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tion of the price made upon very different data, by most of the witnesses examined by parliament (and completely corroborated by calculations of my own, by much too minute and tedious to detail here,) at which the farmer can afford to grow it; thereby uniting very singularly in one point, the actual or labor price at which he can command its production, and the nominal or money price, for which he can barter it in the market. And the more I consider my calculation, the more I am convinced of its being correctly founded. The grower cannot afford it much cheaper, nor should it (under the present existing circumstances be much dearer ; and I am tolerably confident that the majority of the growers, if secured against a lower price than ten shillings, would be content not to exceed eleven shillings. : Greatly as I object to any compulsion in the farmer or miller, by any act of the legislature in the way of maximum, I see no objection, on the contrary, there appears to me a great necessity, (operating quite as much in their favor as against them, that government, without appearing as legislators or dictátors, should meet both the grower and the importer in the market, as merchants and competitors, not personally, but through the medium of a practical official board, who, leaving the theory of farming to the present board of agriculture, may, as the agents of the public, always take care from time to time so to supply and equipoise the markets, that neither the farmer, on the one hand, may be deterred by the fear of low price from growing the greatest quantity of bread corn, which his farm will properly afford, nor on the other the industrious laborer or mechanic, live in dread of wanting the daily means of subsisting his family. The first of these objects may be attained by an agent or storekeeper, appointed by the board, in every large town or district, empowered to buy up corn in the market, whenever it is below a certain price, to be stated from time to time in his instructions from the board, as temporary cicumstances may authorise the variation; and the second object in view may be acquired by the operations of the same agent in selling again the same corn at such a moderate advance, and in such judicious proportions as may tend to keep the markets at a proper level; and where, as may often be the case, the home supply is insufficient to meet the demand, the foreign purchases of the board, dealt out with a liberal but economical handy may come in aid of the deficiency of British- growth. And here let me observe that the reduction of the home market will also tend to reduce those abroad, which keep a watchful eye over, and in a great measure regulate their prices for exportation by, the demands of this populous and wealthy nation. · It is absolutely necessary that the agents' books should be free,
quenis rates of the count the country at lace
quently inspected, or at least be always open for inspection, by the Magistrates of the county, or corporation of the town, in order to insure the confidence of the country at large, and to do away every idea of jobbing, and that before any account is sent up to the board, the agent should swear before the principal Magistrate of the town or neighbourhood, that not only the whole accounts so produced are, to the best of his knowledge and belief, correct, but also that, excepting the salary (or agency) he receives from government, he has no profit whatever received, or to be received, directly or indirectly, either in the matters therein contained, or on any dealings in, or transactions relating to, any kind of corn or grain whatever, during the period to which the accounts in question relate. And the commissioners, and all persons employed under them, should also take an oath (mutatis mutandis) of the same purport, on their entering into office. • The whole expense of the Board (consisting of those commis. sioners) and its appendages might, I should apprehend, be defrayed out of the profits of the transactions, without any cost whatever to the public; but even should those profits prove unequal to the charge, still it is an object well worth the attention of government to prevent a repetition of the tumultuous and riotous scenes which took place in 1797 and 1800. · And the only popular, or indeed safe, way in which the executive power can interfere, so as to secure the market from any great excess, either way, beyond the bounds of a moderate and necessary fluctuation, is in my opinion, (and I have thought much and deeply on the subject,) by the mode I have suggested; which, without any odious or impolitic restriction on the farmer, so as to disgust him, or turn aside his exertions from their proper channel, (which on the contrary require every possible encouragement and protection,) will only keep up the proper spirit of enterprise and emulation by meeting him fairly and openly as brother dealers, leaving it perfectly at the option of the purchaser to buy from whom he pleases and at what price he can. · It seems that the agents should be empowered to purchase all the corn that may be offered in market below the regulating price, (which will vary from time to time under the directions of the board,) or at least in such quantities and under such circumstances as the board and may direct, and certainly without any restraint when under the lowest temporary point of fluctuation; and to sell, when above the stationary or highest fluctuating point, in such issues, and at such prices as the board may direct; who will themselves be guided by the reports of the stock in hand, not only in the storehouses, but as far as can be ascertained, in the hands of the growers and dealers also. Which reports, by means of their agents stationed in the several districts, in addition to the means already enjoyed by government, may be so nearly reduced to a certainty as to direct the operations of the board (acting always under the control of the Lords Committee of Privy Council) as well in their purchases and issues, as in their applications to government for such legislative regulations as may at any time appear to be requisite. The intervention of the agent as a retail vender may also be made use of to supply the poorest class with that useful middleman, so much cried out for in time of scarcity ; without obliging the farmer to waste his time and labor of his team in what is called pitching or selling by bulk instead of sample; which has been so ignorantly reprobated as one of the causes of high price. And it is to be recollected that it is the poor of towns only who want that sort of supply, the farmers' laborers mostly getting their wheat by the single bushel from their respective masters ; neither would the towns' poor, in this case, be obliged to lose the best working part of the day to attend the market, or to depend on the arbitrary profits of the miller or corn-dealer, as they might always be supplied at the storehouse after the working hours, and at a fair and reasonable price.
