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unbecoming, and utterly unworthy of their lordships adoption. It was therefore that he felt great pleasure (from whatever cause the change might have proceeded)
tention on the part of the supporters of the Bill of considering the agricultural interest in preference to any other interest of the country. So partial a proposition, had it been made, would, he trusted, have been received by their lordships as any partial proposition ought to be received the more especially as the interests which it would have advised them exclusively to consider, were so intimately connected with those of their lordships. This intention, however, had been disclaimed, and the question now remained to be argued as a question of a general nature, to be determined on the grounds of general advantage or evil-without reference to the farming or to any other particular interest -without reference to present times or circumstances but with reference alone to such a system of enlarged and liberal policy as might ultimately, if not immediately, be productive of the greatest benefits to the whole mass of the population of the empire.
Sure he was that there was no man among their lordships so destitute of enlightened views on this subject as not to feel that it was with this general, and not with any particular bearing, that it ought to be discussed. There was, however, one remark made by the noble earl, which he was sorry to hear, and which he confessed had excited his surprise, as it appeared to attach importance to a consideration, which he had hoped better information had dismissed from all their minds. The noble earl had told them that they were to look at the actual situation of the policy of the country; and in considering the propriety of adopting measures for the permanent protection of agriculture, to recollect that legislative measures had already been adopted for the protection of commerce and manufactures. He owned that he should have thought the noble earl's speech more consonant to a wise policy, had such an allusion been altogether excluded from it. The consideration, whether the duties which had been imposed some centuries ago on the importation of foreign manufactures, were founded on a wise or unwise view of the subject, had nothing to do with the present question, which rested on its own merits, and which ought to be de
cided without any extrinsic reference. The just and only consideration for their lordships at present was, what effect the present measure would have on the intein hearing the noble earl disclaim any in-rests of the community? If the measures which had formerly been adopted for the protection of trade and manufactures were right, let them be continued; if wrong (of which the noble earl himself seemed to have little doubt,) let them be abrogated; not suddenly, but with that caution with which all policy, however erroneous, so engrafted into our usage by time, should be changed; but let it be consecrated as a principle of legislation, that in no case should the grounds for advising the Legislature to afford any particular protection, rest on the protection which might have been afforded in any other quarter. In fact, he could not well conceive how the noble earl could argue, that measures, which he admitted to have been wrong with respect to manufactures, would nevertheless be right with respect to agriculture. If there were two great branches of national interest, the one subject to the operation of a system comparatively termed wise, the other subject to the operation of a system allowed to be erroneous and mischievous, what necessity, he would ask, existed for making these systems uniform at all? If such a necessity did exist (which he absolutely denied), ought not the Legislature to endeavour to produce that uniformity, by taking such steps as would bring back to the line of right the system that was acknowledged to be unwise, rather than to distort from the line of right the system which was acknowledged to be wise? Was not the first of these attempts to be advised, and was not the last to be deprecated? And let it be considered that our national interests did not form themselves into two great branches. A great majority of the people, as on the one hand they could not be benefitted by any prohibition for the protection of the manufacturer, so on the other they could not be benefitted by any prohibition for the protection of the agriculturist, unless, indeed, that prohibition had the effect of lessening the price of corn, which was a subject of separate and subsequent consideration. This great majority however, uninterested as they were on the subject, were already subject to great restraint, in consequence of the prohibitions that had been adopted for the protection of the manufacturer; and, if the Bill before their lordships should pass into
a law, they would be subject to farthering words, viz. "Although the principle and much greater restraint, in conse- of protection to trade may at different quence of the prohibitions that would be periods have been carried to an extent adopted for the protection of the agricul- incompatible with the true principles of turist. It would be an extraordinary mode political wisdom, yet the statute-book of of doing justice, thus to declare that be- the country may be adduced as historical cause a large, the largest, part of the com- evidence of the different view which our munity were already oppressed by favours ancestors (themselves great land proshown to one particular class, they should priètors) had of the value and effect of be still farther oppressed by favours shown commerce." Then came the passage to to another particular class. The facts on which he wished particularly to direct which this argument rested were these: their lordships attention: "It is true that It was about three centuries ago that this the progress of reason and the developeprohibitory system commenced, by the ment of the real causes of the wealth of entire prohibition of some articles of fo- nations, and of the true principles of trade, reign commerce, and by the imposition of which, after-inquiries and the lapse of prohibitory duties on others. But if the experience through later ages have prooperation of those laws were considered at duced, have proved many of the regulathe present moment, it would be found that tions of former times to have been unnethey were almost null. They were not cessary, and the system of protection and entirely null, because the abrogation of exclusive trade erroneous and impolitic. some of those prohibitions would much This principle of exclusion has recently benefit the