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bread and oat-meal formed a considerable portion of the bread of servants even in great families. In 1626, barley bread is stated, in a grant of a monopoly from King Charles, to have been the usual food of the ordinary sort of people. Nay, even so late as the beginning of the present reign, it appears from the supplement to [Charles Smith's] Three Tracts on the Corn Trade, [1766.] that above one-third of the nation ate bread made of oats, rye, or barley. He adds, that "some who have considered the matter with great attention, are inclined to think, that in the year 1764, one-half of the people could not be supposed to feed on wheaten bread."†

Although, however, these considerations shew evidently the inaccuracy of many of our conclusions, founded on the price of wheat compared with the wages of labour, they do not invalidate the inference, formerly stated, [supra, p. 57,] of the extreme distress of the lower orders in 1270, and the other bad seasons already referred to. The fluctuations in the price of wheat must necessarily have been accompanied with corresponding (although, perhaps, not proportional) fluctuations in the prices of oats and barley, and whatever else formed the ordinary food of the people; and these fluctuations were the obvious consequence of the corn trade being entirely in the hands of farmers, without the intervention of extensive corn-dealers between the grower and the consumer. The evils arising from this circumstance were no doubt much aggravated by the imperfect police which then existed. "In the disorderly state," says Mr. Smith, "of England under the Plantagenets, who governed it from about the middle of the twelfth till towards the end of the fifteenth century, one district might be in plenty, while another, at no great distance, by having its crops destroyed, either by some accident of the seasons, or by the incursion of some neighbouring baron, might be suffering all the horrors of a famine; and yet, if the lands of some hostile lord were interposed between them, the one might not be able to give the least assistance to the other."2

Eden, On the Poor, Vol. I. p. 60, se7. * [P. 182, seq.] + [Ibid.]

2 Vol. I. p. 277, Irish edition.-[Book I. chap. xi.; Vol. I. p. 288, tenth edit.]

These two causes, it is obvious, operated precisely in the same manner, by interrupting that natural course of things which provides in the plenty of one part of the country a relief for the scarcity of another. They are, therefore, equally illustrations of the same general principle.

In these calamitous times, it has been justly remarked, that the return of harvest must have been looked for with hardly less eagerness than that with which the Egyptian farmer is said to watch the overflowing of the Nile; and it has been conjectured, with considerable probability, that the enthusiastic joy with which the rustic feast of Harvest Home was anciently celebrated, arose from the circumstances of those ages, when a late crop or a bad season reduced the wretched cultivator to the extremity of want, and when the successful or unsuccessful management of this critical period decided the alternative of plenty or of famine.

I have been led into these remarks by the consideration of the statute of Edward VI., against forestallers and regrators,a statute which was expressly calculated to deprive the country of those resources against dearth and famine which nature has so liberally provided for it, in the variety of its soils and climates, combined with the circumstance of its insular situation.

The rigour of this law was afterwards relaxed by several subsequent statutes, which permitted the engrossing of corn when the price of wheat should not exceed twenty, twenty-four, thirtytwo, or forty shillings the quarter. At last, by the 15th of Charles II., the engrossing or buying of corn, in order to sell it again, as long as the price of wheat did not exceed forty-eight shillings the quarter, and that of other grain in proportion, was declared lawful to all persons not being forestallers, that is, not selling again in the same market within three months.

All the freedom which the trade of the inland corn-dealer has ever yet enjoyed, was bestowed on it by this statute; and, in the opinion of Mr. Smith, "it has contributed more (notwithstanding all its imperfections) both to the plentiful supply

of the home markets, and to the increase of tillage, than any other law in the statute-book."*

The statute of the 12th of the present king, which repeals almost all the other ancient laws against engrossers and forestallers, does not repeal the restrictions of this particular statute, which therefore still continue in force. It must also be remembered, that "the engrossing of corn, as well as the engrossing of any other commodity, with intent to sell it at an unreasonable price, (notwithstanding the repeal of statutes concerning them by the 12th George III.,) is an offence indictable and fineable at Common Law; the penalty for such offences being (as in other minute misdemeanours) discretionary fine and imprisonment."

That the restrictions, in the statute of Charles II. now referred to, are absurd and impolitic, Mr. Smith has shewn very clearly; but it is unnecessary to follow him into his reasonings on this subject, as the argument already stated for the freedom of the inland trade of corn, if it proves anything, leads to the general conclusion, that this freedom should be unlimited.

