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ral, "except in particular districts,” to use the expression of the committee; but it is a melancholy fact, over which the philanthropy of Mr. Wilberforce might weep for hours, were it not exclusively monopolized by a different colour and different quarter of the globe-it is a melancholy fact, that all through this country there is an over proportion of poverty and distress, which, among a hardworking, economical people like the English, can only arise from a bad system, or at least a system of government badly administered. As to the fact, " that the landlords have been induced to lower their rents in many instances,” the instances are as one to a thousand. The newspapers here careful. ly announce every case of this description, and they are not on an average three a day. The habits of extravagance and luxury, indulged in so generally by the rich of this country, will prevent them from voluntarily relinquishing a portion of their incomes, except the alternative of all or nothing should present itself.
The committee then proceed to instance the years 1804 and 1814, when the same pressure was felt by the agricultural interests, and when the gloomy forebodings of the farmers were “dissipated by the natural course of seasons and events." They then comfort the starving tenantry with some excellent reasonings concerning " action and reaction;" cause and effect;"
:) " the distribution of capital;"?..“ diminished value of currency;" “the extensive investments of capital in land;" “ the coffers of the bank having been replenished by withdrawing coin from circulation;" “the high state of foreign exchange;" “the present price of silver :" in short, they hum over the self-same singsong of political economy, which has so often and so successfully been employed in putting the people to sleep in the midst of their sufferings.
The committee then proceed to state the cause' of the present distresses of agriculture, which, aceording to them, is nothing more than an abundant harvest! What must be the situation of a country, when its miseries arise from plenty, which is the case with England, if this assumption be true ? And what must be the state of human intellect here, to believe in such a singular proposition, if it be not true? What a perversion of natural cause and effect must have taken place, before such an apparently preposterous proposition as this can acquire any basis of truth? A few years ago, the scarcity of bread-stuffs was adduced as the principal cause of the distresses of the manufacturers; now it is the superabundance of these that produces the distresses of the agriculturists. What a happy pass the cobblers and tinkers have brought this nation to, when neither scarcity nor plenty is a national blessing! I recollect a story of a man, who complained to Mahomet, that he had so much grain he could not sell it. The next year he had none, and complained still more. Whereupon Mahomet gave his farm to a poor basket-maker, who, though he had not half enough to eat, thanked Allah twelve times a day.
But absurd as it may appear, the proposition of the committee, with regard to the plenty of corn being the immediate cause of the agricultural depression is true, and it furnishes a practical illustration of the excellence of this government, as well as the wisdom of its legislators. But in order to understand this paradox, we must run over some of the preceding links of this chain of causes and effects. The price of grain at home bears no proportion, when the harvest is abundant, to the amount of poor-rates, tithes, and taxes; and even if there were a market abroad, the farmers are not permitted to export it. But if the poor-rates, rents, títhes, and taxes, were apportioned to the price of grain, would not this superabundance of the bounties of heaven be a blessing instead of a curse? Certainly—but then the reduction of rents would not suit messieurs the landlords—the reduction of poor-rates would not suit messieurs the paupers--the reduction of tithes would not suit mes. sieurs the right reverend bishops and clergyand the reduction of taxes would by no means suit my lord the king, the ministers, pensioners, placemen, and above all, messieurs the fund-holders, who perhaps might not get their interest regularly, unless the sinking fund bestiritself handsomely to make up
all deficiencies. You see plainly, therefore, my dear brother, that so long as there is any unexhausted nonsense in the vocabulary of political economy; any sophistry, juggling, deception, or coercion, that will quiet the wretched tenantry and manufacturers, there is no hope for them, since plenty ruins the one, and scarcity the other. The people must again, and still more severely, tax those powers of endurance, which have enabled them to bear what no other nation ever did before. Patience and the sinking fund are, therefore, highly recommended by the committee, as sovereign remedies for all incurable cases of this kind, this superabundance of the last year's harvest, this unlucky and highly inconvenient plenty of the good things of this life. The public debt is accumulating every year, and every year there is a necessity for borrowing more money than the sinking fund redeems; the taxes are every year falling more heavily on the remaining tenantry, in consequence of a vast many of these becoming paupers, or giving up their leases; the poor-rates are also annually becoming more oppressive from the same cause the resources of the country are decreasing in its regular and profitable trade and agriculture and yet the people of England are bidden to hope, that the sinking fund, and a certain " re-action,"
on which the committee strongly rely, will rex store in no long time their ancient prosperity, Well may the committee recommend patience.
That you may the better understand the actual and fundamental causes of this depression in the agricultural interest, and be satisfied that poor rates, tithes, taxes, and rents, and not a
superabundant harvest,” are at the root of the evil, I will state to you some facts, which I neglected in the proper place. They will, however, come in well enough here, especially as they are entirely corroborated by testimony delivered to this very committee by agriculturists from different parts of the kingdom. In one of the counties, I was assured, that all agricultural produce had, within a given period, suffered a depression averaging thirty-five per cent. while the poor rates in the same period had advanced seventy-five, and the taxes about seventy per cent. rates, in other counties, in many cases, amount to an assessment of from twelve to fifteen or sixteen shillings an acre per annum. In another place I was told by farmers, hard at work even in the midst of this hopeless state of things, that their actual losses upon the last year's crop amounted to as much as their whole rental. In other places, such is the depression of the tenantry, that they have not been able to pay a shilling of rent from one to two years past, and the landlords have permitted them to remain, because no others would occupy them, even on condition of paying tithes, taxes, and poor rates, and living rent free. In other places, warrants of distress for rent have been issued to four times the number ever known before, in the same period of time; and the shopkeepers have gone so far in some cases, as to enter into combinations not to trust the farmers, from a conviction of their total inability to pay. When I asked these unfortunate people, what pos
sible modification of things would relieve thenig the answer invariably was, "relief from tithes and tares." All agreed, that it would be impossible to go much longer, unless these were reduced at least one-third. This is impracticable without a reduction of the expenditures of the government, and the interest of the national debt. As to tithes, the clergy might possibly be brought to relinquish these, under a discipline similar to that king John exercised upon the rich jew. Every way, therefore, it seems to me, that any salutary, permanent change in the situation of the English tenantry is hopeless, from any voluntary reduction of their burthens either by the government or the church. They must either be content to accept from the rich that charity which is exercised at the expense of their own labours; or emigrate; or boldly demand, that they be permitted to share in the blessings of that government, for the support of which they pay so dearly.
One thing, however, I cannot but commend in this shuffling and insidious "Report,” which substitutes effects for causes, and shrinks from approaching the real sources of this polluted stream. It fairly acknowledges, " that the principles of free trade are now almost universally felt to be entirely consonant to liberality as well as policy, and that a departure from the old system of monopoly and bounty is called for as far as it be practicable." I am in good hopes that this tardy acknowledg.nent will operate to check the rising disposition of our republican government, to pamper one interest at the cost of another. You may assure our friend, the member from ******, that the fashion is just going out here, and that the English government would give lord Londonderry's head, lord Sidmouth's ears, and Mr. Vansittart's political economy, to be on the same footing in these matters with ourselves.