rise with the other; labour became much higher in 1799 and 1800 with the dearness of corn, and it has been reduced in many parts of the country since the price of bread has fallen.
§ There are however other considerations which press strongly on my mind: I allude to the revenue, and to the consumers of beer and other articles produced from grain: the first belongs more immediately to my right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but it should not be held to be a light one, in the present time especially, when the produce of some of our taxes may be affected by fraudulent practices on the return of peace.
§ * It appears by a return to parliament, that the whole sum raised in that year by poor's rates, was 5,348,000l. the difference was paid for militia, highways, &c.; this charge is more than double the amount of the average of 1783–4 and 5, and more than treble that of 1776. With these facts before us, my conjecture of 6,000,000l. must be thought much below the real amount.702
§ The import price of barley under the Act of 1804 was 31s. 6d. the Report recommends its being raised to 54s. 2d. a difference of more than 22s. a quarter. I believe somewhat more than three barrels of beer is brewed from a quarter of malt; but rating it at only three barrels, an addition of 5s. a quarter would make an increase of 1s. 8d. a barrel, and consequently an eventual rise of 20s. a quarter of malt would add at least 6s. 8d. a barrel to the price of strong beer, equal to two-thirds of the duty now payable on the article: as the brewer would however naturally indemnify himself for his additional capital, the rise of 20s. a quarter in barley would operate to nearer 3–4ths than 2–3ds of the duty, from 3–4ths to about one penny a quart on porter. A reference to accounts will shew, that this is not a mistaken view of the subject. Grain was at its highest price in 1813; and in that year the duty on strong beer was about 240,000l. less than in 1812: and on a comparison between 1813 and the average of the three preceding years, the result would be nearly the same; and the price to the consumer was raised considerably.
§ Important as this consideration is, as to the brewery, it is not the only one we should have in our contemplation; because, in proportion to the high price of malt, the temptation offers itself to use other and cheaper ingredients instead of it.
§ Such practices have been in use for more than a century, in times when grain was at extremely low prices*. Laws have been passed for the prevention of them, and for the punishment of the offenders;
§ * By the 13th of W. 3, ch. 5, sugar, honey, foreign grains, Guinea pepper, liquor, or syrup made from malt and water (beer druggists it seems were then known), Coculus Indiæ, and other unwholesome materials, were prohibited to be used. The prohibition of these articles was further enforced by statutes in the reign of queen Anne, in which acts broom and wormwood were included. These protections for the health of the people, and against frauds, on the revenue, were, however, found so ineffectual, that a law was passed so lately as in 1802, 42 G. 3, ch; 38, sect. 20, increasing the penalty from 20l. to 200l. for using noxious and unwholesome drugs, vitriol, grains of Paradise, opium, &c. and at length enacting, that no ingredients shall be used in making beer except malt and hops.703
§ but, detections in this case are extremely difficult; notwithstanding which, convictions for using drugs in beer are perhaps more frequent, proportionably, than in any other excisable commodity. The fraudulent brewer has a further inducement to use the forbidden articles than the cheapness of them, as he is thereby enabled to get rid of the compare which the officer makes of the quantity of beer brewed with that of malt used; and I ask, ought we then lightly to add greatly to the inducements that persons who have no regard for their character have for using noxious articles instead of malt?
§ I shall not be suspected, I am sore, of meaning to convey the remotest reflection on any of those carrying on manufactories of beer, who are protected equally by their characters, and by their being above temptation; but that the practices continue to prevail, the numerous convictions, both in the summary jurisdiction and in the Exchequer, afford a certain proof of.
§ If we look to the distillery, the importance to the revenue will be found to be not less: the increase of 20s. a quarter on malt would, I think, be 1s. a gallon on spirits.
§ Now, it seems to have been generally admitted, that it is desirable to have the duty on this article carried as high as it can be, without lessening the consumption. If, therefore, the price of grain raises the cost of the spirit 1s. a gallon, to that extent the revenue, when malt is used, must suffer. I know I am supported in these opinions by a person of the very best experience in the revenue of excise; and in the latter case, not only by him, but by persons most conversant in the manufacture. In Scotland and Ireland the private distillation is chiefly from grain, but in England from Sugar and molasses, chiefly, the latter. In proportion, therefore, as the price of barley and malt is increased to the entered distiller, the profits to the fraudulent one would be increased. If I am right in my estimate of 1s. a gallon, it would be nearly 300,000l. a year on corn spirits.
§ My right hon. friend cannot be ignorant of the frauds to which I allude, in that branch of the revenue; they are, I believe trifling in England, compared with what they are in Scotland and in Ireland; but even here I should, on conjecture, estimate them from 1–6th to 1–8th of the consumption of the country.704
§ The losses to the revenue I have here stated, and of increased prices to the consumer, are on a supposition of the prices of grain being raised to those proposed by the hon. baronet, which will certainly not invariably be the case; but the measure is avowedly to obtain high prices for grain, and in proportion as that shall succeed, the consequences above referred to will follow.
§ Here again I call upon the House to consider whether we should not be cautious of putting the revenue to so much hazard, and of offering such strong inducement to the fraudulent manufacturer to attempt an escape from the duty. The estimates here suggested are made on the prices recommended by the committee; those now proposed by the hon. baronet are about one third lower; to that extent, therefore, the mischief apprehended will be less.
§ Let me next ask if the landed gentlemen will have all the advantages front the high price of corn that are held out to them? I have already noticed the effect that would inevitably be produced on the poors' rates, and the price of labour, by dearness of grain, and that in many instances the increased price of bread directly raises the price of labour.
