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If Mrs. H. More had always written thus, we should have been evabled to have bestowed upon these volumes, what we could always wish to bestow upon every effort of our authoress, unqualified approbation. Mrs. More is a lady of excellent abilities. We would that she had not too frequently been be.' trayed into theological controversy much beyond her depth, and that the piety which pervades her writings were divested of the dialect of religious party, in which it is, in too many instances expressed, as then, her numerous volumes, like those of her fellowe, labourer in the cause of Christianity, the late excellent Mrs. Trinumer, would have been productive of unmixed good.
Art.IX. An Enquiry into the Causes of the high Prices of Corn
and Labour, the Depressions of our Foreign Exchanges and high Prices of Bullion, during the late War; and Cone siderations of the Measures to be adopted for relieving our Farming Interest, from the unprecedented Difficulties to which they are now reduced, in Consequence of the great Fall in the Price of their Produce since the Peace : with Tables, Remarks, &c. &c. By Robert Wilson, Esq. Constable and
Co., Edinburgh ; Longman, and Co., London. 1815. : WE have some recollection of a pamphlet published by the same author during the rage of discussion which followed the apo pointment of the bullion committee; and the good sense which he then displayed in combating the arguments of certain Lords and Gentlemen, is again employed on a subject, in relation to which political wisdom seems to have arrived at no clearer views From a variety of well established facts, Mr. Wilson accounts satisfactorily for the rise which took place in the price of corn and labour, subsequent to the year 1763, upon the ground, not of a diminution in the quantity of grain produced in the country, but of a vastly enlarged consumption, occasioned by theflourishing state of our manufactures, and, more recently, by large establishments naval and military. The extensive outlays of government, by rendering money more plentiful, necessarily lowered its nominal or relative value all over the kingdom ; and when to this is added the obvious consideration that all classes of people were, owing to the improved state of commerce, enabled to live better than formerly, that the public exigencies continued to deinand larger and larger sums in the shape of taxes, which were again circulated rapidly among almost every order of men, it must be easily understood why the prices of food and labour should have got up. The return of peace, however, and the
temporary stagnation of trade which usually attends the change either from war to peace or from peace to war, have occasioned a great depression in the value of agricultural produce; and our author is even of opinion that the special causes which since 1793 háve maintained prices on so high a scale, are now completely done away, and that means should accordingly be used to place the farming interest in nearly the same situation, in point of rent and other charges, that subsisted prior to that date. With this view he urges landlords to lower their rents to the scale of 1793, insisting that the farmers, at present, are not able to spare quite so large a proportion of their gross produce, in the name of rent, as they could at the period in question. He deprecates particularly the loss of agricultural capital which must ensue, if the land-proprietors shall refuse the indulgence here recommended, and points at the hazard that their farms will be thrown upon their hands in an exhausted state, without the prospect of getting them as well let as they are at present.
If things were certainly to continue a considerable length of time at the scale of prices which is now established, the relief proposed by Mr. Wilson would not be inore than commensurate with the necessities of the farmer ; but we cannot imagine that wheat will long continue at fifty shillings a quarter, or the loaf at tenpence, Trade will very soon revive; our manufactures will again restore the wonted circulation of wealth in town and country, and the demand for land-produce of all kinds will ere long secure to the farmer a fair return for his labour and capital. The level at which things will permanently settle is considerably higher than that to which they have been sunk by the reaction consequent upon an unnatural and strained exertion of our means in the late war; on which account a temporary arrangement be. tween the landlord and tenant seems more advisable than a decided and ultimate engagement upon quite a new basis.
