« AnteriorContinuar »
BOOK was a price which, without fome fuch expedient I. as the bounty, could not at that time be expected, except in years of extraordinary fcarcity. But the government of King William was not then fully fettled. It was in no condition to refufe any thing to the country gentlemen, from whom it was at that very time foliciting the first establishment of the annual land-tax.
The value of filver, therefore, in proportion to that of corn, had probably rifen fomewhat before the end of the last century; and it seems to have continued to do fo during the course of the greater part of the prefent; though the neceffary operation of the bounty must have hindered that rife from being fo fenfible as it otherwise would have been in the actual state of tillage.
In plentiful years the bounty, by occafioning an extraordinary exportation, neceffarily raifes the price of corn above what it otherwife would be in those years. To encourage tillage, by keeping up the price of corn even in the most plentiful years, was the avowed end of the inftitution.
In years of great scarcity, indeed, the bounty has generally been fufpended. It muft, however, have had fome effect upon the prices of many of thofe years. By the extraordinary exportation which it occafions in years of plenty, it must frequently hinder the plenty of one year from compenfating the fcarcity of another.
Both in years of plenty and in years of scarcity, therefore, the bounty raises the price of corn above what it naturally would be in the
actual state of tillage. If, during the fixty-four CHA P. first years of the prefent century, therefore, the average price has been lower than during the fixty-four last years of the last century, it muft, in the fame ftate of tillage, have been much more fo, had it not been for this operation of the bounty.
But without the bounty, it may be faid, the ftate of tillage would not have been the fame. What may have been the effects of this inftitu tion upon the agriculture of the country, I fhall endeavour to explain hereafter, when I come to treat particularly of bounties. I fhall only obferve at prefent, that this rife in the value of filver, in proportion to that of corn, has not been peculiar to England. It has been obferved to have taken place in France during the fame period, and nearly in the fame proportion too, by three very faithful, diligent, and laborious collectors of the prices of corn, Mr. Duprè de St. Maur, Mr. Meffance, and the author of the Effay on the Police of Grain. But in France, till 1764, the exportation of grain was by law prohibited; and it is fomewhat difficult to fuppose, that nearly the fame diminution of price which took place in one country, notwithstanding this prohibition, should in another be owing to the extraordinary encouragement given to exportation,
It would be more proper, perhaps, to confider this variation in the average money price of corn as the effect rather of fome gradual rife in the real value of filver in the European market,
BOOK than of any fall in the real average value of corn. I. Corn, it has already been obferved, is at diftant
periods of time a more accurate measure of value than either filver, or perhaps any other commodity. When, after the discovery of the abundant mines of America, corn rofe to three and four times its former money price, this change was univerfally afcribed, not to any rife in the real value of corn, but to a fall in the real value of filver. If during the fixty-four first years of the prefent century, therefore, the average money price of corn has fallen fomewhat below what it had been during the greater part of the last century, we should in the fame manner impute this change, not to any fall in the real value of corn, but to fome rife in the real value of filver in the European market.
The high price of corn during these ten or twelve years paft, indeed, has occafioned a fufpicion that the real value of filver ftill continues to fall in the European market. This high price of corn, however, feems evidently to have been the effect of the extraordinary unfavourableness. of the feafons, and ought therefore to be regarded, not as a permanent, but as a tranfitory and occafional event. The feafons for thefe ten or twelve years paft have been unfavourable through the greater part of Europe; and the diforders of Poland have very much increased the scarcity in all thofe countries, which, in dear years, used to be fupplied from that market. So long a courfe of bad feafons, though not a very common event, is by no means a fingular one; and whoever
has enquired much into the hiftory of the prices cḤA P. of corn in former times, will be at no lofs to recollect feveral other examples of the fame kind. Ten years of extraordinary fcarcity, befides, are not more wonderful than ten years of extraordinary plenty. The low price of corn from 1741 to 1750, both inclufive, may very well be fet in oppofition to its high price during thefe laft eight or ten years. From 1741 to 1750, the average price of the quarter of nine bushels of the beft wheat at Windfor market, it appears from the accounts of Eton College, was only Il. 138. 9 d., which is nearly 6s. 3d. below the average price of the fixty-four' firft years of the prefent century. The average price of the quarter of eight bushels of middle wheat, comes out, according to this account, to have been, during these ten years, only 17. 6s. 8d.
Between 1741 and 1750, however, the bounty must have hindered the price of corn from falling fo low in the home market as it naturally would have done. During thefe ten years the quantity of all forts of grain exported, it appears from the custom-house books, amounted to no less than eight millions twenty-nine thousand one hundred and fifty-fix quarters one bufhel. The bounty paid for this amounted to 1,514,9627. 17S. 4 d. In 1749 accordingly, Mr. Pelham, at that time prime minifter, obferved to the Houfe of Commons, that for the three years preceding, a very extraordinary fum had been paid as bounty for the exportation of corn.
BOOK He had good reafon to make this obfervation,
and in the following year he might have had still better. In that fingle year the bounty paid amounted to no lefs than 324,176l. 10s. 6d.* It is unneceffary to obferve how much this forced exportation must have raised the price of corn above what it otherwife would have been in the home market.
At the end of the accounts annexed to this chapter the reader will find the particular account of those ten years feparated from the reft, He will find there too the particular account of the preceding ten years, of which the average is likewife below, though not fo much below, the general average of the fixty-four first years of the century. The year 1740, however, was a year of extraordinary fcarcity. These twenty years pre ceding 1750, may very well be fet in oppofition to the twenty preceding 1770. As the former were a good deal below the general average of the century, notwithstanding the intervention of one or two dear years; fo the latter have been a good deal above it, notwithstanding the intervention of one or two cheap ones, of 1759, for example. If the former have not been as much below the general average, as the latter have been above it, we ought probably to impute it to the bounty. The change has evidently been too fudden to be afcribed to any change in the value of filver, which is always flow and gradual, The fuddenness of the effect can be
See Tracts on the Corn Trade; Tract 3d.