Page images

his business lying in the fields the agricultural labourer had more physical enjoyment, the inhabitant of the town had amusements of a more intellectual description.

The slave-trade had been adverted to; Britain had, indeed, been debased by this trade; it was a foul blot upon her character; but the opponents of commerce forgot to state, that the trade had been abolished.

It was untrue that commerce had the effect of impairing the truth and honesty of its followers, for veracity and integrity must be its basis. On credit, every thing in the trading community depended.

By commerce we became acquainted with the habits, manners, laws, and institutions, of foreign nations; and the improvement of any particular kingdom was greatly facilitated by a communication with foreign states. Christianity was also spread abroad through the medium of commerce, and many of the numerous institutions of the city of London were either immediately for the dissemination of knowledge, or indirectly promoted the object; and with this dissemination were spread truths and maxims, inculcating good faith in commercial and other dealings.

In REPLY, it was again urged, that agriculture not only produced more wealth than commerce, but that ALL wealth was derived from it. In order to make this clear, it was only necessary to suppose a state of society in which money did not exist, and in which, of course, all trade was carried on by barter. The first and most important business in such a state, would be the forcing the earth to yield her wealth, in the shape of food and raw materials for manufacturing. These would be exchanged by the agriculturist with the manufacturer: the food would be consumed by the latter, and the other productions of the earth would be fabricated into various articles of use or convenience, a part of which, in due time, would be returned to the tiller of the land, in exchange for a further portion of its produce. Here we see at once that every thing is derived from the land. As respects food, it is obvious that the manufacturer is only a consumer; and even the raw material, upon which he operates, is brought into existence by the labours of the agriculturist: but if it be said that the article is enhanced in value by the labour of the manufacturer, it is answered, that although this is true, yet during the time the manufacturer has been employed in working up the raw material, he has consumed. food equal in value to the labour which he has bestowed upon it. He has, therefore, created no wealth; he has only transmuted one species of wealth into another. The manufacturer is a useful member of the community, but he does not produce, he only

modifies and changes. Agriculture alone is productive. Manufactures only alter the forms of wealth. Commerce only exchanges one species of wealth for another.

In the course of the discussion it had been argued, that restrictions for the protection of agriculture ought not to exist. We were not called upon to say how agriculture should be encouraged, we merely state that it should be so.

We are arguing for principle, not for any peculiar modes of carrying them into practice.

One point was extremely remarkable. The advocates of commerce had claimed to their side of the question the produce of mines; this was strange; the obtaining from the earth iron, lead, coal, &c. could never be regarded as an operation of commerce, which consisted entirely in an exchange of commodities.

It had been asserted, that whatever tended to our comfort and enjoyment, tended to increase our wealth. If so, a man should get rich by spending rather than saving. Now, it might be very pleasant to enjoy those foreign luxuries procured by commerce, but it should be recollected that we paid for them in solid durable wealth. A man, who had twenty shillings in his pocket, might dispose of it in various ways. He might retain it in his purse, or he might purchase a hat with it; or he might go to the London tavern and expend it in a dinner. In the first case, his property would remain unimpaired; in the second, he would have bestowed it in the purchase of an article which would conduce to his convenience for several months, and even then would be worth something, though far less than its original cost; but, in the third case, however exquisite might be the enjoyment derived from the dinner, it would be transient; and the moment he had swallowed the viands presented to him, every vestige of his wealth would be annihilated. Every species of expenditure was not alike beneficial.

The eternally quoted revenue derived by government from foreign commerce had been introduced. Now this revenue was clearly paid by the consumers at home out of their own resources. Men gratified themselves with wine, tea, and tobacco; and they paid certain duties upon those articles. Now, would it be said that the use of wine, tea, and tobacco, enabled men to pay taxes, and that they could not afford to pay them if they did not consume these articles ! This would be too ridiculous. The fact was, that this method of raising a revenue was found convenient, and therefore was adopted. But what would those who used this argument say to the excise duties amounting to nineteen millions, paid exclusively by the home consumers; or to another source of revenue,

from which a large sum was derived—the land-tax, wholly paid out of the wealth of the soil?

The fancy that two nations might exchange their commodities and both grow rich, while they could not grow rich by cultivating their internal resources, was one the most idle that ever entered the brain of man. This could not be better ex. amined than by a reference to the dealings of individuals, upon the principle of barter. If two articles, each of them costing ten pounds in the fabrication, were exchanged at the price of their actual cost, it is obvious that nothing is gained on either side. If a profit of twenty per cent. be added to both, and the articles costing each ten pounds are exchanged at the nominal value of twelve pounds, still nothing is gained, because, though each party apparently receives more than the cost of his goods, he pays the same advance to the other. If, indeed, the rate of profit be not the same on each side; if a higher nominal value, in proportion to its actual cost be placed upon one of the articles than upon the other, the result will be different. It will no longer be true that neither party gains, nor will it be true, as the commercial advocates pretend, that both gain. One of the barterers will acquire an addition of wealth, but he will acquire it at the expense of the person with whom he exchanges, because he will receive from him a greater quantity of goods than he ought. The gain of one, is the loss of the other.