The portion of his pamphlet which we admire the most, is. that wherein Mr. Wilson recapitulates his arguments on the bullion question; and the facts which he brings forward to prove that the rise and fall of that article is regulated by the balance of our foreign exchanges, and has no connection whatever with the issue of Bauk paper, seems to us to set the discussion completely to rest. It cannot be necessary to explain to the youngest student in commercial policy, that if one country uses more of the commodities produced by another country, than it pays for, by sending commodities in return, the balance must be settled in money; and if this difference be considerable, it will follow that bills payable in the country enjoying the favourable balance, will bring a premium in the country where the balance is unfa. vourable. If the London merchant has more money to remit to
Hamburgh Hamburgh than the Hamburgh merchant has to remit to Lous don, bills upon Hanburgh will bring a premum in London in proportion to the difference which the former merchant has to make up; and this premium on some occasions has amounted to 25 or 26 per cent. Rather, however, than purchase bills at such an exorbitant rate, the London merchant will endeavour to send bullion; and, of course, the demand for that commodity, and its price in the market will rise or fall, exactly to the extent that the balance of trade is unfavourable. Circumstances of a particular nature, such as the necessity of keeping up a large military establishment on the Continent, or of importing in the time of dearth an unusually great quantity of corn, will, it is 'clear, increase the amount of payments to be made abroad, and of consequence the unfavourable balance of trade; and it is entirely to circumstances of this description, that we have to ascribe the unprecedented rise of gold and silver in the London market. But, instead of entering into any discussion upon a sub. ject where our first-rate talkers erred so egregiously, we shall extract a passage from the pamphlet now before us, where the doctrine is establisked by the experience of 35 years. Some
" During the years 1780, 1781, and 1782, we were not only in an active state of war with America, and with France, Spain, and Holland, but a combination against our maritime rights, to the exclusion of our commerce, had been set on foot by the Northern Powers; and a year of famine occurring in 1782, it is reasonably to be supposed that our exchange with the continent must have undergone a depression. It accordingly turned against us in October 1780, and continued uniformly under the par until October 1784. In 1781, the average depression of the exchange, which must save arisen wholly from the interruption of our trade, was from July that year to January 1782, 6.75 per cent. nearly. In 1782, the average was 5.75, and in 1783, about 6.75, having in July that year reached 8.13 per cent. Here the greatest average depression was for the year 1783, as might have been expected from the great importations rendered necessary by the failure of the preceding crop. The price of Bullion it is evident could not be materially affected by those depressions of the exchange, and accordingly it will be found that all the rise on the price of gold was sixpence the punce, from 81. 17s. 6d. to 31. 185. In the middle of 1784, when the exchange became favourable, it returned first to 31. 178. 101d. the mint price, and in July 1785, to its former price of 31. 178. 6d. From October 1785, to July 1795, the exchange continued uniformly in our favour, and in April 1793, the prensium was as high as 11.29 per cent. It fell in the summer 1795, and continued to do so in the winter 1795-6, by reason no doubt of the war expences and the deficiency of crop of 1795, by which an unprecedented importation of corn · was rendered necessary as already adverted to, "On this occasion,
what with the unfavourable exchange and the demands of govern. ment for foreign expenditure, the price of Bullion rose from 31. 17s 6d. the price at which it had ever stood from July 1785, to H. 8s. if not still higher. But on the restoration of the exchange in October 1796, it again fell to its former price of 31. 17s. 6d. at which it continued until October 1799, when both the exchange and the price of Bullion were affected by the great deficiency of that year's crop, joined to the still continued necessity of public remit. tances to the continent før'the expences of the war. In October 1799, the exchange suddenly fell from 21 per cent. in our favour in July preceding, to about 6 70 per cent. against us, and it continued fluctuating in the period from January 1800 to January 1802, from 4.2.6 per cent. against us. In January 1801, it stood so low as nearly 13 per cent. In April 1802, the depression was still 3 per cent. and the par was not completely restored till October 1803. In this period the price of Bullion rose from 31. 178. 9d. to 4l. 6s. if not more, with intermediate fluctuations until January 1804, when the exchange being restored, it settled at 41. which has ever since, probably from the increased expence of importation, and the exhausted state of the country of these metals, been considered the lowest price at which it can be sold. · From January 1804 to July 1808, the exchange continued with few exceptions in our favour, Auctuating from 1 to 41 per cent. of premium. The price of gold Bullion continuing during all this period steady at 4l. the ounce. But in consequence of our great continental expenditure in 1808, and succeeding years, by the establishment of our armies in Portugal and Spain, the large importation of corn, which, as well from circumstances connected with the war as from partial deficiencies in our own crops, bocame necessary; and still more perhaps by the measures pursued by Buonaparte and our measures of retaliation in the Orders of Council then issued, by which the neutral trade was almost put a stop to, and finally our disputes with the United States, a depression on our foreign exchange took place to an unprecedented extent ; which nothing but the extraordinary combination of these causes could have produced. In October 1808, the exchange with Hamburgh had fallen from 3.72 of premium in July preceding, 3.78 of depression. In January 1809, this was augmented to 8.86, in April to 9.58, and in July to 16.2, and it afterwards fluctuated from 9.58 to 16.15 per cent. until January 1811, when the depression was equal to 2270 per cent. against this country, the consequence of which must have been to add so much per cent. to the whole of our continental expenditure, and to the price of all the corn imported. The rise in the price of Bullion in the mean time kept its usual pace with the fall on the exchange, and in the course of the years 1809 and 1810 rose from 4. to 4l. 13s, and upwards, equal to 164 per cent, above its usual price. . .“ Owing to the still encreasing expence of the continental war, the exchange continued to fall and the price of bullion to rise after
January VOL. V. JANUARY, 1816.