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the food. In either case I must be a loser; I may choose between the food and the clothing, but, on one or the other, or on both, I must submit to a reduction. As it would be in the case of an individual, so must it be with a nation.-The nation must either submit to a short allowance of food, or it must increase its supply of food by parting with a portion of its manufactures. If there be no demand for our manufactures, we must relinquish a portion of that article for which there is a never-failing demand, gold and silver. The ultimate loss to the nation is the same in either case, for either the gold and silver does not return to us, or it returns to us in exchange for our manufactures. All this will be readily admitted; but the question still remains, "Why does a deficient harvest press almost exclusively on the commercial and manufacturing industry of the country? If I produce clothing and my neighbour produces corn, how comes it that a failure in his harvest injures me and my operatives, more than it does him and his labourers ?' In a nation of Communists it would not be so; the corn and the clothing would be thrown into a common stock, and each party would have his fair share. But as societies are constituted (and so long as the rights of property are maintained will continue to be constituted) the process is a very different one. Every producer is the absolute owner of the fruits of his own industry, and will sell his own produce at as high a price, and buy his neighbour's produce at as low a price, as he can. Now, in the case of a deficient harvest, the farmer will be enabled to obtain for his corn a price which will not only compensate him for the diminished quantity, but which will do much more than this ;-he will be a positive gainer by the badness of the season, whilst the manufacturer will be in a corresponding degree a loser. To make this clear, let us only consider the position of any individual consumer in the case of a supply of food, which we will suppose to be deficient by, one-half. Supposing the price to double, he will obtain for a given sum of money just half the usual quantity, and will have as much money as usual left to spend in clothing. But, in such a state of things, it is obvious that he will not hesitate to give up a portion of his usual supply of clothing in order to procure more food,—the more so that a certain supply of the latter is absolutely indispensable to the mere support of existence, which is not equally true of any other article of his consumption. Every consumer being in precisely the same situation in this respect, all desirous of abandoning part of their clothing in order to get more food, of sacrificing some of their comhores conna Onair onucrtane mic of their comforts in order to increase the necessaries of life, the price of food will be raised by increased competi
a tion to much more than double its usual price, whilst by diminished competition the price of clothing will be proportionably reduced. We have spoken of clothing merely in order to simplify the statement of the case ; and it is obvious that the same reasoning will apply, in a greater or less degree, to all other articles, which are less needful than food to the support of human life.
Mr. Tooke, in his work on High and Low Prices, in tracing the effect of this principle at different periods, on the respective conditions of the agricultural and manufacturing bodies, refers, amongst others, to the years from 1793 to 1796. He states the produce of wheat in England in the former of those years at about 8,000,000 quarters, and in each of the years 1795 and 1796 at about 7,000,000 quarters. Now the average price of wheat in 1793 was 488. 11d., in 1795, and 1796, it was 758. 8d. ; whereas if the price in the latter period had risen only in exact proportion to the diminished quantity, it would not have exceeded 56s. The difference between 56s. and 753. 8d., or 198. 8d. per quarter, amounting to a sum of nearly £7,000,000, represented the amount of benefit which the agricultural interest derived from the failure of the wheat crop in each of the years 1795 and 1796, to the detriment of the great body of consumers throughout the kingdom. The loss to the consumers was twofold. First, the quantity of wheaten bread actually eaten by them was diminished to the extent of one-eighth; and secondly, the smaller quantity cost them more by £7,000,000 than the larger quantity had done two years before; and it follows that, to the extent of £7,000,000, they must have economised in the consumption of clothing and other articles of comfort or luxury.
The effect of this state of things upon the manufacturer, in so far as he depends upon home consumption, is obvious enough. His profits must depend upon two things: 1st, upon the expenses of production; 2nd, upon the value of his returns. We have seen in what way the latter will be diminished; the former will be increased by a rise in the price of the food on which his workmen subsist. He will in fact be a loser at both ends. The expenses of his establishment will increase; the demand for manufactured goods will fall off; prices will be reduced ; production curtailed. The merchant, who supplies the raw material, will be a sufferer in a secondary degree ; for in proportion as the production of the manufacturer is lessened, will the demand for the raw material diminish and its price fall. So far as the expense of production is concerned, the farmer and the manufacturer will labour under a similar disadvantage, for the enhanced price of food will affect agricultural as well as manufacturing labour; but, in the case of the former, the greater expense of production will be much more than made up by the increased value of the produce; increased, as we have shown, in a degree, much more than sufficient to compensate for the diminished quantity. It is not our object to consider in this place, in what proportions the loss and privation arising from this state of things will fall on the labourer, and on the employer of labour. That portion of it which arises from a depreciation of the article produced, would seem to fall exclusively on the latter; both will probably be sufferers to some extent from the increased price of food; but those who are acquainted with our manufacturing districts are aware, that the pressure of an adverse state of trade is generally borne in the first instance, and for a considerable length of time, by the employer of labour, and that it is only when a losing trade has lasted long enough to produce extensive embarrassments and insolvency, that the burden is necessarily shifted to the shoulders of the working man.