§ We are told, however, the farmer wants further encouragement to induce him to produce more grain, and the owner of the soil to put more land in tillage, of which no proof is adduced; but we have strong presumptive evidence to the contrary. In the ten years from 1801 to 1811, our population in England alone* increased 1,448,000: in that period the average excess of importation above exportation of wheat was 586,814 quarters; but in that period are included two years of the greatest scarcity ever known in this country. Excluding those, the average excess of importation of the other eight years was 388,789 quarters. If we look to the 27 years from 1773 (the year in which the Act was passed which has been so much exclaimed against) to 1799 inclusive, we shall find the excess of imports above the exports on an average to be no more than 140,000 quarters annually;† within which period we had not only an immensely increasing population to provide for, but
§ * I state the increase of the population in England only, because the accounts of imports and exports of grain are confined to England.
§ † For these quantities see Note to p. 681. 705 great numbers of the labouring classes acquired the habit of using the best wheaten bread, who before consumed flour from rye or barley, or a coarser sort from wheat: and considering how large a proportion of those classes have little other food than bread, it is not wonderful they should supply themselves with that of the best quality.
§ If, with the knowledge of these facts, we reckon the consumption at only a quarter a head annually, according to the common computation, which I am persuaded is rather below the quantity, it will be seen to what an immense extent our tillage must have been increased in late years.
§ The number of Inclosure Acts have also been on the increase for some time past; and notwithstanding the immensely high prices, which have offered a strong inducement to the extension of tillage, the land now in cultivation is capable of very great improvement. Mr. Grierson, a gentleman intelligent in Irish agriculture, tells us, that land in tillage might be increased one half. And Mr. Curwen, in the publication (before alluded to) in 1811, says "I cannot say how much I have been astonished with the appearance of the country from Ferry-bridge to Newark: this, with very little exception, is as fine a corn district as any in England; but now wretchedly cultivated! The rents not half what are paid in the Lothians; the soil equal, &c." And in another part of the same work, the author, who is a very competent judge, tells us, "the cost of a good and bad crop is nearly the same; the profit in a failing crop is little if not attended with loss; the injury to the land, much and certain." If then the extraordinary encouragement offered by prices in a time of famine, were not a sufficient inducement to increase the quantity of corn produced, which might have been effected to a great extent at little or no additional expence, what rational expectation can be entertained that any additional rise of prices, computed on ordinary occurrences, will tempt persons to put large parcels of new land into tillage, (attended with an infinitely larger expence than the improvement of existing cultivation) beyond the advantages they already have. But if large quantities of land now uncultivated, or in pasture, shall be brought into tillage, may not the present grower look upon that as injurious to him by lowering the prices?
§ The Committee hold out, to captivate one description of people, an expectation 706 that by increased cultivation bread will become cheap; and to another, that by raising the prices of importation and lessening those for exportation, corn will be dearer; the attempts made to reconcile these two objects can hardly mislead any one, notwithstanding the very ingenious arguments used; at the time those are urged, it is acknowledged that high prices is the object in view; and we know from experience that must be obtained by the means proposed.
§ Fully aware of the difficulty of the subject on which I have troubled the House at so much length; I have considered it most deeply; and if I am not greatly mistaken, the land owner will profit by the measure in, an, infinitely smaller proportion than the labourers in agriculture and in manufactures; and the class of society next above those, will suffer from it.
§ The former have in most instances been partially, at least, indemnified by an addition to their wages, or in some other way; but the others have not, and indeed could not have been, to any extent. These descriptions of people have borne the pressure with a degree of patience that cannot be too highly commended; ought we then, as soon as we are blessed with a plentiful season, to turn short upon them, and to adopt a measure which is to render it certain, as far as the interposition of the legislature can be effectual, that the price of bread shall permanently be above double what it was before the unexampled miseries of the late war were inflicted upon us?*
§ Other points which have been thought of some importance are also entirely left out of sight, both in the Report and in the Resolutions. Nothing is suggested respecting some permanent provision to ascertain when it shall not be allowed to distil from grain; a measure loudly called for to prevent speculation and uncertaintly, equally mischievous to the manufacturer and to the revenue: nor is any mention made of giving facility to importation, when by law this should take place.
§ I trust enough has been said, to convince every one that a more comprehensive view of the subject should be taken before so
§ * The price of the quartern wheaten loaf, for a series of years before 1794, fluctuated from 6d. to 7½d.; the price for importation, as proposed to be regulated, is 90s. a quarter, which would make the quartern loaf 13½d.707
§ great a change in our corn laws is acquiesced in. Let me repeat, that we are called upon to give up, on the mere suggestion of the hon. baronet, the regulations restricting the export of corn at all times, and under whatever circumstances of distress we may be in, without bestowing an hour of our time to enquire whether an alteration of that magnitude is fit or not; which regulations commenced in an early period of our history, and have been varied according to circumstances, in every reign since; even in the time of the Commonwealth.
§ In support of the other Resolutions regulating the export and import trade in corn of the whole empire, it is true we have a report from a committee; but such a one as I believe this House has never yet acted upon, Let me ask gentlemen, if they think they ought to risk such consequences as have been pointed out on the miserable authority they have before them, full of errors and mistakes, and with no other evidence than that of two or three gentlemen, whose means of information are confined to the agriculture of Ireland.
§ The infinite importance of a full enquiry would well warrant a delay till the next session, when, in a time of settled peace, it might be entered upon more satisfactorily, and with, a better prospect of success, than we can entertain a hope of at present.
§ I earnestly intreat, therefore, for the credit of the House, and for the satisfaction of the country, we may not take this Report for our guide, but proceed in a manner consistent with the infinite importance of the subject. I will detain the House no longer; but I cannot sit down without offering my thanks for the attention with which they have honoured me.
