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of references to the prices of labor, and the productions of land; with conclusions perpetually drawn from, and political theories applied to these prices; it must be sufficiently obvious to every rational mind, how great must be the consequence of really knowing what they are, at every different period. Those gentlemen who have not carefully examined a great variety of authorities, will not be apt to imagine, how few are to be found that have re. ference to the whole, or to any considerable part of the kingdom : for want of any general register, the Windsor prices could alone be depended on for more than a hundred and sixty years, and these for wheat and malt alone. Any reader that wishes truly to understand these subjects, should first examine what authorities can be had recourse to, in order that he may properly distinguish between the price minuted in casual notes, made at a single town or district, and those drawn more generally from the whole, or a great part of the kingdom. To enable him to do this, I shall here insert a short detail of such authorities, as will give the best information upon subjects which have been made to bear in the late political discussions, immediately on the most vital interests of the state,
In 1767, 1768, and 1770, I undertook those Tours, which extended about 4000 miles, in England and Wales, in the journals of which were minuted the prices of provisions and labor, noted at 139 places; and I may be pardoned for adding, that this was the first general register of such prices to be found in the English language. The next publication that merits attention here, was the result of enquiries made by the Common Council of London, in 1786, and to which they received thirty-five answers from corporate towns. In 1788 I printed in the Annals of Agriculture, a circular letter of inquiry, which was answered from eight counties; 'in 1790 a second inquiry, in the same work, produced twenty-five replies; in 1793 and 1794, the Original Reports of the Board of Agriculture gave the same information from twenty-two counties; in 1795 and 1796, sixty similar returns were procured by the Annals; Sir Frederic Eden, in his State of the Poor, also reports these prices through 39 counties in the same years, and the result agrees very nearly with those of the circular let
In 1798 and 1799, another circular letter produced thirtysix returns. In 1810 and 1811 I sent another letter into every part of the kingdom, which was answered in a manner highly satisfactory from fifty-seven correspondents, communicating the prices of thirty-seven counties.
By these last returns it appeared, that the price of beef, mutton, veal, and pork, was, for each of them, Bd. per pound; bacon 11ļd.; butter 15d.; and cheese 8 4d.;-that the price of labor
was, in winter, 12s. 5d. per week; in summer 14s. 72d.; in harvest 24s. 4d., and the medium of the year 14s. 6d.j«that the year's purchase of land was 291, having fallen in forty years, according to the numerous minutes of my Tours in 1770, from 321 years' purchase. The price of combing-wool was 24s. 8d. per tod, and of Southdown 44s. 6d.; the price of oak timber 91. 2s. id. per load; of ash and elm 51.7s.Od., and of fir 51.3s.3d.: these prices on the average of all the replies. The general result of the price of labor, from my Tours, on the mean rate of the whole year, was 7s. 4 d. per week; it had therefore in forty years about doubled. From the same Tours it appears, that the price of beef, mutton, veal, and pork, was 3ļd. per pound: this rise to 8d., is a rise of 146 per cent. Butter at the same period was 64d., which to 15d., is a rise of 140 per cent. Cheese in the first period was 3£d., which rising to 84., is a rise of 153 per cent. In regard to bread, we may take the price of wheat for the first period from that of the five years from 1766 to 1770, and compare it with the five, ending with 1811: the price of the former was 21. 2s. 4d., and of the latter 4l. 58. 4d.; wheat therefore doubled. It should be noted, that the price of the former period is that of Windsor, reduced twoninths ; but if with Mr. Rose the reduction is taken at only oneninth, then of course the rise will not amount to this of 100 per cent.' To bring the whole comparison into one view, it may thus be stated:
Hence it appears that labor, to the years 1810 and 1811, did not rise quite so high as it ought to have done from these data. A late writer seems therefore to be somewhat in an error upon this subject.
« The wages of labor, in point of fact, are higher in England at this time, when compared with the price of corn, than they are in any other country, and at least equal to what they were at any former period in this."- Quarterly Review, vol. xii. p. 423. This is not quite correct; I have already shown that in the long period in the last century, while wheat was 4s. per bushel, labor, as much as we know of it, for no general register has been published) was 1s. per diem; the
equalled a peck of wheat: whereas by the highly satisfactory answers to my circular letter in 1810 and 11, the general average payment was 2s. 5d. which fell short of the price of a peck of wheat; and recourse must be had to poor-rates to make up the deficiency, which probably was not in the contemplation of this able writer. And respecting France, the general impression on Mr. Birkbeck's mind is, that the mean price in that kingdom, as far as he examined it, is from 1s. 3d. to ls. 8d. ; if we take the medium, it is ls. 5ļd. which, with wheat at 40s. per quarter, is certainly much higher, than the ratio of this kingdom, as they are paid above a peck of wheat per diem. The reason of this is probably to be found in the multiplicity of small properties, which yield to this class so much employment at home.
Nine general returns have been made of the price of provisions and labor in the course of 40 years; and six of these have been procured by myself. The Board of Agriculture, by two circular letters sent in 1804 and 1814, procured much valuable information on the expence of cultivating 100 acres of arable land at the several periods of 1790, 1803, and 1813. Those politicians who are desirous of ascertaining such facts before they form conclusive opinions, may very easily command the requisite information, by having recourse to the publications here referred to.
And I cannot omit this opportunity of observing, that the Board of Agriculture will do a singular service to the public, and especially to those gentlemen in Parliament who take a share in discussions relative to questions of political economy, if it shall continue at different periods to procure returns of all these prices, for preservation ready against those interesting moments when information becomes most valuable. And if such returns are made in times of tranquillity, when no particular bias can influence the minds of the correspondents, they will of course be more valuable.
Another branch of this subject of ascertainment, is that average of prices in districts, which governs the import of foreign corn, and which, after examination by the Board of Trade, was on occasion of the Corn Bill left upon the same footing as in the former law : yet it is remarkable, that if a change had been made on the obvious principle of ascertaining the average price of each district in the same manner as in every distinct market, according to the quantity of corn sold in it, and the average of all the twelve districts, taken in the same manner, it is probable that 70 or 72 shillings would have given as much security to the landed interest, as the price of 80 shillings, which raised nearly all the hostility against the Corn Bill.-Upon the plainest principles, it seems grossly absurd, that the two counties of York and Lincoln should count but as one, whilst Cumberlandand Westmorland are equally reckoned as one : and the maritime counties of North Wales, where wheat is of no consequence, should count equally with Norfolk, so greatly abounding in grain ; and with the three counties of Essex, Kent, and Sussex, producing an hundred times the amount: the whole line of the Western Coast, offers only high prices; the Eastern, low ones ; the average therefore, as at present taken, gives a result utterly false : and had a right use of this circumstance been made, we might have heard neither of petitions nor of riots ; as it remains a question, even whether the old price of 63s. would not have been nearly as good as the new one of 80s.-If ever a new question should arise upon this subject for any other alteration in the law, it is to be hoped that this point will be thoroughly examined, and settled, before a single word is mentioned in Parliament.