§ The following Report, ordered to be printed on the 14th of March, was this day delivered to the members:—
§ Instructions to Mr. Jacob, respecting the Prices of Foreign Corn.397
§ Office of Committee of Privy Council of Trade, 25th June, 1825.
§ Sir; It being the desire of the lords of the committee of his majesty's privy council for trade, to obtain the most correct information on every subject connected with the supply of foreign corn, I have been directed by their lordships to acquaint you with their intention to avail themselves of your services for the examination of the state of those countries, the productions of which find an outlet by the river Vistula into the Baltic. You will, therefore, be pleased to proceed with as much expedition as you can make convenient, to commence the examination, beginning at the city of Dantzic where the Vistula enters the sea.
§ Though you will direct your chief attention to that division of ancient Poland now comprehended in the Austrian province of Gallicia, situated between the river Bugg towards Lemberg, and the river Wisla towards Cracow, yet, in your route towards that district, the province of West Prussia, belonging to Prussia, and of Masovia, which now, under the government of Russia, forms a part of the viceroyalty of Poland, will require your examination.
§ At Graudentz or Thorn, in the Prussian part, it is understood that a toll is collected on wares in their passage down the Vistula; and you may, therefore, probably ascertain the quantities of corn which, in a series of years, have been annually conveyed down that river to Dantzic.
§ In the Russian provinces you will endeavour to make yourself acquainted with the nature of the transit trade in corn, with the state of the magazines of this article at Warsaw, Praga, and other places, and the modes in which, and the description of persons by whom, it is collected, for the purpose of transmission to Dantzic.
§ It will indeed be desirable to learn, with as much accuracy as possible, the quantity in warehouse, not only at the places you visit but at other places, and especially at Hamburgh, Konigsberg, Memel, Elbing and Riga.
§ In the Austrian province of Gallicia, as well as in the territories of Prussia and Austria, which will precede it in your route, you will obtain all the information in your power, regarding the condition of the soil; the manner of its cultivation; the average increase of the several kinds 398 of grain; the proportion of ploughed land to that in pasture, in woods, or in waste; the relative numbers which the other inhabitants bear to those employed in agriculture; the descriptions of grain or other food which supply the wants of the inhabitants; the rate of the wages of labourers in agriculture, in handicraft, and in manufacturing; the condition of the farmers and labourers, as regards their dwellings, their clothing, their utensils, their furniture and their food; the hours devoted to labour; the assiduity and skill with which labour is performed; the number of days abstracted from labour by the festivals of the Catholic church; the extent of the military service or conscriptions imposed on the rural inhabitants; the pecuniary and personal demands for the repairs of roads, bridges, the poor and other local purposes; the rate of rent, whether tolerably paid, and in what proportion (if any) it has been reduced since the peace; the average price at which the present extent of bread corn could continue to be grown; how far the price of corn has been reduced since the peace; what increase in price would stimulate to more extensive cultivation; and what proportion of bread corn or wheat is consumed in the country, and by what classes.
§ With respect to the higher classes, it will be desirable to obtain as much information as possible, how far they have advanced in that knowledge which is applicable to the improvement of their domains; what zeal is felt for such improvement, and what unemployed capital is to be found which, in case of an increased demand for corn, would be likely to be applied to the advancement of agriculture and the increase of its productions.
§ It will be important to ascertain the prices of the several descriptions of corn at the places of their growth, as well as the expenses of conveying it to Dantzic or to Elbing, when it is carried to that port. This should not only comprehend the past and present period, but should be viewed prospectively, so as to estimate what would be the effect, if a constant sale could be found for the surplus corn of the country in the English markets.
§ You will endeavour to learn what the actual surplus of grain has been in a series of years, by ascertaining, with all possible accuracy, what quantities of each kind of corn have been sent out of the 399 country by land, and what quantities have been brought in from the neighbouring territories of Silesia, Bohemia and Moravia, on one side, and from the Russian dominions on the other.
§ Besides acquiring information on the present condition of Poland, including the dominions of the three great powers, their lordships would wish your attention to be turned towards all facts that bear on the subject of the changes that might be produced in that country, if such an alteration were made in our laws as would leave our markets at all times accessible to the corn grown in Poland.
§ You will consider, from the view you take of the country, what increase of cultivation would be likely to take place in consequence of such a stimulus being constantly in action; what effect the extension of cultivation to poorer lands would have on the general prices; endeavouring by every means in your power to arrive at some estimate of the additional quantities which, in years of medium productiveness, might be imported into this kingdom from Poland.
§ As it may be necessary to assume some given price in this country, in forming such an estimate as that to which I have now referred, it is thought desirable that you should proceed upon a supposition of an average price of wheat at home of from 60s. to 64s. a quarter.
§ Although I have not noticed the several kinds of animals in the country you are about to visit, their lordships would be pleased to know what proportion the food supplied by them bears to that supplied by corn, and other vegetable substances; and also if the quantity of live stock is such as, upon a more extended system of tillage, would be likely to afford the means of renovating the fertility of the soil, in a degree equal to the exhaustion which would be occasioned by a greater growth of corn.
§ There are other subjects which will present themselves to your observation, and engage your attention, which, in an immediate or indirect degree, may bear on the subject which has induced their lordships to employ you on this business; and these they trust you will report with all the exactness and accuracy in your power.
§ In every part of your journey you will bear in mind, and direct your inquiries towards the influence which the price of food in general, and of corn in particular, 400 has had on the rates of labour in manufactures, and learn in what proportion the wages of that description of labour have been lowered, as compared with the decline in the price of corn.
§ In the report you may prepare for the notice of their lordships, when you have completed your examination, you will reduce all the monies, weights, and measures, of the different districts you examine, into those of this country; having reference, as far as regards the first, to the actual value of the paper currencies of Russia and Austria, circulating in the territories of those sovereigns; and to that of the metallic money circulated in the dominions of Prussia, as well as to the fluctuations in the rates of exchange. I am, &c. &c. (signed)
§ THOMAS LACK.
§ William Jacob, esq.
§ Mr. Jacob's Report on the Trade in Corn, and on the Agriculture of the North of Europe, 21st February, 1826.
§ To the right honourable the Lords of the Committee of his Majesty's Privy Council for Trade.
§ My lords; In pursuance of the instructions communicated by your lordships on the 25th June last, I proceeded to the continent, passing through the Netherlands, the Prussian provinces on the Rhine, and the dominions of Saxony, to Berlin, and from thence by Stettin to Dantzic.
§ From Dantzic I travelled through the kingdom of Poland, visiting Thorn, Warsaw and Cracow; deviating in several directions from the main road, returned through Gallicia, Moravia, Austria, Bavaria and Wirtemburg, to Strasburgh, where I entered France, and by way of Paris reached England.
§ I was induced by my instructions, to direct my principal attention to the supplies of grain, and the nature of the commerce in it, within the districts whose surplus finds a vent through the mouths of the Vistula; and also to collect information on the subject in the other parts of the continent through which I passed.
§ I heard every where among landowners, farmers and corn merchants, complaints of the distress in which they were involved; and their complaints were far too general to leave room for the suspicion, that they were not founded on the existing state of their respective circumstances. The prices of produce of all 401 kinds within the last three or four years, when compared with the period which had preceded them, or indeed with any past period, in which prices are accurately recorded, confirmed the conviction, that their complaints were justified by the losses they had sustained.
§ It appeared of some importance to collect, where it could be done with any assurance of accuracy, the prices of corn for a series of years. The wars, of which these countries have been the theatre, gave a degree of uncertainty to some of the accounts before the year 1815, and that uncertainty was, in several places, increased by the variations in the value of the circulating medium, which had taken place during the continuance of hostilities. Except at Dantzic, where a register had been kept for near two centuries; at Berlin, where, from the minister of the interior I received the prices for fifty years; and at Warsaw, where I obtained them from the Stadthouse, for thirty years; I confined my inquiries to the last ten years. The several accounts which were collected, form a part of the Appendix to this report.
§ As the facts collected, and the remarks made during my journey, are of very various kinds, and were committed to writing as they occurred, it may be more satisfactory to your lordships, if, after shortly describing the nature of the corn trade as carried on by the Vistula, which, as far as concerns wheat, is the most important; and, after recounting, according to my instructions, the quantity of wheat accumulated in the several exporting places, I state, whatever relates to the raising of corn, to the cost of its production, and the supplies yielded, in the different divisions of Europe, which have hitherto conveyed their grain to our markets, in the order in which I viewed the several countries.
§ The commerce of corn generally, in the countries whose connection with the sea is maintained by the river Vistula, has been extensive during a long series of years. The shipment to foreign countries was, during a long period, almost exclusively confined to the city of Dantzic.
§ The government of Prussia viewed with some jealousy the trade of that city, which was then one of the independent Hanse Towns, and having the land on both sides the river, from the boundaries of Poland to those of Dantzic, endeavoured, by forming the city of Elbing into a free 402 mart, to draw the trade through that place and its port of Pillau.
§ Some success attended this plan, and the trade was carried on through the two rival channels, with a competition which has been continued to the present time; for though Dantzic has been since added to the Prussian territories, and the preference given to Elbing consequently withdrawn, the latter city seems to have retained its proportionate share of the export of corn.
§ Attempts are at this time making by Russia, to divert the corn trade of Poland, but especially of the provinces of that country which have been separated from it and are now comprehended in Russia, to the port of Riga, as the place of shipment. For this purpose, canals are now constructing, which are intended to facilitate the conveyance of goods to the river Duna. It is not however probable, that a very great proportion of the trade will be drawn into that channel. The port of Riga is closed by frost a much longer time than that of Dantzic; the passage from it to the countries where corn is wanted is longer; the climate is less favourable for drying the grain after removing it from the barges, preparatory to shipment; and it, at present, has not those spacious, and well-adapted warehouses, for the secure deposit of corn, by which Dantzic is eminently distinguished.
§ Some portion of the corn is at present brought down to the sea shore, by the river Neimen; and, after paying a transit duty to Prussia, at the town of Schmaleningken, is conveyed to Memel. This branch of the trade is, however, but small, as it appears that, in the three years 1816, 1817 and 1818, a period when the general trade was the greatest, the whole quantity that paid the transit duty was only 49,596 quarters of wheat, 21,830 quarters of barley, 185,292 quarters of rye, and 108,482 quarters of oats.
§ From the southern provinces of Poland, viz. Sandomir and Cracow, in which the greatest quantity of the best wheat is produced, a portion is annually sent into the neighbouring Prussian province of Silesia, by land, where a part of it is consumed by the few inhabitants of Breslaw, and the other cities, who eat wheaten bread. The greater part is, however, conveyed by the river Oder, and then by the canal which unites that river with the Havel, to the city of Berlin. It forms an article in the weekly returns of the corn 403 market of that capital; and, by the whiteness of its flour, is preferred for pastry and confectionary. In those years, when the prices of grain have been the most raised in England, some of it has been sent here from Stettin, whilst those of the inhabitants of that neighbourhood who used wheat were supplied with an inferior kind of their own growth.
§ Those other channels, by which the surplus corn of Poland is distributed, bear, however, but a small proportion to that which passes by the mouths of the Vistula, at Dantzic and Elbing; and the manner in which the trade by these places is carried on may deserve detailed notices.
§ The cultivators of that corn which is supplied to trade, are almost universally both owners and occupiers of the soil on which it grows. They cultivate it by the labour of their tenants or subjects, who raise sufficient for their own support, but have scarcely any surplus. It does not, as in most other countries, come to the several markets in small parcels. As wheat, particularly, can scarcely be there considered an article of food, it would scarcely ever find purchasers among the inhabitants of the countries in which it is grown, if it were brought to the weekly or other markets in their own towns. It is almost exclusively an article for foreign consumption.
§ The whole of the internal commerce of Poland is in the hands of the Jews, who are very numerous, comprehending nearly one-seventh of the whole population, and not being engaged in cultivation, nor inhabiting villages, forming the majority in most of the market towns. They are acute, temperate, economical, rather active than industrious, and are said to be possessors of the far larger proportion of the floating capital of the country. Almost every transaction passes through their hands, and few persons can either buy or sell, borrow or lend, without the aid of some individuals of that race. Though not allowed by the law to call themselves brokers, or factors, they are effectually such to the whole of the nation.
§ They are accused of nourishing a most implacable hatred towards all other people, and of deeming it no moral crime to deceive and cheat christians. Whatever of truth there may be in these charges, these supposed feelings of the Jews are met on the part of the majority of the other inhabitants, by a degree of con- 404 tempt and degrading treatment, of the most aggravating nature; a treatment so remote from what is exercised towards that people in England, Germany, France, and Holland, that it may have perhaps mainly contributed to form the character which they are accused of bearing.
§ It will not appear surprising, on referring to the changes undergone, the ravages she has suffered from wars, the demands for the personal services of her proprietors in the armies, of the successive masters that have ruled the country, the exclusion from all foreign trade, and, till of late, the total absence of all manufactories, that there should be now great, individual distress, even whilst the country, as a whole, may be advancing in prosperity.
§ The individuals who most suffer are the landed proprietors, and they have, with a few exceptions, become dependent, in a greater or less degree, on the more monied Jews.
§ There is every reason to believe, that few landed proprietors are wholly free from incumbrances, and that many of them are involved to such an extent, that they are compelled to deliver to their creditors the whole surplus produce of their estates, as soon as it can be prepared for removal. The Jews, by their universal connection with others of their nation in distant places, have far better opportunities of knowing what prices they are likely to obtain for corn, than the gentlemen who raise it; and the latter, from their situation, must take that as the price which their creditors may determine.
§ On the banks of the Vistula there are many warehouses well adapted for preserving corn, at the places whence it is most convenient to embark it. The crops are generally removed from the farms of the proprietors as speedily as possible, and remain there in the power of the creditor, who either allows for it a stipulated price, or undertakes to convey it to Dantzic, to be sold at the risk of the debtor; but with the proceeds to be received by the creditor.
§ The charges for warehousing, shipping, freight, tolls, commission, and other demands, have been lately so high, in proportion to the prices, that very small sums have been carried to the credit of the landholder; and where estates are mortgaged, they have been generally insufficient in amount to keep under the growing interest.405
§ There are two modes of conveying wheat to Dantzic by the Vistula. That which grows near the lower parts of the river, comprehending Polish Prussia, and part of the province of Plock, and of Masovia, in the kingdom of Poland, which is generally of an inferior quality, is conveyed in covered boats, with shifting boards that protect the cargo from the rain, but not from pilfering. These vessels are long, and draw about fifteen inches of water, and bring about 150 quarters of wheat. They are not, however, so well calculated for the upper parts of the river. From Cracow, where the Vistula first becomes navigable, to below the junction of the Bug with that stream, the wheat is mostly conveyed to Dantzic in open flats. These are constructed on the banks, in seasons of leisure, on spots far from the ordinary reach of the water, but which, when the rains of autumn, or the melted snow of the Carpathian mountains, in the spring, fill and overflow the river, are easily floated.
§ Barges of this description are about seventy-five feet long, and twenty broad, with a depth of two feet and a half. They are made of fir, rudely put together, fastened with wooden trenails, the corners dovetailed and secured with slight iron clamps, the only iron employed in the construction.
§ A large tree, the length of the vessel, runs along the bottom, to which the timbers are secured. This roughly-cut keelson rises nine or ten inches from the floor, and hurdles are laid on it, which extend to the sides. They are covered with mats made of rye straw, and serve the purpose of dunnage; leaving below a space in which the water that leaks through the sides and bottom is received. The bulk is kept from the sides and ends of the barge by a similar plan. The water, which these ill-constructed and imperfectly caulked vessels receive, is dipped out at the end and sides of the bulk of wheat.
§ Vessels of this description draw from ten to twelve inches of water, and yet they frequently get aground, in descending the river. The cargoes usually consist of from 180 to 200 quarters of wheat.
§ The wheat is thrown on the mats, piled as high as the gunwale, and left uncovered, exposed to all the inclemencies of the weather, and to the pilfering of the crew. During the passage, the barge is carried along by the force of the stream, oars being merely 406 used at the head and stern, to steer clear of the sand-banks, which are numerous and shifting; and to direct the vessel in passing under the several bridges. These vessels are conducted by six or seven men. A small boat precedes with a man in it, who is employed in sounding, in order to avoid the shifting shoals. This mode of navigating is necessarily very slow; and, during the progress of it, which lasts several weeks, and even months, the rain, if any falls, soon causes the wheat to grow, and the vessels assume the appearance of a floating meadow. The shooting of the fibres soon forms a thick mat, and prevents the rain from penetrating more than an inch or two. The main bulk is protected by this kind of covering, and when that is thrown aside, is found in tolerable condition.
§ The vessels are broken up at Dantzic, and usually sell for about two-thirds of their original cost. The men who conduct them return on foot.
§ When the cargo arrives at Dantzic or Elbing, all but the grown surface is thrown on the land, spread abroad, exposed to the sun and air, and frequently turned over till any slight moisture that it may have imbibed, is dried. If a shower of rain falls, as well as during the night, the heaps of wheat on the shore are thrown together, in the form of the steep roof of a house, that the rain may run off, and are covered with a linen cloth. It is thus frequently a long time after the wheat has reached Dantzic, before it is fit to be placed in the warehouses.
§ The warehouses are very well adapted for storing corn. They consist, generally, of seven stories, three of which are in the roof. The floors are about nine feet asunder. Each of them are divided by perpendicular partitions, the whole length, about four feet high, by which different parcels are kept distinct from each other. Thus the floors have two divisions, each of them capable of storing from 150 to 200 quarters of wheat, and leaving sufficient space for turning or screening it. There are abundance of windows in each floor, which are always thrown open, in dry weather, to ventilate the corn. It is usually turned over three times a week. The men who perform the operation, throw it with their shovels as high as they can, and thus the grains are separated from each other, and exposed to the drying influence of the air.407
§ The whole of the corn warehouses now left (for many were burnt during the siege of 1814) are capable of storing 500,000 quarters of wheat, supposing the parcels to be large enough to fill each of the two divisions of the floors, with a separate heap; but as, of late years, it has come down from Poland in smaller parcels than formerly, and of more various qualities, which must of necessity be kept distinct, the present stock of about 280,000 quarters is found to occupy nearly the whole of those warehouses which are in repair, or are advantageously situated for loading the ships. Ships are loaded by gangs of porters with great despatch, who will complete a cargo of 500 quarters in about three or four hours. It is seen by table, No. 19, in the Appendix, that, within the last five or six years, the whole quantity that has been brought down has been diminishing; but I was told that no sensible decrease had been observed in the number of the separate bulks, only that each bulk, or the growth of each estate, or of each consignor, was smaller.
§ The trade in wheat from Poland and Prussia, through Dantzic, is said to have been attended with most ruinous losses to all the persons who have been engaged in it. The growers asserted that none for the last eight or nine years had yielded sufficient to cover the expenses of cultivation, and that it has been regularly getting worse and worse ever since the year 1818
§ The Jews, who have taken the crops from the growers, have found the decline of the prices such, that, if they sold on their arrival at Dantzic, it was attended with loss; and if they were in a condition to withhold from selling, and placed in warehouses, the loss was eventually much greater. The trade of Dantzic, which is chiefly confined to corn, has been for several years in a very distressed state. The commodity in which the traders have dealt, has of late so vastly declined in value, that what was purchased cheap at one period, became in a short time dear; the advances they made on what was consigned to them for sale, with the expense of conveyance, and of storing and preserving, soon amounted to more than the value of the wheat; and the consignors, in Poland, seldom united the ability and the disposition to make payments to indemnify them.
§ The corn now in the warehouses has 408 cost the merchants much more than the present value. The royal bank of Prussia, which has branches in the different cities of the kingdom, has advanced, on the security of the wheat now in store, half of what was the value at the time the several advances were made, and, as the price has declined, has required additional security.