§ Sir Henry Parnell
felt extremely obliged to the right hon. gentleman for having given him an opportunity of fairly meeting his arguments on the merits of the Report. Since that Report had been made, the right hon. gentleman had taken every occasion to deliver observations on the statements contained in it, Similar to those which he had just addressed to the House. He (sir Henry) now stood forward, boldly and fearlessly, to defend that Report, and to contend, that all the facts and statements which it comprised, with only one exception, were perfectly correct. He was sorry that right hon. gentleman had not been a member of the committee which drew up that Report. If he had been so, he was 708 ready to declare, that his services would, have essentially assisted their labours. But the House would recollect, that, when the committee was first appointed, its only object was to examine the corn laws of Ireland; and, when it was afterwards suddenly proposed to extend its investigation to the corn laws of this country, those members who were added to it, were perhaps, selected without due consideration. The right hon. gentleman had observed, that his (sir Henry's) object, and the object of the Report, was to raise and to keep up the price of corn and of bread. He disclaimed any such object—he did not propose his Resolutions with a view to any permanent increase of the price of corn—nor, in truth, could they, have any such, effect. There was this distinction to be made throughout the whole question, which the right hon. gentleman had either not comprehended, or, if he did comprehend, he had not the candour to state it, that though, in the first instance, it was intended to maintain the prices of grain, for a time, at what they now were, and so far to keep up the price of bread; yet, as the effect of the measure would be to encourage tillage, and to promote the growth of corn, by which means a greater supply would be obtained, it must finally occasion a reduction of the price. The measure he proposed went simply to this object—to operate an increase of produce, in first instance, and, in the second, as a necessary consequence, to lessen the price in the market. There was no proposition before, the House, as the right hon. gentleman, seemed to suppose, for continuing the price of corn, at any particular standard. And, if he had stated correctly, what was mentioned in the Report relative to the price of wheat at 105s. he would have seen that no intention was ever entertained, of continuing it at that rate. The reasoning of the Report was this: after examining the Act of Charles 2 and pointing out its effect, the committee say, that, if the House of Commons should think proper to proceed on the principle of that Act, they must take a price equivalent to that adopted in the statute of Charles; that price was 53s.; and; 105s., in the present day, appeared to the committee as not more than equivalent to 53s. at the former, period. The price named by the committee was therefore nothing more than conditional. "If," said they, "the House consider it right to adopt the principles of a law, which has operated beneficially for 709 the public, they should take that price which the difference of the time demands."—No member of the committee intended to give an opinion on the subject, But rather than take a sum of hazard, they selected that which experience sanctioned, and therefore 105s. was mentioned. He did not, however, mean to say, that this was the rate which ought to be acted on now. On the contrary, he thought that price should be adopted which met the concurrent opinion of the House and of the public at large.—A reasonable price ought to be agreed upon—one that would secure to the consumer an efficient supply of grain, and afford such a proper remuneration to the grower, as would prevent him from sustaining injury. In the resolution the price was taken at 84s.; and here he wished to observe, that all the parties who petitioned the House on the subject, must be satisfied that their representation were attended to, and had met with proper consideration. In the Petition of the inhabitants of Newcastle, 105s. per quarter was complained of as too high a price—and, in compliance with that statement, he for one, was willing to take it at 84s. being 21s. lower; and, if that were still found too high, he was ready to concur in whatever the House might consider proper. Another assertion of the right hon. gentleman was, that the committee wished to fix a regulation price upon corn. But it by no means followed, because they pleased to name a price, under which foreign corn should not be imported, that therefore the price of corn, at home, must necessarily come up to it. The average price in England and Wales, was 73s. per quarter. Now, did the right hon. gentleman mean to say, that if no corn could be imported, without paying duty, until the price rose to 84s. that this system would increase the price at home? (Mr. Rose said, No, no.) Then, if the right hon. gentleman admitted that it would not, he abandoned one of the strongest objections which he had advanced against the committee. The present low price, 73s. per quarter, was the result of last year's abundant harvest; and he understood the quantity of corn was so great throughtout the country, that it was not likely to rise in consequence of any measure they might adopt. On the contrary, a further reduction in price might be expected. As to the propriety of a free export, though the right hon. gentleman did not coincide in his opinion, yet he was by no means sin- 710 gular in his view of the subject. The right hon. gentleman had stated had stated his firm belief, that it would be attended with evil consequences; but every individual with whom he (sir Henry Parnell) had conversed on the measure, expressed himself favourable to it. On other branches of the subject he had found a great variety of opinion; but it did so happen, that, on the benefits to be expected from a free export, he met with one concurrent feeling. The right hon. gentleman himself was the only person he ever heard speak against the adoption of that principle. The right hon. gentleman had stated that there were no less than one hundred and thirty laws on the subject of the corn trade, which the committee should have examined. Now what was the line the committee took? They did not begin by examining those Acts which related merely to internal trade. They were, he believed, very numerious; but, as they referred principally to the storing and warehousing of corn, it would have been ridiculous to enter upon an investigation of them; though, undoubtedly, they were of importance at the time they were passed. They had, however, examined with attention the Act of Charles 2, and all such others as were essentially important. The eulogium passed by the committee on that Act was transcribed by Adam Smith. The right hon. gentleman had discovered, that in the statement of average prices from 1646 to 1666, contained in the Report, an error was committed. But he should have recollected, that it was impossible to get any document on this subject, referring to the twenty years previous to 1666, from the Custom-house. The committee were therefore obliged to put up with such authorities as were within their reach; and, in looking to the corn tracts of Mr. Smith, he though they had selected the very best. The right hon. gentleman next found fault with that part of the Report which was supported by the authority of