If, when our harvests are deficient, we could at once make good the deficiency by procuring foreign corn in exchange for our manufactures, no doubt the injury would press less severely on commercial and manufacturing interests; but painful experience has too clearly proved that this cannot be done, and that an extraordinary import of corn must be paid for in the first instance by an export of Specie, which is attended with an additional evil peculiar to itself, that of producing a temporary disturbance of the Currency of the country.
To come to the second great cause of commercial distress, it seems clear that in 1847 the Railway mania has very seriously aggravated the evils arising from a deficient harvest. It has abstracted from the merchant and manufacturer a large portion of their accustomed resources, in order to bestow them on gigantic works, destined ultimately to be of great utility, but utterly unproductive until the period of their completion. A considerable increase has thus been created in the demand for food, at the very moment when the country was deprived of a large portion of its usual supply, and the high price arising from scarcity has been raised still higher by the competition of a new class of labourers. The manufacturer has had to contend simultaneously with two circumstances, distinct in their origin, but both tending to increase his outlay and to force down the value of his returns. Nor has it been possible for him, by any ingenuity or prudence, altogether to obviate the evil. He has had it, indeed, in his power to keep every particle of his own independent capital within his own grasp; but in this country, more, perhaps, than in any other, the usual operations of productive industry are not carried on wholly by the independent capital of traders, but in great part by the contributions of that numerous class who, technically called monied men, live upon the interest of their capital without superintending its employment. Over this large portion of the capital of the country the trader has of course no control. In times of quiet prosperity it is an unfailing resource to him; in times of speculative excitement, when an exaggerated spirit of enterprise prevails, it leaves him, slowly but surely. It is subject to the unfailing law of competition ; it passes to the highest bidder; and to the Railway Company, to whom the continuance or suspension of their works is a matter of life or death, scarcely any price is too high. The process by which, in the present instance, the capital of monied men has found its way into the great Railway channel, is a curious one; and if we were much in the habit of thinking over the causes of our disasters when they are past, we might greatly benefit by the useful lesson which it offers us. We are not to suppose that there has ever been a deliberate design on the part of capitalists, to throw suddenly together fifty or sixty millions of capital for the construction of Railways. No such idea ever entered the head of any sane man. Far the greater part of these monster schemes were entered into by an enormous aggregate of persons of every age, of every calling, of every rank in life, of every variety of pecuniary means, with one single object, that of putting a sum of money into their pockets by the sale of the shares at an advanced price. Of the whole body of original subscribers, some were from the beginning hopelessly unable to fulfil the engagements into which they were entering; others were in a position to do so only by ruinous sacrifices, and by the withdrawal of capital from their legitimate business. There was a third (probably the least numerous) class, who had sufficient means to perform what they undertook. The constantly increasing pressure upon the two first classes has of course gradually thrown the shares into the hands of the third, a large portion of whose capital has thus been withdrawn from the merchant and manufacturer, to whom, through the medium of Banks, it is in ordinary times advanced; and this transfer of the shares from the weak hands to the strong, has of course been taking place on terms more and more disadvantageous to the former. Thus, at the very moment when the independent resources of the merchant and manufacturer were crippled by an exorbitant price of food, and by some direct participation in the Railway projects, and they were compelled to push their credit to the utmost, the very foundation on which all credit rests, viz., the loanable Capital of monied men, was daily becoming narrower. Whether, taking a very wide view of the effect of the great Railway campaign of 1845—1847 upon the ultimate condition of the country, the result will be mischievous or beneficial, we are not prepared to say. That is one question. Its immediate effect on the trading community, and on the condition of a vast number of individual families in all classes of life, is another and a very different question, on which we should think there could not be two opinions. A great benefit may have been conferred upon our children; but assuredly, if so, it has been purchased at a very ruinous price by the present generation. If this be a correct view of the case, how, it may be asked, are works of great public utility, involving a large expenditure, and requiring several