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DISSERTATION

ON THE

STATE OF THE NATION, &c.'

AMONG the unhappy consequences of the late war, the errors into which the proprietors of land have been betrayed, in the course of it, have had consequences perhaps as unhappy as any.

That the produce of the soil is the most substantial wealth of a nation is a truth which cannot be controverted. This is the gift of Heaven ; but it is a gift to which a great part of its value must be imparted by the sagacity and industry of Man: and this value becomes greater as the industry employed is more skilful and energetic, and as the physical obstructions by which it is counteracted are fewer, or less powerful; the value of land being the residue of the produce after the cost of culture and the effects of counteracting incidents are deducted.

* We have reason to believe that the following Dissertation, which came to us by a circuitous route, is by an author who has already favoured us with one of the most judicious tracts on the Importation of Corn, which the late prohibitory bill occasioned.

In this view of the subject, Great Britain, situated in a high latitude, in the midst of a vast ocean, by the vapours of which the atmosphere is loaded, the sky obscured, and the temperature rendered variable, and frequently cold and ungenial, could not naturally be expected to rank high as an agricultural country. But the genius of the people, cherished by a political constitution, propitious to individual exertion, breaking through the limited bounds which nature seemed to have prescribed, directed all the labour, ingenuity, and enterprise, which could not have been profitably employed on the soil, in cultivating the mechanic arts. In these the nation gradually made great progress, till the seas were covered with its ships, wafting its commodities to distant lands, and bringing valuable returns. By this successful commerce, the great body of the people, whose dependence is on their labour, being fully employed, and amply rewarded, their numbers rapidly increased in the latter part. of the last century. By this advancing increase of the numbers and wealth of consumers, the cultivators of land were aroused to the utmost activity to raise productions for supplying this very encouraging market.

This is the great cause of the agriculture of Great Britain having lately arrived at such a highly respectable state, in spite of its repulsive climate, and is, perhaps, the only mode by which it could have been thus advanced. The growing numbers and successful industry of consumers opening a sure and regular market for all the productions of the soil, and furnishing every thing necessary and convenient in exchange, stimulated the exertions of cultivators to supply this most excellent market. For this purpose the lessons of experience were diligently put in practice—more knowledge was eagerly studied-more method and expertness acquired—and British husbandmen attained an extent of

skill and dexterity not to be found in many countries. At the same time, industrious consumers felt the satisfaction of deriving their subsistence chiefly from their own country, in the most convenient way, and in the most wholesome condition ; and with the encouragement which the growing opulence of their fellow citizens gave to their various occupations they cheerfully pursued their industry. Thus these two great classes, whose interests are inseparable, were fellow labourers in the great national work of promoting the power and wealth of their country; and in consequence of their combined exertions, the fields have been greatly improved, the value of land augmented, and the revenue of landholders advanced. The farmers also had, many of them, by skill, industry, and economy, improved their circumstances, and were possessed of capitals sufficient to cultivate their farms with good effect.

Such was the happy state of Great Britain when her rulers, proudly contemplating the riches which the nation had acquired, and which they seemed to have thought inexhaustible, rashly became the chief parties in a war which the powers of the continent had lately commenced against the mad revolutionists of France. In this long wasteful war, under the dreadful consequences of which the nation now groans, the national wealth has been consumed, partly in importing corn to feed the people at home, and much more in expensive military operations abroad. But as the waste which war always occasions kept up the price of corn, and aś the great impetus which the national commerce had acquired still continued to keep it in motion, landholders fell into the unfortunate mistake that the high price of corn and the high wages of labour occasioned by the war, were not the consequences of that contingency, but of a progressive advancement of wealth, and that industrious consumers, who '

already bore so much, could bear any burden; and with a perverted judgment, rejoiced in the war, as an animated principle, in this high state of prosperity. Under this delusion, they fondly expected to avail themselves of such flattering circumstances, by promoting a particular interest of their own, exclusive of that of the community: and those whom the concurring suffrages of interest and duty had now constituted the patrons of Agriculture having instituted a system of minute inquisition into the business of rural economy, and instead of employing their superior talents and oportunities to penetrate into the arcana.of nature, in order to discover the means by which any of her latent powers might be unveiled, and converted to the advantage of cultivators and of mankind, having chiefly directed their puny researches to the farmer's cabin, searching every recess and secret corner to find any lurking penny which might be conveyed to the landholders' pocket ; landholders, aided by the result of such researches, seized every opportunity of raising land-rents to an extravagant pitch : and in this they were fully seconded by farmers, who were at the same time under a similar delusion; and to fix this on a firmer basis, application was made to the legislature, and in 1804, additional restrictions on the importation of foreign corn were obtained, on the supposition that the price of corn might always be kept high, whatever alteration might happen in the state of the country; and. regarding this measure as an universal specific, landholders again, in the face of a formidable opposition, obtained greater restrictions in 1815.

That the whole of this conduct proceeded from gross delusion, is too obvious to require much illustration. Some regulations may

be

proper to prevent too great an influx of corn from the banks of the Vistula, and other thinly in

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