Page images
PDF
EPUB

louder, it is less heard ; because the voice of conscience is drowned by the clamours of the world. Prosperous fortunes, unbroken health, flattering friends, buoyant spirits, a spring-tide of success

-these are the occasions when the very abundance of God's mercies is apt to fill the heart till it hardens it. Loaded with riches, crowned with dignities, successful in enterprize; beset with snares in the shape of honours, with perils under the mask of pleasures; then it is, that to the already saturated heart, “to-morrow shall be • as this day, and more abundant,' is more in unison than what • shall I render to the Lord ?

“ Men of business, especially men in power and public situations, are in no little danger of persuading themselves, that the affairs which occupy their time and mind, being, as they really are, great and important duties, exonerate those who perform them from the necessity of the same strictness in devotion, which they allow to be right for men of leisure; and which, when they become men of leisure themselves, they are resolved to adopt :--but now is the accepted time, here is the accepted place, however they may be tempted to think that an exact attention to public duty, and an unimpeachable rectitude in discharging it, is itself a substitute for the offices of piety.

" But these great and honourable persons are the very men to whom superior cares, and loftier duties, and higher responsibilities, render prayer even more necessary, were it possible, than to others. Nor does this duty trench upon other duties, for the compatibilities of prayer are universal. It is an exercise which has the property of incorporating itself with every other; not only not impeding, but advancing it. If secular thoughts, and vain imaginations, often break in on our devout employments, let us allow Religion to vindicate her rights, by uniting herself with our worldly occupations. There is no crevice so small at which devotion may not slip in; no other instance of so rich a blessing being annexed to so easy a condition; no other case in which there is any certainty, that to ask is to have. This the suitors to the great do not always find so easy from them, as the great themselves find from God.

“ Not only the elevation on which they stand makes this fence necessary for their personal security, by enabling them to bear the height without giddiness, but the guidance of God's hand is so essential to the operations they conduct, that the public prosperity, no less than their own safety, is involved in the practice of habi. tual prayer. God will be more likely to bless the hand which steers, and the head which directs, when both are ruled by the heart which prays. Happily we need not look out of our own age or nation for instances of public men, who, while they govern the country, are themselves governed by a religious principle; who petition the Almighty for direction, and praise him for sucCASS." Vol. II. p. 229.

If Mrs. H. More had always written thus, we should have been enabled to have bestowed upon these volumes, what we could always wish to bestow upon every effort of our authoress, unqualified approbation. Mrs. More is a lady of excellent abilities. We would that she had not too frequently been be. trayed into theological controversy much beyond her depth, and that the piety which pervades her writings were divested of the dialect of religious party, in which it is, in too many instances expressed, as then, her numerous volumes, like those of her fellowlabourer in the cause of Christianity, the late excellent Mrs. Trimmer, would have been productive of unmixed good.

Art.IX. An Enquiry into the Causes of the high Prices of Corn

and Labour, the Depressions of our Foreign Exchanges and high Prices of Bullion, during the late War; and Considerations of the Measures to be adopted for relieving our Farming Interest, from the unprecedented Difficulties to which they are now reduced, in Consequence of the great Fall in the Price of their Produce since the Peace : with Tables, Remarks, &c. &c. By Robert Wilson, Esq. Constable and

Co., Ediuburgh ; Longman, and Co., London. 1815. WE have some recollection of a pamphlet published by the same author during the rage of discussion which followed the appointment of the bullion committee; and the good sense which he then displayed in combating the arguments of certain Lords and Gentlemen, is again employed on a subject, in relation to which political wisdom seems to have arrived at no clearer views From a variety of well established facts, Mr. Wilson accounts satisfactorily for the rise which took place in the price of corn and labour, subsequent to the year 1763, upon the ground, not of a diminution in the quantity of grain produced in the country, but of a vastly enlarged consumption, occasioned by the flourishing state of our manufactures, and, more recently, by large establishmenis vaval and military. The extensive outlays of government, by rendering money more plentiful, necessarily lowered its nominal or relative value all over the kingdom; and when to this is added the obvious consideration that all classes of people were, owing to the improved state of commerce, enabled to live better than formerly, that the public exigeucies continued to den mand larger and larger sums in the shape of taxes, which were again circulated rapidly among almost every order of men, it must be easily understood why the prices of food and labour should have got up. The return of peace, however, and the