Mr. Chalmers. Here, again, the objection appeared unfounded, since it could not disputed that Mr. Chalmers's work was one of great accuracy and research. The right hon. gentleman objected to the distinction which the committee had made between the two systems—that formed by the old laws, and the system now pursued under those at present in being. The alteration, he said, took place in 1773, but though it was not finally adopted until this period, it was 711 introduced in 1765, by annual laws. The right hon. gentleman complained of the statements of average exports and imports, under the two systems of law, which the committee had made. Now, although be had denied the fact, there was the best proof to shew, that for 68 years prior to the year 1765, there was an average increase of exports—but, since that time, there had been a regular average increase of imports. The Report might be incorrect, as to a year or two—but it was perfectly correct as to the entire period. The right hon. gentleman, to support his argument, had gone into a statement of the average prices, under the old and new system. But when he made the inferences he had done, he made the inferences he had done, he must have supposed that the House would rather trust to his opinion, than to their own comprehension of what they could themselves learn. On referring to the Report, they would find the following table of average prices, from which the deduction was self-evident, the accuracy of which was indisputable:
Here, then, was a gradual increase in price, the consequence of acting on a system diametrically opposite to that established by the Act of Charles 2, and which proved, that the committee, in recommending, a recurrence to that principle, were borne out by facts. The right hon. gentleman had though proper to state, that if the House adopted 84s. per quarter, the quartern loaf would be double the price it was in 1794. But this was not a fair way of stating the effect which the non-permission to import corn till it arrived at 84s. per quarter, would produce. It was not right or fair to go back to so distant a period, and, at the same time, to leave out of consideration altogether, the great change which had taken place in the value of money. If he would enter into a calculation of the real value of a quartern loaf, and compare it with the altered value of money, he would find, that the quartern loaf is cheaper now at 11½d. than it was in 1794 at 7d. His general feeling seemed to be, that the House was not yet sufficiently in possession of the subject, to act upon it.—Now admitting, for argument sake, that the Report was inaccurate, let 712 the right hon. gentleman recollect that it was submitted to parliament near a twelve-month ago, and that several debates had taken place on it. Within the last five or six years, also, it should be remembered, other committees had sat (one for instance on the West India interests, and another on the distilleries) in which it was absolutely necessary that the corn trade should be minutely examined. The subject had, besides, been before the public during the whole of the last year, and was amply discussed in various periodical works. In point of fact, therefore, no gentleman, who wished to make himself master of the subject, could, with justice, complain that he had not the fullest opportunity of doing it. He always considered it a subject, not so much of evidence as of principle; and the question of principle, which was the most important, could not be learned from depositions, but from those circumstances, which every man had it in his power to observe. He hoped, therefore, that the House would now come to a decision, and declare distinctly what should be done, since every person who spoke on the question seemed to think that some alteration was necessary in the existing system. As he had always avowed himself the friend to a free trade, he now wished to state the reasons which induced him, by placing certain restrictions on the importation of corn and commodities of this country were on a level with those of the rest of Europe, he should then think it unnecessary to introduce an artificial system. But the price of corn in England had risen higher than in any other country in Europe, in consequence of the interruption of late years of our communication with the continent, and formed an exception to the general rule. The advocates of a free import of corn rested their arguments on the authority of Dr. Adam Smith. But if that learned man could now give an opinion on the subject, it would, he was convinced, be extremely different from that to be found in his works. He stated, that corn being a very bulky article, and its removal, of course, very expensive, it was not likely to be imported in such quantities as would operate prejudicially to our growers; but that manufactures being compact, and not difficult to be shipped, would, if permission were given, be imported to such an extent as much interfere with our manufacturers. But, with respect to his first position, the character of the country was 713 changed; for corn could now be brought from Poland and other countries so cheap, that, notwithstanding the freight, it could be sold at a lower rate in our market; than that produced by the English growers. The opinion of Dr. Smith did not, therefore, apply to the present time.—Another argument of Dr. Smith was this—the proportion of foreign corn imported, he says, being only a five hundred and seventy-first part; of the whole quantity consumed, a free import cannot be injurious. But the foreign corn imported for the last ten years was, on an average, 700,000 quarters, or about one twenty-fifth part of the consumption of Great Britain, and in some years it had been two millions of quarters; and, therefore, his reasoning is not now applicable. He has also said, were all nations to govern themselves by a liberal policy, it would be their interest to have a free trade in corn, for the same reason that it is the interest of every country to have a free trade throughout its provinces; but, as the practice is quite different, it follows, of course, that this reason in favour of a free trade must fall to the ground. But the main argument on which the advocates for a free importation rest their opinion is, that of Dr. Smith's in support of a general system of a free trade. But Dr. Smith does not himself apply this reasoning to the corn trade; and, if it is minutely examined, it will be found not to justify its perfect freedom in the present state of things. It is commonly supposed that the whole value of this principle consists in this—that you ought always to buy whatever commodities you want wherever you can buy them cheapest. But this is not all—the consequences of buying cheap, as explained by Dr. Smith, must be duly attended to. If you buy an article from a foreign country, which can be made and brought from that country cheaper than you can afford to make it, he says you will apply your capital to greater advantage if you employ it on some object of industry, which you can make cheaper than foreign countries, than if you entered into competition with them where they have great natural advantages over you—you will add more to your industry, to your annual produce, to the sum of your national wealth. This reasoning of Dr. Smith has in view alone what will most contribute to the wealth of the country. When, therefore, his reasoning is applied to the corn trade, it must be so 714 applied, under the limitation that the question to