The great wealth of commercial men, and commercial states, had been fondly dwelt upon. It had been shown that the fortunes of commercial men were derived from their customers, the consumers; but, if this were not the fact, there would be nothing in it very alarming to the agricultural side of the question, when it was known that the income of the landed proprietors of this kingdom had at one time amounted to one hundred and twenty millions.

It had already been observed, that commercial states had acquired their wealth by being the carriers of the world. If men bought goods in one part of the world, carried them to another, and there sold them at an advance of price more than equivalent to the value of the freight, it was obvious enough that they were gainers: but this was something very different to the common operations of commerce between one country and another, which consisted in an exchange of their respective productions.

It seemed to be agreed, however, that the wealth produced by comnierce was not permanent. All history bore testimony to this fact. Not to refer to ancient times, where was now the commercial greatness of Holland and of Portugal ? Where was the prosperity and grandeur of the Italian states, whose "merchants were princes?”

“ Not far removed the date
When commerce proudly flourished through the state ;
At her command the palace learned to rise,
Again the long fall’n column sought the skies ;
The canvass glowed beyond e’en nature warm,
The pregnant quarry teemed with human form,
Till more unsteady than the southern gale,
Commerce, on other shores, displayed her sail ;
While nought remained of all that riches gave,
But towns unmann'd and lords without a slave;
And late the nation found, with fruitless skill,
Its former strength was but plethoric ill.”


But surely

Miserable indeed was the state which had been thus enriched, when the commerce, to which she owed her wealth, fled from her. Wants, generated by a luxurious state of society, continued to exist, when the means of supplying them were withdrawn for ever. Vices, created by a superabundance of wealth, remained, when the profusion and the splendour, which in some degree concealed their odiousness, while they ministered to their gratification, have passed away like dream.

“ All evils here contaminate the mind,

That opulence departed leaves behind.” Commerce, it was said, had assisted us in getting through the wars in which we had been engaged. If this were so, it was only fair and reasonable that commerce should render us this assistance, for in many wars had she embroiled us. it must have been forgotten, that this country had seen Napoleon close all the ports of Europe against her: that she had witnessed the American non-intercourse bill; and that, in spite of these fatal blows at her commercial greatness, she had, from the fertility and vigour of her internal resources, gloriously surmounted all her difficulties, and attained her present rank in the scale of nations. Had we depended entirely or principally on commerce, what would have been our condition? We must have become a province of the Gallic empire; or, at any rate, we must have humbly sued to our enemy for an ignominious and unstable peace. The circumstance of our commerce being exposed to interruption from war, afforded a sufficient reason why we should not neglect agriculture. We ought not to depend upon other nations for the means of existence. We might look to other nations for the luxuries of life, but we ought to raise from our own soil a sufficiency of corn to answer the demands of our population.

It had been admitted, that agriculture was the only foundation of wealth; but, it was observed, that although agriculture was necessary, that we might eat, yet that it was not of paramount importance. This was not very intelligible. The want of food was the first and most important of all wants ; and, without the means of supplying this, labour, the great instrument for the production and accumulation of wealth, could not be sustained. It was, therefore, of paramount importance, that we should possess a sufficient supply of food; and it was also of paramount importance, that we should possess it independent of foreign nations. Commerce was as unstable as the wind that wafted its sail, or the wave that sustained its bark. Of the riches acquired from agriculture we could be deprived only by conquest. As long as we possessed the lands of our fathers, and assiduously cultivated them, they would amply repay our care, and no power on earth could deprive us of the means of comfortable subsistence.

Anextraordinary assertion had been made, that this country was incapable of producing an adequate quantity of corn for the support of its population. It was a sufficient answer to this to say, that no corn had been imported for some years past, except oats, occasionally, and in very small quantities; and that, during the greater part of that period, the prices of agricultural produce had not only been of the most moderate description, but had even steadily declined; but it was unnecessary to argue against this doctrine, because it had been destroyed by an advocate on the same side, who said, that land had been thrown out of cultivation, because it would not pay to continue it; and that large tracks of waste land were kept out of cultivation by the same cause. It was impossible to reconcile the two statements. The one said, that there was not land enough in the United Kingdom to supply us with food: the other, that land was not cultivated, because it would not pay; that is, in other words, because it was not wanted.

In expatiating upon the advantages of the cotton manufacture, it seemed to have been forgotten that linen was quite as useful as cotton; that it was, in fact, the

superior article, and that cotton was only an indifferent substitute for it. That linen might be, and had been, produced in England, and was still produced in Scotland and Ireland. The discouragement of the linen trade, and every other discouragement tending to embarrass the domestic sources of wealth, must originate in a system which was any thing but wise.

It had been argued all along as though it were wished to abolish commerce altogether; but it was not so: the question did not require it. It only called upon us duly to appreciate its claims in comparison with those of agriculture. The result of the enquiry was this,-that agriculture was the primitive

« PreviousContinue »