§ In calculating the stocks of wheat in the several ports of the Baltic, as I did not visit the whole of them, I was under the necessity of relying on the accounts that I could procure. His majesty's consuls offered their assistance, and furnished me with the following list, vouching for their accuracy to the best of their judgment.
§ Mr. Gibson consul at Dantzic, to whom I am obliged for much other useful information, gave me the exact quantity at Dantzic and Elbing; viz.
§ Accounts of the quantities of corn in store at Memel could not be procured; and, in the absence of better means of forming an opinion, I have compared the trade of exporting corn at Memel, with that at Elbing, and find that, in a series of years, the exports of wheat and rye together from the latter port, have been about double that at the former. I scarcely know if it be fair to infer, that the accumulated stock bears the same proportion to the annual returns. If so the stock on hand must be but small.
I can only judge of the stocks accumulated in Riga and Petersburgh, by
* By an account taken the 31st December 1825, since received, the stock appeared to be about 20,000 quarters less than when I was there.
comparing their trade in wheat, for a series of years, with that of Dantzic and Elbing. The exports have not been larger than those of Elbing, and it is probable their stocks together, do not exceed those of that port. In the absence of all definite information, and trusting to the reports I received, I should be disposed to think, that, in the three ports of Memel, Riga, and Petersburgh, there were not 100,000 quarters of wheat, in August, when I was at Dantzic.
§ The state of the stock of corn at Lubeck, with the prices for the last eleven years, are shown in the Appendix, No. 33. It appears that the wheat in store there was 29,900 quarters.
§ Some small stocks may have been collected from the territories of the duke of Mecklenburg Schwerin, and accumulated in the ports of Rostock and Wismar. I have no information of the quantity, but should not be disposed to judge, from the general trade of those places, that more than a few thousand quarters were to be found in them. The greater part of the surplus corn of Mecklenburg finds a vent by Hamburgh, and is included in the imports, from the interior of that city. The access to the Elbe from all the southern ports of the Duchy, is easier than to the Baltic; the freights from thence to foreign markets is lower, and the passage shorter. It is in fact, only from the northern division of the Duchy, that the wheat finds a vent through its own ports.
§ Although not within the Baltic, nor within the limits of my late journey, yet the wheat, which descends by the rivers Weser and Elbe, have too much influence on the general corn trade, to be overlooked in this estimate of the stocks on hand.
§ The wheat stored at Bremen, comes by the Weser, chiefly out of the Duchy of Brunswick, though some of it is grown in Hanover; and, when the prices are very high, supplies are conveyed from Hesse Cassel, and even from some of the western districts of the Saxon duchies through Münden. That from Brunswick is of a moderate quality, but much of the other is very bad, and only fit for the English market in times of very great scarcity.
§ Hamburgh is an important dépôt for corn, of some that is brought from Russian and other ports in the Baltic, as well as for the surplus of the several countries through which the Elbe in its long course is directed. Prussia, especially near Magdeburg, is a great corn country; but the chief grain cultivated in that division is rye. In the kingdom of Saxony, as well as in the Prussian province of that name, the quantity of rye very far exceeds the wheat, both in quality and quantity. In the years when prices are very high, the wheat of Bohemia comes down the river to Hamburgh; but the expense of conveyance, the length of the navigation, and the loss to which it is subject, act as a prohibition, except in seasons of great scarcity. The freight from Prague to Hamburgh is 12s. per quarter, and the tolls to the several sovereigns, through whose dominions the river runs, is 3s. 6d. The commissions and other charges, amount to near 1s. 6d. more.
§ From the shipping places below Prague the freight is lower; but the wheat grown near them is said not to be of so good a quality as that from the vicinity of that city, and the districts to the south of it.
§ The export trade in wheat of Hamburgh by sea, appears during the last ten years to have reached an annual average of 48,263 quarters; the greater part of the corn imported there being for the consumption of the city, and the surrounding territory belonging to it. In the Appendix, No. 32, is seen the course of the trade; the prices of all corn for the last ten years, the prices of wheat from 1791 to 1822, and the stock about 100,000 quarters, as taken at two periods in the last year.
§ Although the price of wheat as well as of other grain is very low in Denmark, yet the surplus quantity is very small; and the depressed prices may be in a great measure attributed to the restrictions upon Danish corn in the dominions of Prussia, its nearest and most populous neighbour. The wheat exported from the whole kingdom, in the six months which followed the abundant harvest of 1824, is seen in the Appendix, No. 35, to have been 57,561 quarters. By that account, it appears, that more than half the wheat was from the provinces of Hol- 411 stein and Sleswick, which are in close contact with Hamburgh. In the market return of prices from that city, the wheat of Holstein forms one of the quotations; it is then fair to conclude, that a portion of the wheat exported from Holstein, if not from Sleswick, is that which subsequently becomes a part of what is included in the exports and stock of Hamburgh. I should much doubt if the whole quantity of wheat in store in October last, in the kingdom of Denmark, amounted to 20,000 quarters.
§ These are the returns of the several places mentioned in the months of August or September, before the corn of the last harvest had made its appearance in the markets. I had reason from all my inquiries, both among cultivators and merchants, to conclude that very little corn remained in the hands of the growers, except in the very rare cases, where in the same person was united a confident expectation of an advance in the prices with a sufficiency of capital, to enable him to withhold from making sales.
§ The circumstances of far the greater number of the occupiers of land were too much embarrassed to allow of their keeping corn, when the importunities of claimants upon them were urgent for the discharge of their demands. The general accounts were, that all which could be sold had, from necessity, been turned into money. In some of the small towns in Prussia, when movements of the troops were making, and a squadron of cavalry on a march was quartered on them for a day, so little horse corn was to be found in the granaries, that the standing oats were cut and given to the horses, as they were taken from the fields.
§ When in Berlin, I was told by baron Von Bulow, minister of the Interior, that the government had recently instituted inquiries into the stocks of corn in the country, and the result of those inquiries showed, that the quantity in the whole of Prussia was much smaller than usual.
§ A very intelligent writer, a part of whose memoir [see Appendix, No. 9] I have translated, states the whole quantity of corn in the different countries of Europe, at 3,680,000 quarters. He includes in his estimate, rye, oats, and barley, as well as wheat, noticing the portions of each, which make up his total. Without attaching any great credit to the calculation, I allude to it because his views are those which I found commonly 412 entertained among the more intelligent cultivators, of whom, though writing anonymously, he was said to be one.
§ I made it my particular business to inquire into the state of the stocks at the warehouses on the banks of the Vistula, where corn is collected until a sufficiency of one quality is accumulated to load a vessel. In former times, as I was informed, these stores used to have a large quantity placed in them when the water was low, to be ready to take advantage of the first autumnal rains.
§ The water was low when I was in Poland, from the long draught and great heat of the season; few or no vessels were navigating on the upper part of the river, and yet the storehouses on the banks were empty.
§ At Warsaw there are large warehouses, but in them there were not 200 quarters of wheat.
§ At Pulaway is a large magazine, capable of storing, and adapted for keeping in good order, 6,000 quarters of wheat; but it did not contain a single bushel.
§ At Cassimir there are several large warehouses, some of them from having had no business of any extent during the last four years, seemed to be in need of repairs. Others were, however, in good condition. The whole are capable of storing 80,000 quarters of corn.
§ In none of them was any wheat, though they contained some rye belonging to the government, which its agents had received for rent and taxes, from cultivators who could not pay money.
§ Rachow has warehouses for storing 14,000 quarters, but in them was neither wheat nor any other corn to be found. At Cracow the case was the same; the warehouses, which are extensive, were empty. The places I have noticed are the chief, where there are ferries over the river, and to which the roads from the surrounding districts lead. They are the most convenient for shipping goods, and most of the trade is despatched from them. There are a few others of smaller moment, which I did not visit, and only on hearsay know that they are alike without wheat.
§ From the view I have thus taken, I am led to the conviction, that neither in the sea ports, from which wheat is usually shipped, nor in the interior of the countries where it is grown, was there a stock which, if removed to the sea ports, would increase the amount of what is collected there to any sensible extent.413
§ There is an accumulation in the Russian provinces of Podolia and Volhynia, which was reported to me to have been stored in caves under ground, containing four or five years growth.
§ Owing to the situation of those provinces, and the difficulties and expenses of conveyance, it is more likely to perish in the dépôts than to be conveyed to any places from which it can interfere with the trade of this country. The cost of conveying it to Dantzic would be equal to the price for which it would sell, and the shorter but more hazardous distance to Odessa would lead to a market there, lower than even that of Dantzic.
§ The produce of these two provinces was never large, and has only found its way to the sea shore, when very high prices have enabled it to bear the expense and risk of conveying it thither.
§ The whole stock of wheat may be now brought into one point; and appear as follows:
|Dantzic and Elbing||361,500|
|Rostock and Wismar||25,000|
|Petersburg, Riga and Memel||100,000|
|In ports of the North Sea as ascertained:|
§ Of the wheat to which we have referred, as accumulated in the several ports, I was assured nearly one-fourth part is of so bad a quality, as to find no market in this country, except in seasons of uncommon dearth. If, then, out of the whole 741,473 quarters, 556,330 quarters were to be sent to England, it would not be more than the consumption of ten days.
§ The provinces, forming since the adjustment of territory, at the termination of the late war, a part of the Prussian monarchy, which have access to the Baltic sea, comprehend East Prussia, West Prussia, and Pomerania. They appear by the official accounts [see Appendix, No. 10] to have exported 414 447,183 quarters of wheat, and 1,218,916 quarters of rye, barley and oats, beyond their own growth, in the last nine years, up to the end of 1824; exclusive of the year 1818, the returns of which, for East Prussia, are wanting, but which probably were 350,000 quarters of wheat, and 340,000 quarters of the other grains.
§ It is possible that some portion of this quantity may have been produced in the internal contiguous provinces of Posen, Silesia, and Brandenburgh. As the trade in corn, between one province and another, is free in Prussia, there are no official accounts by which we can ascertain whether what is exported by sea, is the produce of the province from which it is shipped, or of some inland district.
§ As the special object of attention pointed out by my instructions, was the state of the countries, from which corn had been exported to England, I shall, therefore, in representing the state of the agriculture, confine my observations chiefly to the three maritime provinces before mentioned, but including in some degree the province of Brandenburgh.
§ Before the year 1807, the landed estates in Prussia, as in most other parts of Europe, were in the possession of large proprietors. Many of them could only be held by such as were of noble birth; and the merchant, the manufacturer, or the artisan, however much money he might have accumulated, could not invest it in such land until he had obtained a patent of nobility. These restrictions were removed by the king, about the year 1807, when the French had over-run the country.
§ A tenantry, in our sense of [the term, was then, as it still is, almost unknown. The land was worked by a class of persons, in some respect slaves; and in most respects but little removed from that condition. In many cases they had an hereditary kind of right to some use of the land, such as to grow one crop of corn according to a prescribed course, whilst the lord had the right of pasture between the crops. These peasants were sold with the land, or descended to the heir, and were bound to perform certain labour or services for the lord. They could not, on the other hand, be dismissed from their holdings, nor had their superior any power over the property they might happen to be able to accumulate.
§ The conditions upon which the peasants held their portions of land, were 415 very various, come having a greater, and others a less share of the use of them; some doing greater and others less service for them.
§ By a series of legislative measures, marked by a character of peculiar boldness, which were enacted from 1807 to 1811, the whole of the enslaved peasants have become converted into freemen and freeholders. In some cases the holdings have been equally divided, and the peasant has his moiety in perpetuity. In cases where the lords claims for personal services were more extensive, the peasant had a smaller share in the land. In some instances, compensations in money were settled by compact between the lords and the peasants, sometimes by the payment of a fixed sum, or by a security on the land allotted in perpetuity to the peasant, for the payment of such sum. Sometimes the peasant retained the whole of the land he had before used, paying to the lord the value of that portion which might otherwise have been given up to him.
§ The successive measures by which the peasants were raised to the rank of freemen, were not received by all, with equal readiness. The lords were compelled, but the peasants were allowed to decline compliance; and, even to the present day, some few prefer the ancient mode of their holdings, to that which the laws have allowed.
§ Although the foundation is laid for a new and better order of things, yet its effects on the agriculture of the country have not hitherto been fully realised. The abolition of personal services, and of hereditary ownership of such services, has been too recent for the full operation of the change of the parties, from the relation of master and slave, to that of employer and employed, to produce the effect which is its natural tendency. It is obvious, that all the operations of agriculture are still performed by the labourers, with a listlessness and slovenly indolence which was natural to their former character, and which their new condition has not yet had time to remove.
§ The land in the three maritime provinces, as indeed in almost the whole of Prussia, may be considered as either in very large portions belonging to the nobility, or to the new class of proprietors; or as very small portions, such as under the ancient system were deemed sufficient for half the maintenance of the family of 416 a peasant. There are but very few of that middle class of capitalists, resembling our farmers, who can hire land to that extent, which one able man can most advantageously manage, and after stocking and working it, pay for the hire to the proprietor.
§ With some few exceptions, and those very few, no rent is paid, but each occupier, whether a large or a small one, is his own landlord.
§ The deviations from this general view are to be found, for the most part, on the banks of the great rivers, where meadows, either for the purpose of fattening cattle, or of saving hay, for the supply of large towns near the mouths of these rivers, are let to tenants for money rents. On the banks of the Oder, near Stettin, I saw some meadows let from 10s. to 12s. per acre, the landlords paying land-tax. They are said to yield about one ton and a half annually, of hay, when mowed. The after-feed is worth little, from the early floods in autumn, and the deep snows and severe frosts in winter. The hay is not very good, which is attributed to the great quickness of the growth, after the frosts disappear. Land of this description is of less relative value than with us, from the severe cold, and its long duration; from there being scarcely any of the interval of spring, and from the great drought and excessive heat of the short summer. I was informed, that similar land, higher on the Oder, near the cities of Schwet, Custrin and Frankfort, was let at nearly the same rate. Lands in the vicinity of the large towns, and in other situations, from local convenience may be sometimes let for money rent, but these are exceptions to the general plan, and the whole of such land bears but a very small proportion to that which is cultivated by its owners.
§ The domains of the Crown are differently circumstanced from other land, and are let to farmers. The greatest part is in the occupation of persons, whose ancestors had long held them at low rents, without their being charged to the land-tax or Grund Steuer. When by new laws the taxation on land was extended to the estates of nobles, those of the Crown were included, and charged with the tax. At first the high prices which corn bore, enabled the occupiers to pay the trifling rent, as well as the tax; but as corn declined in price, they became unable to pay both. The taxes were in 417 most instances paid, but the rent was suffered to run in arrear, from the impossibility of extracting it from the tenants. I was informed by a very intelligent gentleman, who had sufficient means of information, that most of the occupiers of the royal domains, whose rent was ten years in arrears, had been forgiven the whole, on promising to make the payments regularly in future; a promise they are in general unable to fulfil, from the great additional fall in the price of corn which has since taken place.
§ These national domains are of such various qualities, and in such different localities, that it is difficult to find what is the average rent of them per acre. Some of them are let as high as 3s. 8d. per acre, a much larger proportion at 1s. 2d. and a larger still from 6d. to 9d. As far as my means of information can enable me to form a judgment, I should not estimate the average rent to exceed, if it reaches, 1s. 3d. per acre. The farm of Subbowitz, whose produce is noticed in the Appendix, No. 11, which is considered fair average land, consists of about 1,720 acres, and is let for 158l. 12s. 7d. sterling per year. That of Subkau, also noticed in the same statement, consisting of 3,054 acres, is some of the best land, the rent of which is about 552l. 11s. 8d. sterling per annum.
§ These two farms, with the others noticed in the same paper, are occupied by some of the most skilful cultivators of the district; and yet the accounts show, that small as the rent is, and judicious as the management may be, the produce falls short of the cost of production even, though the rent should be given up.
§ Although the royal domains are here noticed, they bear a small proportion to the whole land, in the province of West Prussia, where they are situated, not exceeding one-sixtieth part of the whole.
§ The value of land generally is low, as may be inferred from the low price of produce, and of rents for what little is rented. An estate of medium soil was put up to auction, and not producing an offer equal to the sum for which it was mortgaged, was taken by the mortgagee. The extent is about 6,000 morgens, or about 4,200 acres. It is chiefly a thin sandy soil, in some few parts approaching to loam. The principal and interest due to the mortgagee was 3,000l. for which sum he took the estate. The barns, and other tenements, were in need of some 418 repairs and the land; far from being in a clean state. On taking possession, as he could not let it, he had, and calculated to expend, as he told me, betwixt 2,200l. and 2,300l. to repair the tenements, and to stock it with 1,500 Merino sheep, 40 cows, and with bullocks, horses, and the requisite implements. This gentleman, who had acquired his money by trade, and knew how to calculate, hoped by the fleeces of his fine-wooled sheep, to draw some interest for the investment he had been compelled to make in land.
§ In the same part of Prussia, another estate, one of the best in the district, with a good house, with all the buildings in good repair, and the land in a high state of cultivation, was offered for sale, and though when I was there the 6ale was not completed, I had reason to believe an agreement for it would speedily be concluded.
§ The soil is good sandy loam, chiefly arable, with some pasture, the extent 2,800 acres. The price, at which I believe the contract to have been since made, was between 5,200l and 5,400l.
§ If these two instances may be taken, as nearly the highest and the lowest price of the average arable land of the maritime provinces of Prussia, the highest limit will be somewhat less than 40s. the acre, and the lowest not quite 15s. per acre. This estimation of the value of land, if correct, in the maritime provinces, cannot be extended to the other parts of the Prussian dominions, where both the soil and climate are far more favourable to production. It is well known in England, that, under a great depression in the price of corn, the poorer lands suffer a much greater proportionate depreciation, in their sale price, than the more fertile soils. It is not then extraordinary, that the landed property of these maritime provinces should be reduced to the low value which is here represented.
§ This tract of land forming the maritime provinces of Prussia, is a portion of that vast sandy plain which extends from the shores of Holland to the extremity of Asiatic Russia. It has scarcely any elevations that merit the title of hills, and, where not covered with woods, spreads out in open fields of great extent. The soil in some places is barren sand, occasionally with no appearance of vegetation; in many parts with no attempt at cultivation, and what is cultivated appearing to yield-but scanty returns. The land is too 419 poor to yield even middling crops, without manure, and the portion of cattle of all kinds is too small to create such a quantity of that necessary ingredient in husbandry, as to keep the land up to its present low standard of fertility.
§ According to the official documents which I collected, it appears that the three maritime provinces of East Prussia, West Prussia, and Pomerania, including in the latter the late Swedish territory, contain about 25,500,000 acres, or more than half the extent of England. By an official account, made up in 1821, the stock of cattle appeared to be as follows, at the latter end of the year 1819; viz., 556,839 horses and colts; 1,171,434 oxen, cows, and calves; 2,049,801 sheep and lambs; and, 617,310 swine.
§ The lowest estimate of the stock of cattle in England, which I have ever met with, gives three times this number of horses, and more than four times the number of cows and sheep, to the same extent of land; and most of those who have calculated on the subject, have carried the proportion of cattle to the surface in England, much higher. I had reason to believe, though not from official sources, that the number of sheep, between 1819 and 1824, had increased at the rate of from 20 to 25 per cent, and that the proportion of fine-wooled sheep, to those of coarse wool, had been augmented beyond that proportion.
§ From this deficient stock of the animals, from which manure is derived, it will naturally be inferred, that the increase of grain must be very small. I was satisfied, from my own observations, and it was confirmed by the opinion of intelligent natives, that much of the land in cultivation could not yield on the average more than three times as much corn as the seed that had been sown.
§ The calculations made by the most intelligent statistical inquirers, and the most observing cultivators, have not estimated the average increase of the four kinds of grain; viz., wheat, rye, barley, and oats, taken together, to be more than four times the seed.
