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capital, and hence population, have never increased sufficiently to make food rise to a higher price. Such countries are Russia, Poland, and Hungary. In those regions the effective desire of accumulation is weak, the arts of production most imperfect, capital scanty, and its increase, especially from domestic sources, slow. When an increased demand arose for food to be exported to England, it would only be very gradually that food could be produced to meet
it. The capital needed could not be obtained by transfer * from other employments, for such do not exist. The cot
tons or hardware which would be received from England in exchange for corn, the Russians and Poles do not now produce in the country; they go without them. Something might in time be expected from the increased exertions to which producers would be stimulated by the market opened for their produce; but to such increase of exertion, the institutions of countries whose agricultural population consists of serfs, are the reverse of favorable, and even in this age of movement these institutions do not rapidly change. If a greater outlay of capital is relied on as the source from which the produce is to be increased, the means must either be obtained by the slow process of saving, under the impulse given by new commodities and more extended intercourse, (and in that case the population would most likely increase as fast,) or must be brought in from foreign countries. If England is to obtain a rapidly increasing supply of corn from Russia or Poland, English capital must go there to produce it. This, however, is attended with so many difficulties, as are equivalent to great positive disadvantages. It is opposed by difference of language, differences of manners, and a thousand obstacles arising from the institutions and social relations of the country; and after all, it would inevitably so stimulate population on the spot, that nearly all the increase of food produced by its means, would be consumed without leaving the country: so that if it were not the almost only mode of introducing foreign arts and ideas, and giving an effectual spur to the backward civilization of those countries, little reliance could be placed on it for increasing the exports, and supplying other countries with a progressive and indefinite increase of food. But to improve the civilization of a country is a slow process, and gives time for so great an increase of population both in the country itself, and in those supplied from it, that its effect in keeping down the price of food against the increase of demand, is not likely to be more decisive on the scale of all Europe, than on the smaller one of a particular nation.
The law, therefore, of diminishing return to industry, whenever population makes a more rapid progress than improvement, is not solely applicable to countries which are fed from their own soil, but in substance applies quite as much to those which are willing to draw their food from any accessible quarter that can afford it cheapest. If, indeed, the release of the corn trade from restriction had produced, or should still produce, a sudden cheapening of food, this, like any other sudden improvement in the arts of life, would throw the natural tendency of affairs a stage or two further back, but without at all altering its course, There would be more for everybody in the first instance ; but this more, would begin immediately and continue always to grow less, so long as population went on increasing, unaccompanied by other events of a countervailing tendency.
Whether the repeal of the corn laws is likely, even temporarily, to give any considerable increase of margin for population to fill up, it would be premature as yet to attempt to decide. All the elements of the question have been thrown into temporary disorder by the consequences of bad harvests and of the potato failure. But, as far as can be foreseen, there seems little reason to expect an
importation of the customary articles of food either so great in itself, or capable of such rapid increase, as to interfere much with the operation of the general law. One contingency indeed there is, connected with freedom of importation, which may produce temporary effects greater than were ever contemplated either by the bitterest enemies or the most ardent adherents of free-trade in food. Maize, or Indian corn, is a product capable of being supplied in quantity sufficient to feed the whole country, at a cost, allowing for difference of nutritive quality, cheaper even than the potato. If maize should ever substitute itself for wheat as the staple food of the poor, the productive power of labor in obtaining food would be so enormously increased, and the expense of maintaining a family so diminished, that it would require perhaps some generations for population, even if it started forward at an American pace, to overtake this great accession to the facilities of its support.
$ 4. Beside the importation of corn, there is another resource, which can be invoked by a nation whose increasing numbers press hard, not against their capital, but against the productive capacity of their land: I mean Emigration, especially in the form of Colonization. Of this remedy, the efficacy as far as it goes is real, since it consists in seeking elsewhere those unoccupied tracts of fertile land, which if they existed at home would enable the demand of an increasing population to be met without any falling off in the productiveness of labor. Accordingly, when the region to be colonized is near at hand, and the habits and tastes of the people sufficiently migratory, this remedy is completely effectual. The migration from the older parts of the American Confederation to the new territories, which is to all intents and purposes colonization, is what enables population to go on unchecked throughout the Union without having yet diminished the return to industry, or increased the difficulty of earning a subsistence. If Australia or the interior of Canada were as near to Great Britain as Wisconsin and Iowa to New York; if the superfluous people could remove to it without crossing the sea, and were of as adventurous and restless a character, and as little addicted to staying at home, as their kinsfolk of NewEngland, those unpeopled continents would render the same service to the United Kingdom which the old states of America derive from the new. But, these things being as they are—although a judiciously conducted emigration is a most important resource for suddenly lightening the pressure of population by a single effort—there is no probability that even under the most enlightened arrangements a permanent stream of emigration could be kept up, sufficient to take off, as in America, all that portion of the annual increase (when proceeding at its greatest rapidity) which being in excess of the progress made during the same short period in the arts of life, tends to render living more difficult for every averagely-situated individual in the community. And unless this can be done, emigration cannot even temporarily dispense with the necessity of checks to population. Further than this, we have not to speak of it in this place. The general subject of colonization as a practical question, its importance to this country, and the principles on which it should be conducted, will be touched incidentally in many passages of this work, and treated of in a chapter devoted to the purpose.