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seasons. Only " let the foreigner see what the English market is in its natural state, and then they will be able to judge from year to year and from season to season what will be the future demand of this country for foreign corn."1 Thus they argued that it wa3 the reverse of likely to expect the country being swamped with foreign corn. "Point out the places where the corn is to grow," they exclaimed; and then consider the expense of conveying it to our ports. It was on this ground—viz., that the home corn market would not be depressed by competition2—that they gained an easy victory over their opponents. But in all questions affecting mutable factors, to take a "present" view does not suffice. It is requisite, if you do not wish to court disaster, to contemplate what will happen as the future consequences of alterations. We instance the very extensive changes that have taken place, nor have they ceased to take place, in the conditions affecting the home corn markets. "Valleys of corn " have sprung up, and that, too, in spite of the ridicule which Cobden threw upon the suggestion. The price of corn abroad has constantly descended, though Cobden promised the tenant-farmers that it would not fluctuate to their disadvantage.3 And the explanation is very simple. The
1 P. 185. Such could only occur if prices were regulated by the home market.
2 The reader will remember that competition was to stimulate the home corn markets, and enable the British fanner to grow one-fourth more. It was also to make England a corn-exporting country. He will also remember that Cobden denounced protection as being the cause of agricultural depression.
8 Cobden anticipated a descent of price to the extent of 6s.—from 56s. to 50s. This conclusion he drew from considering England and Jersey as parallel cases—vide p. 72. But the prospect of feeding a fertility of foreign soils was quite ignored, and the extent of their cultivation was left out of the account— in short, we assert that Cobden only looked to Europe for our supply of corn.1 Now, as the facilities for the production of foreign wheat were increased—as, in the words of the free-traders, restrictions were removed— what was bound to happen? Increased production. Do the free-traders deny this? But increased production was associated, in the case of the foreign corngrower, with profit. This, too, will not be denied. And the accumulation of profits means capital. The capital of the foreign corn-growers thus increased, and was employed in the extension of the cultivation of the soil. The amount of wheat, therefore, produced by foreign countries gradually increased. It depended upon the lowest cost of foreign production whether or not the foreign grower would be able to displace the home producer out of his own market. Even supposing the cost of transit to remain the same, if, by expending more capital upon his farms, the foreign grower could thereby improve the quantity of produce at the same time that he reduced the amount of labour bestowed upon it— just those very consequences of which Cobden intended the British farmer should reap the benefit2—then the
richer State affords a greater intensity of impulse on the part of the foreigner for the desire of profit, and leads him to greater exertions.
1 Compare Speeches, p. 21, where the Anti-Corn-Law League had been presented with a quantity of wheat; but, said Cobden, after all expenses had been paid, the cost of conveyance being so great, no profit was left. It was, therefore, an unremunerative gift.
2 Cobden laid down the principle that what the British fanners wanted was more capital. Free trade was to compel more capital and more labour to the cultivation of the soil. But though a small amount of capital may be wasted in an assumed improvement, yet it is an
in the means of transit would be effected—improvements leading to a reduction of the cost? If we were to have abundance, that assuredly implies larger imports. There would, consequently, be an increased stimulus to shipping activity; with that increased activity, the competition of the carriers would tend to lower the cost of conveyance. And thus another factor appeared (which was but a tendency in Cobden's days; but it seems tendencies were utterly ignored) to render the "just" stimulation of the British farmer from the reformer's point of view, an " unjust" stimulation from the point of view of agricultural prosperity. We put it to the reader whether or not either of these factors would not be sufficient to paralyse the efforts of the home producer. Can he produce at a profit to himself, when the difference between the price of wheat at Chicago and London does not admit of a profit being made? If, then, either of these forces produce a paralysis, their combined influence must certainly effect his destruction.
§ 12. Cobden's relation to the abundance which followed free imports of com.—Cobden promised his countrymen abundance; at the same time he asserted that we could not possibly derive from a free intercourse more than two million and a half quarters during the year.1 Such a quantity would not have supported the population at the time he spoke for forty days! It is not desirable in so grave a subject to appear to be captious; but it
1 P. 152. "We swept over the face of the earth, bribing every nation to send their corn to this rich market, and gain this high price—67s. the quarter—for their produce." In 1840 the result was 2,700,000 qrs. certainly seems as if Cobden's idea of abundance is different from the ordinary acceptation of the term. Does it refer to ought else than quantity? Then a free trade in corn could not give us abundance, because Cobden tells us most emphatically that the world could not supply us with it.1 Did Cobden, by a process peculiar to himself, include the element of price in his idea of the word "abundance"? So that it may be said when an article is cheaper, you can buy more of it for the same price.2 Now where, on Cobden's own showing, is the additional quantity to come from? From our farmers' increased exertions! But Cobden more than once stated that his prime object was not to cause a mere cheapness, rather was it to afford abundance of the necessaries of life to the toiling multitude. Thus does it appear that Cobden adapted his arguments to the especial occasion for which they were severally designed. He believed in the soundness of free trade; he predicted other nations would become free-traders within five years, if we originated the policy. And
1 "We refer to the passage in which Cobden ransacked the world for corn.
2 There is some inconsistency regarding this point in Cobden's speeches. Advocating the manufacturing labourers' distress, he states that they will, by a free trade in corn, be enabled to spend less upon bread and more upon manufactured goods. Instead of spending 2s. 6d. a-week upon bread, the labourer will spend but Is. Cobden does not say the labourer was to have more bread, but only that its price was to be reduced. On this occasion he was arguing out the causes of high prices, and showing how they depressed manufacture. But when, in 1844, he was pleading for agricultural distress, observe the change of front. It was not cheapness merely, but plenty; nay, he did not desire to depress prices. And as the immediate result of a free trade in corn, he stated that it was his belief that the price of corn would have a tendency to rise instead of falling, p. 184.