§ The general course of cultivation is, to fallow every third year, by ploughing three times, when designed for rye, or five times if intended for wheat, and allowing the land to rest without any crop during the whole of the year, from one autumn to the next. Most of the land is deemed to be unfit for the growth of wheat, under any cir- 420 cumstances. Where it is deemed adapted to that grain, as much as can be manured, from their scanty supply of that article, is sown with wheat, and the remainder of the fallow ground with rye. The portion which is destined for wheat, even in the best farms, is thus very small; and, as on many none is sown, the whole of the land devoted to wheat does not amount to one-tenth of that on which rye is grown.
§ I have reason to believe, that, of late years, the proportion of rye to wheat has been increasing. The first is an article of domestic consumption and of universal demand; the far greater number of the inhabitants eat only bread made from it from necessity, and those who can afford wheaten bread, eat commonly that of rye from choice. At the tables of the first families, both in Germany and Poland, though wheaten bread was always to be seen, I remarked that the natives scarcely ever tasted it; and I have met many Englishmen, who, after a long residence in those countries, have given the preference to bread of rye.
§ From the time I left the Netherlands, through Saxony, Prussia, Poland, Austria, Bavaria and Wurtemberg, till I entered France, I never saw, either in the bakers' shops, in the hotels, or private houses, a loaf of wheaten bread. In every largetown, small rolls made of wheaten flour could be purchased, and they were to be seen at the tables at which foreigners were seated. In the small towns and villages only rye bread can be obtained; and travellers commonly take in their carriages sufficient wheaten rolls to supply them from one large town to the next. Wheat is only used by the natives for making what our English bakers would call fancy bread, or in pastry and confectionery. If there be no foreign demand for wheat, the difficulty of selling it, at any price, is great; and that little, which the very limited demand of other countries has of late years required, has been confined to wheat of the best quality; for rye, on the other hand, sales may be always made at a market price; and the price of that grain has not been depressed in the same proportion as the price of wheat.
§ Although the increase of wheat is greater than that of rye, yet as it absorbs all the manure of the farm, and requires the land to be ploughed twice more, it is now deemed to be the least profitable of the two crops, by many of the farmers.421
§ As the rye receives the full benefit of the fallow, its increase is greater than that of the spring crops which follow it.
§ Barley and oats are sown in the spring which follows the harvesting the wheat and rye, and these complete the course, which is again followed by a whole year's fallow. By this rotation of crops, the land bears corn only two years out of every three; and the crop of the last year scarcely produces three times the quantity of the seed that was sown.
§ This opinion, formed by my own observations, strengthened by the reports of the most intelligent persons with whom I conversed, who were connected with practical agriculture, receives some confirmation from a paper furnished to me by Mr. Leutze, his majesty's consul at Stettin; according to which, in 1805, the year previous to that in which the country was over-run by the French, the quantities of corn sowed and harvested in the province of Pomerania, when the Swedish part was not incorporated with it, are as follow:
§ This view of the low rate of increase is further confirmed by the official accounts of the produce of several farms in West Prussia [see Appendix, No. 11, B.], by which it appears, that on six farms, on which 4,864 acres are cultivated with corn, the produce was only taken at 10,000 quarters in 1824, which is represented to be a favourable year.
§ Though some few of the large proprietors may, by the increase of their flocks of sheep, and by the assiduous attention to every branch of cultivation, have improved their land and raised the increase of their seed, I see no reason to believe that to be the case to an extent, which can have a sensible influence on the average of the whole mass of production.
§ If we consider the calamities which Prussia endured, and the strenuous exertions she made to terminate them, we shall scarcely suppose that the interval from 1815 to 1825 has been sufficient to regain what she had lost; in the eight years which preceded that period, more especially as up to the present time, the market prices of her chief productions have been suffering a regular decline.
§ I should not deem the other maritime provinces of Prussia to be much more productive than Pomerania, as a whole, 422 though in East and in West Prussia there is rather a larger proportion of the land that is capable of producing crops of wheat and oats. It will happen to a traveller, in pursuit of agricultural information, even in England, and much more in countries where the business of cultivation is conducted in a much lower manner, that his attention will be invited to those properties which are best managed, where, the several processes of husbandry are most sedulously performed, and where the produce is the greatest. Hence almost every writer on agricultural subjects has been led to over-rate the actual average produce of land, in the several countries which he may have visited.
§ Like others, I was prevailed upon to pay the closest attention to the details and face of the land of the most skilful, the most affluent, and most productive proprietors. I visited several noblemen, whose knowledge of and attention to agriculture was fully equal to that of any men in this or any other country; and, if the produce of the land was not equal to that raised by our best farmers, the difference must be attributed rather to the soil and climate, than to any deficiency either of capital, of skill, or of assiduity.
§ On such property the wheat sown was very insignificant, and the proportion of that grain to rye, had gradually declined of late years. One nobleman, who farmed his estate of 26,000 acres, of which two-thirds was tillage, and one-third woodland, grew but a few acres of wheat, and of late had sold no corn of any kind. From the ports of England being shut against corn, he had turned his attention to the production of fine wool. On this estate there is a flock of 15,000 Merino sheep, yielding on an average two and a half pounds of fine wool, the annual sales of which amount to one half more than the value of the sheep. Through the five winter months, the sheep are fed with corn, chiefly rye, at the rate of one pound per day, which is estimated to be equal to three pounds of hay. The proprietor calculated, that sheep thus kept, yielded nearly as much more wool as, added to the benefit which the manure of the animals received from that kind of food, was equal to the price he should have received for the corn, if he had sold it; and that the profit, on this system, was the value of the whole of the hay, which would have been otherwise consumed. Instead of selling he finds it more profitable to buy corn.423
§ On the same property, the extent of land planted with potatoes, was upwards of 1,500 morgens, or about 1,000 acres, the chief part of which were used in the distillery, which seems an indispensable adjunct to every well-managed farm. The calculation made there was, that two bushels of potatoes yielded as much ardent spirit, as one of barley; and that the residuum, after extracting the spirit, was equal in alimentary power, for the draft bullocks, which are fed with it, to two-thirds of its value, before the wort was extracted from it. By the process on this estate, nine bushels of potatoes are mixed with one of malt, to draw the wort, which is afterwards distilled, so as to produce a spirit containing 80 per cent of alcohol, in which state it pays a duty (much complained of) of sixpence per gallon. It is reduced, before it is sold, till it retains 50 percent of alcohol; and the price charged to the retailers is about fourteen-pence per gallon.
§ Another person of the same rank, who bad turned his attention to the improvement of his property, boasted that his corn land already yielded near six-fold for the seed that was sown, and could be further increased. He, too, cultivated potatoes very extensively; and, by convening them into starch and treacle, made that land yield a profit which had it been devoted to corn would have produced a loss. He had tried to make sugar from potatoes, and found it not advantageous; but he assured me that treacle paid him well, and he could afford to sell it at 18s. per cwt. whilst that from the West Indies cost 24s. I could perceive no difference between the sweetness of this treacle and that from the tropics, but it has less consistency.
§ A nobleman whom I had before known, to whose hospitality I am much indebted, and whose estate I viewed in detail, took the trouble to furnish me with the course of cultivation he pursued on the property on which he resides [see Appendix, No. 12.3 Though cultivated with care, and though fairly productive, I readily give credit to what he assured me, that the whole benefit which he derived from the estate of 6,300 acres, in his joint capacity of landlord and cultivator, had not exceeded the amount for which he had sold his annual clip of the wool of his flock of 4,000 sheep.
§ On the several other estates that I viewed, the recurrence of corn crops was 424 equally distant; the superior portion of land devoted to green crops and pasture, the same; and the stock of cattle bore nearly a like proportion. These, however, were exceptions, few in number and confined in extent, when compared with the general condition of the estates of the three provinces.
§ A number of proprietors, residing on their lands, devoting their time and attention to its improvement, and acquiring the practical and economical habits which their affairs render necessary, must have a beneficial influence on the cultivators around them. In this view, perhaps, the distress which has been occasioned by the depressed prices of agricultural produce, may, at some future time, under happier auspices, be highly advantageous to the community. But, in the mean time, the influence of the best specimens of cultivation have been very limitted. Few of the proprietors have any capital to buy sheep or other stock, or to enable them to wait for those returns of their outlays, which come in with the most dilatory pace where the management of land is the best. He who has to answer the demands of the labourers, the tax collectors, and, where it occurs, of the gatherer of rent, or of interest on mortgages, must sell his corn at any price that is offered for it, without waiting to convert it into wool, as the nobleman to whom I have alluded is enabled to do. It is more the state of embarrassment, in which almost all the proprietors are placed, than the want of knowledge or assiduity, that prevents the Agriculture of the Prussian dominions from making more considerable advances.
§ Formerly, the majority of the estates, as belonging to nobles, and only capable of being held by that class, were nearly inalienable; but the necessity of relieving the most harassed of that body, induced, the government to form a plan by which money might be borrowed on the security of land. At first this power was confined to the lands of the nobles, but was afterwards extended to all others.
§ The Landschaft, or States, a local assembly of the principal proprietors, were authorized to make a valuation of such estates as were to be mortgaged, and to issue writings denominated pfandbriefe, or mortgage debentures, which bore interest, and were transferable with little trouble and expense, on which one-half, and in some, instances, six-tenths of the Landscbaft's 425 valuation was easily borrowed. As the valuations of the estates were made upon a low scale of the prices of produce, and on a low estimate of the annual quantum of such produce, they were deemed the best security that could be offered. In a country where no government funds were in existence, or none in which the public bad much confidence, these kind of securities became the natural deposits of such accumulations of money as were not intended to be exposed to any risks. Hence the fortunes of widows and orphans, the capital of churches, schools, hospitals, and charitable institutions of various descriptions, were invested in such securities. From 1794, when the valuations were made, the gradual rise of the prices of the produce made the payment of the interest on the debts very slightly burthensome, and such was the regularity with which the interest was paid, and such the confidence in the security, that those pfandbriefe became worth a premium of ten per cent, and sometimes even of more.
§ At the time of the valuation, the system of duty work, as known in France by the name of corves, was general. The taxes on the land, for the families who fell in defence of their country in the late war, and for such as were disabled, were not imposed, and those for the local purposes of roads, bridges, the poor, and other objects, were much lower than they are at present. Whilst, by gradual steps, for the last ten years, the price of all kinds of corn, except of wheat, which is the smallest portion, bas fallen below those at which the valuations were calculated in the year 1794, the increase of taxes and of the prices of labour have been advancing. Thus many of the estates, which, for the first twenty years, could easily discharge the demands upon them, are now become utterly unable to meet those demands. I bad heard so many tales of the distress occasioned by this course of events, that I wished to ascertain the extent of it as accurately as possible. Having found in Mr. Rothe, the president of West Prussia, as well a disposition to communicate information of every kind, as the qualities of accuracy and discrimination, I was induced to submit to him, in writing, some queries on this, as well as on some other subjects, which he very politely and speedily answered.
§ The replies, in Appendix, No. 11. (A.) show, that of 262 estates, within the limits 426 of the landschaft's authority, 195 are incumbered with mortgages, and only 67, about a quarter, are free from those incumbrances. Of the 195 estates so incumbered, 71 were already in a state of sequestration, a remedy to which none of the mortgages would have recourse but in cases of extremity. I was more than once told, with what truth I would hesitate to say, that most of the 67 large estates not appearing in the hypothecation books to be incumbered, had been prevented by testamentary, or other family settlements, from being brought within the circle of the landschafts valuation, I was informed by an intelligent man, who is a member of the states, that many estates have been suffered to remain in the possession of the nominal proprietors, because the interest of the money lent on them ceases as soon as a process is commenced, and because they cannot be sold for so much as has been advanced on them; besides which, when in a state of sequestration, they are so carelessly managed by officers of the government, that they become from bad to worse.
§ The mortgagees are thus induced to leave them in the hands of the apparent owners in the hope of a change of times, and from the fear of diminishing still more, the value of their slight security. Besides these mortgages, which are registered in the hypothecation books of the landschaft, many of these large estates, when the value of the produce was very high, were enabled to borrow, on subsequent mortgages; which, as they are of no validity till those registered are liberated, have in many instances, been attended with a total loss to the lenders.
§ It is obvious that, when that which for a long period has been deemed the most secure, if not the only secure investment for money, becomes of no avail, the consequence must be highly distressing, and peculiarly so, because the principal suffering must, of necessity, fall on those least able to contend with the adverse circumstances in which they are placed.
§ The new proprietors, who have been raised to that condition by the abolition of the ancient feudal tenures, though they can scarcely ever want the bare necessaries of life, have very little beyond them. If they happen to be both industrious and economical, their own labour, on the small portion of land which they possess, will supply them with potatoes and some little bread corn, as well as provision for their 427 two oxen. They all grow a small patch of flax, and some contrive to keep five or six sheep. If disposed to labour beyond the time required for their own land, there is a difficulty in obtaining employment; and in the winter months, which are long and severely cold, no agricultural work can be performed. The flax and the wool spun in their cottages must supply the cloathing of the family; and the fat of the animals they kill must be converted into soap and candles. Meat of any kind can be rarely afforded to be eaten by such families; and only the few who are more prosperous than their neighbours can keep a cow to supply them with milk. They consume nearly all they produce, and are considered happy if they have a sufficient surplus for sale to meet the demands of a few shillings annually for the payment of their trifling taxes and local assessments. It was the universal opinion of all with whom I had any conversation on the topic, that this description of peasants were hitherto in a worse condition than under the old tenures; and, as this was attributed to the depression of agriculture, and the want of capital, and of incitement to the large occupiers to employ their spare time, it was not considered to be an impeachment of the wisdom which had planned and executed their emancipation.
§ Though the rate of wages is very low [see Appendix, No. 11], not averaging more than five-pence per day, yet the day labourers who have constant employment, with a cottage, potatoe ground, and flax patch, are said to be somewhat better circumstanced than those persons who have been recently raised from the feudal ranks to that of freehold proprietors.
§ Those labourers who are boarded in the houses of their employers have a sufficiency of food, consisting of rye bread, potatoes, of buck-wheat made into soups of various kinds; and in many instances are provided with meat, commonly bacon, twice a week.
§ The aged and infirm poor have demanded consideration only since the abolition of the feudal tenure. Before that period, each lord considered himself bound to assist in their support, and generally attended to that duty, where the deficiency of means in the power of the relations of the aged and infirm made it requisite. A regular system of taxation for the poor has not yet been introduced, though the first steps towards it have 428 been taken. The assessment for the widows and orphans of those who fell in the late conflicts, and for such as were disabled in the service, has been already noticed. It is kept distinct from all other levies, and is, of course, gradually diminishing in amount, as the persons entitled to receive it are removed by death. The money requisite for the other poor, is supplied from local funds, arising from general assessments, made for the maintenance of bridges, for repair of roads, drains, and embankments, for the support of schools, and for some other similar purposes. The practice of supporting the indigent is of very recent date, and has not hitherto produced the effect of lessening the sympathy which the needy feel for each other, or the charity which the more affluent exercise towards their distressed neighbours; and the sense of shame yet remains as a bar against application to the communal taxes, except in the greatest extremity.
§ A very intelligent and benevolent nobleman, at whose house I spent a few days, assured me, that in the extensive, but thinly-peopled district where he had a share in the directing the assessments and expenditure of the local taxes, there was but one family which subsisted wholly on those taxes; and that others depended on the kindness of relatives and friends, with some occasional assistance from the local fund.
§ In general the soil of the maritime provinces of Prussia is so light, that it may be easily ploughed with two oxen, and those of diminished size, and no great strength. I have not unfrequently seen, on the smaller portions of land, a single cow drawing the plough, and whilst the plough was guided by the owner, the cow was led by his wife. The more tenacious soils, on the banks of the streams, are commonly but of small extent. There is indeed a large portion of land in the Delta, formed by the separation of the Nogat from the Vistula, between Derschau and Marienburg, which, under a good system of management, would be highly productive, and which requires greater strength to plough. There are some others, especially near Tilsit, of less extent; but the whole of them, if compared with the great extent of the surface of the country, are merely sufficient to form exceptions to the general classification which may be made of the soil. The various implements of husbandry are quite of as low a 429 description as the working cattle. The ploughs are ill-constructed with very little iron in them. The harrows are made of wood, without any iron, even for the tines or teeth. The waggons are mere planks, laid on the frame loose, and resting against upright stakes, fixed into its sides. The cattle are attached to these implements by ropes, without leather in any part of the harness. The use of the roller is scarcely known, and the clods, in preparing the fallow ground, are commonly broken to pieces by hand with wooden mallets. In sowing, the seed is carried in the apron, or the skirts of the frock of the man who scatters it on the ground.
§ The monied value of the live stock on the farms is low. The best flocks of Merino sheep, exclusive of the wool, is averaged to be worth about 6s. or 6s. 8d. per head. Cows are worth from 30s. to 65s. A dairy, which I saw, of the best description, was let to a dairyman at 36s. per year. The owner told me he valued them at 75s. per head, and thought the average weight of the butter from each, the calf being taken from the mother when ten days old, was about 120lbs. each year. The variation in the price of cows is much greater than in that of sheep, according to their race, to the soil on which they are pastured, and to the distance from large towns requiring supplies of milk and butter. The price of hay varies, according to the situation and quality, from 14s. to 20s. the ton.
§ The general burthens of the state in Prussia, are the subject of complaints among all classes; and, although they may appear to us to amount to a very small sum, rated by the number of persons, they must be considered heavy, in a country so destitute of little other capital than that of land, now vastly depreciated in value. The whole taxes in Prussia amount to about 10s. per head; but the effective value of money, in exchange for commodities, may be considered to be double what it is with us.
§ Those taxes pressing peculiarly on the land are, first, the grund steuer or land-tax. This is not, however, imposed on each province, but only in those where it existed before they were united to the Prussian monarchy. This is not levied in Brandenburg, though it is collected in each of the three maritime provinces, which are the subjects of more immediate consideration. This tax was designed to be 430 25 per cent on the nett value, or annual rent of the land, and when imposed was an equable burthen. In process of time, from the improvement of some estates, and the neglect of others, and from a variety of other causes, that rate which was originally equal has become, in practice at the present day, very unequal.
§ The land is divided into six classes, the rent of the lowest of which is estimated to be about 7d. per acre, and that of the highest about 4s. an acre. On this amount the tax is 25 per cent, and averages in the three maritime provinces somewhat less than 3d. per acre. The gross amount collected in the three provinces annually, according to Hassel, is about 265,000l. sterling.
§ The local taxes, which have been already noticed, do not fall wholly on the land. That for the disabled soldiers, and the families of such as fell in the conflicts, is in part borne by the cities and towns, though the chief weight falls on the land. The same, in some measure, is the case respecting the tax for roads, bridges, schools, and the poor. These are various in different districts, so that it is impossible to form any general estimate of their amount. In some parts of the country, I was told, that the local taxes were equal to the grund steur in their district; in some, that it was higher; and in others, that it did not amount to one-tenth. Among the cultivators, I heard much complaint of the heavy tax on the distilleries. As far as the tax operates to diminish the consumption of the grain, or other products of the land from which spirits may be extracted, it is a burthen on the land; but I have reason to believe that, from the mode in which the tax is collected, those who have distilleries on their farms, by paying the tax at a high degree of strength, and supplying it to the retailers at a lower strength, are so far from being aggrieved, that they are really benefitted by the tax.
§ The village clergy have commonly a house, some glebe land, and a fixed annual portion of corn, which, in most cases, is delivered to them by the lord, in pursuance of an ancient arrangement. The quantity has been long since defined, and not being subject to any alteration is scarcely ever spoken of as a burthen on the land.
§ The other taxes bear no more on the persons employed in agriculture than on those engaged in pursuits of a different 431 kind. They are chiefly on the consumption of foreign commodities attaching to the consumers, from whatever sources they may draw the revenues by which they are enabled to indulge in the use of them.