temporary

temporary stagnation of trade which usually attends the change either from war to peace or from peace to war, have occasioned a great depression in the value of agricultural produce; and our author is even of opinion that the special causes which since 1793 have maintained prices on so high a scale, are now completely done away, and that means should accordingly be used to place the farming interest in nearly the same situation, in point of rent and other charges, that subsisted prior to that date. With this view he urges landlords to lower their rents to the scale of 1793, insisting that the farmers, at present, are not able to spare quite so large a proportion of their gross produce, in the name of rent, as they could at the period in question. He deprecates particularly the loss of agricultural capital which must ensue, if the land-proprietors shall refuse the indulgence here recommended, and points at the hazard that their farms will be thrown upon their hands in an exhausted state, without the prospect of getting them as well let as they are at present.

If things were certainly to continue a considerable length of tiine at the scale of prices which is now established, the relief proposed by Mr. Wilson would not be inore than commensurate with the necessities of the farmer ; but we cannot imagine that wbeat will long continue at fifty shillings a quarter, or the loaf at tenpence. Trade will very soon revive ; our manufactures will again restore the wonted circulation of wealth in town and country, and the demand for land-produce of all kinds will ere long secure to the farmer a fair return for his labour and capital. The level at which things will permanently settle is considerably higher than that to which they have been sunk by the reaction, consequent upon au unnatural and strained exertion of our means in the late war; on which account a temporary arrangement be. tween the landlord and tenant seems more advisable than a decided and ultimate engagement upon quite a new basis.

The portion of his pamphlet which we admire the most, is that wherein Mr. Wilson recapitulates his arguments on the bullion question ; and the facts which he brings forward to prove that the rise and fall of that article is regulated by the balance of our foreign exchanges, and has no conection whatever with the issue of Bank paper, seems to us to set the discussion completely to rest. It cannot be necessary to explain to the youngest student in commercial policy, that if one country uses more of the cominodities produced by another country, than it pays for, by sending commodities in return, the balance must be settled in money; and if this difference be considerable, it will follow that bills payable in the country enjoying the favourable balance, will bring a premium in the country where the balance is unfavourable. If the London merchant has inore money to remit to

Hamburgh Hamburgh than the Hamburgh merchant has to remit to London, bills upon Hanıburgh will bring a premium in London in proportion to the difference which the former merchant has to make up; and this premium on some occasions has amounted to 25 or 26 per cent. Rather, however, than purchase bills at such an exorbitant rate, the London merchant will endeavour to send bullion; and, of course, the demand for that commodity, and its price in the market will rise or fall, exactly to the extent that the balance of trade is unfavourable. Circumstances of a particular nature, such as the necessity of keeping up a large military establishment on the Continent, or of importing in the time of dearth an unusually great quautity of corn, will, it is clear, increase the amount of paymerts to be made abroad, and of consequence the unfavourable balance of trade; and it is entirely to circumstances of this description, that we have to ascribe the unprecedented rise of gold and silver in the London market. But, instead of entering into any discussion upon a sub. ject where our first-rate talkers erred so egregiously, we shall extract a passage from the pamphlet now before us, where the doctrine is established by the experience of 35 years.