be decided is, whether a free or a restricted importation will most advance our national wealth. Now let us examine what the operation of a free importation of corn would be upon the industry, the annual produce, the wealth of the country—always keeping in mind, that the state of our agriculture has been brought to what it is by the peculiar circumstances of the times, and that the prices have been raised much beyond the level of the rest of Europe, in consequence of the restricted intercourse with the continent—it is obvious, the immediate effect must be a still greater fall of price, a most injurious extent of loss to all our farmers, a great diminution in the demand for agricultural industry, a decrease of our annual produce, and, consequently, in the amount of our general wealth. It may be said, but the wealth of the country will not diminish, because our manufactures will flourish in as fast a degree as the agriculture may decline. It is no doubt true, that as corn will be excessively cheap; as the produce of grass-land will also be very cheap, in consequence of the quantities of tillage land that will be sowed with grass-seeds; as the imports of foreign corn will produce great exports of manufactures, so will the wealth of the country, arising from manufacturing industry be increased. But then this question arises—whether it is a wise and politic course to take, to obtain a great increase of manufacturing wealth, by an equal diminution of that depending on agriculture?—whether, in legislating on the corn trade, it is right only to look to what will render the country somewhat richer?—whether any sound system of policy can justify the general derangement of all that vast stock of labour, skill and capital, which is vested in agriculture, for the uncertain result of adding, in some measure, to the general wealth of the country?—A wise policy will recommend no such course, and, therefore, shews that doctor Smith's principle of a free trade, having merely in contemplation what is best calculated to give the greatest possible degree of wealth, is not applicable to this question.—In looking further into his writings, it will be found, that he states three exceptions which may be made to his general rule—the first, when a commodity of our growth is essential to our security as a state. He illustrates his reasoning by reference to the Navigation Act—which Act, though 715 he praises it as the wisest law in our statute-book, as contributing to our means of defence, he shews also be very injurious to our commercial prosperity.—Corn, then, being an article of indispensible necessity for our subsistence, in proportion as we habituate ourselves to depend on a foreign supply, we expose ourselves to the greatest risk and danger to be brought under subjection to some foreign state.—The second exception of Dr. Smith's is, when an article of domestic produce has been made subject to internal taxation—he says, in such a case, it is fit to impose a duty on the importation of the same article from foreign countries, which shall be equal in amount to our own tax. Now, as some part of the price of corn is made up by our taxes, in that degree it will be justifiable to impose a duty on the importation of it, according to Dr. Smith. The third exception is, when a particular trade has for some time been protected by a restraint on importation—he says it would be very unjust, and exceedingly ruinous, suddenly to restore a free trade. This applies to the case of the corn trade, which has been greatly protected by the peculiar circumstances of the times. The general inference, therefore, to be drawn from the writings of Dr. Smith is, that at this particular time, and under the peculiar circumstances of the corn trade, the restraint which it is proposed to place on the importation of foreign corn is in every respect perfectly justifiable.—It had been argued, that the projected alteration would increase the price of corn, and that the consequence would be such a rise in the rate of wages, as would prevent England from entering into a competition with the manufacturers of other countries.—With respect to this apprehended increase of the price of corn, he thought he had said enough to shew, that the alteration would decrease, instead of enhancing the value of that article—and, as to the other point, he had every reason to believe, that the rate of wages did not vary with the price of corn, but with the demand for labour, and the number of persons who offered themselves. This was proved by the evidence on the Orders in Council. It there appeared, that, when the price of corn was low, wages were frequently high, and vice versa. This sufficiently proved the fallacy of the assertion to be found in some of the manufacturing petitions, that, if the price of corn were raised, the value of labour would keep pace with it. Many 716 gentlemen supposed that this could never become an exporting country. He thought very differently, and he rested his opinion on the statements of men who perfectly understood the subject. He alluded to the Irish merchants, who, if the liberty were granted to them, would open markets for the produce of this country, in, every quarter of the world. They were most anxious to embark in the trade, from which they had been long deharred—a privation by which they had lost considerably. He (sir Henry Parnell) was informed by one of those persons, that last autumn he could have taken orders, to any amount, for the Brazils; but the existing system prevented him. It was very curious to remark, that, while corn was a mere drug in Ireland, in Jamaica they were so much in want of it that the inhabitants had addressed the Prince Regent on the subject. Thus, while there was a glut in one quarter of the empire, there was a complete scarcity in another. This measure would, therefore, produce a more fair and even average price than had been known since the permission to export corn was removed. It had been frequently urged, that we ought to import a great deal of corn, to enable us to export large quantities of manufactures; but the House ought to consider what goods were exported to the Poles or other foreigners, and what were consumed in Ireland. If gentlemen would take the trouble of looking to the tables, they would find, that, as far as Ireland had supplied this country with corn, she took manufactures in return; but this could not be said of foreign states. In short, the true way of viewing the subject was, to allow this country a full, fair, and unfettered right to enjoy the utmost benefit of her manufactures; while Ireland should be considered as an agricultural country, capable of supplying the wants of the manufacturers. And surely, it was not asking too much of this country to purchase corn from Ireland in preference to Poland.
Average Prices. For 68 years, prior to 1764, under s. d. the Act of Charles 2. 33 3 From 1764 to 1794 44 7 From 1794 to 1803 65 8 From 1803 to 1812 88 11
, in explanation, observed, that he never said any thing so absurd as what had been attributed to him respecting the prices. He had said, that whenever the legislature had interfered to raise the prices, those of the markets invariably got up. He did not either wish or expect the hon. baronet to go through the 130 Acts; he had only said, that there were about 30 of the number which the committee ought to have looked into.
§ Sir Henry Parnell
was ready to admit, that in some parts of his speech he had misunderstood the right honourable gentleman.
