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Considerations On The Corn Laws
by [?]

“But, perhaps, if exportation were less encouraged, the superfluous stores of plentiful years might be laid up by the farmer against years of scarcity.”

This may be justly answered by affirming, that, if exportation were discouraged, we should have no years of plenty. Cheapness is produced by the possibility of dearness. Our farmers, at present, plough and sow with the hope that some country will always be in want, and that they shall grow rich by supplying. Indefinite hopes are always carried by the frailty of human nature beyond reason. While, therefore, exportation is encouraged, as much corn will be raised as the farmer can hope to sell, and, therefore, generally more than can be sold at the price of which he dreamed, when he ploughed and sowed.

The greatest part of our corn is well known to be raised by those, who pay rent for the ground which they employ, and of whom, few can bear to delay the sale of one year’s produce to another.

It is, therefore, vain to hope that large stocks of grain will ever remain in private hands: he that has not sold the corn of last year, will, with diffidence and reluctance, till his field again; the accumulation of a few years would end in a vacation of agriculture, and the husbandman would apply himself to some more profitable calling.

If the exportation of corn were totally prohibited, the quantity, possible to be consumed among us, would be quickly known, and, being known, would rarely be exceeded; for why should corn be gathered which cannot be sold? We should, therefore, have little superfluity in the most favourable seasons; for the farmer, like the rest of mankind, acts in hope of success, and the harvest seldom outgoes the expectation of the spring. But for droughts or blights, we should never be provided: any intemperature of seasons would reduce us to distress, which we now only read of in our histories; what is now scarcity would then be famine.

What would be caused by prohibiting exportation, will be caused, in a less degree, by obstructing it, and, in some degree, by every deduction of encouragement; as we lessen hope, we shall lessen labour; as we lessen labour, we shall lessen plenty.

It must always be steadily remembered, that the good of the bounty is certain, and evil avoidable; that by the hope of exportation corn will be increased, and that this increase may be kept at home.

Plenty can only be produced by encouraging agriculture; and agriculture can be encouraged only by making it gainful. No influence can dispose the farmer to sow what he cannot sell; and, if he is not to have the chance of scarcity in his favour, he will take care that there never shall be plenty.

The truth of these principles our ancestors discovered by reason, and the French have now found it by experience. In this regulation we have the honour of being masters to those, who, in commercial policy, have been long accounted the masters of the world. Their prejudices, their emulation, and their vanity, have, at last, submitted to learn of us how to ensure the bounties of nature; and it forms a strange vicissitude of opinions, that should incline us to repeal the law which our rivals are adopting.

It may be speciously enough proposed, that the bounty should be discontinued sooner. Of this every man will have his own opinion; which, as no general principles can reach it, will always seem to him more reasonable than that of another. This is a question of which the state is always changing with time and place, and which it is, therefore, very difficult to state or to discuss.

It may, however, be considered, that the change of old establishments is always an evil; and that, therefore, where the good of the change is not certain and constant, it is better to preserve that reverence and that confidence, which is produced by consistency of conduct and permanency of laws: