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European modes of cultivating. The land is tasked up to the point at which the greatest return is obtained in proportion to the labour employed, but no further: any additional labour is carried elsewhere. "It is long," says an intelligent traveller in the United States,* "before an English eye becomes reconciled to the lightness of the crops and the careless farming (as we should call it) which is apparent. One forgets that where land is so plentiful and labour so dear as it is here, a totally different principle must be pursued to that which prevails in populous countries, and that the consequence will of course be a want of tidiness, as it were, and finish, about everything which requires labour." Of the two causes mentioned, the plentifulness of land seems to me the true explanation, rather than the dearness of labour; for, however dear labour may be, when food is wanted, labour will always be applied to producing it in preference to anything else. But this labour is more effective for its end by being applied to fresh soil, than if it were employed in bringing the soil already occupied into higher cultivation. Only when no soil remains to be broken up but such as either from distance or inferior quality require a considerable rise of price to render their cultivation profitable, can it become advantageous to apply the high farming of Europe to any American lands; except, perhaps, in the immediate vicinity of towns, where saving in cost of carriage may compensate for great inferiority in the return from the soil itself. As American farming is [1848] to England, so is the ordinary English to that of Flanders, Tuscany, or the Terra di Lavoro; where by the application of a far greater quantity of labour there is obtained a considerably larger gross produce, but on such terms as would never be advantageous to a mere speculator for profit, unless made so by much higher prices of agricultural produce.

The principle which has now been stated must be received, no doubt, with certain explanations and limitations. Even after the land is so highly cultivated that the mere application of additional labour, or of an additional amount of ordinary dressing, would yield no return proportioned to the expense, it may still happen that the application of a much greater additional labour and capital to improving the soil itself, by draining or permanent manures, would be as liberally remunerated by the produce, as any portion of the labour and capital already employed. It would sometimes be much more amply remunerated. This could not be, if

* Letters from America, by John Robert Godley, vol. i. p. 42. See also Lyell's Travels in America, vol. ii. p. 83.

capital always sought and found the most advantageous employment; but if the most advantageous employment has to wait longest for its remuneration, it is only in a rather advanced stage of industrial development that the preference will be given to it; and even in that advanced stage, the laws or usages connected with property in land and the tenure of farms are often such as to prevent the disposable capital of the country from flowing freely into the channel of agricultural improvement: and hence the increased supply, required by increasing population, is sometimes raised at an augmenting cost by higher cultivation, when the means of producing it without increase of cost are known and accessible. There can be no doubt, that if capital were forthcoming to execute, within the next year, all known and recognised improvements in the lands of the United Kingdom which would pay at the existing prices, that is, which would increase the produce in as great or a greater ratio than the expense; the result would be such (especially if we include Ireland in the supposition) that inferior land would not for a long time require to be brought under tillage: probably a considerable part of the less productive lands now cultivated, which are not particularly favoured by situation, would go out of culture; or (as the improvements in question are not so much applicable to good land, but operate rather by converting bad land into good) the contraction of cultivation might principally take place by a less high dressing and less elaborate tilling of land generally; a falling back to something nearer the character of American farming; such only of the poor lands being altogether abandoned as were not found susceptible of improvement. And thus the aggregate produce of the whole cultivated land would bear a larger proportion than before to the labour expended on it; and the general law of diminishing return from land would have undergone, to that extent, a temporary supersession. No one, however, can suppose that even in these circumstances, the whole produce required for the country could be raised exclusively from the best lands, together with those possessing advantages of situation to place them on a par with the best. Much would undoubtedly continue to be produced under less advantageous conditions, and with the smaller proportional return, than that obtained from the best soils and situations. And in proportion as the further increase of population required a still greater addition to the supply, the general law would resume its course, and the further augmentation would be obtained at a more than proportionate expense of labour and capital

§ 3. l That the produce of land increases, cceteris paribus, in a diminishing ratio to the increase in the labour employed, is a truth more often ignored or disregarded than actually denied. It has, however, met with a direct impugner in the well-known American political economist, Mr. H. C. Carey, who maintains that the real law of agricultural industry is the very reverse; the produce increasing in a greater ratio than the labour, or in other words affording to labour a perpetually increasing return. To substantiate this assertion, he argues that cultivation does not begin with the better soils, and extend from them, as the demand increases, to the poorer, but begins with the poorer, and does not, till long after, extend itself to the more fertile. Settlers in a new country invariably commence on the high and thin lands; the rich but swampy soils of the river bottoms cannot at first be brought into cultivation, by reason of their unhealthiness, and of the great and prolonged labour required for clearing and draining them. As population and wealth increase, cultivation travels down the hill sides, clearing them as it goes, and the most fertile soils, those of the low grounds, are generally (even he says universally) the latest cultivated. These propositions, with the inferences which Mr. Carey draws from them, are set forth at much length in his latest and most elaborate treatise, Principles of Social Science; and he considers them as subverting the very foundation of what he calls the English political economy, with all its practical consequences, especially the doctrine of free trade.

