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dities. As the population of any country can never multiply beyond its command of the means of subsistence, is it not true likewise, that its command of the means of subsistence is dependent upon its population? that the more its population increases, the more of the means of subsistence it will, by necessity, command? that production, in short, no less depends upon man, than man depends upon consumption?

These two undecided questions, both difficult, both involving long and subtle inquities, our author has contemplated as standing in need of investigation and solution; he has betaken himself to the arduous task with much zeal, and with talents and knowledge considerably beyond me. diocrity. It has unfortunately proved, however, a task beyond his strength. Neither should he be discouraged with this sentence, harsh as, to an author, it may seem. They are questions which require the maturest acquaintance with political economy; and it was by no means possible that a learner, as Mr. Comber appears evidently to be, though a learner whom we would much more willingly stimulate than deter, should find his way unerringly through their intricate mazes. We strongly suspect, indeed, that he was not sufficiently aware of the separation of the two questions. His discussions relate to both; but the two are confounded together, and the observations which relate to the one are perpetually mixed with those which relate to the other.

The author has set out with a design which tended greatly to bewilder him. He proposed to give a historical account of the state of this country, in regard to the means of subsistence, from the earliest to the present times; and to mix the speculative discussions with the historical details; expecting, as it should seem, that they would throw light upon one another. But the consequence, as might have been easily foreseen, has been directly the reverse. As every question was undecided, and one doubtful proposition could only be brought to illustrate another, they have mutually shaded instead of illuminating each other; and the result is, confusion and obscurity. Had the speculative questions been first ascertained, a historical detail of the phenomena of provisions in this country, well illustrated at every step, by an application of the general principles, might have been in the highest degree useful, and might, better than almost any other scheme of persuasion, have succeeded in removing prejudices, and gaining converts to rational doctrines. But if the author expected, from a knowledge of the historical facts, to derive lights for the solution of the speculative questions, he must have proceeded upon a very erroneous idea of the

laws of philosophising. This would have been to proceed by the method of induction, a method so highly satisfactory in all subjects to which it is applicable. But in order to rise from particular facts to general laws, a multitude of instances must be observed and scrutinized. In this case, however, the train of facts in regard to one nation is, properly speaking, but a single instance; and affords, by no means, a sufficient foundation on which to build inductive conclusions so extremely general and comprehensive.

The author shortly states his object in the beginning of his preface.

The change of system, by which additional limitations were imposed on the importation of grain, after the late scarcities, in 1804; and the comparatively trifling effect which the almost total interruption that subsequently took place in our foreign supplies, produced, with respect to the sufficiency of bread corn, induced some doubts of the solidity of those reasonings which from the preceding scarcities, inferred an increas ing dependence on other countries for a considerable portion of our national subsistence.

The imperfect solution of these doubts, which the works of theoretical writers afforded, led the author to search for the principle by which. the production of food proportions itself to the population, in an examination of the actual progress of the country itself. This subject is indeed incidentally touched upon by every writer on political economy; but the author is not aware, that a distinct view of the progress of this increase, combined with an analysis of the causes which have retarded or accelerated it, has yet been presented to the public.

In the opinion of some, perhaps, this basis may not be sufficiently broad for the establishment of general principles; but the coincidences which present themselves in the state of society, in those countries where the agricultural system, under different modifications, at present exists, confirm the results which flow from our historical review.

If this detail should be considered by some too diffuse and ge neral, he must observe, that the connexion, though not always immediate, will, it is hoped, generally be found necessary; and he even flatters himself, that the sketch here presented, however imperfect, may not be totally without interest, as exhibiting the principal features of our commercial progress; and may, probably, leave a more distinct impression on the mind, than those collections of mere chronological facts and documents, which form almost the only histories of the earlier periods of British commerce.'

Another passage occurs, in the introduction, where a condensed view is exhibited of the whole of the author's doctrines. As this affords, not only an outline of the inquiry, but a more accurate display of that particular point of view under which the author contemplated his subject, than any description which any other writer could give, nothing can be so instructive as the inspection of the passage itself.

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The subsistence of a nation, on which the extent of her population depends, arises from the same causes which promote her general prosperity, The opinions of those writers who would found it on that industry alone which is employed in the cultivation of the soil, have already been exploded in theory by Dr. Smith; but the same doctrines have been revived by Mr. Malthus, in his Essay on Population, who, arguing on those exploded principles, has inferred that the commercial population of a country, not only may exceed that just proportion to the agricultural, which is essential to the strength of a nation and the stability of her wealth, but that both the one and the other are in this country actually threatened from this cause at present.

The only satisfactory mode of examining the truth of these doctrines is, by entering into an analysis of the circumstances, which have actually attended the progress of the country in wealth, population, and agriculture, by which alone we can discover the connexion which exists between the causes, through the agency of which these effects have been produced.

Under the appropriation of land, which appears even to have preceded agriculture itself, the soil, in the earliest periods, was cultivated rather to gratify the ambition, or the luxury of a few, than to promote the general happiness of the many; and this state of luxury and poverty, with the accompanying circumstances of war, desolation, and famine, characterized the purely agricultural state of society, in this, and in all the rest of Europe.

In proportion as property became divided, industry increased; and that demand which was accompanied by an ability to afford an equivalent, stimulated to an increased production of the articles of subsistence. But the laws which were repeatedly enacted to force an increased production of the means of subsistence in the absence of such an effectual demand, demonstrate, by the evidence which they themselves bear of the starving state of the people, during an unexampled continuance of moderate prices, the utter inefficacy of mere agricultural population, to occasion an adequate production of the means of subsistence.