§ The military service is extremely onerous, as every young man is compelled to serve three years, from the age of twenty to twenty-four, as a soldier. This, though not precisely a tax, and not peculiar to the agricultural class, is a burthen which perhaps presses as much on the productive industry of the country, as the heavier taxes that are collected in other countries. To this must be added the quartering of the troops, who are billetted on private houses; and however well discipline may be maintained amongst them, must be a great annoyance, and in most cases an expense, which, though apparently trifling in amount, becomes weighty to those whose means of supporting it are small.
§ In a country where four fifths of the inhabitants subsist wholly by producing food, and depend for the conveniences besides bare food, on the price which they can obtain for their surplus, the low rate at which that surplus can be disposed of must be felt and observed in every rank of society.
§ The scale of living in the country we are considering, corresponds with the low prices of the objects in which their labour is employed. The working class of the inhabitants, amounting in the maritime provinces to upwards of a million, including both those who work for daily wages and those who cultivate their own little portions of land, cannot be compared to any class of persons in England. This large description of the inhabitants live in dwellings provided with few conveniences, on the lowest and coarsest food; potatoes, or rye or buck wheat are their chief, and frequently their only food; linen, from flax of their own growth; and wool, spun by their own hands, both coarse and both worn as long as they will hold together, furnish their dress; whilst an earthen pot that will bear fire forms one of the most valuable articles of their furniture.
§ As fuel is abundant, they are warmed more by close stoves than by the shelter of their wooden or mud houses, covered by shingles, which admit the piercing cold of the severe weather through abundant crevices. If they have bees and a plot 432 of chicory, their produce serves as a substitute for sugar and coffee; but too often these must be sent to market to raise the scanty pittance which the tax-gatherer demands. Though the price of whiskey is low, yet the farm produce is still lower, and neither that nor the bad beer which is commonly brewed, can be afforded by the peasantry as a usual drink.
§ In common seasons this description of people suffer much in the winter; but in times of scarcity, such as followed the disastrous harvest of 1816, their distress and their consequent mortality is largely increased.
§ It is not intended to insinuate that all the small farmers are in the circumstances here described. In some situations there is a most pleasing difference; on the banks of the Oder, below Kustrin, a colony is established on a rich tract of land, called the Neiderung, recovered by embankment from the river; The inhabitants were invited here on account of a persecution of the Protestants in Bavaria and the Palatinate, during the reign of Frederick the Great. They are exempt from most burthens, the soil is highly fertile, and the district more resembles some parts of Flanders than the other districts of Prussia. The properties are from six to twenty acres, but subdividing as the population increases, as each of the sons share the land alike. It is thickly peopled, and most of the produce is consumed on the spot where it grows.
§ A similar district near Dantzic, on the banks of the Vistula, called the Neherung, exhibits a similar picture. The chief inhabitants are a religious sect, called Menonites whose principles forbid them to become soldiers, from which they are excused, on condition of paying a higher rate of taxation.
§ On the banks of the Nieman, and in some other spots, are similar groups of small occupiers in tolerably easy circumstances. They are, however, not a thirtieth part of the whole of the class, and where they occur are only exceptions to the general description.
§ As these people happen to be placed in spots of rare fertility, to be freed from some imposts, and to be distinguished by their sobriety, industry and economy, they are going on increasing in numbers, till, in a few years, the division of land will be so great as to cause the necessity of removal to less-peopled districts.
§ The representation of the distressed 433 state of the agricultural inhabitants of this part of the Prussian dominions, which has been here given, receives confirmation from the proceedings of the Landschaft, or assembly of the provisional States of Prussia, in their last session. The address of the assembly has not been made public, but is said to have been framed in very melancholy strains, and to have urged the king to take some measures of a decided nature respecting the introduction of British goods, in order to induce our government to make some alteration in the Corn laws. Whatever may have been the representation of the states, the reply of the king, which has been published, gives an air of probability to the rumours, that it had an object, in some degree of this kind:
§ "With regard to the prayer for an intercession with the English government to repeal the Corn bill, his majesty expressed a hope, that to improve the intercourse between the two nations, a change will take place in the English Corn laws."
§ "Berlin, 26th November, 1825, from the Hamburgh paper, 'The Correspondent.'"
§ One of the effects of the agricultural distress, which was visible in the condition of the inhabitants, seemed to be a decrease in the cultivation of bread corn.
§ The replies of the president Rothe, [see Appendix, No 11, B.] shows that on six farms, amounting together to 10,390 acres, of which eight years ago 6,926 acres were cultivated with grain, there are at present only 4,864 acres applied to that purpose. Mr. Gibson, his majesty's consul at Dantzic, states, in a letter received since my return, dated 24th November, 1825, that the "cultivation of wheat has been much circumscribed of late years; and that it will take much time to extend it; that flax is cultivated now to a much greater degree than formerly in East, and parts of West Prussia; that the export of butter is increasing very much; that rape seed is attracting much attention; and that these circumstances, with the breeding of sheep, will further operate in diminishing the production of grain." It appears, too, by the official returns of exports [see Appendix, No 10,] that the excess of exports of corn in the years 1821, 1822, and 1823, had much declined from those of former years; and that in the year 1824, the maritime provinces of Prussia, instead of having any surplus of wheat, imported 47,236 quarters more than they exported. 434 This quantity may probably have been added to the former accumulation, but, if so, it is still evidence of a decline in the actual produce of wheat in the Prussian territories.
§ Those Prussian provinces to which my chief attention was directed have never been manufacturing districts, although they have, during a long series of years, made both linen and woollen cloths for their own use. They have had rather domestic labour than any establishment for the purpose; of late, however, attempts have commenced upon a larger scale, and projects were in agitation of various kinds, for making woollens and cottons in manufactories where the aid of machinery was to be applied. The chief inducement to these attempts was the low price of provisions, and the consequent expectation of a low rate of labour; they were, however, but attempts, and were not viewed with any very promising expectations by the persons I had any opportunity of conversing with on the subject. They seem to be rather the creations of the government, than the spontaneous issue of the deliberate calculations of capitalists seeking for beneficial modes of employing their money.
§ The only kind of goods that I heard of, calculated for distant markets, are some made of the native coarse wool, dyed deep blue, trials to introduce which have been made in England. These are made by some small farmers who were employed in the summer on the land. They are made out of 181bs. or 20lbs. of wool, worth about sixpence per pound. The spinning is performed by the females of the family, whilst the father weaves them. It employs him three days to weave a piece, which is about sixteen yards in length, and forty-two inches wide. The value of his day's work was slated to be 9d. thus making that part of the labour which he executed, to be 2s. 3d. The fulling is performed at a public mill, and the finishing and dying is executed in Berlin, by persons who send their agents to the farm-houses to collect the cloths in their rough state. I was told that these kind of cloths might be afforded in London at little more than 2s. per yard, and were calculated for negro clothing. As the spinning is the most material part of the labour, and that is performed at leisure time, the maker's gain is the whole of that, as the time would be otherwise unemployed. Manufactures of this kind are useful in the state 435 of society which exists where these goods are fabricated, but the limits to their extension are necessarily very confined.
§ I have no reason to think that hitherto the low price of corn has had the effect of lowering the price of manufacturing labour, in any degree approaching to the depression which the products of the soil have experienced. In the building of ships, which is indeed the chief manufactory of the maritime provinces, the rates of wages have very considerably fallen, not, indeed, so much as bread, but to an extent that has increased the building of vessels, and induced some English houses to contract for the building of Prussian vessels to be employed in distant voyages.
§ The effect, however, of the low prices of agricultural produce, is more experienced in the provisions for the crew, than in the cost of the constructions of the ships. This may be seen in the cost of food for a Prussian ship in the Appendix, No. 13. It is true that our seamen are accustomed to better food than the Prussians, but their superior professional skill makes up for the difference. Besides, as the Baltic is frozen several months in the year, the loss of time seems to be more than a compensation for the differences in the price of food.
§ In pursuance of the instructions that were given to me by your lordships, I made every attempt in my power to ascertain the actual cost of the wheat to the growers of that grain in Prussia. Whoever has made similar attempts in this country, however well he may have been acquainted with all the practical details, even if he could obtain with most scrupulous accuracy the amount of seed sown and harvested, has found them attended with such difficulties, as to afford no great degree of confidence in the results obtained.
§ Thus, for instance, in our common four years course of turnips, barley, clover and wheat, though it may be easy to ascertain the whole expenditure in rent, taxes, labour, manure, interest of capital, and deterioration in the working cattle and utensils during the four years, yet scarcely any two persons will agree in the apportioning that expenditure to each of the four crops. The relative value of those crops to one another will vary in every year, one will be good, another indifferent, another very bad. The value of the feed to the cattle fed on the produce of the first and 436 third years will be very differently estimated by different persons. The proportions of the expense of fallowing and manuring will be distributed among the several crops, according to the arbitrary rules of adjustment which the individual making the calculation has formed in his own mind, from his own local and particular observation.
§ It is an easy task, if farming accounts are regularly kept, to ascertain at the end of the four years how much has been gained or lost during the rotation; but the distribution of that loss or gain is subject to so many variations of opinion, and so many vicissitudes depending on situation, soil and weather, as to prevent reliance from being placed on any estimate of the real cost of either one of the descriptions of grain.
§ The same obstacles will present themselves to the attainment of accuracy, where any other rotation of crops is adopted.
§ If the difficulty is thus great in attaining, or even approximating to certainty in the cost price of any particular description of corn in this country, it may well be deemed much more bold to hazard an opinion on that subject, in a foreign country, where many circumstances, which can be but imperfectly known to a stranger and temporary visitor, may have a powerful influence.
§ I received many statements from the different persons with whom I conversed on the subject, as to what they considered to be the actual cost in a number of years, of wheat and other corn. These, as may be supposed, widely varied from each other. Although I was fully convinced that for several years the loss on the mass of agricultural products throughout the maritime provinces of Prussia has been very great; and that, instead of leaving any thing for rent, that has been much more than absorbed, yet I could place no reliance on the accuracy of any statements which attempted to define the exact limits of the loss on each kind of corn.
§ In founding a calculation on the answers of president Rothe, though I give to that gentleman's facts the most implicit confidence, yet I should hesitate, if he had stated what was the cost price of wheat and rye, to yield to him the same assent; I have no doubt, however, he is accurate in stating, that the loss on the corn grown in the year 1824, without allowing any thing for rent, was 20 per cent. Accord- 437 ing to the paper in Appendix, No. 11, the price at which the wheat on the estate described was sold in the year 1824, when the crops were good, was one thaler and a half per scheffel, or three shillings per bushel, by which a loss of 20 per cent was incurred, besides the whole of the rent, according to which the cost price to the farmer would be about 28s. 9d. per quarter on the spot.
|Sale price 3s. per bushel or per quarter||24||0|
|Loss, estimated at 20 per cent||4||9|
|Allowance for rent, calculated at 1/10 of the gross proceeds||2||3|
|Which would make the cost If to this be added,||31||0|
|Shipping charge, and merchant's commission or profit||2||9|
|Freight, primage and insurance to London||8||0|
|Lighterage, landing charge and commission in England||1||3|
§ The cost of wheat may be in some degree approximated to, by ascertaining the selling prices for a series of years. If that series be short, it may be affected by various intervening events, such as war, invasion, or deficient harvests; but by being spread over a long series, the effect of adventitious circumstances became lessened. It is reasonable to calculate, that in a long series, the profit on corn cannot be much above that on other branches of industry in the same country. If the profits on raising corn are much above those of other occupations, an increased quantity, to the production of which the augmented capital might contribute, would cause the price to fall; if those profits were much lower, a diminution of supply, to which the loss of capital would contribute, would tend to raise the prices.
§ Although from the fluctuation in the productiveness of different years, corn is Jess subject to the general abstract principles by which supply and demand, as regards other commodities, are regulated, in a short period; yet, in a long period such as thirty or forty years, or longer, it also must be governed by them.
§ Without going back to the long list of prices for the last hundred and sixty years, for which, see Appendix No. 24, we may 438 adopt that which begins in 1791, and ends in 1825, Appendix, No. 13; for five of those years no prices are given, because the ports were shut. The average of the whole of these years, taking the lowest and highest price of each year, and disregarding the difference of the quantities sold in the several years, gives the price at 2l. 5s. 11d. per quarter. The largest quantity was sold in the years when the price was highest, being, probably, the stocks which had accumulated during the years of low prices. The price of those years may therefore be considered as speculating prices. If the years 1800, 1801, 1805, 1817, and 1818 be struck out, the average price of the thirty remaining years will be 1l. 13s. 6d. If we suppose a profit to be made often per cent by the dealers in corn, these thirty years will give, as the cost price to the grower, after paying rent, a price nearly approaching to that which is given before, as calculated on the data furnished by president Rothe.
§ Without placing much reliance on it, yet some corrobation is received, by the market prices of Berlin, for the last eleven years, where the average price of the best Polish wheat has been 1l. 16s. 6d. or about ten per cent higher than the average of Dantzic, for the thirty years to which we have referred. This may be accounted for, partly by the quality of the wheat, and partly from the additional conveyance and consequent expenses. The returns from Berlin, taken on St. Martin's day in each year from 1774 to 1821, for which, see Appendix, No. 17, give, as the average price for the fifty years, 1l. 14s. 6d. As the best of the wheat is probably brought to the capital, some allowance must be made for the superior quality, and also something for the profit of the dealers, through whose hands it has passed. This will bring it sufficiently near to the price here assumed, to give probability to the calculation.
§ Although since the return of peace, no alleviation of the public contributions have been applied, and no diminution of the other subjects of expenditure which compose the cost of growing corn, has been experienced, yet the contrast between the first and last five years since that event took place in the prices of corn is so striking, that it deserves to be noticed. In Dantzic the average of the five years, from 1816 to 1820 inclusive, gives for wheat 2l. 14s. 5d. per quarter, and that for the years 1821 to 1825 inclusive, 1l. 439 6s. 2d. In Berlin the average for the first five years, is 2l. 6s. 4d. and for the second 1l. 6s. 7d.
§ The far greater part of that division of ancient Poland which is now comprehended in the viceregal kingdom of that name is a level country, with scarcely an ascent or descent, except where the courses of the rivers have formed channels below the general level of the country. As these rivers, though in summer they appear small streams, are swollen by the rains of autumn, and the melting of the snow on the Carpathian mountains in the spring, they form large channels, extending on both sides to a great distance; and their deposit, in many parts, enriches the land, and it presents in the summer the aspect of verdant and luxuriant meadows. In other parts the periodical swellings of the streams have formed morasses, which, in their present state, are not applicable to any agricultural purposes. The plains, which extend from the borders of one river to another, are open fields, with scarcely any perceptible division of the land, and showing scarcely any trees even around the villages. The portion of woodland on these plains is very extensive; but they are in large masses, with great intervals of arable land between them.
§ The soil is mostly sandy, with occasional mixture of a sandy loam; it is very thin, resting chiefly on a bed of granite, through which the heavy rains gradually percolate. Such a soil is easily ploughed; sometimes two horses or two oxen, and not unfrequently two cows, perform this and the other operations of husbandry.
§ This representation of the kingdom of Poland is strictly applicable to six of the eight waiwoodships or provinces into which it is now divided.
§ To the south of the river Pilica, which comprehends the two provinces of Sandomir and Cracow, the appearance of the land, and the face of the country improve; and, in proceeding south to the banks of the Vistula, there is to be seen a more undulating district and a more tenacious and fruitful soil. Much of the land is a clayey loam, requiring three or four horses to plough it, yielding, when tolerably managed, crops of excellent wheat and oats; and, where the husbandry is so good as to have adopted the practice of sowing clover between the two corn crops, the produce is very abundant.
§ The southern point of this district, forming now an independent republic, 440 called, from the name of its capital, Cracow, is very fertile. It extends along the Vistula about 20 miles, and contains in 500square miles or 320,000 acres, about 100,000 inhabitants.
§ Some of the estates in Poland, belonging to the nobility of the highest rank are of enormous extent; but, owing to the system of dividing the land among all the children, unless a special entail secures a majorat to the eldest son, which is in some few instances the case, much of it is possessed in allotments which we should deem large; but which, on account of their low value, and when compared with those of a few others, are not so. Of these secondary classes of estates, 5 or 6,000 acres would be deemed small and 30 or 40,000 acres large.
§ There are besides these, numerous small properties, some of a few acres, which, by frequent subdivisions, have descended to younger branches of noble families. The present owners are commonly poor, but too proud to follow any profession but that of a soldier, and prefer to labour in the fields with their own hands rather than to engage in trade of any kind. As titles descended to every son, and are continued through all the successors, the nobility have naturally become very numerous; but since the emperor of Russia has gained the dominion over Poland, the use of titles has been restricted. No one can assume that of baron, unless his clear income from his estates exceed 1,000 gulden, or 25l.; none that of count, whose rents are less than 3,000 gulden or 75l.; and none that of prince, who has less than 5,000 gulden or 125l.
§ The whole of the lands are made alienable, and may now be purchased by persons of any rank, and are actually held by some who are burghers or peasants; the Jews alone are prohibited from becoming proprietors of the soil, though they have very numerous mortgages upon it. When they foreclose, the lands must consequently be sold; and, as these Jews, the monied capitalists, cannot become purchasers, the prices they yield are very trifling.
§ The most numerous class of cultivators are peasants, they have a limited property in the lands which they occupy, and the cottages in which they live, under the condition of working a stipulated number of days in each week, on their lord's demesne, and paying specified quantities of produce, such as poultry, eggs, yarn 441 and other things, in conformity with ancient usage.
§ The extent of these holdings vary, according to the quality of the land, and the quantity of duty work, or of payments in kind, which are to be fulfilled.
§ On a large property which I examined, the peasants had about forty-eight acres of land each, for which they were bound to work for two days in every week with two oxen. If their labour was further required, they were paid three-pence per day for two other days; and, if beyond that number, sixpence per day: on another property, I found the peasants had about thirty-six acres, for which they worked two days in each week, with two oxen; when called upon for extra labour, they are paid sixpence a day for themselves and oxen for the next two days, or if they work without their oxen, three-pence.
§ If their labour is demanded the remaining two days in the week, the sum to be paid is made the subject of a special agreement; on one estate the peasants had but twenty-four acres, and did one day's work themselves, with one horse; the rest of their labour was paid for in money, by agreement made at the time it was required. Another proprietor, on land somewhat exhausted, granted to each of his peasants more than fifty acres of land, for which they worked with two horses three days in a week. It would be easy to give instances of more various rates of duty-work, and of the quantity of land which is appropriated for its performance. Some are of a luxurious and of a ludicrous kind. I was told that the inhabitants of two whole villages, near a princely domain, hold their lands on condition of employing a certain number of days in each week, in cleaning the walks, and keeping in good order the pleasure-grounds, which surround the vast castle of their benevolent and hospitable lord.
§ In general, this peasantry is in a condition of great distress, and involved in debt to their lord. They are no longer slaves, or adstricti glebæ. By the constitution promulgated in 1791, they were declared free, and that part of the constitution suffered no alteration under the dominion of the Russians and Prussians; was confirmed when the king of Saxony became sovereign, and was again assured in 1815, when the emperor of Russia was enthroned as king of Poland.
§ The practical effects of the privileges 442 thus granted have hitherto been very inconsiderable. The peasants can leave their land, but must first acquit the pecuniary demands of their lords. Few are able to do this, as most of them are in arrears. The lords must supply them with their oxen, in case one dies; their plough and other implements must be furnished to them by him; and in years of scarcity they become involved in debt, for the requisite subsistence of themselves and their cattle. This, together with local attachments, and the habit of respect for their feudal superior, has, in general, prevented the peasants from wandering away from the houses of their fathers, and from the protection of their chief. It thus rarely happens that the peasants quit the estates on which they have been born; and the instances that do occur, are chiefly to be attributed to the embarrassed circumstances into which their lord may fall. A declining property produces a necessitous peasantry, and such may sometimes be induced to try their fortune under another proprietor.
