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these years had nothing to do; and that the disasters from 1847 to 1849 were not in any sensible degree owing to external or separate calamities, but were the direct and inevitable effect of the establishment of a system of free trade, at the very time when the industry of the nation was manacled by absurd and destructive monetary laws. Let us now examine our present condition, and see whether or not we are in an enviable position at home or abroad; whether the industry of the country can possibly survive, or its revenue be maintained, under the present system; and whether the seeds of another catastrophe, as terrible as that of 1847, are not already spread in the land.
In one particular the Free-traders are unquestionably right. Beyond all doubt, the external circumstances of the nation, at present, are in the highest degree favourable to its manufacturing and trading interests. We are at peace with all the world, and, thank God, there is no immediate appearance of its being broken. The markets of continental Europe have, for six months past, been entirely laid open to our merchants, by the settlement of France under the quasi empire of Louis Napoleon, and the extinction of the war in Italy and Germany. Revolution is everywhere put down, and that to the industrious poor is an incalculable blessing. Rome is taken ; Hungary is subdued ; Baden is pacified ; the war in Schleswig is at an end ; the Danish blockade is raised ; California has given an extraordinary impulse to activity and enterprise in the West; the victory of Goojerat has extinguished, it is to be hoped for a long period, all appearance of disturbance in the East. The barvest, just reaped, has been uncommonly fine in grain, both in Great Britain and Ireland ; that of the potatoes above an average in the latter island. The Chartists of England and Scotland, astounded at the failure of all their predictions, and the defeat of all their hopes, are silent ; the revolutionists of Ireland, in utter despair, are leaving the Emerald Isle. Amidst the general pacification and cessation of alarms, old wants and necessities begin to be felt. Men have discovered that revolting will not mend their clothes or fill their stomachs. New garments are required, from the old being worn out; the women are clamorous for bonnets and gowns; the men are sighing for coats and waist
coats. Provisions are cheap to a degree unexampled for fourteen years; wheat is at 41s. the quarter, meat at 5d. a pound. Capital in London can be borrowed at 24 per cent, in the provinces at 3. That great Liberal panacea for all evils, a huge importation of foreign produce, is in full operation. This year it will probably reach in value at least £100,000,000 sterling. Let us then, in these eminently favourable circumstances, examine the effects of the freetrade system.
First, with regard to the revenue, that never-failing index of the national fortunes. The revenue for the year ending 5th January 1850, being the last quarter that has been made up, was £80,000 less than that ending 5th January 1849. * That is to say, during a year when free trade was acting under the most favourable possible circumstances, and when the pacification of the world was reopening markets long closed to our manufactures, the revenue was actually less than it had been in the year wasted by the triple curse of a monetary crisis, European revolutions, Chartist disturbances, and Irish rebellion. Why is this? Evidently because the effect of free trade and a restricted currency acting together, and the dread of a fresh monetary crisis hanging over our heads from the unprecedented magnitude of our importations in every branch of commerce, have depressed industry at home to such a degree, that even the reopening of all the closed markets of the world, and the rush to fill up the void created during fifteen months of stoppage of intercourse, has been able to produce no sensible addition to the public revenue.
£ 233,562 78,325 10,855
60,794 30,000 79,000 148,076
776,000 Crown Lands,
101,166 Total Ord. Revenue,
48,492,583 China Money,
539,305 Imprest and other Moneys, 485,384 Repayments of Advances, 414,251
Total Income, 49,931,523
74,073 135,346 781,916
Next, as to the exports. The reopening of the Continental markets, the pacification of India by the victory of Goojerat, and the impulse given to American speculation by the gold of California, have occasioned a considerable increase in our exports, on which the Free-traders are pluming themselves in an extraordinary degree. We should be glad to know in what way free trade pacified India, extinguished revolution in Europe, and vivified America by the Californian diggings. And yet, had these distant and adventitious occurrences not taken place, would we have had to congratulate the manufacturers on a rise of two millions in September, and a rise of seven or eight millions on the whole year ? And what, after all, is a rise of our exports from £53,000,000 to £60,000,000, or even £63,000,000, in a year, to the total manufacturing industry of the country, which produces at least £200,000,000 annually ? It is scarcely the addition of a thirtieth part to the annual manufactured production. The Free-traders are hard pushed, indeed, when they are constrained to exult in an addition to the national industry so trifling, and wholly brought about by fortunate external events entirely foreign to their policy.