§ Mr. Frankland Lewis
was of opinion, that, under every sense of justice and national interest, the House should proceed upon this subject with the utmost caution. It bad come to his knowledge, that there were opinions abroad, that the committee had been influenced by sinister motives; that they had separate interests to attend to; that the Report was calculated to grant a sort of protection which should put money into the pockets of the corn growers at the expence of the poor; that they thought more of this particular interest at the time, than of the interest of the public at large. These insinuations were additional reasons why the subject should have the most fair and deliberate discussion, in order that such partial suspicions might be done away. It was not consistent with justice, that protections and monopolies should be allowed to one class of persons at the expence of another, any attempt of the kind would of necessity, fail. This measure, placing an obstacle in the way of the importation of corn, could not fail to raise the price of it. It would have no effect at all, or it would do this. If the price of corn were increased, the necessary, though not the immediate consequence was, that the price of labour would also be increased, and an advance in the prices of manufactures would follow; so that when the farmer went to market, met by increased charges every where, his 90s. would in effect be no better than his fifty now. From the increase in the price of corn, he would derive no real advantage. He would be no richer than he was before; and the same causes which made it of no benefit to the farmer would also affect the landlord in a similar way. It had been said, there had been an abundant supply of corn when its importation was prohibited; but these circumstances, though co-existent, did not stand in the relation of cause and effect to each other. The change which had occurred, he principally ascribed to the vast increase of our population, which in the reign of king William 3, amounted to but five millions and a half. In the succeeding century up to the year 1755, it increased but about one million. From the year 1700, up to the date of the table before the House, it appeared to have been raised from six millions and a half a twelve millions and a half. Taking this into considera- 718 tion, on a view of the imports, it appeared that agriculture had greatly increased in this country; and looking to the returns of the last ten years, the supply thus obtained was six times greater than that produced within a corresponding period in the first half of the last century. He had heard no argument that at all induced in him a belief that any benefit could result from the proposed measure. The question was involved in so much of doubt and difficulty, that the House ought well to pause before they came to a decision. Never before had they been called to decide a question of so much importance on such meagre information as they had yet received on this subject. Nothing could be more dangerous than rashly to interfere with the prices of provision. It was almost impossible that they could have devoted themselves to an inquiry into the corn laws (as they ought to do before they ventured to alter them), while such events were passing as had fixed their attention for the last 18 months. The return of peace (and he hoped of plenty) would afford the fittest opportunity for entering into the inquiry. The Bank Restriction Act was to cease six months after the conclusion of a peace; and when the Bank resumed cash payments, it might be expected that corn would sink to its bullion price—that it would fall from 73s. to about 54s. As the state of the currency might so materially affect the question, he thought the consideration of this subject ought to be deferred. This reason alone would be sufficient to make him vote against the resolution; as, before a new settlement with respect to the corn laws was made, it was desirable that a settlement with the Bank should take place.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
felt the force of many of the arguments which had fallen from the last speaker. He admitted the question respecting our currency to be of great importance respecting our foreign trade. He wished the Speaker to leave the chair; as he thought it desirable that the first resolution of the Report should be agreed to, if, in the present instance, they proceeded no further. That carried, the subject could stand over for a time; as he apprehended the present state of the exchanges furnished as great protection against the importation of corn as the hon. baronet could desire, seeing they were at least equal to a duty of 20s. per quarter. This subject had been expected to come on early in the session. Circumstances, 719 over which they had no control, had-prevented it. Now it was before them, he hoped the first resolution would be carried. He was of opinion, that a perfectly free trade with the whole world would be best for all nations, but this was that which we could not command. It could only be effected by the general concurrence of all nations. While others thought some restrictions necessary, our measures must have a reference to theirs. He thought our corn exports would not be very considerable till we could afford to sell cheaper than our neighbours; and this, from particular circumstances, he did not think we could do for some time. After some further observations with respect to the scale of duties which it might be necessary to adopt, he concluded by stating the course of proceedings which he wished to recommend. He thought it would be best that they should go into a committee on the Report; and that if the House should be pleased to agree to the first Resolution, an amendment could be moved on the second, and the further consideration of the subject could be deferred till a future day.
§ Sir J. Newport
, as the proposition of the right hon. gentleman seemed to meet with the concurrence of the House, did not intend entering into the general merits of the question. He however wished to notice what had fallen from an hon. gentleman (Mr. F. Lewis.) He thought nothing could be more likely to produce the most mischievous effects than any representation of the members of that House which made them appear to have interests of their own to attend to, separate from those of the people, They ought to guard against appearing conscious that such a suspicion was in any way merited. Any man, who suffered his conduct, as a legislator, to be at all influenced by an apprehension that such a view would be taken of his conduct, was, in his opinion, unfit to sit in that House.
§ Mr. F. Lewis
explained. He had not supposed such a character belonged to them; but merely stated, that it had come to his knowledge that such an idea had, in some instances, gone abroad.