§ A gentleman, with whom I formed are acquaintance, had been compelled to take an estate which was mortgaged to him. He found no peasants on it; the land was neglected, and the buildings delapidated. As no tenant would take it at any rent, he was under the necessity of farming it. To induce peasants to come to him, he granted them a larger portion of land than was customary on that quality of soil, built them houses, supplied them with oxen and implements, sowed the corn of the first year, and fed them till it was fit to be converted into food. By these means, though he was enabled to get his labour performed, yet he assured me it was by persons of the least skill, industry, and sobriety.
§ The want of peasantry is a general subject of complaint, especially among those (who are far the greater number) whose estates are loaded with mortgages or other incumbrances; such sometimes lose them, but cannot command the means of inducing new ones to settle on the lands.
§ Though no longer slaves, the condition of the peasants is but little practically improved by the change that has been made in their condition. When a transfer is made, either by testament or conveyance, the persons of the peasantry are not indeed expressly conveyed, but their services are, and in many instances are the most valuable part of the property.443
§ It is said, that when the freedom of the peasants was first decreed, it was viewed by them with great distrust. They were alarmed with the apprehension that in age or sickness, or other incapacity, they should be abandoned by their lords, and left to perish in want; by the form that society has taken in the course of the thirty-four years that have passed since the alteration was enacted, their alarms have been dispelled; and the same acts of kindness being exercised in most cases as were formerly customary, they can perceive no alteration in their condition that is either materially more beneficial or injurious to them.
§ These people live in wooden huts, covered with thatch or shingles, consisting of one room with a stove, around which the inhabitants and their cattle crowd together, and where the most disgusting kinds of filthiness are to be seen. Their common food is cabbage, potatoes sometimes, but not generally, pease, black bread, and soup or rather gruel, without the addition of butter or meat. Their chief drink is water, or the cheap whiskey of the country, which is the only luxury of the peasants; and is drunk, whenever they can obtain it, in enormous quantities. They use much salt with their vegetable food; and, in spite of the heavy tax on that commodity, can never dispense with the want of it at their meals. I was informed, and saw reason to credit the accounts, that when the peasants brought to the market towns their trifling quantities of produce, a part of the money was first used to purchase salt, and the rest spent in whiskey, in a state of intoxication that commonly endured till the exhaustion of the purse had restored them to sobriety. In their houses they have little that merits the name of furniture; and their clothing is coarse, ragged, and filthy, even to disgust.
§ Very little attention has been paid to their education, and they are generally ignorant, superstitious, and fanatical. They observe about twenty holidays in the year, besides the Sundays; and pass much of their time in pilgrimages to some favourite shrine, in counting beads, and similar superstitious occupations.
§ This representation of the condition and character of the peasantry, though general, cannot be considered so universal as to admit of no exceptions; some rare instances of perseverance in economy, industry and temperance are to be found; 444 and, unfavourable as their circumstances may be for the creation of such habits, they are here attended by the usual correspondent results. Some few peasants have been enabled to gain three or four allotments, and to employ their sons or hired servants to work for them; and there are instances of such persons making a still further progress, and being enabled to purchase estates for themselves. Such cases as these, however, occur so rarely, that though they produce individual comfort and wealth, they have no perceptible influence on the general mass of society, or on the surplus quantity of agricultural productions.
§ As may be naturally inferred, from the system under which labour is applied to the land, that labour is performed in the most negligent and slovenly manner possible. No manager of a large estate can have his eye constantly on every workman; and, when no advantage is gained by care in the work, it will naturally be very imperfectly executed. All the operations of husbandry struck me to be very ill performed: the ploughing is very shallow and irregular; the harrows with wooden tines do not penetrate sufficient to pull up weeds in fallowing; the roller is almost unknown, and thus the land is filled with weeds of all descriptions. I observed the same want of attention in threshing; and it appeared to me that a much greater proportion of the grain was left among the straw, than in that which has passed under an English flail. In short, the natural, effects of the system of duty-work was visible in the whole of the administration of the large estates where it is followed, with the exception of those few proprietors who have intelligent and active managers, and are free from pecuniary embarrassments.
§ The common course of cropping is, the old system of a whole year's fallow, followed by winter corn, and that by summer corn, and then a fallow again-. Thus one third of the land bears nothing. The winter crop in the northern part of Poland consists of wheat and rye; the proportion of the latter to the former is nearly as nine to one, and the wheat enjoys the benefit of what little manure is preserved. Thus the wheat actually cultivated does not occupy more than one thirtieth part of the arable land. In the southern part of the kingdom, the wheat bears a larger proportion to the rye, amounting, on the more tenacious soils, to a fifth; and even in some cases, to a fourth part of the rye.445
§ The statements I could collect, and my own observations, led me to conclude the stock of cattle to be very small, in proportion to the extent of land, and to the number of inhabitants. The government of Poland has not collected those statistical facts, which are so regularly registered by the Prussian, and some other of the governments of Germany; where they have been collected, as in the case of the population of the year 1817, I believe but little accuracy is to be discovered. I found, in a conversation with one of the ministers, to whose immediate department it belonged, that no great dependence could be placed on the census of that year.
§ In the absence of a more recent authority, I avail myself of a Prussian document, which shows the numbers of the different kinds of cattle in the provinces of Plock, in Poland, when it was under the dominion of that power. I have no reason to suspect the accuracy of this official statement, or to believe that this province is not equal in live stock to the average of the whole kingdom. I was told there was in the province of Podolachia, a greater number of black cattle, and in the province of Lublin, a greater number of sheep than in Plock; but those provinces were represented to me as deficient in other cattle, the former having fewer sheep, the latter fewer cows.
§ In the year 1803, the returns from Plock were thus: 45,028 horses and colts; 196,540 oxen, cows, and young cattle; 194,133 sheep and lambs; 95,634 swine.
§ The extent of this province is nearly one fourth of that of the three maritime provinces of Prussia; and, thinly as those are stocked with cattle in comparison with England, it will be seen, by the following statement, how much they exceed that of the district in question:
|—||PRUSSIAN Maritime Provinces.||POLISH Province of Plock.|
|Horses and Colts||1 to 42||1 to 106|
|Oxen, Cows, and Calves||1 to 18||1 to 24|
|Sheep and Lambs||1 to 10||1 to 24|
|Swine||1 to 35||1 to 52|
§ If it be considered, that since the year in which the facts exhibited in this statement were collected, the country has suffered severely from being the theatre of war, from three changes of sovereigns, 446 and from the low prices of all produce, it will scarcely appear probable that it has so increased in wealth as to have added materially to its stock of cattle, or even to have kept up that stock to the standard which it had reached before those visitations. It appears by the statistical account of the lordship of Pulaway and Konskowla, in the province of Lublin, which is considered to be one of the best managed estates in Poland, consisting of 119,232 English acres, that the stock of cattle, including those of the proprietor and his subjects or tenants, is somewhat below what the Prussian accounts show of the average of the province of Plock, in the year 1803. It appears to be [see Appendix, No. 18] thus,
|1 Cow or Ox to||26¾|
|1 Sheep or Lamb to||19|
|1 Horse to||156|
|1 Pig to||146|
§ No country can be much better adapted for the breeding of sheep than the greater part of the kingdom of Poland. Wherever it is attended to with due skill it is found to be beneficial; but the poverty of the landholders, and their want of knowledge of the advantages to be derived from that kind of live stock, keeps them from devoting their land to their propagation.
§ A very intelligent physician, a native of Germany, whose acquaintance I had the pleasure to make in Poland, and who devotes the money acquired by his medical practice to the purchase and the cultivation of land, told me that he purchased, four or five years before, a flock of fine-woolled sheep of the Saxon electoral breed; that he had already sold in fleeces and lambs as much as had replaced the whole capital expended, and had at present double the number which he had originally purchased. This striking instance of success, in an experiment in rural economy, is known to most of the cultivators; and yet it has been able to produce such few followers, that I was assured there were yet in Poland only two other flocks of unmixed fine-woolled Merino sheep. This gentleman was one of the first that had cultivated green crops on an extensive scale for feeding sheep; and, though the benefit of it was obvious, both in the produce of the wool, and the increase of the quantity and quality of his corn, it has had but little influence hitherto on the conduct of others, and 447 that little is confined to a small spot near the capital.
§ Of the sheep in Poland, the best are those in the province of Lublin; but they are very far inferior to the breed of Saxony. The cows are a smallish race, and generally kept in bad condition, both as to food and cleanliness. They are for the most part stall-fed; but, from negligence, yield very little butter and no tolerable cheese.
§ With the exception of a part of the two southernmost provinces, as before noticed, the soil of Poland is of such a thin nature, that where it is moderately farmed it can scarcely be made to bear a medium crop of wheat more frequently than once in nine years. I examined a farm in the province of Lublin, the proprietor of which is in easy circumstances, and possesses several other estates. The extent of this farm is about 5,500 acres. The live stock consisted of sixty milch cows, which are let to a dairyman at about 19s. per year each; some few young cattle, eight or nine horses, and between five and six hundred sheep. The ploughing is performed by two oxen, for which and for his own labour, two days in each week, the peasant has a house, firing, and about forty acres of land, to which the manure made by his oxen is applied. About 2,000 acres is in this way in the occupation of the peasants. The manure, therefore, of the cows, sheep, and horses, is applicable to the lord's portion of somewhat more than 3,000 acres, and supplies it with more liberality than is practised on any other land near it. The whole is under the plough; there is neither meadow nor permanent pasture. The rotation of crops is as follows: the first year a clean fallow three or four times ploughed; the second year potatoes are planted; the third year wheat is sown; and in the following spring clover amongst it. The fourth and fifth years the clover is either made into hay, or used for the stall-fed cows and the horses, or fed on the land by the sheep; the sixth year, pease, or buck-wheat are grown; then it is fallowed for a year; and the eighth year a crop of rye is grown; and the ninth, or last year of the course, the land is sown with barley, oats, and buck wheat.
§ On this, which is considered a pattern farm, on which I have reason to believe the increase is greater than on any other in the district, the seed and produce are as follows:—potatoes, about twenty 448 bushels to the acre planted, and about two hundred bushels raised; wheat, two bushels sowed, and from sixteen to twenty reaped; rye, two bushels sowed, and from twelve to fifteen reaped; buckwheat, three bushels sowed, and from ten to fifteen harvested. The barley and oats scarcely yield four times the quantity sowed; manure is applied after the potatoes for the wheat; the latter have the benefit of the fallowing, and the former of the manure. The manager, who was a man of skill, thought that when they had more cattle, and consequently more manure, he should be disposed to try the plan of sowing wheat once in seven, or even in six years, if the future prices of that grain should present sufficient inducement. This farm is one of the few in which all the labour, except that of the oxen and their drivers, is paid for in money, and not in produce. The common plan of threshing is, to give the thresher a certain proportion of the corn. This varies with the productive nature of the soil and the season, from the fourteenth to the eighteenth bushel. Here it was paid for at the rate of a florin, a trifle less than sixpence, for the korzec, a Polish measure, somewhat more than three bushels and a quarter; the mowing, reaping, and other kinds of labour, were agreed for at proportionably low prices.
§ Although this estate is well managed, and no rent is paid for it, I was induced to believe the assurance which was given to me, that it had not yielded any revenue to the proprietor in the last four or five years, in his joint capacity of owner and farmer. He had, however, a distillery, and near it is a village, with some establishments, on a small scale, for making coarse woollen cloths. There is no duty on the whiskey sold in country places; and the supply of that commodity in the neighbourhood, which is rather populous, leaves a profit, though not equal to the interest of the capital invested in the land, the farming stock and utensils, and the erection of the distillery.
§ I have dwelt the longer on the circumstances of this particular farm, not because it may be considered as showing the average increase on the usual scale of farming, but because the accounts of the receipt and expenditure, both in money and produce, are kept with great regularity. In the generality of farms which are under inferior management, the increase would be found much below the 449 rate which is stated in the farm whose management I have described. If I were to generalize the whole of Poland, except the southern parts of the province of Sandomir and Cracow, I should not estimate the produce of grain to be more, if so much, as two thirds of that which appeared to be raised on the estate in question. In thus estimating, I should depend not only on my own observation of the state of growing crops, and of those which were being harvested, but on the opinion of the persons best qualified to judge, by being in the habit of looking at the amount of produce, upon a large scale, and by being furnished with the best means of judging the average of the whole.
§ With that description of persons, including the chiefs of several departments of the government, the prevailing opinion was, that the average produce of wheat was not more than fourteen bushels; of rye, ten; of barley, fourteen; of oats and of buck wheat, from eight to ten to the acre. Although the southern parts of Sandomir and Cracow yielded rather more, yet their corn, being celebrated for its excellent quality rather than for its much greater produce, and extending to but a small proportion of the whole even of those provinces, it was not calculated that it would have the effect of raising the average of the whole kingdom, in any sensible degree, above the rate here stated.
§ Upon this subject, I could have wished to have been enabled to give statistical details, rather than my own estimates, or those of persons better acquainted, than any foreigner can be, with the state of the country. If I had met with any agricultural writings expressly Polish, and had understood the language, I might have gleaned from them some facts to rectify, or to corroborate the estimate of the actual acre-able produce of grain; but as every manager of a farm, that I met with, understands the German language, and obtained whatever knowledge books could give him, from the writers of that nation, there is little inducement to compose works in Polish, on such subjects; and the German authors, though very accurate, and copious, in their statistical reports of their several districts, can know little, and can have no inducement to learn much of the statistical details of Polish agriculture.
§ The managers of the farms of the 450 greater nobles, are commonly men of good education, as well as good manners, having been most of them officers in the army, and I found them well acquainted with the agricultural writings of Thaer, Schwartz, and other Germans; and, by means of German translations, with those of Arthur Young, sir Humphrey Davy, and other Englishmen. Being almost cut off from society, and the sports of the field not being, as with us, an object that engages much attention, they have recourse to books to relieve their solitude in the long nights of their tremendous winters.
§ Having noticed the two provinces which yielded the best wheat, it may not be useless to observe in addition, that but some small portions of each are highly productive, and those at that extremity of the kingdom which is the furthest removed from the ports in the Baltic, at which alone their corn can be shipped for this country.
§ I first entered the province of Sandomir from that of Massovia, and went through it, by the towns of Kozience and Granica, till I reached the Vistula, and crossed it at Pulaway. In this route there was nothing in the face of the country, or in the appearance of the crops, to distinguish them from those of the other parts I had noticed. On my way from the province of Lublin, I again entered Sandomir, passing the Vistula at Rachow. Prom that river, for sixty or seventy miles, the fertility, of the land was not sensibly greater than the general appearance of the other provinces. After passing Stobnica, the country vastly improved, and continued good through Nowe-Miastow, Kozyce, and Przecla-wice, till I entered the province of Cracow, at Iwanowice. It is an undulating district, somewhat hilly: the soil, a good brown loamy clay, rather stiff to plough, requiring three, or even sometimes, four horses to work it. The stubbles of wheat were tolerably thick, and proved that the crops must have been good; they were, however, far from clean, and the wheat, having been sowed after a fallow, there would have been more appearance of young clover, if the management had been well conducted. The wheat grown here is that which is known in London by the name of Dantzic white wheat; it is of the most excellent quality, very white and heavy; I did not learn that the average growth was much beyond, if it 451 reached, twenty bushels to the acre; though I heard of individual instances of a greater quantity being yielded in good years. The district is about sixty miles in length, but not broad, extending from the left bank of the river, to various, but none great, extents inland. The province of Cracow, as far as I saw it, is of nearly the same kind; I was informed that some of the northern divisions of it were poor in its agriculture, but rich in its mines of iron, coal and calamine. The territory of the republic of Cracow is like the province of the same name, in the kingdom. The marks of more freedom allowed to exertion are visible in the extensive fields of flax, and the inclosures with tobacco, maize and a great variety of garden vegetables; a part of it is likewise rich in mines of coal and calamine; and great quantities of zinc, made from the latter, have been beneficially exported to England, since the passing of the late law, by which the duty on it was reduced.
§ This tract of country which appeared to me so fertile, and in which I remarked more of the outward signs of comfort, does not, including the territory of the republic, in extent amount to one sixtieth part of the present kingdom of Poland. There is in it, the same suffering from the low prices of produce, and a disposition to invest any capital that can be found, in mining, rather than in cultivating the soil.
§ The province of Gallicia, a part of the ancient kingdom of Poland, but now added to the dominions of the Austrian empire, which stretches along the right bank of the Vistula, is, I believe, nearly as fertile as the southern part of the present kingdom of Poland, or the territory of the republic of Cracow. I passed through only that portion which lies between the salt mines of Wieliezka, and the frontiers of Moravia. I found by the accounts I obtained at Thorn [see Appendix, No. 193, that very little wheat from that rich and extensive province had been conveyed down the Vistula to the Baltic, though the access to the sea is as easy as from the south parts of the kingdom of Poland, or from Cracow; yet the trade in corn is impeded by transit duties both in Poland and in Prussia. No transit duty is charged in Poland, on the corn of its own growth; and by a treaty of commerce, concluded in the month of March last, with Prussia, the duty at Thorn is reduced to a rate that 452 is almost nominal. There is no such treaty with Austria; and the corn from Gallicia thus continues loaded with the duty, on entering the Prussian boundaries, from which that of Poland is now exempt.
§ I believe some of the surplus corn of Gallicia finds a vent by land carriage into the Prussian province of Silesia. It must however be but in small quantities, forming a part of that stated to be exported from Austria [see Appendix, No. 20.]
§ It was difficult in such a country as Poland to attain to any accuracy on the rent of land; the owners generally occupy themselves their domains, and cultivate them by the hands of their peasants.
§ The lands of the Crown are differently circumstanced; they comprehend one third of the whole surface, or about tea million acres; somewhat more than two millions of these are woods, which are managed by a department of the government. The remainder is chiefly arable land, and is leased to tenants. The labour of the peasants is a part of that which is leased. The tenants of the Crown are exempt, as well as their peasants, from some taxes, to which all other occupiers of land are subject, and in consequence of it the estates are better stocked with peasants. Hence, as I was assured by the chief of the department, that the peasants on the Crown lands form nearly one fourth of the whole population of the kingdom. To the farmers of these, this must be a great advantage, which but few, and only the richest and most humane lords, can partake with them.
§ With this freedom from taxation and ample supply of labourers, the lands are let very low; the nominal rent of eight million of acres of land, is stated in the public accounts to be four millions florins, or about ninety-five thousand pounds sterling, or somewhat less than threepence the English acre. In the average are included many acres literally of no value. I was informed, that the land actually under cultivation might be fairly stated to be worth from eight-pence to fourteen-pence per acre. It is however found that the present rent cannot be afforded, that the tenants are falling into arrears, that the hope of recovering some parts must be abandoned; and in other cases, the rent can only be paid in corn. 453 The woods belonging to the Crown, consisting, as before stated, of more than two million acres, and under the administration of a public board, are felled in portions arthually, so as to cut them every fifty years. The fiftieth part, which was cut last year (the price of wood having improved) produced, as stated to me by the chief of the department, the sum of forty-eight thousand pounds sterling, being at the rate of five-pence halfpenny the acre on the whole of the woods, or twenty-four shillings on the part actually cut.
§ So little land belonging to individuals is let, that it is difficult to form an opinion of what is its actual average annual value. That it is much lower than formerly, I have no doubt.
§ One instance came under my own observation. The proprietor of a large domain had let a farm, consisting of about seven thousand acres, on a lease, for the usual term of six years, at a rent of eight hundred and fifty pounds. That lease had expired just before I visited the place. The tenant had lost a great deal of his property, and the peasants had diminished in number; and a new lease had been taken by the same tenant, for no other could be found, at the rate of one hundred and seventy pounds.