It is pleasing to observe the gradual progress of light and liberality on these important subjects among men called to the administration of public affairs, and to perceive the influence which the writings of Turgot and Smith have insensibly assumed over the councils of nations.† The following quotation from a Representation of the Lords of the Committee of his Majesty's Council for Trade, drawn up in the year 1790, states the substance of the foregoing argument so forcibly and concisely, that I cannot deny myself the pleasure of transcribing it. To those who are acquainted with the works of the two philosophers just mentioned, it is unnecessary for me to point out its striking coincidence with their writings, both in point of sentiment and of expression.

* [Ibid. p. 309.]

[The preceding sentence stood originally thus:]" Nor is it unamusing to those who reflect on the unrestrained abuse which the circumstances of our own times have so long encouraged in

the ignorant and unprincipled, against the best benefactors of the human race, to perceive the secret influence which the writings of a Turgot and a Smith begin to assume over the councils of nations."

"The best market for corn in every country is the home market; and the circulation of it within every kingdom ought to be free, so that the surplus of one part may supply the deficiency of the other, and that the price throughout the whole country may be brought as near as possible to a level.

"To facilitate the circulation of corn, this kingdom enjoys peculiar advantages, which arise from its situation as an island, from the number of its canals, and the excellence of its roads; as by these the populous and manufacturing counties in some parts of the island, can draw the necessary supplies from other parts which are less populous, but more productive of corn.

"In other countries, magazines of corn are formed by their respective governments, or by the principal magistrates of great cities, as a resource in times of scarcity. This country has no such institution. The stores of corn are here deposited in the barns and stacks of wealthy farmers, and in the magazines of merchants and dealers in corn, who ought by no means to be restrained, but rather encouraged in laying up stores of this nature; as after a deficient crop they are thereby enabled to divide the inconvenience arising from it as equally as possible through every part of the year; and by checking improvident consumption in the beginning of scarcity, prevent a famine which might otherwise happen before the next harvest. The inland trade of corn, therefore, ought to be perfectly free. This freedom can never be abused. To suppose that there can be a monopoly of so bulky and perishable a commodity, dispersed through so many hands over every part of the country, is an idle and vain apprehension. The ancient laws of this kingdom, which, by a false policy, restrained the inland trade of corn, have in general been repealed. The 15th Charles II., which does not permit the buying corn to sell again, and the laying it up in granaries, except when the several sorts of corn are below certain prices therein mentioned, is the only law of this description which will now be found in our statute-book, and ought certainly not to remain there any longer."*

[In the Notes taken of this course in a subsequent year by Mr. Bridges,

another Report of a Committee of the House of Peers is referred to, as hav

In the same representation, indeed, there are to be found principles concerning the freedom of exportation, and some other articles in the corn trade, which are borrowed from a much more unenlightened system; and on which I shall have occasion afterwards to make some remarks. But the progress of truth in eradicating prejudices is slow and gradual; and we must console ourselves in the meantime, with observing in its progressive, though tedious advance, the certain presages of its future triumph.

Having mentioned, in the quotation just now read from the Representation of the Lords of the Council on the Corn Trade, the institution of public magazines, I shall take this opportunity of remarking how very imperfectly they supply the place of an internal freedom of trade. Magazines can do nothing more than private speculators; they can only buy when corn is cheap, and sell when it is dear; but they do this at such a vast expense, and with so little economy, that if they do not take an equal advantage of profit with private speculators, they must demand an enormous tax to enable them to carry on their business; and if they do take such profit, the people are never the better for them. Mr. Symonds, in his paper on the public Magazines of Italy, has proved them to be everywhere nuisances.1

In France, the prejudices against monopolizers (Accapareurs) seem to have been still more inveterate than in England; and restraints imposed by the law upon the inland trade of corn, have been much more numerous and oppressive. The attempts which, in later times, were made to correct these prejudices, and to introduce a more enlightened policy on the subject, are intimately connected with the political history of that country, and with the fortunes of some distinguished political characters; and, therefore, I shall make no apology for the length or minuteness of the following details, more especially as many of them afford additional proofs and illustrations of the general principles which have been already stated.

ing been quoted by Mr. Stewart; that, to wit, on the Dearth in 17991800. This, however, it is not thought

necessary to adduce articulately.]

1 Annals of Agriculture, Young's France, p. 483.

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