As far as words go, Mr. Carey has a good case against several of the highest authorities in political economy, who certainly did enunciate in too universal a manner the law which they laid down, not remarking that it is not true of the first cultivation in a newly settled country. Where population is thin and capital scanty, land which requires a large outlay to render it fit for tillage must remain untilled; though such lands, when their time has come, often yield a greater produce than those earlier cultivated, not only absolutely, but proportionally to the labour employed, even if we include that which has been expended in originally fitting them for culture. But it is not pretended that the law of diminishing return was operative from the very beginning of society: and though some

1 [The account of Carey's argument, occupying this and the next two paragraphs, took the place in the 6th ed. (1865) of the brief paragraph referring, without mentioning any name, to the assertion that " the returns from land are greater in an advanced, than in an early, stage of cultivation—when papital, than when little, is applied to agriculture.]

political economists may have believed it to come into operation earlier than it does, it begins quite early enough to support the conclusions they founded on it. Mr. Carey will hardly assert that in any old country—in England or France, for example—the lands left waste are, or have for centuries been, more naturally fertile than those under tillage. Judging even by his own imperfect test, that of local situation—how imperfect T need not stop to point out—is it true that in England or France at the present day the uncultivated part of the soil consists of the plains and valleys, and the cultivated, of the hills? Every one knows, on the contrary, that it is the high lands and thin soils which are left to nature, and when the progress of population demands an increase of cultivation, the extension is from the plains to the hills. Once in a century, perhaps, a Bedford Level may be drained, or a Lake of Harlem pumped out: but these are slight and transient exceptions to the normal progress of things; and in old countries which are at all advanced in civilization, little of this sort remains to be done.*

Mr. Carey himself unconsciously bears the strongest testimony to the reality of the law he contends against: for one of the propositions most strenuously maintained by him is, that the raw products of the soil, in an advancing community, steadily tend to rise in price. Now, the most elementary truths of political economy show that this could not happen, unless the cost of production, measured in labour, of those products, tended to rise. If the application of additional labour to the land was, as a general rule, attended with an increase in the proportional return, the price of produce, instead of rising, must necessarily fall as society advances, unless the cost of production of gold and silver fell still more: a case so rare, that there are only two periods in all history when it is known to have taken place; the one, that which followed the opening of the Mexican and Peruvian mines; the other, that in which we now live. At all known periods, except these two, the cost of production of the precious metals has been either stationary or rising. If, therefore, it be true that the tendency of agricultural produce is to rise in money price as wealth and population increase, there needs no other evidence that the labour required for raising

* Ireland may be alleged as an exception; a large fraction of the entire soil of that country being still [1865] incapable of cultivation for want of drainage. But though Ireland is an old country, unfortunate social and political circumstances have kept it a poor and backward one. Neither is it at all certain that the bogs of Ireland, if drained and brought under tillage, would take their place 9>lp.ng with Mr. Carey's fertile river bottoms, or among any but the poorer soils, it from the soil tends to augment when a greater quantity is demanded.

I do not go so far as Mr. Carey: I do not assert that the cost of production, and consequently the price, of agricultural produce, always and necessarily rises as population increases. It tends to do so; but the tendency may be, and sometimes is, even during long periods, held in check. The effect does not depend on a single principle, but on two antagonizing principles. There is another agency, in habitual antagonism to the law of diminishing return from land; and to the consideration of this we shall now proceed. It is no other than the progress of civilization. I use this general and somewhat vague expression, because the things to be included are so various, that hardly any term of a more restricted signification would comprehend them all.

Of these, the most obvious is the progress of agricultural knowledge, skill, and invention. Improved processes of agriculture are of two kinds: some enable the land to yield a greater absolute produce, without an equivalent increase of labour; others have not the power of increasing the produce, but have that of diminishing the labour and expense by which it is obtained. Among the first are to be reckoned the disuse of fallows, by means of the rotation of crops; and the introduction of new articles of cultivation capable of entering advantageously into the rotation. The change made in British agriculture towards the close of the last century, by the introduction of turnip husbandry, is spoken of as amounting to a revolution. These improvements operate not only by enabling the land to produce a crop every year, instead of remaining idle one year in every two or three to renovate its powers, but also by direct increase of its productiveness; since the great addition made to the number of cattle, by the increase of their food, affords more abundant manure to fertilize the corn lands. Next in order comes the introduction of new articles of food, containing a greater amount of sustenance, like the potato, or more productive species or varieties of the same plant, such as the Swedish turnip. In the same class of improvements must be placed a better knowledge of the properties of manures, and of the most effectual modes of applying them; the introduction of new and more powerful fertilizing agents, such as guano, and the conversion to the same purpose of substances previously wasted; inventions like subsoil-ploughing or tile draining; improvements in the breed or feeding of labouring cattle; augmented stock of the animals which consume and convert

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