§ I knew of one farm of about four thousand acres, let on a lease for six years, about four years ago, for one hundred and eighty pounds. The proprietor of it assured me, that though he received his rent regularly, he was convinced the tenant paid the whole of it out of his capital, and was only enabled to maintain his engagements from having other pursuits which were profitable. This estate is not more than twelve miles from Warsaw, and has an excellent road to within one mile of it.
§ Another instance of an estate recently let on lease, was related to me by the gentleman who had engaged to take it. It consists of about two thousand three hundred English acres: two-sevenths of it is water-meadow, on the banks of the Vistula, producing good hay; about three hundred acres are woodland, and the rest arable. There is a castle or capital mansion on it, which I believe was the chief motive for taking it. The rent agreed for was about ninety-five pounds a year. The lessee, who is engaged in other pursuits, told me he should try the experiment of working the land by hired annual 454 labourers, to be paid in money. He proposed to keep a flock of 400 Merino sheep, and a dairy of fifty milch cows, for the butter of which he flattered himself he should find a vent in a neighbouring manufacturing town.
§ These two last instances appeared to me to be exceptions to the general rate of value of rented land; and I should rather estimate the average to be much nearer that price at which the lands of the government are let. There is, in fact, scarcely any of that class of capitalists, as is familiar to us in England by the term farmer. The state of society is totally different.
§ Among the real Poles, there is no regular gradation of ranks between the noble proprietor and the wretched peasantry. There may be, and visibly are, differences in the condition of the peasantry, depending on the personal character of their lords, and upon the more or less embarrassed state of the property on which they may be settled. There is also a difference between the landed proprietors, owing to the different degrees of activity, economy, and attention that they exercise; but there is not a middle class of Poles. The Polish gentry are too proud to follow any course but the military career; and the government, by its large standing army, encourages the feeling, though the pay is scarcely sufficient to supply the officers with their expensive uniforms. The church has too few prizes among many thousand blanks, to induce any but the lower classes to enter on that profession. The offices of government can employ but few, and those are ill paid, and said to depend on small peculations, rather than on their salaries. Whatever difficulties may present themselves to the placing out young men of good family, none have had recourse to commerce; and, if they had, such would be treated by others as having lost their caste, and descended to a lower rank of society. The manufacturers and the artisans in Poland are almost all of the German nation. If a joiner, painter, mason, tailor, shoemaker, or a person of other similar occupations, including, too, the medical profession, is wanted, he will commonly be found only among the Germans. The merchants, bankers, and traders, are nearly as exclusively of the Jewish race, and that too of all classes from the importer of wines and colonia produce, to the dealers in rags and ok 455 clothes; from the monied man, who traffics in foreign loans and foreign exchanges, down to the lender of small sums, which the poor can obtain by pledging their miserable furniture or implements.
§ Examples have been recently set by some individuals of the first families and wealth, of establishing manufactories, by forming colonies, with a view of raising a race of consumers on their domains, among whom a vent may be created for the productions of the soil; but they have in almost every instance, employed foreigners to conduct their concerns, and to perform all the work above the lowest kinds of drudsery. The Germans look too earnestly forward to a return to their own country with the money they acquire, to invest it in cultivation; and the Jews are not disposed to engage in agricultural, or in any pursuits or occupations in which their shrewdness in making bargains would be of less avail than the practice of hard labour and the most rigid economy.
§ When estates are sold, the timber, houses, and barns are not subjects of a separate valuation, but are included in one sum in the purchase. The buildings on estates are, of necessity, more numerous and more extensive than are required in this country. From the indolent manner in which all labour is performed, a greater number of cottages is indispensable for the workmen. The corn is seldom or never formed in stacks in the open air, but is housed in barns, and the same is the case with the hay. The snow is so deep in the winter, that there is no food for cattle to be found in the fields; and such is the severity of the cold, that it is indispensable to build houses large enough to contain the whole herds of cattle, and the whole flocks of sheep. Besides the severity of the climate, the number of wolves is so great, and, in spite of all excitement by the government to destroy them, is so fast increasing, that no cattle can be left in the fields, in the winter. These animals range the country in bodies of from four to fourteen; and, when pressed by hunger, will attack any of the domesticated animals; and, indeed, no winter passes without several human beings, particularly children, falling a sacrifice to their voracity. Instances, it is said, are not uncommon of wolves undermining the foundation of sheep-houses to get at their prey.456
§ From these circumstances, the relative expense of building on estates, compared to the value of the mere land, in spite of the low price of timber, of which those buildings are chiefly constructed, is greater than with us.
§ An estimate was made by a person eminently skilled in the value of land, who formed it upon actual sales made in the last four years. He divided it into three classes, according to their fertility. The lowest land in a state of cultivation, with good buildings and a competent number of peasants, he stated to be worth one thousand florins the huff. Valuing the florins at sixpence, though worth a fraction less, and taking the huff of thirty Magdeburg morgens, as equal to twenty-two English acres, the estimate would be a fraction less than twenty-two shillings sterling the English acre. The other kinds of arable land of superior qualities: vary. The great mass is of the second class, or worth about thirty shillings; but some is estimated at five thousand florins the huff, or five pounds ten shillings; but little, however, is in this class, and that little is in the vicinity of the cities, on the banks of the great rivers, or in some favoured spots in the southern provinces. This estimate was rather founded on the slate of affairs three or four years ago, I than on their present condition; for I was told that such a number of estates had lately been offered for sale, that no price could be obtained for the greater part. All the inquiries I was enabled to make, in various parts of the country, led me to the belief, that the estimation here stated was, in the main, as correct as could be expected to be framed.
§ The Jews are almost exclusively the dealers in money. They are precluded from becoming lauded proprietors, and their exclusion from the market tends to depress the prices in a very great degree. Though some of the richer individuals of that people pass through the ceremony of baptism, especially when they have mortgages on large estates, and mean to foreclose; the whole number of those who thus become qualified to purchase, bears but a small proportion to that of the properties that are offered for sale. I was assured from so many, and such various quarters, that I have no reason to doubt of the report, that almost every estate is deeply involved in debt. The fact is so notorious, that few proprietors feel any delicacy in acknowledging themselves to 457 be partakers of the common lot of their neighbours. More than one, without any reserve, spoke to me on the sum annually required to pay interest on his mortgages, with as much coolness as an English farmer would speak of his rent, tithes, and taxes.
§ Among the mortgagees, the king of Prussia, and some of his monied subjects are by far the greatest, in that part of Poland which was included in his dominions, till Poland was erected into, a grand duchy by Buonaparte, under the government of the king of Saxony. It had long been the practice of the court of Berlin to assist agriculture, by loans to the proprietors of estates. This practice began under Frederick the Great, and was continued to the disastrous period that followed the battle of Jena. This assistance was extensively afforded to the newly-acquired subjects of the part of Poland which, in the division of that un-fortunate country, fell to the share of Prussia. Though the king of Prussia has lost the government, his claims, and those of his subjects, on the individuals indebted to them, have been recognized; and though in many instances the interest has gone on increasing, the claims have not been rigidly enforced. It was rumoured in Warsaw, but not on any authority, that the emperor Alexander, in his character of king of Poland, was negociating a treaty with the court of Berlin, which had for its object the relief of the Poles, by purchasing the claims of the Prussians, and assuming the debts to himself.
§ The amount of the claims of Prussia was stated to me to be two millions of Prussian dollars, or three hundred thousand pounds sterling, secured on various estates extending over near fifteen hundred thousand acres.
§ A more numerous class of mortgages comprises the corporations of cities and towns, the trustees of hospitals, schools, colleges, monasteries, convents and charitable institutions; whatever capitals these may possess is lent on land, and the difficulty of obtaining the interest as it accrues, and in some instances of getting any, causes those establishments to languish and decrease in their capacity to relieve distress.
§ Family settlements are mostly made on the security of land; for a long period there was no other means of making provision for the young and the helpless; and in the flourishing periods of agricul- 458 ture, the interest was paid with punctuality; of late, however, the widows and ophans, whose incomes were deemed free from risk, have become victims to the general depression of the value of the produce of the soil.
§ The Jews, with all their characteristic shrewdness and sagacity, have become, in many instances, from mere necessity, mortgagees. When the debts of proprietors accumulated, and the price of produce fell, the monied men were often induced to secure themselves, as well as they could, by accepting of mortgages, where no payment could be obtained.
§ The representation here given is abundantly confirmed by the proceedings adopted in the Diet when assembled in May last. The two houses, consisting almost exclusively of landed proprietors, settled a plan to administer relief, which received the emperor's sanction.
§ A National Bank is to be established, in which landowners who are in debt, whether on mortgage or on simple contracts, may deposit a schedule of their estates, and a valuation of them: this valuation is to be made by themselves, and it is calculated it will not be made too high, because, as the present land-tax is collected on the income, and future imposts are to be levied according to this valuation, few will be induced to give in more than the true value. On the valuation, an annual interest is to be paid to the Bank, at the rate of six per cent, for twenty-eight years. This is to be considered as interest at the rate of four percent; and two per cent is to form the means of discharging, by compound interest, the principal in twenty-eight years. The Bank, on receiving the documents, is to deliver to the proprietors its debentures or certificates; which, twenty per cent being deducted from them, they are made a legal tender for the payment of all debts; and on which four per cent interest is to be paid by the Bank. When the instalment of the first year is paid, the two per cent is to be divided among all the holders of the Bank debentures, by a lottery. The drawers of the fortunate numbers will then be paid in full. The others will receive their interest, at the rate of four per cent, till their numbers are drawn prizes, some of which must, of course, wait till the expiration of the twenty-eighth year; at which period, upon this plan, if it should work well, all the debts will be liquidated.459
§ I have only noticed this project as a corroboration of the accounts collected of the general state of embarrassment in which the landowners in Poland are involved. It may, however, be remarked, that the assumption of the proprietors being able, in their united capacity of landlord and tenant, to live on their estates, and have a surplus of six per cent on their value, is quite gratuitous, and founded on a rate of prices for produce which of late years has not been nearly realized. It leaves, too, an opening to fraud in the power of desperate proprietors, who may neglect the amount of future imposts for the sake of temporary relief. In fixing the rate of interest so low as four percent, this project sacrifices the interests of the creditors to those of the debtors; for money is worth much higher interest on the best of all securities.
§ The bankers of Warsaw discount their own acceptances at the rate of half per cent per month. There are but few bills, it is true, drawn on them; but, when accepted, they become to the acceptors a secure mode of making interest of their capital. The number of bills drawn in Warsaw is few, and the amount small; but the rate of interest on them may be considered as the best criterion of the actual worth of the use of money, when no risk is incurred. The bankers are said to find the most advantageous employment for their capitals in speculations in Russian and Austrian funds.
§ The interest of money in Poland, as elsewhere, varies much, according to the necessity of the borrower, and the greediness or suspicions of the lender, as well as the nature of the security that is offered. The Jews lend small sums frequently at two per cent per month; any sum may be easily lent at ten per cent per annum on the security of jewels, plate and other valuables; but this lending is viewed with distrust by monied men. When the interest becomes due, if it is not paid, recourse must be had to the courts of law; and a judgment must be obtained before the articles pledged can be sold. The suit may be protracted for several years, whilst the high interest is accumulating; and, at the period of decision, the sum originally lent, with the interest upon it, may amount to more than the value of the pledge.
§ In Poland I was forcibly impressed, by remarking how much the actual use of 460 money is dispensed with in poor countries, and how much of the traffic can be carried on by barter without its intervention. It is in this kind of traffic that the lower class of the Jews are enabled to make themselves the almost indispensable agents in every transaction of buying and selling. The numbers of the country people that attend at fairs and markets, with minute quantities of commodities, excite much surprise in one who remarks the thinness of the surrounding population, whilst the number of Jews, apparently mere spectators, sauntering through such collections of peasants, seems no less extraordinary.
§ No paper, or any other substitute for metallic money, circulates in the country; and the value in specie of every commodity that is produced at home, is very low, and the productions of foreign countries, exclusive of the taxes that are imposed, very high.
§ Cows are of various races, and, I think, differ more in their value than in any country I have ever visited. The common breed of the country are worth about 27s. or 28s. per head. The Ukarine, or the best, from Podolia, are estimated much higher, averaging 3l.; and some few, very good, are worth 4l. 10s. Flocks of sheep vary too, but not so much as cows; the lowest of the native breed are worth per head 3s. and the best about 5s. 6d. or 6s. Merinos are very rare at present, and worth from 8s. to 9s. per head.
§ The corn spirit, or whiskey, is sold in the country at 10d. per gallon; but paying a high duty, or being a subject of monopoly, farmed by the government to distillers on the entrance of the cities and towns, is retailed in them from 3s. to 3s. 6d. per gallon. Horses, except those of foreign races, are as low in proportion as cows and sheep. The price of meadow hay in the capital was from 14s. to 15s. per ton; so little is sold in the country that it would have been difficult to state what is the value before the expense of conveyance is paid.
§ There are few burthens laid exclusively on the land, except the tenth Groschen tax. That was originally a war tax, and is so still denominated, though continued after ten years of a peace, and there exists no present probability of its being speedily withdrawn. A small sum is levied in each district for the repairs of roads, bridges, and other local purposes; but that and the land-tax scarcely ex- 461 ceed twenty-five per cent on the presumed annual value of the land.
§ The tithes are very moderate, and chiefly compounded for at fixed rates, which can never be altered without the consent of the owner. Under one of their monarchs, the clergy were called upon to pay contributions to the state, at a rate which they gave as the annual value of their livings; and, upon these valuations, compositions have been settled. As the patron, with the consent of the archbishop (a consent seldom withheld), can remove an incumbent, they are necessarily too dependent to enter into contests about tithes. The secular parochial clergy are commonly men of slight education, usually the sons of peasants, to whom the somewhat elevated character of priest, with its small emoluments and freedom from hard labour, forms a sufficient inducement to enter on the ecclesiastical profession. I was told, but cannot vouch for its accuracy, or for the extent to which it may be carried, that since the Jews have been prohibited from keeping public-houses, the parochial priests have become in the villages the chief retailers of whiskey, and thereby increase their otherwise scanty incomes.
§ The other taxes fall no more on the landed interest than on other classes of the community. They are chiefly on consumption; that on beer forms a part, and is collected by a monopoly let to farm by the government, to brewers. All foreign commodities, such as sugar, coffee and wine, have heavy duties imposed. These are collected from all the consumers of them; and few of the agriculturists can at present afford to purchase such luxuries, but must be content with honey, dried chicory roots and whiskey, as substitutes for them.
§ The whole revenue, according to the statements of official men, does not exceed two millions sterling. As one fourth of the population, the tenants and peasants of the Crown, are exempted from paying the tenth Groschen tax, the heaviest of all the imposts; the sum extracted from the rest of the subjects, amounts to 15s. per head annually. The whole population of the present kingdom is between 3,800,000 and 4,000,000, having increased since its establishment 250,000.
§ The revenues do not pay the expenses of the government, but the deficiency is made up by remittances from Petersburgh, which usually amount to 4,000,000 silver 462 roubles, or nearly five hundred thousand pounds sterling. The forced military service, and quartering of troops, are burthens on the land, which are difficult to reduce to any money estimation. The young men of good families are expected to become cadets in a service whose pay will scarcely clothe them; and the strongest of the labourers are selected as privates, without the formality of asking their consent, or drawing lots. When in quarters, the officers occupy the best apartments in the houses of the proprietors, whilst the privates are lodged in the peasants cottages. At present, the military are under good discipline; but still they have means of extorting from those on whom they are quartered, something beyond the use of bare walls.
§ Of late years the attention of the government, of those private nobles who have adequate means, and of the richer Jews, has been drawn to manufacturing. The very low rate of all mere manual labour, the extensive market of the vast Russian dominions being opened to the Poles, and the cheapness of raw products, have contributed to the establishment of numerous but not large undertakings, which, as far as I could form a judgment, promised to be beneficial to the individuals concerned in them.
§ I was assured by two noblemen at the head of different departments of the executive government, that within the last six years more than 250,000 foreigners, chiefly Germans and almost all manufacturers, had emigrated from their own country and established themselves in Poland. They have some privileges in regard to taxation. Those of them who are Protestants are supplied with churches and ministers, at the expense of the government, though on a low scale; and they are, for a prescribed period, free from the military conscription.
§ The cloth made from the native wool is coarse, and may not be very neatly fabricated; but as it reaches the markets of Russia without any impost, and enters into competition there with goods manufactured in England, the Netherlands, and Germany, which are subject to high duties and the expenses of conveyance,—it can be sold at correspondent low prices. These manufacturing establishments are, for the most part, on a small scale; but some of them of a higher class, for making finer cloths, have imported machinery of various kinds from England, or have copied it 463 from what has been imported. In the application of that machinery they have not been very successful,; but as long as it continues to be the maxim, that it is better to wear dear cloth and bad cloth made at home, than to buy good cloth and cheap cloth from foreign countries; and whilst the maxim is practically applied by impoposing heavy duties on the cloth of all other countries, there will be a considerable demand for what is made.
§ I did not hear of any other goods than woollen cloths made for distant markets; but of late establishments have been formed for making linens, cottons, iron wares and paper, solely for domestic consumption, and chiefly by the aid of capitals to which the government has contributed.
§ The project which was the chief favourite when I was in Poland, was the working of mines. It had been brought under the immediate attention of the government, by an offer from a joint-stock company formed in England, to take the mines on lease for a term of years. Though the proposal was not accepted, it produced an excitement both on the ministers and on private individuals, and became the general topic of discussion. The mines have hitherto been worked but to a small extent, barely sufficient iron being extracted to supply the scanty domestic demand. The iron is said to be of an excellent quality, the ore capable of being raised but with little labour, and the mines situated in the districts where both coals and wood are abundant.
§ Besides the mines of iron and coal, there are others hitherto slightly worked, of calamine and copper. The attention awakened by the English proposal has not yet had time to produce any actual effects on the part of the government. From the state of the finances nothing can be undertaken till the consent of the cabinet at St. Petersburgh is obtained. In the mean time several Poles have arrived in this country on a mission from the ministers at Warsaw, to examine the machinery used for diminishing labour in our mines, and to acquire the knowledge of the most improved methods practised here for separating the metals from the ore. One individual, too, who has mines of calamine and coals, with whom I became acquainted at Cracow, has resolved to visit the mining districts of England early in the next spring, to learn the most economical modes of conducting his operations. The low prices of food and of 464 labour must facilitate the business of mining extensively contemplated, if capital can be found to pay for that labour, and to wait for the returns till the produce of the mines can be re-converted into money.
§ My efforts to make computations of the cost price of wheat were as little satisfactory to myself in Poland as in Prussia. The same difficulties presented themselves, and the same doubts attach to every attempt at accuracy. As may be seen by the estate at Pulaway, in the province of Lublin, the book-keeping on the large estates is well conducted, but not in such a manner as to distinguish the cost of one kind of corn from that of another, or even to distinguish the cost of all the corn from that of the general mass of productions. Any calculation in Poland, as in other countries, can be but an approximation to accuracy, and must be received with hesitation, however high may be the authority, or however abundant the means of information, of the persons making it. In a conversation with count Mostoski, the enlightened minister of finance, whilst viewing his farm near Warsaw, he stated, as the result of his calculations, that the cost price in that neighbourhood was double as much as it was selling for at that time, which was indeed at considerably less than half of the average price it had borne in past periods for a series of years; that during those periods, the benefit on its cultivation had been somewhat less than the profit on the other branches of industry; or that, in the double capacity of landland and farmer, the annual gain to the cultivator had not been equal to that derived from the same amount of capital employed in any other way.
§ On referring to the prices of Warsaw [see Appendix, No. 21 and 22], it will be seen, that for a period of twenty-four years, from June 1796 to June 1820, the average of the period was 33s. per quarter; and that in the ten years from 1815 to 1824, it was 31s. The price, at the time of my visit to this gentleman, was 14s. 9d. The tables will show that the fluctuations in the price of wheat during the longest period, have had much narrower limits than have been experienced in the other markets nearer the sea shore.