“ During the years 1780, 1781, and 1782, we were not only in an active state of war with America, and with France, Spain, and Holland, but a combination against our maritime rights, to the exclusion of our commerce, had been set on foot by the Northern Powers; and a year of famine occurring in 1782, it is reasonably to be supposed that our exchange with the continent must have undergone a depression. It accordingly turned against us in October 1780, and continued uniformly under the par until October 1784. In 1781, the average depression of the exchange, which must have arisen wholly from the interruption of our trade, was from July that year to January 1782, 6.75 per cent, nearly. In 1782, the average was 5.75, and in 1783, about 6.75, having in July that year reached 8.13 per cent. Here the greatest average depression was for the year 1783, as might have been expected from the great importations rendered necessary by the failure of the preceding crop. The price of Bullion it is evident could not be materially affected by Those depressions of the exchange, and accordingly it will be found that all the rise on the price of gold was sixpence the ounce, from 31. 17s. 6d. to 31. 18s. In the middle of 1784, when the exchange became favourable, it returned first to 31. 175. 10 d. the mint price, and in July 1785, to its former price of 31. 17s. 6d. From October 1785, to July 1795, the exchange continued uniformly in our favour, and in April 1793, the premium was as high as 11.29 per cent. It fell in the summer 1795, and continued to do so in the winter 1795-6, by reason no doubt of the war expences and the deficiency of crop of 1795, by which an unprecedented importation of corn was rendered necessary as already adverted to. On this occasion,

what

.

what with the unfavourable exchange and the demands of govern-
ment for foreign expenditure, the price of Bullion rose from
31. 17s 6d. the price at which it had ever stood from July 1785, to
4l. 8s. if not still higher. But on the restoration of the exchange
in October 1796, it again fell to its former price of 31. 178. 6d. at
which it continued until October 1799, when both the exchange
and the price of Bullion were affected by the great deficiency of that
year's crop, joined to the still continued necessity of public remit-
tances to the continent for the expences of the war. In October
1799, the exchange suddenly fell from 2 per cent. in our favour
in July preceding, to about 670 per cent. against us, and it continued
fluctuating in the period from January 1800 to January 1802, from
4.2 per cent. against us. In January 1801, it stood so low as
Rearly 134 per cent. In April 1802, the depression was still 3 per
cent, and the par was not completely restored till October 1803.
In this period the price of Bullion rose from 31. 178. 9d. to 41. 6s. if
not more, with intermediate fluctuations until January 1804, when
the exchange being restored, it settled at 41. which has ever since,
probably from the increased expence of importation, and the
exhausted state of the country of these metals, been considered the
lowest price at which it can be sold.
· From January 1804 to July 1808, the exchange continued with
few exceptions in our favour, fluctuating from 1 to 41 per cent. of
premium. The price of gold Bullion continuing during all this
period steady at 41. the ounce. But in consequence of our great
continental expenditure in 1808, and succeeding years, by the
establishment of our armies in Portugal and Spain, the large impor-
tation of corn, which, as well from circumstances connected with the
war as from partial deficiencies in our own crops, became necessary;
and still more perhaps by the measures pursued by Buonaparte and
our measures of retaliation in the Orders of Council then issued, by
which the neutral trade was almost put a stop to, and finally our
disputes with the United States, a depression on our foreign exchange
took place to an unprecedented extent; which nothing but the
extraordinary combination of these causes could have produced.
In October 1808, the exchange with Hamburgh had fallen from 3.72
of premium in July preceding, 3.78 of depression. In January
1809, this was augmented to 7.86, in April to 9.58, and in July to
16.2, and it afterwards fluctuated from 9.58 to 16.15 per cent. until
January 1811, when the depression was equal to 2270 per cent.
against this country, the consequence of which must have been to
add so much per cent. to the whole of our continental expenditure,
and to the price of all the corn imported. The rise in the price of
Bullion in the inean time kept its usual pace with the fall on the
exchange, and in the course of the years 1809 and 1810 rose from
41. to 46. 13s. and upwards, equal to 164 per cent. above its usual
price.
.“ Owing to the still encreasing expence of the continental war,
the exchange continued to fall and the price of bullion to rise after,

January
VOL. V. JANUARY, 1816.

« PreviousContinue »