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measure. The same excellent and most learned persons, who would never dream of pronouncing an opinion upon any instrument how unimportant soever— will, bond, bill, memorandum of agreement,— without carefully examining every line and word of it, and comparing its parts together, and after such scrutiny, would, if there was any doubt, only give the inclination of their opinion have pronounced an unhesitating judgment on many portions of this Digest, without having read the correlative parts, and have thus, as might be expected, fallen into errors quite as glaring as those they hastily imputed to the work on the merits of which they were deciding. Of this we have given some instances by way of sample; but there are in almost every part of the papers before us numerous evidences of the like inattention the same slowness to examine - and the same quickness to decide. The busy season of the judicial year, Michaelmas term, in which apparently they considered the subject and framed their answers, will account for the strange oversights which have been committed. That circumstance will hardly excuse the confidence with which they have expressed themselves.
ART. VIII.-1. Statistical Abstract for the United Kingdom in
each year from 1840 to 1853. Presented to both Houses of
Parliament. 2. Board of Trade Tables for the years 1842 to 1853. Pre
sented to both Houses of Parliament. A TIME, appropriate if not imperative, seems to have come for
taking stock' of our gains and losses from the new commercial system under which the buying and selling of the country has now been carried on in almost all departments for half-adozen years, and in some departments for periods of greater and various length. Even if these periods were not long enough to supply a fair criterion, at least for such uses as we shall put them to, the sad intrusion of a war, disturbing the natural course of events, and for a time rendering almost everything exceptional, makes further waiting of worse than no avail. If we have suffered losses, we must ere this have felt them; if we have made gains, we must be able to show them; and whatever we may lose or gain for some time to come will be ascribable, in a great though indefinite degree, to other and sterner causes than the legislative removal of protections and monopolies.
To carry the investigation over the whole field affected, or that may be supposed to be affected, by the great change it has been our lot to see and to aid over the commercial, political, moral, and sanitary condition of the country — would be too vast an attempt; and we intend here to confine ourselves to some inquiries into what may seem an humble and even vulgar department of the subject. We aim at nothing higher than ascertaining how much better or worse off our people have been made in the matter of eating and drinking, since the commercial system of the country was revolutionised by the Acts of 1846 and their precursors and supplements. The subject may be mean in its details, but in the aggregate it is very large; and, moreover, it involves a great principle, of which these apparently sordid facts are the test. So paltry a sum as three pence,' said Burke, .in
the eyes of a financier, so insignificant an article as tea in the • eyes of a philosopher, have shaken the pillars of a commercial o empire that circled the whole globe.' The British sliding-scale and sugar duties, which cost office first to the Whigs and then to the Tories, may not involve so great a principle as the threepenny duty on tea, which cost Great Britain the American colonies; but still it is a great principle, and affects stupendous material as well as moral interests. It shall be our endeavour, therefore, to exhibit the facts with which we deal in their connection with that principle, and so, besides showing our new Food Statistics, which will be found better worth looking at than is ordinarily supposed, display their bearings on a question which, though practically solved and settled among ourselves, has still so much vitality as a matter of party controversy that but a few months have passed since it was used as a ladder to office, and which among our neighbours is still in conflict or yet unborn.
First in order naturally comes Bread, both from its inherent importance as the chief necessary of life, and from the laws regarding it having been the centre pillar of that system into the effects of whose downfal we are proposing to inquire. In this department, however, we cannot, as in some others, obtain official and infallible facts showing precisely the whole consumption of the country before and since the change -- the ascertained figures showing only the imports, while the home-growth is left matter for cavil and conjecture. All we can do, therefore, is to see what is the actual amount of the additional imports we have procured through means of the new system, and then to inquire whether there is probability or even possibility in the assertion that these imports have come only in substitution, and not in addition.
Pretty nearly the sum of the whole matter is comprised in
the facts that, on the average of the seven years 1847-53, our annual consumption of foreign grain has been little short of ten millions of quarters, and that, under the old system, little or none of this supply could have been procured, with such prices as ruled during all the seven years of the period save the first and the last. A new supply of grain to the extent of ten millions of quarters annually: let us try to bring to perception, in a more realised and precise form, the fact, affecting millions of poor men's larders, which these figures indicate. The usual or indeed only calculation of the amount of grain or cereal food ordinarily consumed or consumable per head, has been one founded on certain local English statistics, and on some more extended and better-authenticated figures supplied by France. The calculation founded on these data was, that each unit of the English population consumes, or rather did consume under the system of scarcity, a quantity of the various kinds of grain equivalent to one quarter of wheat. This mode of estimate was adopted by Mr. Deacon Hume, in his celebrated evidence before the Import Duties Committee. The total quantity of grain, meal, and flour, stated in quarters, imported into the United Kingdom in 1853 was 10,173,135, of which 6,235,860 quarters were wheat; in 1852, total, 7,746,669, of which 4,164,603 were wheat; in 1851, total, 9,618,026, of which 5,330,412 were wheat; in 1850, total, 9,019,590, of which 4,830,263 were wheat; in 1849, total, 10,669,661, of which 4,802,475 were wheat; in 1848, total, 7,528,472, of which 3,082,230 were wheat; in 1847, total, 11,912,864, of which 4,464,757 were wheat. It will be seen at a glance, that the proportion of wheat to the total imports may be roughly stated at a half, and that in the last three years it considerably ex. ceeded that proportion. Taking all the other grains over head as equivalent to half the same quantity of wheat, the imports of 1851, which we take as about an average of the last seven years, stand thus:
Quarters. Wheat ..
