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No. III.

REPORTS, &c.

ON THE

DIFFERENT BRANCHES OF PUBLIC ECONOMY.

I. AGRICULTURAL REPORT.

The winter of 1819 was mild and the spring early. In May vegetables were farther advanced than in ordinary seasons, and in every case held out the prospect of abundance. But about the end of the month, the weather became less favourable, the days being cold and ungenial, with frost in the evenings; and it continued so till about the middle of July. Some of the crops, especially potatoes and hay, were much injured during this period, and in many situations the orchards wholly failed. But in the latter part of July, and the whole of August, the temperature was high, often above 70°, which not only brought the corn crops speedily to maturity, but seemed to have re

paired any damage that had been done to them by the previous state of the weather. Reaping became general in the south of England early in August; and by the end of September, the crops were secured all over Britain in the best condition, the important labours of the season having scarcely ever been interrupted. Winter, however, may be said to have commenced by the middle of October, before the potatoes were all saved, and prevailed with more than its wonted rigour to the end of the year.

The following is an Abstract of a Register of the Weather, kept on the Banks of the Tay, near Perth.

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Comparing this with a similar abstract in our last volume, it will be seen that the mean temperature is .64 lower than that of 1818, and that the quantity of rain is less by 1.797 inches.

At the commencement of the year, the average prices of grain in England were as follows, viz. Wheat, 79s. 3d.; Rye, 58s. 11d.; Barley, 63s. 10d.; Oats, 35s. ; Beans, 72s. 4d. ; Pease, 70s. 5d. the quarter. In February the ports were shut against foreign wheat; in May against rye and beans; and in August against all other kinds of grain; yet prices gradually declined till the end of June, and, after experiencing some advance in July and August, sunk again in October. For the week ending 25th December, Wheat was 64s. 11d.; Rye, 42s.; Barley, 36s. 3d.; Oats, 25s.; Beans, 48s. 1d.; and Pease 50s. 6d. the quarter. The average prices of the year were, Wheat, 73s.; Rye, 49s. ; Barley, 46s. 8d.; Oats, 29s. 4d.; Beans, 55s. 5d.; Pease, 56s. per quarter, and Oatmeal 31s. 6d. per boll of 140 lbs. avoirdupois. The quartern loaf in London fell from 124d. to 11d.; and in Edinburgh from 11d. to 9d.;

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the most common price in the former being 12d., and in the latter 10d. and 11d. The average prices of corn in Scotland, commonly only a few shil. lings below those of England, were this year greatly lower. In January the difference on wheat was 11s.; on barley 15s. 10d.; on oats 5s. 6d. the quarter; and on oatmeal 14s. 3d. per boll of 140 lb. avoirdupois.

This state of the markets seems to have occasioned some surprise among the corn merchants, and much alarm among the corn growers. By the former it had long been held as an established point, that the growth of the kingdom was not adequate to its consumption, even when consumption was somewhat diminished by high prices; and, acting under this impression, the occasional shutting of the ports under the act 1815 does not appear to have affected their habitual speculations in foreign grain, which it was never suspected we could long dispense with. Accordingly, when it was not allowed to be imported for sale, it was imported nevertheless and carried to the warehouse, the holders confidently anticipating its admission into our market, by the rise of prices,

within a few months thereafter. But the fall of prices this year, in the absence of any foreign supplies of consequence, would lead us to conclude (what subsequent events have confirmed,) that so great had been the extension of tillage, and the improvement of the soil during the war, as to render the produce of the United Kingdom in corn fully equal to its wants in favourable seasons.

The corn growers, however, would not admit that the fall of prices was owing to the abundance of our own produce. They ascribed it to the imports of the two preceding years, a great part of which, as they alleged, still hung upon the market. But though the quantity imported was certainly very great, as will be seen from the abstract below, yet the prices of 1817 and 1818 were so high as to prove that our own growth in 1816 and 1817 had been very deficient; and that all, or nearly all, the foreign supplies were really wanted for immediate consumption. That any considerable portion of them should therefore have been kept back at the time is highly improbable; and indeed the advance that took place immediately before harvest affords a strong presumption that the stores in this country, whether of native or foreign growth, had then become much exhausted.

When we look back to the prices of the latter years of the late war, during which many of the existing contracts between landlord and tenant must have been entered into, there can be no doubt that the prices at the end of the present year, which may be stated generally at one-third lower, must have occasioned much embarrassment and apprehension. But the complaints of a respectable body of our farmers seem to have been as premature, as the measures they proposed to be taken for their

relief were ill-judged and nugatory. So early as January, when prices, as we have seen, were comparatively high, petitions were presented to Parliament for high duties on foreign grain; and the number continued to increase throughout the year, in spite of the unfavourable reception the first of them met with from both sides of the house. Though sent up from different parts of the country, they were nearly all in the same terms, having originated with a few active individuals, calling themselves "The Agricultural Association," who regularly met in London for the purpose. These petitions complained of distress, which they ascribed to the admission of foreign grain, and prayed for the imposition of such duties as would have been equal to a prohibition, not only upon corn, but upon all other commodities which could be raised from the soil of the united kingdom.