Mr. W. Douglas
warmly supported the propositions. It had been supposed, that the measure recommended would raise the price of provisions, consequently the price of labour; and, in the result, prevent the competition of our manufacturers in foreign markets. If, however, it could be shown that those results would not be produced, 720 but, on the contrary, the prosperity of the manufacturers, and the country, would be placed on a surer foundation, he was certain no other recommendation would be necessary to induce the House to acquiesce in the resolutions. There was little fear that the manufacturers of the country would be materially injured by an increased price of corn; they were chiefly produced by machinery; few persons were employed in the fabrication of a great quantity of goods, and therefore a small advance in the price of corn could not alter their value. He would appeal to the period of 1799 and 1801, when provisions were high, yet the manufactures did not decline. When provisions were very cheap, artisans could earn in a few days what was necessary to subsist them for many; they therefore indulged in idleness and dissipation; and when they returned to their labour, they were indisposed to make those exertions which in a regular course of application they were accustomed to make. It had been said, that the capitalists and manufacturers were to be protected against the agriculturists; but, in reality, the House was called on to legislate for the whole of the nation, and not for a particular interest. By reducing the price of corn, the price of labour would also be reduced, and thus the government would lose one source of revenue. By allowing a free and unrestricted importation of corn, the House would put it in the power of foreign nations to lay such a tax on the grain they exported as would just enable them to undersell the English grower, and thereby to levy a revenue at the expence of this country. Hitherto he had considered the question as bearing on the commercial part of the community; he had treated that as the first interest; this was contrary to the fact; of whatever importance the trading interest might be, the agricultural was not inferior. The hon. gentleman then pronounced an eulogy on the agricultural interest, and argued in favour of such a state of things as would place the nation above the necessity of adventitious assistance, and give such a quantity of native produce as would render it independent of foreign countries. These objects, in his opinion, the proposed measure was calculated to effect.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
opposed the proposed resolutions. The hon. baronet proposed to increase the growth of corn to such an extent, as would operate to lower the price; in, this he opposed the hon. ba- 721 ronet to be sincere; but if he were so, this would go to defeat another of his objects, which was to remunerate the farmer, and protect the landed interest. The propositions contained nothing but self-contradictions; and therefore he could not say whether it was the intention of his hon. friend to raise or lower the price of corn; both objects were professed: but whatever was the object, he was aware that no member could read the Report on the subject then on the table, without being decidedly against the whole of the propositions. The Report recommended the importation of corn from Ireland, to enable a part of the arable land of England to be laid into pasture, for the production of milk and cheese, and meat, so as to be afforded at a more reasonable rate; while one of the chief goods proposed to be received from the Resolutions to be proposed was, the extension of the growth of corn in England. This was a contradiction; indeed, the measure was made up of them; and if adopted it would prove in its operation either nugatory or injurious.
§ Sir Matthew Ridley
alluded to a petition which he had presented to the House on the subject: he described the unanimity with which it had been adopted, and said he had no doubt it had already produced beneficial effects by reducing the price of grain. He should oppose the Resolutions when proposed, and probably for the same reasons as would induce the hon. baronet to support them—for the benefit of the country, and the landed interest in particular. Corn was the regulator of the price of all other articles of trade and commerce: if the price of corn was raised, the price of labour would be raised also, and then the advance in the price of our manufactures mast ensue: this might have the effect of driving them from those markets where they had hitherto been unrivalled. This would destroy a means of national wealth; and if it should induce any of our manufacturers to emigrate to other countries, the number of consumers would be diminished, and the landed interest would essentially, suffer.
§ Sir N. C. Colthurst
adverted to a petition on the subject which he had presented. All his constituents, as well agricultural as others, agreed, that some, alteration he the corn laws was necessary. And this opinion he believed was not confined to Ireland, for whose sake alone the House was not called on to act; that which was bad effect to that kingdom was advantage- 722 ous for this. He would give the Resolutions his most hearty concurrence.
§ The question was then put, for the House going into the committee, and was carried.
§ The House having resolved accordingly, the first Resolution, which is as follows, was put and carried:—
§ 1. That the exportation of corn, grain, meal, malt, and flour, from any part of the United Kingdom, should be permitted at all times, without the payment of any duty, and without receiving any bounty whatever.
§ The following Resolution was then put:
§ 2. That the several duties, now payable in respect of all corn, grain, meal, and flour, imported into the United Kingdom, should cease and determine; and, that the several duties in the following Schedule shall be paid in lieu thereof:—
§ When imported from the province of Quebec, or the other British colonies in North America:
|Wheat.||Rye, Beans, and Peas.||Barley, Beer or Bigg.||Oats.||DUTY.|
|If at or above||74||50||37||24||2||6|
|If at or above||77||52||39||25||0||6|
§ When imported from any other foreign country:
|If at or above||84||56||42||28||2||6|
|If at or above||87||58||44||29||0||6|
§ N.B. The remainder of the Schedule to be formed according to the principle of the Schedule of the Act of 44 Geo. 3, c. 109.
§ On this second Resolution,
§ Mr. Huskisson
said, he would not trespass on the House longer than was necessary to explain the amendment which he was about to offer. The two grand objects the House had to obtain by the proposed measures were, first, to render the country try independent of foreign supply; and, secondly, to keep the price of corn as nearly equal possible. Under the system, which had been pursued for nearly equal as possible. Under the system which had been pursued for nearly fifty years, the country had been gradually becoming more and more dependant on foreign countries for a supply of grain, and the prices had been kept in a continual state of fluctuation. All this 723 had happened under a system which for nearly sixty years previously had rendered the country nearly independent of foreign supply, and during which period the fluctuation of price had never exceeded one third. Instead of which, during the last fifty years, large importations had taken place, and the fluctuations had exceeded more than three to one, instead of one to three. He would ask the House, what must be the state, of that law which had produced those evils, if they had been produced by law, of which there could be no doubt; and whether some remedy was not absolutely necessary? It was impossible to raise the price of labour in proportion to the fluctuating price of grain; and as the agricultural labourers constituted the largest class, and were those whose earnings