« AnteriorContinuar »
The lands of no country, it is evident, can ever be completely cultivated and improved, till once the price of every produce, which human industry is obliged to raise upon them, has got fo high as to pay for the expence of complete improvement and cultivation. In order to do this, the price of each particular produce muft be fufficient, firft, to pay the rent of good corn land, as it is that which regulates the rent of the greater part of other cultivated land; and fecondly, to pay the labour and expence of the farmer as well as they are commonly paid upon good corn land; or, in other words, to replace with the ordinary profits the ftock which he employs about it. This rife in the price of each particular produce, must evidently be previous to the improvement and cultivation of the land which is destined for raifing it. Gain is the end of all improvement, and nothing could deferve that name of which lofs was to be the neceffary confequence. But lofs must be the neceffary confequence of improving land for the fake of a produce of which the price could never bring back the expence. If the complete improvement and cultivation of the country be, as it most certainly is, the greatest of all public advantages, this rife in the price of all thofe different forts of rude produce, inftead of being confidered as a public calamity, ought to be regarded as the neceffary forerunner and attendant of the greatest of all public advantages.
This rife too in the nominal or money-price of all thofe different forts of rude produce has been
been the effect, not of any degradation in the CHA P. value of filver, but of a rise in their real price. They have become worth, not only a greater quantity of filver, but a greater quantity of labour and fubfiftence than before. As it cofts a greater quantity of labour and fubfiftence to bring them to market, fo when they are brought thither, they reprefent or are equivalent to a greater quantity.
The third and laft fort of rude produce, of which the price naturally rises in the progress of improvement, is that in which the efficacy of human industry, in augmenting the quantity, is either limited or uncertain. Though the real price of this fort of rude produce, therefore, naturally tends to rife in the progress of improvement, yet, according as different accidents happen to render the efforts of human industry more or lefs fuccefsful in augmenting the quantity, it may happen fometimes even to fall, fometimes to continue the fame in very different periods of improvement, and fometimes to rife more or lefs in the fame period.
There are fome forts of rude produce which nature has rendered a kind of appendages to other forts; fo that the quantity of the one which any country can afford, is neceffarily limited by that of the other. The quantity of wool or of raw hides, for example, which any country
A A 4
BOOK Country can afford, is neceffarily limited by the number of great and small cattle that are kept in it. The state of its improvement, and the nature of its agriculture, again neceffarily determine this number.
The fame caufes, which, in the progrefs of improvement, gradually raise the price of butcher's-meat, fhould have the fame effect, it may be thought, upon the prices of wool and raw hides, and raise them too nearly in the fame proportion. It probably would be fo, if in the rude beginnings of improvement the market for the latter commodities was confined within as narrow bounds as that for the former. But the extent of their respective markets is commonly extremely different.
The market for butcher's-meat is almoft every-where confined to the country which produces it. Ireland, and fome part of British America indeed, carry on a confiderable trade in falt provifions; but they are, I believe, the only countries in the commercial world which do so, or which export to other countries any confiderable part of their butcher's-meat.
The market for wool and raw hides, on the contrary, is in the rude beginnings of improvement very feldom confined to the country which produces them. They can eafily be tranfported to distant countries, wool without any preparation, and raw hides with very little and as they are the materials of many manufactures, the induftry of other countries may occafion a demand for
for them, though that of the country which pro- CHA P. duces them might not occafion any.
In countries ill cultivated, and therefore but thinly inhabited, the price of the wool and the hide bears always a much greater proportion to that of the whole beast, than in countries where, improvement and population being further advanced, there is more demand for butcher'smeat. Mr. Hume obferves, that in the Saxon times, the fleece was estimated at two-fifths of the value of the whole fheep, and that this was much above the proportion of its prefent eftimation. In fome provinces of Spain, I have been affured, the sheep is frequently killed merely for the fake of the fleece and the tallow. The carcafe is often left to rot upon the ground, or to be devoured by beafts and birds of prey. If this fometimes happens even in Spain, it happens almost constantly in Chili, at Buenos Ayres, and in many other parts of Spanish America, where the horned cattle are almoft conftantly killed merely for the fake of the hide and the tallow. This too used to happen almoft conftantly in Hifpaniola, while it was infefted by the Buccaneers, and before the fettlement, improvement, and populoufness of the French plantations (which now extend round the coaft of almoft the whole western half of the island) had given fome value to the cattle of the Spaniards, who still continue to poffefs, not only the eastern part of the coaft, but the whole inland and mountainous part of the country.
Though in the progress of improvement and population, the price of the whole beast neceffarily rifes, yet the price of the carcafe is likely to be much more affected by this rife than that of the wool and the hide. The market for the carcafe, being in the rude ftate of fociety confined always to the country which produces it, muft neceffarily be extended in proportion to the improvement and population of that country. But the market for the wool and the hides even of a barbarous country often extending to the whole commercial world, it can very feldom be enlarged in the fame proportion. The state of the whole commercial world can feldom be much affected by the improvement of any particular country; and the market for fuch commodities may remain the fame, or very nearly the fame, after fuch improvements, as before. It fhould, however, in the natural courfe of things, rather upon the whole be fomewhat extended in confequence of them. If the manufactures, especially, of which those commodities are the materials, fhould ever come to flourish in the country, the market, though it might not be much enlarged, would at least be brought much nearer to the place of growth than before; and the price of those materials might at least be increased by what had ufually been the expence of transporting them to diftant countries. Though it might not rise therefore in the fame proportion as that of butcher's-meat, it ought naturally to rife fomewhat, and it ought certainly not to fall.