In the immense and increasing amount of our IMPORTS, however, the Free-traders may indeed see, as in a mirror, the real and inevitable result of their measures. Their amount for this year is of course not yet known ; although, from the returns already procured, it is certain that they will greatly exceed the amount of last year, which reached £94,000,000. In all probability they will considerably exceed £100,000,000. Indeed, in the single article of grain, the excess of 1849 over 1848, since the one-shilling duty began in February, has been so great as much to exceed in value the augmentation which has taken place in our exports. The importation of grain in the first eight months of 1849 has been more than double what it was in the corresponding period of 1848, and that in the face of a fine harvest, and prices throughout the whole period varying from 45s. to 41s. a quarter of wheat. The importation at these low prices has settled down to a regular average of about 1,000,000 quarters of all sorts of grain a-month, or above 12,000,000 of all sorts of grain in a year. This is just a fifth of the annual subsistence, estimated in all sorts of grain at 60,000,000 of quarters. This immense proportion free trade has already caused to be derived from foreign supplies, though it has only been three years in operation, and the nominal duties only came into operation in February last. *
So vast an increase of importation is perhaps unprecedented in so short a period; for, before the change was made, the importation was so trifling that, on an average of five years ending in 1835, it had sunk to 398,000 quarters. Indeed, the importation before the five bad harvests,
Wheat. Barley. Oats. Rye. Beans. Peas, Month ending
Flour. Maize. Ind.Meal. Feb. 5 1849 712,514 164,739 69,990 19,881 51,932 33,018 713,329 206,535 34,793 March,..
407,214 87,335 32,104 14,125 60,962 21,855 355,461 180,310 13,973 April, 559,602 170,343 149,786 22,432 59,546 17,782 356,308 183,604 10,671 May, 383,395 115,809 92,574 18,496 35,582 14,480 243,154 179,031 6,556 June,
418,243 113,341 129,459 25,046 62,880 13,266 273,978 201,852 2,414 307,507 101,991 96,209 26,035 47,112 14,207 266,190 184,554 6,232
295,070 126,156 134,328 48,583 43,607 20,517 381,153 327,604 14,148 Sept.
306,949 138,083 164,627' 45,201 23,865 23,699 367,322 264,027 6,066 Oct. 433,695 218,407 222,503 19,219 27,685
44,073 280,114 15,793 5,292 Nov.
154,193 50,640 56,626 886 15,803 13,680 196,098 101,050 1,345 Dec.
313,253 148,664 144,073 10,343 32,891 37,960 206,494 138,064 57 4.291,635 1,435,508 1,292,279,250,247 461,865 254,537 3,639,601 1,982,424 101,547
ABSTRACT OF TABLE.
In 11 months, 1849, 11,283,247 Quarters. + Quarters of wheat and wheat-flour imported into Britain from 1807 to 1836, both inclusive :Years. Quarters. Years. Quarters.
Years. Quarters. 1807 379,833 1819 1,122,133
1831 1,491,631 1808 1820 34,274
1832 325,425 1809 424,709
1833 82,346 1810 1,491,341* 1822
1834 64,653 1811 238,366 1823 12,137
1835 28,483 1812 244,385 1824 15,777
1836 24,826 1813 425,559 1825 525,231
1837 244,087 1814 681,333 1826 315,892
1838 1,834,452* 1815 1827 772,133
1839 2,590,734* 1816 227,263 1828 842,050
1840 2,389,732* 1817 1,020,949*
* Bad Seasons.
1831 to 1835 398,509 1811 to 1820 458,578
1836 to 1840 1,992,548* 1821 to 1830 534,292
* Five bad years in succession. -PORTER's Progress of the Nation, 137, 138, second edition.
from 1836 to 1840, had been so trifling, that it had become merely nominal, and the nation had gained the inestimable advantage of being self-supporting. With truth did that decided Free-trader, Mr Porter, say, in the last edition of his valuable work, entitled the Progress of the Nation :“ The foregoing calculations show in how small a degree this country has hitherto been dependent upon foreigners, in ordinary seasons, for a due supply of our staple article of food. These calculations are brought forward to show how exceedingly great the increase of agricultural production must have been, to have thus effectively kept in a state of independence a population which has advanced with so great a degree of rapidity. To show the fact, the one article of wheat has been selected, because it is that which is the most generally consumed in England; but the position advanced would be found to hold good, were we to go through the whole list of the consumable products of the earth. The supply of meat, during the whole years comprised in this inquiry, has certainly kept pace with the growth of the population ; and, as regards this portion of human food, our home agriculturists have, during almost the whole period, enjoyed a strict monopoly.”*
Things, however, are now changed. Protection to domestic industry, at least in agriculture, is at an end ; prices are down to 40s. the quarter for wheat, and half that sum for oats and barley ; the prices of sheep and cattle have fallen enormously to the home-grower, though that of meat is far from having declined in the same proportion ; and, as all this has taken place during a season of prices low beyond example, it is evident that it may be expected to be still greater, when we again experience the usual vicissitudes of bad harvests in our variable climate. The returns prove that, ever since the duties on foreign grain became nominal
, in the beginning of February last, the importation of corn and flour into Great Britain and Ireland has gone on steadily at the rate of above 1,000,000 quarters a-month; and that now seven-eighths of the supply of the metropolis, and of all our other great towns, comes from foreign
• PORTER's Progress of the Nation, 139, second edition.