Obrázky na stránke

clare, that she never fees an Englishman but the feels the guillotine on her neck. The king, accordingly, has been infpired with the utmoft jealoufy of the English; has removed his army from the command of the English general; and every thing is done which may tend to fhow the people in how little eftimation the British are held. It was only in confequence of a ftipulation in the recent treaty, that the fupplies fent out to the British army were exempted from the duties of ordinary merchandize, though no fhips belonging to the government of any other country were fubject to taxes. The officers of the Sicilian army, whofe condition is fo much inferior to that of the British officers, are univerfally fired with envy and diflike of them, and would join the French against them, on the flighteft motives. Even the troops which the king brought with him from Naples, Mr Leckie afferts,' are jealous of the Britifh; many are in the intereft of the French; and none are fincerely attached to his caufe.' In regard to the people at large, Mr Leckie, as an eye-witness, makes the following declaration. The arrival of our forces in Sicily,' fays he, caufed a reflection which is in the mouth of every one. obtain an amelioration of our condition from the British, their coming will be the period of our ills, and the dawn of our profperity; but, if they leave things as they found them, we are all ready to join the French on the first summons.'


If we

As it is perfectly vain to expect to oppofe the French by the efforts of corrupt governments, fuch as that of Sicily, and the other allies with whom we have hitherto acted, there is no other expedient, according to Mr Leckie, but that of erecting a barrier of good governments against the overwhelming torrent. Alas! the erection of good governments, we fear, is not fo easy an enterprize as Mr Leckie feems to imagine. Yet there is fomething plaufible and flattering in his scheme. The Continent, he thinks, we must abandon to Bonaparte; but we have the empire of the fea; and in that may be included, if we choose it, the empire of the islands. In the islands, from the entrance of the Baltic, to the bottom of the Levant, we may, in his opinion, erect empires, which will furround Bonaparte as fortreffes; afford points of attack against him in all directions; maintain on the ocean an immenfe commerce; afford an innumerable population, from which we may with fafety recruit for the defence of our diftant fettlements; and, by the profperity they will attain, console human nature, in fome measure, for the miferies which continental defpotifm impofes upon it. He does not explain, very diftinctly, the mode in which he would have the British government to proceed. He seems to conclude, that, in most places, we should find the people fully prepared to cooperate with us. In the Greek islands,


which he defcribes as of great importance, we fhould only have to difmifs, he thinks, a fmall proportion of Turks; and the Greeks, who are even now a fine people, would gladly join us. The Sicilians are perfectly ripe for the fame enterprize. The Spanish iflands are in a fimilar condition. In fhort, Mr Leckie conceives there would be little difficulty in the undertaking, while the results would be glorious and fublime. He thinks perfuafion, not force, fhould be used; but we are not fure that a little force does not enter into his plan, when his object cannot be accomplished with

out it.

Mr Leckie has lived chiefly abroad, in the countries, we should fuppofe, on the Mediterranean; and is intimately acquainted, at leaft with Italy and Sicily. His ftyle is more that of a foreigner, who is imperfectly acquainted with English, than of a Briton; and he apologizes for his foreign idioms, by his long familiarity with the languages of other nations. He is a man of confiderable knowledge, obfervation, and reflection; and though his remarks have little in them which is altogether new to the British reader, yet they bear the stamp of individual reflection; and having formed his opinions abroad, where he was little influenced by party feelings or popular contagion, he prefents to the British public an inftructive example of the manner in which the conduct of their government is regarded among men of information abroad,-even among those who carry with them the prepoffeffions of British birth and education. As the moralifts recommend to the individual the habit of furveying his conduct with the eye of an impartial stranger, fo it is useful in, perhaps, a ftill higher degree, to nations, and to none more fo than to the British, to furvey their public proceedings with the eye of an impartial foreigner.

ART. XIII. An Inquiry into the State of National Subfiftence, as connected with the Progress of Wealth and Population. By W. T. Comber. London. 1808.


HERE is nothing, we imagine, which renders a didactic work fo generally acceptable, as brevity and perfpicuity; and it is precifely in those two effential qualities that the authors of the present day appear to us to be most remarkably deficient. Their object seems to be-not how to state a fact, or to enforce an argument, with the greatest effect-but, to show how long they can dwell upon it, and how many extraneous topics they can mingle in the discussion. Forgetting, also, that the science of political economy is almost as much distinguished by the precise


ness of its language, as by the subjects on which it treats, they have adopted a strange jargon of phrases, which are either wholly unmeaning, or only half intelligible; so that their readers, when they attempt an examination of their doctrines, are harassed, at every step, with cavilling and verbal disputation. It is by such arts that modern writers have been enabled to multiply and increase their productions; and that the public have been taxed, both in time and in money, for the laudable purpose of gratifying the vanity of authors, and filling the pockets of booksellers. It is really wonderful to consider how a subject, which might be very fully explained within the compass of a few pages, may be spun out, by the skill of an author, into a very decent sized octavo volume. It is needless to hint to such writers, that brevity heightens the relish of excellence, and is a sort of apology for badness. We are afraid it would do little good even to tell them, that prolixity is the fault most certain to rouse the malignity of the critic, and to sharpen his natural alacrity in discovering grounds of censure.