Of the salutary influence of such an establishment, no doubt whatever remains on my mind, Mr. Burke, indeed, has said, (and with certain exceptions I look on Mr. Burke in the light of a political classic,) that « of all things an indiscreet tampering in the trade of provisions is the most dangerous, and it is always worst at the time when men are most disposed to it, that is in the time of scarcity, because there is nothing in which the passions of men are so violent, and their judgment so weak, and on which there exists such a multitude of ill founded prejudices.” To all this I give my most hearty assent, as well as to the passage wherein he says “ an arbitrary regulation to prevent defective product being recompensed by an increased price, would lay the axe to the root of production itself.” But I do not agree with him when he asserts that “the moment government appears at market, all the principles of market will be subverted,” or that “the trading government will speedily become a bankrupt, and the consumer in the end will suffer,” neither is there any occasion for “ government to make all its purchases at once, so as to raise the market instantly on itself," nor on the other hand to follow the course of the market, so as to produce no effect, and thereby to incur the expense gratis,", because, if the agents proceed with any degree of discretion, and the board issue its orders with judgment, they will take a gentle lead, instead of following the farmers in market. As little can I bring my mind to agree with Mr. Burke in compar. ing the trifling internal trade of a petty republie, or even the more
apperee with the axeproduct
internal trade to agree with Mertarmers in
onlarged traffickings of the Papal territorięg with the great foreign import and enormous consumption of the populous and opulent kingdoms of the British Empire.
To state the probable profits or disbursements of such an under. taking, can only be attempted on a very rough and conjectural cala culation. The Board, whose numbers need not exceed three and a secretary, should, however, be well paid, with reference to the importance of their duty, and the close attendance that must be given by at least a majority of their number, and that they must necessarily be precluded from every shadow of profit on any transaction whatever. The number of inferior officers must depend on the extent of the districts to which they may be appointed; and their emoluments, whether arising from salary or agency, must be such as to render them independent of any other income. To these must be added the annual expense of renting, or interest of building or purchasing magazines. It is very difficult to fix a round sum for the above charges; but perhaps we may venture to set down £40,000 per annum as the utmost expense' of all the different branches of the establishment for Great Britain.
To answer this, let us delineate, on the same rough outline, a sketch of the probable profits. The weekly consumption of the. metropolis has been estimated at twenty thousand sacks of flour, which, at two hundred and eighty pounds per sack, would give five pounds per week per head, for one million, one hundred and twenty thousand, souls within the bills of mortality. And this proportion I believe to be tolerably accurate, having ascertained, from repeated researches in my own and neighbouring families, that about four pounds and a half of bread flour, or five pounds including pastry, is the actual average consumption per head, per week; which, in the proportion of forty-five pounds of fine flour per Winchester bushel of wheat, will require about five bushels and three quarters per head, per annum; in corroboration of which, Maitland, in his Survey of London, (as quoted in Dirom's Tract on the Corn Laws,) has mentioned five bushels and two pecks to be the average consumption per head, including pastry,
:: Classed under the following heads.
Offices in London.
&c. from the unanimous opinion of all the bakers in the metropolis. To this I add one bushel for seed, one more for the distillers, starchdealers, &c. and as much to replace waste, &c. as will make up the remaining bushel, and we have one Winchester quarter per head for the population of the whole island; which may now be probably taken at thirteen millions of souls. From this, however, may be taken at least two millions of quarters, for as many individuals in Scotland and the north of England, who feed on oat-cakes, barley-meal, rye, or potatoes, and the remaining quantity requisite to supply the annual consumption, will be eightyeight millions of bushels, or eleven millions of quarters of wheat. It is not easy to pronounce what part of this consumption would circulate through the medium of the board; but it is probable that, including the whole or the greatest part of the foreign corn, from one fifth to one sixth or about two elevenths ; that is to say, two millions of quarters would thus pass through their hands :--but take only one half of this proportion, and say one million of quarters; which should be bought at or under eighty shillings, and sold again at eighty-four, (a very reasonable assumption,) this would leave a surplus of at least one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, after all charges are paid, and even allowing the cost of the establishment to extend to fifty instead of forty thousand pounds per annum..
But the profit or loss of the transaction is a very secondary consideration, and the attempt to raise a revenue by a direct taxation on the subsistence of the people is one of the last things which a sound government will ever think of resorting to. The main point, in a political view of our subject, is to ensure the peace and happiness of the nation; to prevent the ruin of our manu. factures by securing the subsistence of the manufacturer at a reasonable and moderately fluctuating price ; to encourage the farmer in the production of that subsistence, by guaranteeing to him at all times a well regulated market for the sale of his commodity, not by oppressing, but by affording him every fair and proper assistance; by bringing forward a sure customer and prompt payment for his grain, when that article is a drug in the common market; and by preventing the people from making injudicious and unsafe claims on his property at a time when it is convenient and right for him to withhold his stock from sale. It is, in short, by a well conducted regimen, to infuse that salutary temperance into the political constitution, which, like that of the natural body, may alike secure us from the delirium of fever, as from the supineness of lethargy.
Intimately connected with the plan I have ventured to suggest, and forming a completely consistent branch of the same system,
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