British manufacturer. A great been adduced as matter of reproach to the mass of the manufacturers of this country commercial interest, and of imitation to were so far from wishing for the protection the landed; but a principle so completely of the Legislature against foreign compe- exploded and abandoned by the one, is tition, that it was well known to their hardly worth the adoption of the other, as lordships that those manufacturers were the most enlightened and strenuous advoable to undersell their competitors in cates for the freedom of trade are to be foreign markets: found amongst the commercial members of the community. The woollen manufacturers have been particularly instanced as protected from competition by duties of the heaviest description, to which the manufacturers have only to contrast their recent policy, and to adduce the instance of the commercial treaty in 1787 with France, their greatest and most formidable rival; where all exclusion was readily up, and the manufactures of each country admitted to the other on a small and equal duty." He could not hope to state to their lordships the liberal principles which he recommended for their adoption more forcibly than they were thus stated by the Gloucestershire woollen manufacturers, who had so well expressed their confidence in the total inefficacy of the protecting system with respect to their manufactures in the present moment. A just argument might therefore be drawn from this declaration against the extension of the system, to an interest in which, by analogy, its effects would be equally pernicious.
He stated this with the more confidence, because it was not his single opinion. He had that morning received the result of a meeting of the woollen manufacturers of Gloucestershire-forming no inconsiderable portion of the manufacturers of the kingdom, and whose manufacture had in former times received, in a peculiar degree, legislative protection, and he would communicate to their lord-given ships their opinion on the subject. He should do this with the more satisfaction, as that opinion would tend to solve a doubt which seemed to exist in the mind of a noble friend of his (earl Grey), who had so eloquently but so fruitlessly endeavoured to persuade their lordships to allow further time for the consideration of this most important question. His noble friend had observed, that it would be difficult to say that the agriculturist ought not to be enabled to obtain more for his corn if he were compelled to pay more for his coat. To this remark the Gloucestershire woollen manufacturers made a most satisfactory reply. He would read to their lordships an extract from their resolutions. After expatiating on the advantages which the country had derived from its commerce,
Having said thus much on the observation of the noble earl, which in his opinion had demanded animadversion, he would proceed to examine the grounds of general those resolutions proceeded in the follow-policy on which the proposed measure
rested. The noble earl had declared that the Bill was intended to benefit the consumer, by establishing and promoting an adequate, cheap, and steady supply of grain for the consumption of this island. That was proclaimed by the noble earl to be the general principle of the Bill. All partial views, all ideas of benefitting a particular class he disclaimed. The noble earl professed that the measure was calculated to last for twenty years, and to produce the effect which he had already described. The first question that occurred to his mind was, What necessity there was for legislating at all? There was unfortunately in our times, and more particularly in our country, the most injudicious and erroneous idea prevalent, that all the inconveniencies which must naturally occur in the condition of social institutions might be immediately regulated by legislation. There was a sort of fondness and anxiety for legislation a kind of zealous persuasion that the wisdom and power of Parliament could do that to which he readily acknowledged if any legislature were competent, the British Parliament was that legislature, but which it was beyond human wisdom and human power to effect. If he were called upon to describe one of the greatest causes of mischief in this country, one of the tendencies the most deeply to be lamented, he knew nothing to which he should be more disposed to advert, he knew nothing which appeared to him to be a more prolific source of evil, than this proneness to, this over-love of legislative interference. He believed it would be much more advantageous to the community at large-he was sure that it would be infinitely more beneficial to the interests of agriculture and of trade, if the Legislature of this country could be persuaded to abstain from endeavouring to meet temporary inconveniencies at every turn, by some bill, some protection, some remedy. He was persuaded that nothing could be more wise than that principle, with the soundness of which the noble earl had declared that he was fully impressed, which it was the fashion always to admire in theory, but always to abandon in practice, of refraining from perpetual attempts to supply defects, to correct errors, to guide speculations, to restrain enterprize, to limit profits, to reduce hazards, by legislative interposition. If this were true, and that it was true in theory at least no man disbelieved, if it was true that Providence ( VOL. XXX. )
had implanted in the mind of every man an industrious and sagacious view of his own interests, by which he was much better directed to the attainment of his objects than by any legislative assistance, why were their lordships condemned to hear that it was so, and condemned at the same time to witness perpetual and successful attempts at a violation of the principle? If the principle were inapplicable, then it must be false and not true. If applicable-if not an abstract speculation, but capable of being adopted as a rule and guide for the conduct and government of nations, it was applicable to all circumstances and to all seasons. None, however, seemed so ready to admit the justice of such principles, as those who, the next moment, dared to violate them. But if those principles were true (and no one would deny them in theory), that every legislative interference to protect particular branches of commerce, had uniformly and without exception operated to the diminution of national wealth, then he would ask their lordships, whether there was any one description of trade-any one article of commerce-any one commodity, to which that principle so clearly applied, as that which formed the basis of the subsistence of our population.