These remarks, though of very general application, have been forced from us by the labour of perusing the work before us. Its intention seems to be, to explain the nature and tendency of the laws which have been at different times passed in this country on the subject of corn; and had Mr Comber kept this object in view, his work might have been of some utility. But he has unfortunately bewildered himself with the strangest dissertations on the Saxons, the Danes, the feudal system, and other topics of a like nature, commencing with the antient Britons, and concluding with the overthrow of social order-that standing theme of modern declamation. This work, therefore, is for the most part a strange medley of unconnected facts, relating to the history, commerce, and agriculture of Britain. These facts, however, are set down in chronological order; and he now and then intimates something about a famine, fearing, we suppose, lest his reader should forget that the book is written about corn. When Mr Comber adheres to his subject, he is rather more interesting; he has evidently been at great pains to collect information; and he shows considerable acuteness in combining a few plain facts. But his powers of reasoning do not extend further; he is seldom successful in appealing to principles; and he generally satisfies himself with doubtful assumptions, or with errors which have been long refuted. Like most superficial reasoners, he is apt to run into extremes; and because Mr Malthus has, in his opinion, overrated the importance of agriculture, he labours very hard to prove, that an exclusive attention to agricultural industry debases the manners of the people. To confirm his argument, he quotes



the case of Poland ;-but he forgets America, which, by devoting her attention rather to agriculture than to commerce or manufactures, exhibits a case of rapid improvement wholly unexampled.

With these observations we shall take leave of the extraneous matter with which Mr Comber's book abounds, and we shall lay before our readers a short view of his opinions, as far as they relate to the subject on which he professes to write. We shall then subjoin a few observations on the policy of granting a bounty on corn; in which we shall occupy the attention of the reader for as short a time as possible, as we have already explained our sentiments at some length on that important question. *

Great part of the information which Mr Comber has detailed in his book respecting the corn laws, prior to the act of William and Mary granting a bounty on exportation, has either been already stated by former writers, or is of very little consequence. His statements relative to the bounty, though not always very accurate or consistent, are somewhat new, and therefore merit some attention.

The great benefits which the bounty has produced, are, according to its advocates, + both steadiness and lowness of price. This lowness of price, indeed, Dr Smith contends, must have happened in spite of the bounty; and, as a proof of the truth of his statement, he mentions, that, in France, where there was not only no bounty on exportation, but where exportation was prohibited, the prices fell in the course of the first sixtyfour years of the last century. We do not think Mr Malthus argues either quite accurately or conclusively upon this subject. He invariably assumes the money price of corn as an indication of its real value; although it is evident, that its money price might fluctuate to any extent, without any change in its real value. And in point of fact, the fluctuations on which he grounds his argument appear to have arisen in a great measure from the state of the coin, or from the varying value of the precious metals. He compares the average price of corn for ninety-three years, before the year 1700, with its price for forty years previous to the year 1750. Now it is well known, that, during the first of these periods, the current coin of the kingdom was degraded in its value nearly one fourth, which must have ruined the nominal price of corn nearly in the same proportion. We have little doubt also, that the rise which has taken place, in later years, in the average price of corn, and in the prices also of all other commodities, can only be accounted for by the degradation of the value of the precious metals in the general market of Europe,

*See Number IX.

Malthus on Population, Vol. II. p. 163.

Europe, from whatever cause we suppose that degradation to have arisen.

With regard to the alleged steadiness of prices, we do not find that this is supported by facts; and, indeed, it is scarcely possible to conceive, how the granting of a bounty of 5s. on the exportation of corn, should have prevented the occasional visitation of scarcities. It appears, from the facts which Mr Comber has stated, that scarcities and high prices were occasionally known before the date of this bounty, as well as after it,-and that there were even frequent risings of the people to impede the transportation of grain, and to avenge their distresses on the corn-dealers. From an actual view of the prices, too, we see nothing of this steadiness. In the years 1709 and 1710, the price of wheat was 31. 18s. 6d. or 31. 18s., which was a higher price than any that had occurred since the years 1648 and 1649. Throughout the whole of the period alluded to, indeed, the price of corn seems to have varied from year to year, as it always must do, according to the state of the crop; and Mr Comber seems to think, with great appearance of plausibility, that the bounty, by encouraging exportation when the crop was deficient all over Europe, instead of palliating, often tended to aggravate the evil.

He ascribes another bad effect to the bounty, namely, that by occasioning such great exportations of corn to France, it encouraged the manufactures of that country at the expense of our own. By giving them corn cheaper than it could be afforded at home, it enabled them, according to our author, to labour cheaper, and by this means to undersell us in our staple manufactures in the principal markets of the world. France and England, he informs us, were at that time pursuing quite opposite systems. France was endeavouring to promote, or rather to force manufacturing industry, by expedients the most violent and artificial; and we were pursuing the same course with respect to agriculture, in order to raise a surplus quantity of corn to feed the manufacturers of France. That this was the object of those two different systems, we do not doubt; but we do not believe that those artificial devices produced the effects which their authors intended. It happens, not unfrequently, that the natural arrangements of society are calculated to effect the same objects which the shortsighted expedients of artificial policy are intended to assist and accelerate. The whole of the effect, however, is ascribed by statesmen to the wisdom of their boasted contrivances; and they are thus fortified, by a fallacious experience, against more enlarged and liberal views. Such appears, to us at least, to have been the case in the present instance. We shall endeavour to show afterwards, that a bounty of 5s. on the quarter of wheat could not have produced those great exportations; and that the supposed steadiness and


« PredošláPokračovať »