§ It is highly improbable, that if the cost price of wheat had not been tolerably near to the selling price, efforts would not have been strenuously directed to augment the 465 growth of it, and that the quantity raised would not have been regularly increasing; but this is so far from having been the case, that only so long as the price was 30s. or upwards, was the production kept up to the regular standard; and that when it fell but a few shillings below that price, the quantity sent to market diminished, and remarkably so, since the declension has gone on increasing till it has reached the present very ruinous limits.
§ The view taken by count Mostoski was confirmed also by prince Lubetski, another of the ministers, who is a cultivator of his own estates, and has officially paid attention to a subject, which has become of the highest importance, to every public officer, and every landed proprietor.
§ It is worthy of remark, that the present burthens on the land are quite as great as existed during any period of the twenty-four years whose prices are quoted; and that the heaviest of these burthens, the tenth Groschen tax, was not collected in the earlier years of the series. It was originally a war tax, but (as before stated) has been continued through the ten years that have passed since the peace was concluded. The expenses of cultivation have been undoubtedly somewhat reduced with the reduction of the selling prices of the produce; thus the cost of seed, and of the food of working cattle, if valued in money, would appear to be less, but they can scarcely affect the cultivator, who raises them, and consumes them, as he only can derive a profit or incur a loss according to the high or low price of that surplus quantity which he sells at market.
§ I am disposed, under all circumstances of the case, to pay much attention to the estimations I have related, which were also corroborated by the opinions of most of the cultivators with whom I conversed. With as much confidence as can be felt on a subject which no investigation could have made very clear, I should suppose the cost of wheat in the province of Massovia, to have been nearly between twenty-seven and twenty-nine shillings the quarter, for the last thirty years. Assuming that the cost price of wheat was at the medium, between the points to which in its fluctuations it had approached, we may calculate the cost in England thus:—
|Cost of the quarter of wheat at Warsaw||28||0|
|Conveyance to the boats, and charges for loading and stowing, and securing it by mats||0||6|
|Freight to Dantzic||5||0|
|Loss on the passage, by pilfering, and by rain causing it to grow||3||0|
|Expenses at Dantzic, in turning, drying, screening and warehousing, and loss of measure||2||0|
|Profit or commission, as the case may be, to the merchant at Dantzic||1||6|
|Freight, primage, insurance and shipping charges at Dantzic and in London||8||0|
§ In ascending the Vistula, beyond Warsaw, as the quality of the grain improves, the expenses on the conveyance of it to the mouths of that river increase also.
§ I could have wished at Cracow to have obtained the prices for a longer series of years than are to be found in the Appendix No. 23. Before the time with which that account begins, that part of Poland had used as the medium of exchange the depreciated paper money of Austria; and I had no scale by which to measure the variations, at different periods, between that currency and the silver money, which has been since the sole medium for the exchange of commodities. An account, therefore, for an earlier series of years, would have produced only perplexity and uncertainty; the verbal information I obtained was, in general terms, that there had been no fluctuations in the price of corn, before the return of peace, nearly approaching to those which have been experienced since that event. I was told by one merchant, that the price for many years of the war, had generally been between 24s. and 26s. per quarter, if the paper money had been valued according to the proportion which it bore to silver money, at the several periods of its depreciaiton.
§ The account obtained at Cracow [see Appendix, No. 23], shows that for ten years and two half-years, the average price of wheat was 25s. 1d., though between the first and last part of that period, the difference is enormous; the first part showing an average of 33s., and the last of only 17s. 5d. If the mean of those two parts be taken, it will show 25s. which nearly corresponds with the information of the merchant before referred to.
§ If, in the absence of better data, it be assumed, that the selling price of wheat near Cracow, has been fur a series of years at 25s. and that the growers profit has been ten per cent; and the cost price thus taken, at 22s. 6d. the rate at which 467 it would reach this country, may be thus estimated:—
|Cost of wheat at Cracow||22||6|
|Conveyance to boats, loading, &c||0||6|
|Freight to Dantzic||7||6|
|Loss by pilfering, and damage from wet||3||6|
|Expenses at Dantzic, as in the former estimate||2||0|
|Profit or commission, as before||1||6|
|Freight, &c. to London||8||0|
§ Some allowance should be made for risk beyond insurance, as corn is covered by the underwriters only in the stranding of the ship, and in the loss which may be to be paid when there is a general average. In both the statements of the expenses of conveyance, the rate of freight on the river Vistula to Dantzic, as well as that by sea from Dantzic to London, is stated at the present price, when there are scarcely any operations of that kind carrying on. During the demand of 3802, 1803, and 1804, and in 1817, I have been told the freight from beyond Warsaw was 10s. per quarter, and that from Dantzic to London was, including primage and insurance, from 11s. 6d. to 12s.
§ If, from any circumstances, a demand should be created for as much wheat as is consumed in England in six days, it would raise the price of freightage on the river, probably thirty or forty per cent, and half of that proportion in the sea freight from Dantzic to this country. If that demand should extend to twelve days supply, it would exhaust the whole stock of wheat, fit for our market, and cause it to advance in a much greater degree than the shipping of such a limited quantity in any former period has witnessed.
§ In stating the several expenses incurred in the conveyance of wheat from Warsaw to Dantzic at 10s. 6d. per quarter, and from Cracow to Dantzic at 13s. 6d. per quarter, it seems that those sums fall very far short of the difference in price, which is exhibited by comparing the accounts collected at those several places. The merchants at Dantzic too, appear not to be satisfied with the small sum here presumed, of 1s. 6d. per quarter for commission and profits. Whether, from the higher expenses of conveyance, or the larger commissions, or profits of the merchants, the excess of the prices, beyond the cost of conveyance here stated, is very striking, especially in those years when the demand was the greatest.468
§ Comparative view of the prices Of wheat, in the several years enumerated, in Cracow, Warsaw, and Dantzic:—
|YEARS.||Price at Cracow.||Price at Warsaw.||Price at Dantzic.|
|Average of 1796, 1797, 1798 and 1799 together||24/10||41/9|
|Average of 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806 together||38/4||57/3|
|Average of 1815, 1816, 1817 and 1818 together||35/8||42/4||60/4|
|Average of 1821, 1822, 1823 and 1824 together||18/2||21/2||26/10|
§ It will be seen by this contrast, that in the years from 1796 to 1799, when the exports by sea from Dantzic and Elbing were 1,493,480 quarters, the expenses of conveyance, from Warsaw to the port of shipment, with the profit or commission of the merchants, was 16s. 11d. In the years from 1803 to 1806, when the exports were 1,660,352 quarters, the conveyance and profit of the merchants was 18s. 11d. per quarter.
§ Since the great decline of prices, which began in 1819, it appears that the average prices at Dantzic, are so near to those at Cracow and Warsaw, that the rate of freight which has been actually paid, is greater than the differences between them. In the four years from 1821 to 1824, when the whole quantity shipped from Dantzic and Elbing, has been no more than 299,000 quarters, the difference in price between Iracow and Dantzic has been only 8s. 8d. and between Warsaw and Dantzic, only 4s. 8d.
§ According to several representations which I received, and which cannot be materially erroneous, the quantity of wheat raised in the interior of Poland has been gradually lessening, but with much more rapidity since 1819, than before that period. During the years 1821, 1822, and 1823, very little wheat passed down the Vistula, as appears by the accounts obtained at Thorn. By the official accounts, the whole in the three years was only 83,606 quarters; the growers being then induced to withhold from shipping, as long as their necessities would allow. In the year 1824, the pressing demands of creditors and mortgagees forced the holders to sell, and in consequence of it, there was sent down in that year, 93,968 quarters. The pressure of distress still continuing, and the harvest of 1824 being very good, there was forwarded in 1825, by the commence- 469 ment of the harvest of that year, 176,215 quarters, or as much as in the four years which had preceded it.
§ These two last years exports had completely drained Poland; and, hence when I was there, before any of the new wheat had appeared at market, the price, for what little was wanted, had rather advanced. I was informed by more than one merchant, that if 10,000 quarters had been required, there was so little left in the country, that it could be collected with difficulty; and that the knowledge of such demand would cause the price to be doubled. In the mean time the stocks at Dantzic and Elbing had been accumulating, in spite of the comparatively small quantities which had been brought down the Vistula.
§ At the end of 1818, there only remained in store in those cities 92,279 quarters, [see Appendix, No. 13]. In the following seven years, up to August 1825, the quantities which paid duties at Thorn, were
|During the same seven years, the exports from the two ports, were||824,622|
|To this is added the stock at the end of 1818, as above||92,279|
§ It appears, however, that the stocks really in store in the two places in August last, amounted to about 350,000 quarters, and therefore there must have been exported, or be in store, about 80,000 quarters of wheat, of the growth of Prussia, in the seven years under consideration.
§ Poland, and probably the Russian provinces, which once were parts of Poland, though drained of their whole stock of wheat, have not, in seven years, caused an accumulation at the exporting cities, of more than about one-tenth of what was shipped from them in the seven years, from 1800 to 1806. Those stocks are, however, higher than appears to have been left on hand at the end of the former years, and hence it may have arisen, that the prices have been reduced far below what it has cost the holders, though they have bought from the growers at rates to discourage the farther cultivation of wheat.470
§ The abandonment of a losing business is most likely to begin at the fountain head, and the effect of that abandonment will be first experienced by a rise of price at the spot where the depreciated commodity is produced. This seems to be the case in Poland, and this may naturally account for the prices of corn at Cracow and Warsaw, being higher with the addition of freight and the other charges, than at Dantzic and Elbing.
§ It has been frequently remarked, that the exportation of corn from any country, if long continued, must tend to exhaust the soil, unless some articles, capable of becoming converted into manure, are introduced to compensate for the injury. Many parts of the north of Africa, and of Asia Minor, which formerly supplied large quantities of corn to Europe, have since become deserts. Perhaps one of the chief causes of the progress we have made in agriculture, and of the superior productiveness of our fields, has arisen from our exporting but few, and importing many of those articles which are capable, when decomposed, of becoming manure, and being applied to renovate the soil, as much or more as it is exhausted by cropping.
§ From Poland, for nearly two centuries, according to the Document in Appendix, No. 24, the exports of corn have been very large, whilst, on the other hand, nothing has been imported, deserving of notice, which could be converted into nutriment to the soil.
§ The system of rotation by which two crops of corn are raised in succession, and nothing is administered to refresh the land but a fallow, would exhaust the best soil with which we are acquainted.
§ In every part of my journey through Poland, the impression communicated, in looking at the fields, whether with growing crops, in stubble, or under the operations of the plough, was, that they were approaching to a state of exhaustion from excessive cropping.
§ This view, which the rotation of crops, and the face of the country suggests, is confirmed by the statistical facts, which show that its power of supplying the wants of other countries is greatly diminished. The return of peace, after more than twenty years of extensive warfare, is commonly supposed to have increased the productions of the soil, and to be the cause of the depreciation of prices, which has been the general subject of complaint 471 in every part of Europe. In Poland there has been no sensible increase of numbers, except within the last six years, when Germans, emigrant work people, to the number of 250,000, have established themselves in the different trades to which they have been accustomed in their native country.
§ On comparing the surplus quantity of bread corn which Poland has exported in a series of the same number of years, we shall see what has been the falling off.
§ In the eleven years [see Appendix, No. 15], beginning with 1795, and ending with 1805, the exports of wheat from the mouths of the Vistula, were 5,059,163 quarters, or 438,263 a year, on the average of the period. In the eleven years, beginning in 1815, and ending with 1825, the exports from the same ports were 1,669,027 quarters, or on the average of the period, 151,729 quarters per year. In the latter period indeed 78,265 barrels of flour were exported, supposing them to be all wheaten flour, it will increase the quantity 39,132 quarters, reckoning that two barrels are the produce of one quarter of wheat. In the first of these two series of years, the rye shipped at the same ports was 1,680,096 quarters; and that in the last series only 456,192 quarters.
§ The periods here contrasted were both seasons of general tranquillity, except that, during the first part of them, the opposition of Kosciusco and his partisans to the last dismemberment of Poland, caused partial and temporary disturbances; but they do not appear to have affected the quantity of its agricultural products.
§ It is true, that in the first series, there were in England two or three deficient harvests, and in the last series but one; the effect of that one was to raise prices so high as to induce the export of the whole that could be got away. Had there been more grown, it would have been eagerly exported; and we find at the end of the year 1818, the stock, both at Dantzic and Elbing, was only 96,900 quarters. Though we imported in the year 1818 from all parts of the world a greater quantity of wheat than in any former year, yet much less of that was shipped from the ports by which the corn conveyed down the Vistula is exported. The three years of our greatest importation, as appears by accounts laid before the House of Commons, have been 1802, 1810, and 1818; in the first of those, the exports from Dantzic and Elbing were 680,494 472 quarters. In the year 1810 [see Appendix, No. 15,] the French were in possession of the country, and the exports, all carried in a contraband way, were 267,277 quarters. In 1818, with high prices at Dantzic, viz. 64/11, the ports of England being open, the exports were 335,769 quarters.
§ If we calculate that the consumption of wheat in Great Britain is one quarter for each person for food, and about a seventh part more for seed and minor purposes, it will appear that in the first of the series we have been comparing, the quantity of wheat exported from Dantzic and Elbing would, with the then amount of our population, 11,000,000, be equal to twelve days consumption. In fact however, out of the 5,059,163 quarters of wheat, which Dantzic exported, 1,300,014 were dispatched to other countries. As we have only the gross exports from Elbing, without distinguishing what was sent to Great Britain, from what was sent elsewhere, it may not be incorrect to assume, that one-fourth as from Dantzic was not sent to our markets, and then there will be a further reduction of 299,205 quarters. This will leave the whole quantity really furnished to us in the eleven years 3,459,944 quarters, or an annual quantity of 314,540 quarters, being equal to about nine days of our consumption.
§ At the second series our population had advanced as numbered in 1821, the middle year of that series, to 14,000,000. The quantity of wheat sent to us from the Vistula had declined, and, during the eleven years, had been 1,252,271 quarters, or 113,842 annually. This would be equal to the whole of our consumption for betwixt two and three days.
§ In the Appendix, No. 24, is shown the whole export of corn from Dantzic, for the last 166 years. By those tables, it appears that the wheat exported from that city, during that long period, was 19,581,947 quarters, or 117,963 quarters on the annual average of the period. In fact, the whole that Dantzic has exported in 166 years is not equal to the consumption of this kingdom, with its present population, for more than fifteen or sixteen months. The annual importation would not now amount to two days and three quarters consumption.
§ It appears by the official account of the duties paid at Thorn, on wheat descending the Vistula [see Appendix No. 19], that a very large proportion comes out of territories now forming an 473 immediate part of Russia, which once were, but no longer are, parts of Poland. I had communications with several proprietors of estates whose property is partly in one, and partly in the other country, and availed myself of all means within my reach to acquire a knowledge of the actual produce of grain in both.
§ The provinces from which the best, and most of the wheat is transmitted, are Volhynia and Podolia, which were seized by Russia, in the division of Poland in 1796, and are now distinct provincial governments, retaining their ancient names and usages.
§ Volhynia is represented to be a district of extraordinary fecundity. The pastures are said to be luxuriant, the grass growing so high as almost to hide the cattle, and yielding the richest nourishment to them. The corn is said to increase in common years ten-fold, in spite of bad agriculture; and a failure, or very deficient harvest, does not occur two or three times in a century.
§ On referring, however, to the official harvest returns of the Russian empire, as quoted in the Erdebeschreibung of Hassel, a German work of the highest authority, it will be seen that, in this province, the increase of grain in the year 1802 was very little more than four times the quantity sown.
§ The Russian tschewert, being reduced into English quarters, reckoning the tschewert at two-thirds of the quarter, the following result appears:—
|Used for Seed, for the next year||Winter Corn||327,804|
|There consequently remained, of Winter Corn||1,021,718|
|were consumed within the province; and||550,466|
§ Podolia, like Volhynia, is represented as highly fertile; and, by the official accounts extracted from the statistical writer before quoted, appears to present, in the year referred to already, a greater rate of increase in the seed that has been sown, than Volhynia. Being to the south of Volhynia, it is still more easy of access to the Black Sea than that province, and further removed from commmunication with England through Dantzic. It however deserves to be remarked, that the navigation of the Bug and the Vistula is better than that of the Dniester, because the latter river has many shallows and rapids, and some dangerous falls. The passage of the surplus wheat will be hence determined on by the state of the markets at Dantzic and Odessa. The access to both those markets is so difficult, that only when a scarcity in some part of Europe raises the price to an unusual height, is any considerable quantity attempted to be transported
§ When the corn is cut it is left a long time in sheaves in the fields till it can be threshed, or rather trodden out with oxen and horses. When the separation from the straw and chaff is effected, the grain is preserved in excavations in the earth, till it is either called forth by high prices, or, which frequently happens, till it is destroyed by corn-worms, or other insects. It appears from the official accounts that in the year 1802, the following were the results of the cultivation of corn:
|Used for Seed for the next year||Winter Corn||297,254|
|There consequently remained||Summer Corn||1,343,017|
|were consumed within the province, and||1,239,905|
§ The only other province in Russia, which conveys its corn to market by the Vistula, is Byaly stock. It was formerly a part of Poland, and the inhabitants still generally speak the language of that country. The chief corn raised for bread is rye, but a small portion of that grain, as well as of some very indifferent wheat, finds a passage by the river Bug into the Vistula. The best of the land is appropriated to the growth of flax, hemp and linseed, or to breeding of cattle. The whole surplus of wheat, which must be small, cannot be distinguished in the returns, from that stated generally to come from Russia.
§ There are two other of the Russian provinces whose surplus corn finds a vent through the territory of Prussia. The south-west part of Wilna, formerly Lithuania, has the navigable river Niemen for its boundary, by which the corn is conveyed to Memel. Its produce is but small in proportion to its population; and, by the official accounts, the increase appears to be less than in the other provinces. In 1802 the sowing and reaping is thus stated:—
§ The province of Grodno, which also has access to the sea by the Niemen, appears to be so nearly equal in fertility to that of Wilna, that a return of the sowing and harvesting of the same year, give results differing only by a small fraction.
§ The terms of distinction, winter corn and summer corn, instead of Autumn and Spring corn, which we use, are descriptive of the climate. The violent heats and severe colds, succeed each other with so much rapidity, that they scarcely leave any interval for Spring or Autumn.
§ The only accounts I was able to procure of the quantities of corn brought by the Niemen, comprehends merely the three years 1816, 1817, and 1818. No others were to be found in the office of the minister for internal affairs at Berlin, and I did not go to Schmalleninken, where the transit duty is collected. The year 1816 was one of moderate production and demand, till after the state of the harvest was known, when it was too late in the season for the navigation of these northern rivers. The trade of that year may therefore be considered a fair average, and likely to produce annually 10,000 quarters of wheat, and about 40,000 quarters of other corn, chiefly rye. The two following years, when the exportation was excessive, produced but 38,700 quarters of wheat, and 276,000 quarters of other grain.
§ From some parts of the two provinces of Wilna and Grodno, the communication by the Duna to Riga is easier than by the Niemen to Memel; and it is hence probable that the largest share of their produce in corn, finds a market in that direction. It is shown by the returns from Riga [see Appendix, No. 8], that in the last twelve years, the exportation of wheat from that port has only been 256,658 quarters, or on the average of the period, 21,381 quarters annually; that of rye, has been 1,618,000, or on an average, 134,822 per year; and that of both kinds of grain, the exportation in the two years 1817 and 1818, exceeded that of the other ten years.
§ Although the route by which I returned from Poland was through countries which have no direct influence on the corn trade of England, yet as remotely connected with countries that do affect it, it may not be improper to add a few of the obser- 477 vations and facts which presented themselves as I passed through them.