There were two essential properties in which the trade of corn differed from almost every other commodity which formed an article of commerce. In the first place, the increase of the subsistence of a community had a natural tendency to augment its own demand; in proportion as the price of food was lowered, and was rendered more easily accessible to the great mass of the population, the popula tion itself would be increased. In other articles of trade, if the demand for them was foreseen, an adequate supply could be in general provided, to meet that demand: but it was directly the reverse in respect to the demand of an increasing population; for there if the demand was supplied, it only enlarged itself. That general principle had been strongly exemplified in the relative increase of the population of this country, with the relative increase of its subsistence. Much argument had been used by the noble earl to prove that because, at some former period, we had been an exporting country in the article of grain, we could therefore become so again; but he must own that, to him, the whole of the argument had appeared most unsatisfactory. At the same time, he was ↓ (0)
far from agreeing in another proposition which had been too much insisted upon in the course of this discussion, that an exporting, must necessarily be a poor country. The position was much too general, and required to be greatly qualified, before it could be received as correct. With regard to the system of prohibiting the importation of grain, which had been enforced during the early part of the last century, he apprehended it was not historically true that that system had been found to be unattended by any practical inconvenience; on the contrary, he felt convinced that the adoption of an opposite system in 1766 had been preceded by many and great inconveniencies. The whole argument rested on an unsound foundation. It was a principle laid down and explained by all those eminent writers who were conversant with the subject, that the population of a country not only kept pace with, but far exceeded the ratio in which its subsistence could be produced; and that it was impossible to raise subsist ence as fast as the demand for it would be found to increase. It followed, therefore, that a country whose population was pro, gressively enlarging itself, must, at some given period, be in a state that it could no longer supply food for its increasing population; consequently, if it were even wise and politic to realize the visions of some theorists, to rest only on ourselves for the supply of all our wants, to cut off all foreign commerce, and neither to buy nor sell, could such a system be adopted in all other commodities, still he contended that it could not be done in respect to corn without the greatest danger, because, for the reasons he had stated, every country must, at some time or other, depend upon foreign countries for a proportion of its food, or suffer the most aggravated mise, ries. Those aggravated miseries, he feared, would be the certain effect of the present measure that was his solemn and sincere opinion; and could he, therefore, adduce a stronger reason for giving to it his most decided opposition?
No necessity for legislating at the present moment had been shewn by any of the supporters of the measure: it was a mere speculation and nothing else: they were called upon by no immediate urgency; but, in opposition to all true theory, a new and uncertain one was to be adopted without even an attempt to shew why the general operation of free and unrestricted commerce would not
apply to the trade in grain as well as to other commodities. For the sake of argument, however, he would suppose that a good and sufficient motive had been established for permanent legislation; a motive founded, not upon present interests, not upon present distresses, not upon partial protection to any distinct class of individuals, for all those grounds had been disclaimed by the noble earl, but upon the ground of a fixed policy; though surely at a moment like this, when all our foreign relations were unsettled, and when every thing was in a state of uncertainty, it was most inexpedient and unwise to adopt a system of permanent legislation. He would ask their lordships, then, what was the proposed object of the Bill? It was to produce a regular, an adequate, and a permanent supply of food. How was it intended to accomplish that end? By making food, in the first instance, dearer than what it would be without the operation of the Bill, in order, at some future and undefined time, to make it cheaper. When that period would arrive in which the effect of the Bill was to make corn cheap, he knew not; but he was quite sure that the immediate operation would be such as he had described, and not only its immediate but its future operation. It could not, by possibility, have any other. The measure might become inoperative; but while it continued to operate at all, its certain effect must be to raise the price of grain. At the same time he was anxious to remove a misapprehen, sion into which the noble earl had fallen respecting his (lord Grenville's) opinion as to the protecting price of 80s. He never had stated that that price must be the minimum at which corn would be sold in this country; but doubt that its price would be raised above was beyond all the standard it would be at, were the present Bill not to pass. If that were denied, he would then ask, what other operation it could have, or was it intended to have? What was its meaning? It enacted that foreign corn should not be imported into this country till the home corn had arrived at a certain price. By what ingenuity of argument it could be shewn that its effect would not be to enhance the price, he was utterly at a loss to comprehend. If it would not do that, what would it do? If it affected the price at all, it must operate either upon the demand or supply. Would it lessen the demand? It could only do so by raising the price. Would it increase
the supply? Certainly not; for it would cut off one source of present supply without adding any other adequate to our increasing wants.
