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and uniform, and the evil, though possible in itself, yet always subject to certain and effectual restraints.
This is the true state of the bounty upon corn : it certainly and necessarily increases our crops, and can never lessen them but by our own permission.
That, notwithstanding the bounty, there have been, from time to time, years of scarcity, cannot be denied. But who can regulate the seasons? In the dearest years we owe to the bounty that they have not been dearer. We must always suppose part of our ground sown for our own consumption, and part in hope of a foreign sale. The time sometimes comes, when the product of all this land is scarcely sufficient: but if the whole be too little, how great would have been the deficiency, if we had sown only that part which was designed for ourselves !
But, perhaps, if exportation were less encouraged, the superfluous stores of plentiful years might be laid up by the farmer against years of scarcity.”
This may be justly answered by affirming, that, if exportation were discouraged, we should have no' years of plenty. Cheapness is produced by the possibility of dear
Our farmers, at present, plough and sow with the hope that some country will always be in want, and that they shall grow rich by supplying. Indefinite hopes are always carried by the frailty of human nature beyond reason. While, therefore, exportation is encouraged, as much corn will be raised as the farmer can hope to sell, and, therefore, generally more than can be sold at the price of which he dreamed, when he ploughed and sowed.
The greatest part of our corn is well known to be raised hy those, who pay rent for the ground which they employ, and of whom, few can bear to delay the sale of one year's produce to another.
It is, therefore, vain to hope that large stocks of grain 'will ever remain in private hands: he that has not sold the corn of last year, will, with diffidence and reluctance, till his field again; the accumulation of a few years would end in
a vacation of agriculture, and the husbandman would apply himself to some more profitable calling.
If the exportation of corn were totally prohibited, the quantity, possible to be consumed among us, would be quickly known, and, being known, would rarely be exceeded; for why should corn be gathered which cannot be sold ? We should, therefore, have little superfluity in the most favourable seasons; for the farmer, like the rest of mankind, acts in hope of success, and the harvest seldom outgoes the expectation of the spring. But for droughts or blights, we should never be provided : any intemperature of seasons would reduce us to distress, which we now only read of in our histories; what is now scareity would then be famine.
What would be caused by prohibiting exportation, will be caused, in a less degree, by obstructing it, and, in some degree, by every deduction of encouragement; as we lessen hope, we shall lessen labour; as we lessen labour, we shall lessen plenty.
It must always be steadily remembered, that the good of the bounty is certain, and evil avoidable; that by the hope of exportation corn will be increased, and that this increase may be kept at home.
Plenty can only be produced by encouraging agriculture; and agriculture can be encouraged only by making it gainful. No influence can dispose the farmer to sow what he cannot sell; and, if he is not to have the chance of scarcity in his favour, he will take care that there never shall be plenty
The truth of these principles our ancestors discovered by reason, and the French have now found it by experience. In this regulation we have the honour of being masters to those, who, in commercial policy, have been long accounted the masters of the world. Their prejudices, their emulation, and their vanity, have, at last, sub.mitted to learn of us how to ensure the bounties of nature; and it forms a strange vicissitude of opinions, that should incline us to repeal the law which our rivals are adopting.
It may be speciously enough proposed, that the bounty should be discontinued sooner. Of this every man will have his own opinion; which, as no general principles can reach it, will always seem to him more reasonable than that of another. This is a question of which the state is always changing with time and place, and which it is, therefore, very difficult to state or to discuss.
It may, however, be considered, that the change of old establishments is always an evil; and that, therefore, where the good of the change is not certain and constant, it is better to preserve that reverence and that confidence, which is produced by consistency of conduct and permapency of laws:
That, since the bounty was so fixed, the price of money has been much diminished; so that the bounty does not operate so far as when it was first fixed, but the price at which it ceases, though nominally the same, has, in effect and in reality, gradually diminished.
It is difficult to discover any reason why that bounty, which has produced so much good, and has hitherto produced no harm, should be withdrawn or abated. It is possible, that if it were reduced lower, it would still be the motive of agriculture, and the cause of plenty; but why we should desert experience for conjecture, and exchange a known for a possible good, will not easily be discovered. If, by a balance of probabilities, in which a grain of dust may turn the scale-or, by a curious scheme of calculation, in which, if one postulate in a thousand be erroneous, the deduction which promises plenty may end in famine;-if, by a specious mode of uncertain ratiocination, the critical point at which the bounty should stop, might seem to be discovered, I shall still continue to believe that it is more safe to trust what we have already tried; and cannot but think bread a product of too much importance to be made the sport of subtilty, and the topick of hypothetical disputation.
The advantage of the bounty is evident and irrefragable. Since the bounty was given, multitudes eat wheat who did
not eat it before, and yet the price of wheat has abated. What more is to be hoped from any change of practice ? An alteration cannot make our condition better, and is, therefore, very likely to make it worsey.
y This little essay on the Corn Laws was written by Dr. Johnson, which is in the very best style of that great master of reason, so early as the year 1766 ; and at a period when subjects of this kind were but imperfectly understood, even by those who had devoted themselves to their study. It is truly admirable to see with what vigorous alacrity his powerful mind could apply itself to an investigation so foreign from his habitual occupations. We do not know that a more sound, enlightened argument, in favour of the bounty on exportation, could be collected from all that has since been published on the subject; and, convinced as we are of the radical insufficiency of that argument, it is impossible not to be delighted with the clearness and force of the statement. There are few of his smaller productions that show the great range of Johnson's capacity in a more striking light.–Edin. Review, October, 1809. p. 175.-ED.
WITH A PROPOSAL FOR MAKING THE OFFICE OF LICENSER MORE EXTENSIVE
BY AN IMPARTIAL HAND. ?
It is generally agreed by the writers of all parties, that few crimes are equal, in their degree of guilt, to that of calumniating a good and gentle, or defending a wicked and oppressive administration,
It is, therefore, with the utmost satisfaction of mind, that I reflect how often I have employed my pen in vindication of the present ministry, and their dependants and adherents; how often I have detected the specious fallacies of the advocates for independence; how often I have softened the obstinacy of patriotism; and how often triumphed over the clamour of opposition.
I have, indeed, observed but one set of men, upon whom all my arguments have been thrown away; whom neither flattery can draw to compliance, nor threats reduce to submission; and who have, notwithstanding all expedients that either invention or experience could suggest,
? This admirable piece of irony was first printed in the year 1739. A comparison of its sarcastic strokes with the serious arguments of lord Chesterfield's speech in the house of lords against the bill for licensing the stage, will be both amusing and instructive.-Ep.