§ The Austrian province of Moravia is very fertile, and, with the exception of some districts of the Netherlands, scarcely any part of the Continent is so well cultivated. It bears, too, a larger proportion of wheat than in other districts in the East of Europe. Of the winter corn, wheat is estimated at one-fourth, and rye three-fourths; whereas in the adjoining province of Silesia, the land sown with rye is nearly ten times that sown with wheat. Moravia is defended by the Carpathian mountains from the east winds; and the harvest, the whole way from Teschen to Olmutz, and indeed to Brunn, is nearly six weeks earlier than in Silesia. I certainly heard complaints of the distressed state of agriculture there, but less of it, and I think with less reason, than in any other part.
§ Wheat, at Olmutz, was selling for 20s. per quarter, whilst on one side at Cracow, it was selling for 14s. and on the other side, at Vienna, for 14s. 7d.
§ This better state of things arose from the circumstance of Moravian agriculture finding domestic consumers. It is the chief manufacturing province of the Austrian empire. A greater proportion of the population can afford to live on meat and to use wheaten flour; and hence the agriculturists find a market near home for their productions. The demand for animal food, too, being greater, a greater stock of cattle is kept, more of the land is destined to clover and other green crops; and I should judge from their flourishing apperance, that, like England, the growth of corn does not exhaust the land so much, as the stock of cattle, by their manure, renews its prolific qualities. The woollen, linen, and cotton manufactures are numerous, and, I was told, flourishing; and, as all manufactured goods from foreign countries are either excluded or charged with high duties in Austria, the demand of that extensive empire creates a vent for the native goods, though at the expense of the consumers, who perhaps in most, certainly in many, cases, might get better and cheaper goods. After passing through poorer districts, I was much impressed throughout Moravia, with the striking practical exemplification of the beneficial effects of manufactures on the prosperity of the agriculturists.
§ In Vienna I had opportunities of hearing much of the condition of the landed 478 proprietors in Hungary. The want of vent for their surplus corn basso depressed the prices of that and other productions of the soil, that they are said to be losing by every article they raise, excepting wool; though, from farming their own lands, they have no rent to pay, yet the greatest difficulty is encountered in collecting the trifling taxes that are levied upon them.
§ Although so near to Moravia, the Carpathian mountains are too lofty and rugged to admit of conveyance thither. The mouths of the Danube are so infested with marauders, Wallachians, Besarabians, and Turks, that no safe export can be made to the Black Sea. In times of great scarcity in the maritime countries, some wheat may be conveyed to the port of Trieste; but it will be seen by the prices in the Appendix, No. 31, that it is too low at that market to afford a land carriage of four hundred miles. Though Presburgh is the chief market for the wheat of Hungary, yet, being but little more than twenty miles from Vienna, the price there cannot differ very much from that of the capital, for which see Appendix, No. 27. In some of the smaller towns in Austria, on the borders of Bavaria, where little wheat is consumed, I found the price of wheat and rye nearly the same. The harvest of the latter kind of grain was reported to be deficient, and had raised the price, whilst for the former there was little or no demand.
§ It will be seen by the returns of the prices of corn at Munich £see Appendix, No. 28], that the bread corn in Bavaria is not so much depressed as in Austria. This may be attributed to a law prohibiting the introduction of corn from the surrounding countries, from whence, chiefly from Bohemia, it had been the practice to import it. Tin's prohibition had rested on an order from the king to the officers of the Customs at the different frontier stations; but at the last assembly of the states a formal law was passed, enforcing the former regulation, and enacting penalties on the breaches of it.
§ Notwithstanding the restrictions, I found on inquiry at the Board of Agriculture that the value of land had greatly declined. According to the statements given to me there, within the last eight years, the fall in the selling price of meadow land had been about thirty-five per cent, and that in the price of arable land full sixty per cent.479
§ The complaints of the losses by farming were as heavy here as in the neighbouring countries where the prices we lower, and in which no laws to prohibit importation are in existence.
§ In the kingdom of Wirtemburg, wheat is so little an object of attention, from the small quantity which is consumed, that I was unable to obtain any other returns of the prices, than the imperfect list in the Appendix, No. 29, wherein, though the price of rye is regularly stated, that of wheat, for many periods, and at several markets, is wholly unnoticed. In the beautiful but narrow valley of the Neckar, the land is well cultivated; but, in other parts of the kingdom, the soil seemed to be poor, and the cultivation in a very backward state.
§ As I passed through France rather hastily, and spent but a few days in Paris, I had not opportunities of gaining minute information, as to the state of Agriculture. I was, however, satisfied, that, in spite of partial advances towards a better rotation of crops, the far greater part of the cultivation is still carried on upon the ancient and, in England, long exploded, system of a fallow followed by two crops of corn.
§ I was assured that, for several years past, every cultivator of grain has been selling at far less than it has cost him. Some of the best judges of the subject have calculated that wheat, in the four classes of districts formed of the departments for the purposes of regulating the importation and exportation of corn, costs to the grower on an average, from 20 to 22 francs the hectolitre, or from 6s. 4d. to 6s. 11d. the Winchester bushel.
§ How far this calculation may be correct, it would be presumption in me to assert. The corn laws of France are, however, founded on a supposition of this being the price necessary to secure a profit to the farmer. The kingdom is divided, for the purposes of the Corn-law, into four districts, each including departments in which the prices of grain are nearly alike. When wheat is below 18 francs the hectolitre, or 5s. 7½d. the bushel in the cheapest of those districts, 20 francs, or 6s. 4½d. in the next, 22 francs, or 7s. 0½d. in the next, and 24 francs, or 7s. 8d. in the highest, the importation of foreign wheat is prohibited. As the whole of the four districts form the regulating price, the average of wheat throughout the whole kingdom must rise to 6s. 8d. per bushel, 480 before any foreign wheat can be introduced.
§ The laws which regulate the corn trade of France, were passed in 1819 and 1821, and the price of corn has not, since the end of the year 1818, ever risen so high as to effect the opening of their ports. Since that year the price has been fluctuating, but declining in the following ratio. [see Appendix, No. 30.]
§ Average of the whole of France.
§ Your lordships have been pleased in my instructions, to direct me "to consider with reference to the provinces communicating with the Baltic sea by the Vistula, from the view I take of the country, what increase of cultivation would be likely to take place in consequence of such a stimulus being constantly in action, as would be applied, if an alteration were made in our laws, so as to leave our markets at all times accessible to the corn grown in Poland;" and further, I have been instructed, "that, as it may be necessary to assume some given price in this country, in forming such an estimate, it was thought desirable to proceed upon a supposition of an average price of wheat at home, of 60s. to 64s. per quarter."
§ This question involves so many considerations depending not only on the present condition of the country, but on the political regulations to which it may hereafter be subject, that any reasonings applied must be in a great measure hypothetical and speculative; and any conclusions we may arrive at, must be liable to be affected by changes which cannot now be contemplated, or taken into calculation.
§ The utmost that can be done is to approximate to a result, by a consideration of the principal circumstances on which it will depend, by reference to the fluctuations in past periods, and by an examination into the causes from which those fluctuations have proceeded.
§ In obedience to this direction, I presume, with the diffidence which must be always felt in anticipating the effects of untried, and consequently doubtful experiments, to state my views on the subject.
§ The effect of the stimulus here proposed 481 must depend, in a great measure, on the assurance of its duration. The market for wheat which England presents, is the great object of attention to the cultivators in Poland, and to the merchants at the ports from whence its coin must be exported. Those persons have been accustomed to observe such frequent alterations in our laws relative to the corn trade, that any new enactments would, at first, be thought temporary and mutable, like those of former periods. This uncertainty has been the cause of heavy losses to them, and would therefore have the effect of causing the cultivators to pause before they made any great changes in their rotation of crops, or in the kinds of corn they would sow.
§ The statements which are given in the part of this report, more immediately relating to the kingdom of Poland, will show that the want of capital among the cultivators has proceeded to such an extent from the losses they have sustained, that they must, in a great degree, be disabled from making any considerable improvement in cultivation, or of raising any very large increase of produce in a short period. The great deficiency of live stock, which indeed may be resolved into a deficiency of capital, would be an impediment in the way of a rapid extension of the growth of wheat. Without manure wheat cannot be grown beneficially, and without a stock of cattle, in some degree commensurate to the extent of the land, manure cannot be obtained; and though to a certain degree the profit arising from the wool, and not from the meat, enables the landowners to support some few sheep, yet the want of a class of consumers who can afford to make animal food their subsistence, must operate to prevent any great increase in the stocks of cattle. Such a class is not to be expected there till a great improvement, or an increase of manufacturers, shall have taken place. The greater portion of the population of Poland is too poor to allow of their using animal food; the want of it is scarcely felt by persons always accustomed to live, with very little variation of diet, on rye bread.
§ The labouring classes too, being assured of a supply of the bare necessaries of life, are little disposed to any great changes in their mode of work, or any exertion of strength or skill beyond that to which they have been accustomed.482
§ They have been, perhaps, and not without some reason, always represented as indolent, unskilful, filthy, and drunken, and averse to the improvement which their wiser and better superiors have attempted to introduce.
§ Whilst the present low price of corn continues, and the corresponding low rate of wages, and the markets of Russia are open to the woollen cloths of Poland without duty, the profit of capital employed in that branch of industry must offer to it temptations that agriculture does not present. But if by any alterations the cloths of Poland should in the Russian Custom-houses be placed on the footing of the cloths of other countries, or if a rise of corn and of wages should take place to such an extent as to make the Polish cloths dearer than those which are charged with duty, the effects might be, to drive the capital from the cloth trade to the business of cultivation. The present want of capital may possibly be supplied by influx from other countries, but this must depend in a great measure on the internal government and political regulations of the country. The increase of manufactories in Poland, and the augmented population which they usually induce, might produce such a number of internal consumers as to leave much less surplus corn to export to other countries. It is true that wheat would be but little eaten by the manufacturers, but the increased demand for rye might make that kind of grain the most profitable to the grower, and he would then devote to the cultivation of it some portions of the land which, under different circumstances, would have been appropriated to the growth of wheat.
§ The manufacturers in Poland are however of too little importance, at present, to make it desirable to hazard any conjectures on what the effects of their increase or diminution would be on the surplus quantity of exportable grain.
§ A view of the past exportation from the Vistula, at different periods, and under different circumstances, will perhaps give some assistance in forming an idea of what may be the result of future changes.
§ It is worthy of remark, that in the long period of 166 years, of which the returns are given [see Appendix No. 24], there has been but little variation in the actual quantities of corn exported from Dantzic when taken by periods of twenty-five years. At the commencement it is seen, 483 that the quantity of rye far exceeded that of wheat; that they gradually approached each other, till the produce of wheat exceeded that of rye, and constantly so up to the present time. The physical circumstances of the country are as they were during that long period. The course of the several streams that convey their supplies of corn into the Vistula has been without alteration; and the facilities of internal conveyance have been scarcely improved by any new or better roads. There is no ground to suppose that any material, certainly not any observable or recorded, increase of population has taken place, except the recent immigration of Germans.
§ The whole period of 166 years, returns of which, as extracted from the city records of Dantzic, are in the Appendix, No. 24, when divided into periods of about twenty-five years, exhibits the following annual exportation of wheat and rye from that port.
|1651 to 1675||81,775||225,312||307,087|
|1676 to 1700||124,897||227,482||352,379|
|1701 to 1725||59,795||170,100||229,895|
|1726 to 1750||80,624||119,771||200,395|
|1751 to 1775||141,080||208,140||349,220|
|1776 to 1800||150,299||103,045||253,344|
|1801 to 1825||200,330||67,511||267,841|
§ The average of the whole period gives an annual quantity of wheat and rye, of 279,794 quarters; and this surplus may be fairly considered as the nearest approach that can be made, with existing materials, to what is the usual excess of the production of bread corn, above the consumption of the inhabitants, when no extraordinary circumstances occur to excite or check cultivation.
§ In some of the early periods of this series, there have been great variations in the quantity exported, but not so considerable as within the last thirty-six years; we have, too, from 1791, the returns of exports from the rival ports of Dantzic and Elbing since that date, and thus, from both outlets of the Vistula, can trace the advance or decline of the surplus produce of corn, from the countries bordering on that stream.484
§ Exports of wheat and rye from the cities of Dantzic and Elbing:—
|Average of the five years||260,431||165,410||425,841|
§ This considerable advance beyond former periods was the commencement of a still greater progress in the five next years.
|Average of the five years||409,588||101,160||510,748|
§ In the next five years the quantity still increasing reached its greatest height, and more corn was then exported than in the following twenty years.
|Average of the five years||549,365||216,108||765,471|
§ Of these 2,746,815 quarters of wheat, exported in the last-noted five years, 1,754,114 being a yearly quantity of 350,820 quarters was consigned to England, and the greater part of the remainder, to France.
§ The year 1806 was the unfortunate time when the war, first with England, and afterwards, or rather before, its close, 485 with France, reduced Prussia to a low ebb, and for several years put a stop to the corn trade from the Vistula.
§ The state of the exportation for the last five years, forms a striking contrast with the corresponding term in the periods here seen.
|Export from Dantzic and Elbing.|
|Average of the five years||83,523||22,933||101,916|
§ The circumstances which produced that great exportation of corn, from 1801 to 1805, are of much importance in the consideration of the prospects of future exportations; and the causes by which, in the space of the previous years, they were enabled to attain to that height, deserve to be traced.
§ Under the act 31 Geo. 3. cap. 30 (1791), the ports of England had been constantly open, for ten years, for the importation of wheat. If the average price of wheat was below 50s. the quarter, it was charged with a duty of 24s. 3d.; if above 50s. and below 54s. a duty of 2s. 6d.; and if above 54s. with a duty of only 6d. From the year 1791, when that act was passed, the price of wheat, with the exception of a short period in 1798, was constantly above 54s.; and what was imported was therefore charged with only the duty of 6d. per quarter. During two of the ten years, wheat in England had been above 80s. per quarter, and in the last of them rose as high as 127s.
§ Our laws at that time laid restraints on the import of corn from Ireland, and that part of the empire had not made the progress it has since done in the cultivation of corn.
§ The ports of England were not merely open during this term, but by the act of 36 Geo. 3. c. 21, large premiums were given on corn imported, to secure the importers, whether in British or in neutral vessels, certain prices, till 500,000 quarters should have been imported, after which the premiums were to be reduced. This act passed in 1796 for a year, was continued by another act in 1797; and, with 486 different intermediate modifications, premiums to indemnify the importers of corn and flour were established till 1801.
§ During the ten years, from 1791, to 1801, there was a constant demand in France for foreign corn; several deficient harvests had been experienced at the beginning of the revolution. The agents of France were employed both in Europe and America, in purchasing corn and hiring neutral vessels to convey it to France; paying but little regard to the price they gave for it, or to the rate of freight at which it could be transported. Holland, which scarcely has ever grown corn sufficient for its own consumption, felt a great want, owing to its internal sources of supply from Germany and Flanders, being diverted from the usual channels, by the circumstances of the war.
§ Sweden for many years had looked for some supply from Prussia, not, indeed, of wheat to any extent, but chiefly of Rye. During the period we are now considering, that country had been afflicted with several successive deficient harvests; and such was the distress from want of corn, that a large part of the population had been compelled to use the bark of trees as a substitute for rye. That kingdom thus became a market which could take as much as her poverty could find the means of paying for. In addition to these external circumstances, the land in Poland was less burthened with taxes than it is at present. The tenth Groschen war-tax was not then enacted. Some other taxes then imposed have not been since abandoned. In Prussia, likewise, taxation is higher now than from 1801 to 1805.
§ These combined circumstances gave to the agriculture of Poland and Prussia, a portion of capital and motives to exertion, which produced the vast surplus that was exported from 1801 to 1805. Ten years of unexampled prosperity were, however, needed, to reach the point which those years exhibit, and it was only by gradual steps that it was attained.
§ The impulse given by the open markets, and by the high prices which had opened them, acted with accumulated force in the next five years, and raised the surplus, as we have seen, somewhat higher.
§ If the same powerful stimulus could now be applied to excite the cultivators, in Poland and in Prussia, to increase their supplies of corn, as were experienced from 1791 to 1801, it would be reasonable to conclude, that the result might be the 487 same as is exhibited in the quantities of wheat exported from 1801 to 1805. It might produce, with ten years increased exertion, and with the application of the capital created in those ten years of prosperity, a quantity equal to that which was exported in the years of the greatest surplus. I was told, when in Poland, that during those prosperous years, wheat was brought by land-carriage to the Vistula, from distances far too great to bear the expenses without the enormous prices which it bore in the markets of England and France. It was sent, not only from the furthest parts of Gallicia, but even from the vicinity of Brunn and Olmutz, in Moravia. It was said, that some of the wheat of Hungary was conveyed over the Carpathian mountains to Cracow, and there shipped in flats for Dantzic and Elbing, whilst Volhynia and Podolia were emptied of their stores.
§ Whether these reports are true, or to what extent they are true, it is natural to suppose that the very high price which wheat had reached in the years under consideration must have vastly extended the limits of the circle from which it would be collected, and would induce the inhabitants to despatch to the high markets whatever could be spared by the exercise of the most rigid economy.
§ By the constant application of all these powerful stimuli, which were in operation during ten years, we have seen that at length the surplus of wheat, which the Vistula and its borders, extended to unusual dimensions, could yield, amounted to 550,000 quarters annually, or about sufficient, supposing the whole to be sent here for the consumption of this kingdom, with its present population, during the space of twelve days.
§ It is scarcely to be calculated, that the same occurrences of circumstances, propitious to the agricultural prosperity of the lands on the border of the Vistula, should again present themselves. Neither the demands of France nor England are likely to be so great, or to continue for so long a period, as at that time. It is scarcely to be calculated upon, that any future wars will be so long in duration, or spread over so extensive a field of operations, as those which rose out of the revolution of France; and it is therefore not likely that the quantity exported will ever rise to so great an amount. Whatever stimulus may be applied to excite the agricultural improvement of the banks of 488 the Vistula, its effect must be weak and powerless, when compared with the excitement it received, from 1791, to 1805.
§ If we suppose the cost of wheat to the grower in the vicinity of Warsaw, to be about 28s. per quarter, and all the expenses of conveyance to our markets, to be 20s. more, and that it could be sold here for 60s. or 64s. we may presume that such a stimulus would produce great exertions, and a correspondent increase of supply; some abatement in the force of that stimulus would be probably felt in an increase of freight, and other charges, but the prospect of a profit of 12s. or 14s. would give a powerful impulse to cultivation. What is here stated is upon the supposition, of course a mere supposition, that no duty would be imposed on foreign wheat, on its introduction into this kingdom. Supposing a duty should be imposed, it will, of course, weaken the force of the stimulus; and if it should be so high, as, when added to the costs and charges, to raise it above the price at which it could be sold in our markets, it would become a repellant instead of a stimulus, especially if it should be viewed as a permanent enactment.
§ If a duty in this country of 10s. or 12s. per quarter was imposed, it would not allow of such a profit, on the supposition of the price being from 60s. to 64s. as to induce any great exertions to increase cultivation in the bordering districts on the Vistula. The chance of a rise occasioned by war, by a winter so severe as to injure vegetation, or by a rainy harvest season, might induce those of a speculative turn, to increase their growth of wheat; but those who have that turn, and have the means of indulging it, are so few, that they would produce no sensible increase in the general surplus.
§ I see no reason to believe, that with such a duty as I have mentioned for England, and a price from 60s. to 64s. and with some similar regulation in France, that the surplus corn produced in Poland, including all the countries near enough to the Vistula, to send their corn to that stream, would materially increase in common seasons, or very much, if at all, exceed the average produce of that country; the greater part of this might probably be wheat, and if the duty were alike on all the various qualities of that grain, none would be sent here but that part which is the driest, heaviest and whitest. The inferior descriptions would not pay for 489 importation, unless the average in England was much more than 64s.
§ WILLIAM JACOB.
§ Corn-Returns Office,
§ 21st February, 1826.