He was aware of the general argument which might here be urged, that as the ultimate effect of the Bill would be to encourage and give a stimulus to our own agriculture, we should, hereafter, grow an independent and ample supply, which would secure a steady and moderate price; but, in order to give that encouragement, they were beginning by raising it above its natural level. Nothing else was intended by the measure. What might be its future operation he could not undertake to say; but it was now brought forward for the avowed object of preventing corn from falling back to that price which it would bear if no restrictions upon foreign importation were imposed. Another purpose, contemplated by the supporters of the Bill, was to afford encouragement to the agriculture of Ireland; but that en couragement could be extended to Ireland only, by securing her from the foreigner who could sell his corn cheaper. In that way, also, the price would be raised; for how it could be possible to shut the market against him who would sell cheaper, and open it to him who would sell dearer, without raising the price of the commodity, might be comprehensible to the ingenuity of some, but for himself he confessed he was too dull to understand it. How was the cultivator to be protected by this measure? The land at present in cultivation was not sufficient to grow an adequate supply of grain; and how could it be made sufficient, but by bringing that soil into cultivation which was not now under the plough, because the actual price of corn would not repay the capital and skill that must be employed upon it? The whole price of corn would thus be raised, by throwing into the market that which had been grown upon those inferior lands at an increased expense. Nor could that effect be considered as at all surprising, as it was nothing more than the ordinary consequence of a restraint upon importation, which always caused the price of the commodity so restrained to rise above its natural level.
With respect to the object of the Bill in its future operations, he regretted that no intimation had been held out, by any of the supporters of it, as to the period at which it would begin to produce its ad vantageous results: its immediate disad
vantages were obvious; but how long those disadvantages were expected to last, they had not been told. He thought the assertion quite too vague to satisfy their lordships, that the country was capable of growing corn sufficient for its consump tion, because the assertion of that capacity did not state whether it referred to the present amount of our population or to our probable increase. In what ratio to our population, therefore, he would ask, was this capacity of production conceived to exist, or what amount of capital should be employed to render that capacity effective? When this capacity was asserted, he thought it should be also shewn what sacrifice of national wealth would be necessary to render our produce of corn adequate to the wants of our population. For it was a very material question to consider, whether, in order so to extend our agriculture, capital might not be withdrawn from other objects in which it was likely to be more providently employed for the benefit of the nation. For instance, it would be most preposterous to hold out an inducement to capitalists to abandon pursuits yielding a profit to the country, in order to embark in the culture of lands incapable of producing corn without considerable expense, because the amount of such expense could never be fairly drawn from the consumer by a price which corn could reasonably bear. The idea, indeed, of providing adequate remuneration for such agriculturists at the expense of the public, would be quite as unreasonable as an attempt to render this a wine country by excluding the import of that article, and by thus rendering us independent of foreign supply.
But to enable the House to decide upon the subject of an adequate growth of corn, for our supply, a further investigation was indispensably nécessary; for the report of the committee, and the evidence taken before it, had by no means furnished sufficient materials. Yet with this insufficiency of materials and information it was proposed to legislate for a considerable period. It was, indeed, proposed to fix the price of corn at such a rate as to provide a permanent encouragement for the farmer; but how was this encouragement to be secured? By preventing importation, it was calculated that the farmers would be induced to grow enough of corn for the consumption of the country; but in order to do so in an average of seasons, they must grow too much in a plen