By others, the fall of prices was ascribed to the rise in the value of money, produced by Mr Peel's bill for the restoration of the currency, which passed in June. It is admitted on all hands, that this measure must necessarily have lowered prices, and, at the same time, virtually raised rents and all other fixed money payments; but a great difference of opinion has prevailed as to the extent of its operation. Its effect has probably been greater than was anticipated by its advocates; for not only corn, but other kinds of produce, of which the supply cannot materially vary from year to year, and indeed commodities generally, seem to have gradually fallen in a greater degree than the paper price of gold, which was then not quite 5 per cent. above the mint price.

Live stock of all kinds, which sold at high prices in 1818, did not experience any depression till about

Midsummer of the present year; but before the end of it, prices were considerably lower, with a tendency to sink still farther. Yet butchermeat was higher in proportion than corn, the usual quantity of stock not having been reared in 1816 and 1817; and, perhaps from the scarcity of their food in these two years, a greater number of cattle and sheep was then forced into the market. The retail price ranged between 6d. and 8d. per pound. Wool fell about a third below the price of 1818, but not below the average of a few years proceeding.

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The fall of prices had not yet operated materially upon the wages of country labour, though, towards the end of the year, want of employment began to be felt in some places, farmers being no longer able to conduct their works of improvement with the same spirit as formerly.

The state of the corn trade of Britain, for the three years ending with 1819, is exhibited in the following Abstract, which is taken from official documents :

Exported to

Ireland. All other parts. Total.

Ireland. All other parts. Total.

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is true, in many of the manufacturing districts, such as at Manchester, Leeds, Huddersfield, Glasgow, Paisley, and Greenock; but these, we have reason to believe, were created more by the arts and designs of a few desperate demagogues, than by the pressure of the times, or the want of employment. Wages, it is admitted, were still low, but the industrious and peaceable had work in abundance, and there was every appearance of a gradual increase in the demand for our manufactured goods, which would have been necessarily followed by a corresponding amelioration of the condition both of the manufacturer and the operative. That, for several years prior to this, the labouring classes had been subjected to the severest privations and distress, is matter of the utmost notoriety. But a reaction had apparently commenced. continental nations, the purchasers of our surplus manufactures, were slowly but effectually recovering from the hardships entailed by a ruinous and long-protracted war: and as their condition was bettered, the demand for the produce of British industry began to increase. Our cottons and our hardware, al ways in request, began once more to bring remunerating prices. In Manchester, Leeds, and Glasgow the good effects of this change soon began to be apparent. Workmen were in full employ, and wages were somewhat improved, with the agreeable prospect of their making still farther advances. This was particularly the case in Glasgow. In 1816, the total number of cotton packages imported into that place was so low as 41,918; in 1817, the number had augmented to 50,170; and in 1819, it amounted to no less than 62,145. By the impulse given to manufacturing industry, the consumption in 1817 amounted to 46,507 packages:

in 1818, it increased to 47,232: the returns for 1819 have not yet reached us; but, from many circumstances, we have reason to believe that the increase in that year, as compared with the preceding, has been still greater than that of 1818, as contrasted with 1817. The joint imports from the East Indies for 1817 and 1818 amounted to 9504 packages.

By a published statement now before us, it would appear that trade, at the Port of Leith, has likewise made considerable advances. The increase of foreign trade at that port in 1818, as compared with 1817, was one hundred and fiftyseven vessels inwards, and eightyfour outwards; that of the coasting trade, two hundred and thirty-nine vessels inwards, and two hundred and seventy-six outwards.

From the southern parts of England the accounts are equally fa vourable. Two years ago the ironworks were at a complete stand, and those employed in them reduced to the greatest distress; whereas at present they are hardly able to execute the numerous orders they have received. The price of the manufactured commodity still continues low, as was indeed to be expected; but if the workmen have not high, or even comfortable wages, they have employment and bread, with the prospect of a speedy addition to their comforts and enjoyments.

During the first five or six months of the year, sugars, coffee, and other colonial produce, except cotton, continued rather heavy, and declined considerably in price. About the middle of June, sugars suddenly rose in price, but towards the end of the month fell again to the former rate. A government contract in the same month for 80,000 gallons of rum, caused a considerable advancement in the price of that commodity; which, however,

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