approached nearest to the amount of that which was necessary to mere existence, any temporary rise in the price of grain was more severely felt by them than by any others; and this evil exhibited itself in augmented poor rates and various other forms. The fluctuation of price was an evil equally to be guarded against with a high price. It was true, the total prohibition of the importation of foreign corn would raise the price; but if he should prove that, the proposition he meant to submit to the House, though it might raise the price in a trifling degree, would yet tend to keep it at a steady rate, and not so high as the average of those fluctuations which had taken place of late years, it would not be said that he was one who attended to the landed interest alone. Indeed, it was unjust to suppose that there was any exclusive interest in that House. There all interests were nearly equally represented, and the therefore legislated for all. Notwithstanding all the importance that was attached to the importations of grain, it was well known, that in no one year had more than about one-tenth or twelfth of the whole consumption been drawn from foreign countries. If no foreign corn had been imported, the nation would have saved sixty millions sterling. It might be said, that without this importation sixty millions worth of our manufactures would have remained unsold; but then it is not recollected what those sixty millions would have effected if they had been expended in the improvement of our agriculture; or what increased means of purchasing our manufactures they would have given to the agriculturists. If on being laid out at home they had produced 724 the natural effects, then the country would have added to her means of independence, and have created a market of which no external relations could have deprived her. When the law, permitting the importation of corn, was first passed, there was a great deal of unfounded clamour raised against it; but what had been the effect of that law? Ireland had supplied to England corn, for which she had received several millions that had gone to improve her agriculture, which, but for the law, would have gone to Holland or some other country. The exportations from Ireland were now three millions annually, with the probability of a great increase. Circumstances, over which we had no control, had tended to improve the agriculture of England. Continental exclusion, had advanced the cultivation of our own land, and the high prices occasioned by such exclusion, had rendered us independent of foreign aid. Now when we had paid the price of our independence, and produced a supply equal to our consumption, would it not be wise to prevent any great revolution which would destroy the domestic culture of the country, and render it more dependent than it had ever been? He would not stop to enquire whether it was sound policy to suffer any great country to be dependent on another, for an essential article of subsistence; but it must be obvious, that such an advantage would be readily seized on by any power, and used to the annoyance of the nation that exposed herself to such an evil. If the law was left in its present state, it would not be long before agriculture would go back. The low price of corn, indeed, had caused many labourers to be thrown out of employ, as the farmer was not capable of continuing his improvements. A double evil was felt by the farmer from the decrease in the price of corn. The labourer was thrown out of employ, and become chargeable to the parish; and thus while the farmer had his means diminished, he was called on for additional outlays in the charge of the poor rates. The argument of lowering the rents might be resorted to, but this could not be effected in all cases; it was certainly desirable that they should not go increasing; but the House would see that in reducing the price of land and corn, the country would sustain a loss of capital. He was in favour of the propositions of the hon. baronet; but he thought they proceeded rather too much 725 on the principle of giving the monopoly of the English market to the English corn-grower. The amendment he should propose would leave importation open at all times, and retain the present price of 63s. as that at which the prohibitory duty of 24s. 3d. should operate, and as the price of corn rose 1s. so the duty should fall; as, for example, when corn was at 64s. the duty should be 23s. 3d. and so on; so that at 86s. there would be no duty at all. He had only one word more to say; it related to the colonies. It was proposed to lay smaller duties on corn imported from the colonies than for that imported from foreign countries; but the difference was not great enough; and therefore he would propose to make the duty on corn imported from the colonies half the amount of that imposed on foreign corn. This would promote the growth of it in our own settlements.
§ Sir H. Parnell
said, for the sake of unanimity, he would agree to the amendment; but he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would feel the extent of the concession.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that there appeared little difference of opinion on the subject; but on a question of such importance it was expedient that the House should not come to immediate decision.
§ After a few words from Mr. Rose and Mr. Preston, Mr. Huskisson's amendment to the original Resolution, of substituting another schedule, was agreed to.
§ The schedule the stood thus:
§ When imported from any foreign country, except the province of Quebec, or the other British colonies or plantations in North America:
|Wheat.||Rye, Beans, and Peas.|
|If at or under,||s.||s.||s.||s.||s.||s.|
|63 to||64||24||42 to||43||22|
|64 to||65||23||43 to||44||21|
|65 to||66||22||44 to||45||20|
|66 to||67||21||45 to||46||19|
|67 to||68||20||46 to||47||18|
|68 to||69||19||47 to||48||17|
|69 to||70||18||48 to||49||16|
|70 to||71||17||49 to||50||15|
|71 to||72||16||50 to||51||14|
|72 to||73||15||51 to||52||13|
|73 to||74||14||52 to||53||12|
|74 to||75||13||53 to||54||11|
|75 to||76||12||54 to||55||10|
|If at or under,||s.||s.||s.||s.||s.||s.|
|per Qr.||76 to||77||11||55 to||56||9|
|77 to||78||10||56 to||57||8|
|78 to||79||9||57 to||58||7|
|79 to||80||8||58 to||59||6|
|80 to||81||7||59 to||60||5|
|81 to||82||6||60 to||61||4|
|82 to||83||5||61 to||62||3|
|83 to||84||4||62 to||63||2|
|84 to||85||3||63||and upwards||1|
|Barley, Beer, or Bigg.||Oats.|
|If at or under,||s.||s.||s.||s.||s.||s.|
|32 to||33||13||21 to||22||12|
|33 to||34||12||22 to||23||11|
|34 to||35||11||23 to||24||10|
|35 to||36||10||24 to||25||9|
|36 to||37||9||25 to||26||8|
|37 to||38||8||26 to||27||7|
|38 to||39||7||27 to||28||6|
|39 to||40||6||28 to||29||5|
|40 to||41||5||29 to||30||4|
|41 to||42||4||30 to||31||3|
|42 to||43||3||31 to||32||2|
|43 to||44||2||32||and upwards||1|
§ And when imported from the province of Quebec, or the other British colonies or plantations in North America, one half of the said respective duties.
§ The importation of oatmeal, into Great Britain, to be governed as follows: The duty to be paid on each boll to the same as the duty payable at the time of the importation thereof, on each quarter of oats.
§ The importation of wheaten meal or flour, into Great Britain, to be governed as follows: The duty to be paid on each cwt. to be one third part of the duty payable at the time of the importation thereof, on each quarter of wheat.
§ The third Resolution was then read and agreed to, as follows:
§ "That all foreign corn, grain, meal, and flour, should at all times be imported and warehoused free of all duty, until taken out for home consumption; and should at all times be exported free of all duty."
§ The House then resumed, the Report was received, and, after a short conversation, was ordered to be taken into further consideration on Friday the 13th; and the Resolutions, as amended, were ordered to be printed.