But when, by the distribution of property and the increase of mercantile capital, the skill and industry of the people in producing articles of convenience, and use were gradually excited, the equivalent they were thus enabled to afford, stimulated to the increased production of subsistence and the produce of agriculture was increased during a time that the commercial population was increasing beyond the proportion of those employed in agriculture.

It is highly probable that this disproportion has been increasing to the present day, but it is very demonstrable that the produce of agriculture has been augmented in a still greater proportion. If other proofs were wanting, the increased consumption of every class would of itself be decisiye. The scarcities of grain, however, and the large importations which have been found necessary, in consequence, have given some coun tenance to the opinion of a population increasing beyond the means of subsistence. But it must be obvious that this arose in a great measure from failures of our crop. We shall find these casualties to have occurred very frequently in every period of our history. Whether this fickleness of our climate arises from our insular situation, northern latitude, or both; or from the comparatively limited extent of territory, which gives a more extensive

operation to the causes of unfavourable seasons, it will be found to have been a very powerful and general cause of scarcity and high prices of grain in this country. In the earlier periods of our history, these scarcities frequently produced absolute famine, with the concomitants of disease and pestilence. In modern times they no longer exhibit these dreadful features, but they produce very serious derangements in the order of society. Their immediate effects in enhancing the expences, or retrenching the comforts of individuals, during their actual continuance, are the least of the evils they produce in a manufac turing and commercial nation. Grain, though an object of minor importance to the higher and middling orders, forms a very important part of the subsistence of the lower. Any sudden and considerable enhancement of price, adds greatly to the number of those who are supported by the community. Extensive importations of grain too, under the enhancement of price which always attends scarcities, not only occasions a loss to the nation, but affects the balance of trade, and the value of our money in our exchanges with other countries. The competition too, which the sudden demand creates, both in the employment of ships and capital, enhances still farther the price of all our imports. The small proportion which these importations, after all, bore to the increase in the agricultural produce of the kingdom, forbids our referring them to any inadequacy in the country to support her present population, and the experience of the two last years demonstrates the general sufficiency of our agricultural produce. But the necessity of those importations is to be attributed, in addition to the failure of our crops, to the tendency of the legislative regulations to discourage the formation of stocks in the country. Such has been the legislative interference from the earliest periods of our history; and there seems little reason to doubt that the jealousy with which the government regarded the intervention of the dealer be tween the grower and consumer of grain, by occasioning the produce of each harvest to be consumed within the year, contributed greatly to the fluctuations of price and the scarcities which in the early periods were of such frequent occurrence.' pp. 10-14.

As the bounty on exportation was in reality itself a bonus to the land-owner, the subsequent regulations were calculated to secure to him the supply of the home market. Though it was pretended that such encouragements were necessary to secure an adequate growth of grain in the country, and to prevent our becoming dependant on foreign countries for supplies, yet we have never been informed how the foreign competition should in any case prevent the lands of the country from being cultivated. Such competition would indeed have reduced the prices of grain, and consequently the profits of the farmer and the rent of the landlord, but the lands would still have been cultivated, though they might indeed have been worse cultivated, and have produced less. But a nearer examination suggests another reason for preventing the concurrence of the foreign grower, namely, the competition in the employment of land for the purposes of grazing, arising from the increased, opulence of the labouring orders; and which, under the disadvantages to which the cultivation of grain is subject, would endanger the supplanting of tillage altogether, if the admission of foreign grain into our mar◄ kets were perfectly free.

The regulations, however, made with a view to protect the English grower, though they have occasioned an enhancement of the prices of

grain, have been inadequate to the total exclusion of the foreigner; and in their tendency to discourage the formation of stocks, which are the most natural remedy against the inequality of seasons, have aggravated the disadvantages under which foreign importations have been made.

In the successive enhancement too of the import rate, it may be greatly questioned, whether the interest of the land-owner has not been more consulted than the security of the country. It is at least certain that there are bounds in a manufacturing, and commercial nation, to the enhancement of the price of articles of subsistence, beyond which a further rise might prove dangerous to the competition of our industry in foreign markets. That our arrival at this point has been protracted by the improvements in our national industry, the increase of our capital, and the peculiar circumstances of the moment, cannot be doubted; but it is evi. dent the interests of the other members of the community are incompatible with an indefinite rise in the rent of land, to be supported by the progressive enhancement of the import rate.

That difference which at present exists between our prices and those of the corn growing countries, and the manner in which, by the present regulations, our ports open to importation; as it effectually prevents the holding of considerable stocks of English wheat from one harvest to another, is one great cause of the fluctuations of our prices; and combined with the disproportion which exists between our consumption and the neral stocks in those countries, has occasioned those enormous enhancements of price which we have lately witnessed.


When the consumption of a country greatly exceeds the general produce of the neighbouring countries of exportation; it is from her own produce alone that a stock can be formed, at all adequate to her probable wants on the failure of her own growth. The surplus of the whole world would afford small relief to such a population as that of China.

It is therefore the obstacles, which, in our present system, oppose themselves to the forming of stocks, and not the inadequacy of our growth, which form the principal difficulties of our present situation. The author has attempted to point out those obstacles, and has ventured to suggest some means of removing them. pp. 16.-19.

In pursuing his inquiry, the author begins at a period sufficiently remote, that of our Saxon ancestors; the effects of whose pastoral and martial character, upon the state of subsistence in the nation, are traced downwards to the era of the Norman conquest. The succeeding period differed from that of the Saxons, in many respects; but as far as regarded the means of subsistence, the change was not material. By the establishment however of the feudal system, and by the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, effects of considerable importance were produced, which the author is at pains to ascertain.

Thus far the inquiry is extremely vague and general. The author concludes, with sufficient probability, or rather certainty, from the wretched state of society and government, that industry was all this time at a low ebb in the country; and

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