5,330,412 Other grains (4,287,614 quarters) reduced to the standard of Wheat
. .. 2,143,807
7,474,219 In round numbers, the annual imports - the annual addition, as we maintain, to our supply of bread since the removal of the Corn Laws - amount to seven and a half millions of quarters of wheat. Now, what does that mean? Unless all our statists have been mistaken, it means nothing less than this: that we have received an additional supply equivalent to the consumption, or to what was the consumption, of seven and a half millions of people. Do not pass that fact lightly by. History has treasured up many smaller things. Taken even from a point of view which erroneously diminishes its magnitude, it means that between a third and a fourth has been added to the food of this nation of twenty-seven millions and a half, or rather to that article of food which is the first necessary of life. But as large sections of our population were previously in a condition to buy as much bread as they needed, and as other sections, chiefly the Irish peasantry, cannot be said to have attained bread even yet, it will not be rash to say that the increased supply has been taken off by an increased consumption confined to about one-half of the population - that fourteen millions of our people have by Free Trade been put upon full rations of bread, whom the Corn Laws had condemned to be half fed. The statement may seem startling; but we shall see results fully equal in magnitude in other cases where they were less to be expected, and where mistake is more impossible. It is a fact worth contemplating, though, being mainly in pursuit of facts, we cannot pause to moralise over each result. Even though there were any rational ground for the allegation of counterbalancing evils, this better feeding of fourteen millions of the poor is surely a great work. History, perhaps, does not show us many legislative transactions that 80 promptly bestowed so great a benefit. Yet that act, we ought not to forget, was not a giving, but a mere ceasing from withholdinga mere removal by the law-makers of the barriers which they themselves had set up between the food and the eaters.
In only one way has it been attempted to break the force of these facts. It has been asserted that the imported food has not been added, but substituted—that for every bushel that has come in from abroad, a bushel less has been grown at home. Does it not at once appear amazing that there should be any room for the making or the denying of such a statement—that it should be matter of wrangle and guess whether; at a certain time, the consumption of bread in this country increased by a third, or did not increase at all-whether the corn production of the three kingdoms stands where it did, or has increased, or has become extinct to the extent of one-third ? On a former occasion (Edinburgh Review, No. 184) we pointed out some of the evils arising from this strange deficiency, and need not for the present purpose go much beyond a passing mention. It is a fact scarcely credited by foreigners (most of whom, as well as some of our own colonists, have long ago set us an example in this respect), that while at this moment we could easily tell in any year the number of herrings caught and cured on the British coasts, of the bales of cotton grown in Georgia, or of chests of indigo produced in India, no man can do more than guess the quantity or proportion of agricultural produce in his own country, or even his own parish. The want has long been admitted, but never supplied. The Parliamentary Committees on Agricultural Distress, which sat down regularly every third or fourth year during the era of agricultural protection, elicited many complaints on this subject, but produced no suggestions. Before the Agricultural Distress Committee of 1836 the want of all reliable statistics in the trade was strongly stated. Thus, Mr. Sanders, the ex-Protectionist member for Wakefield (6318) - I cannot conceive a duty more imperative on the Government, than to ascertain the quantity of food that the people are likely to be supplied with.' Mr. Sturge, the extensive corn-factor (7217)— I think it might be done, at very small expense, with sufficient accuracy to be valuable as matter of reference. The present Speaker of the House of Commons, who was Chairman of this Committee, afterwards published a long address to his constituents of North Hants, in which, among other remarks to the same effect, he says:
* It was impressed upon the Committee that it would be of infinite importance to have accurate statistical information at some of the Government offices, for instance, at the Board of Trade, of the quantity of land in each parish employed in grain cultivation, stating the number of acres sown with wheat, . barley, and oats, and the probable produce of the next harvest. • I fully concur in this opinion : and I conceive that such a plan
may be advantageously grafted on the present division of • England into parochial unions, and may also be adapted to the
Scotch counties, and baronies in Ireland, and that intelligent officers could be found who might furnish this information at a comparatively trifling expense.
The publication of these returns periodically in the “ Lon55 don Gazette," for the information of persons engaged in the * corn trade, would tend to lessen speculation, and to regulate
the supply according to the demand, thereby reducing those elements of fluctuation in price which are so fatal to the interrests of the farmer.'
This was said nearly eighteen years ago, and two decennial censuses, affording the best opportunity for procuring the needed information, have been taken since; but we are at this moment as much in the dark as ever as to this infinitely important matter; and the only attempts that have been made to obtain a