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Forbes, that he was among the best of them; and that it ill became the Duke of Cumberland's • officers (p. 281), who were present at Falkirk, to make observations on what happened at Preston.' This battle of Falkirk (if battle it can be called) was fought on the royal side by a General Hawley, who used to boast, that he would make two regiments of horse ride over the rebel army. Before he left Edinburgh for the combat, he erected two gallowses for the execution of the prisoners he was to take;—but he was shamefully beaten, and never recovered the story of the gibbets. There is an excellent letter (p. 270) from a Mr Corse, who seems to have been a Professor in the University of Glasgow, to the President, giving an account of this affair. He was serving as a volunteer in the Glasgow Regiment; and his bulletin is a most picturesque account of every thing ludicrous that can happen in serious warfare with undisciplined troops. General Wightman gives an account of the scuffle' at Preston, almost equally lively (p. 224.) He talks of the Edinburgh Riff-Raff Volunteers.'
As these letters are from all sorts of persons, and upon all sorts of subjects, they occasionally let out more of the truth, than their authors probably intended should ever see the light. There are various Lords and Lairds who make but a shabby figure in this Collection. But our great pride and consolation is in the ever clear honour, and open heart, of him to whom they address themselves. For Duncan Forbes no descendant will ever have to blush, or to feel ashamed: And the perusal of this book will prove, that Scotland, even since she ceased to be a separate kingdom, has had at least one statesman whose principles were as pure as his understanding was enlightened, and whose concern for his country was not so much as suspected to be quickened by any regard to his own power or emolument.
Art. VI. An Inquiry 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; with relative Tables and Remarks. By ROBERT Wilson Esq. Edinburgh, Constable & Co. London, Longman & Co, - 1815.
The very unsatisfactory state in which the commerce, manu
factures, and agriculture of the country have been left by the series of wars which we have lately concluded, affords abundant matter for reflection, not only as to the policy of these wars, but as to the more immediate causes which have contributed to produce the present unprecedented stagnation in almost every branch of our industry. There can be no doubt, that all the evils of which we complain have their origin in war. They are the natural consequences of that system of vexation and violence which has too fatally prevailed in the world for the last thirty years, under which the resources of national prosperity have been squandered with a prodigality with which no process of peaceful industry could possibly keep pace; and which, now that it has been succeeded by a period of doubtful and gloomy tranquillity, has left Europe, in general, in a state of comparative poverty and distress. The rude shocks to which our commerce was exposed during the late wars, from the effects of which it has not yet recovered, account sufficiently for the embarrassments of the mercantile classes. But the sudden and unlooked-for depression of agriculture, the general depreciation of its produce, and the derangement in consequence of the established relations between the landlord and the tenant;this is a subject, which, while it is of the highest practical importance, leads to questions of more difficult solution. A fall in the price of any commodity, implies either that its own value has fallen, or that the value of the money with which it is purchased has risen. An inquiry, therefore, into the causes of the present low prices of agricultural produce, necessarily leads to a consideration of the state of our currency, with all the recent fluctuations in the price of bullion, and the state of the exchange: and to discuss all these complex matters with the requisite clearness, simplicity and precision, is a task, certainly, not unworthy of the most comprehensive talents.
This task has accordingly been undertaken by Mr Wilson, the author of the work before us, which, he states, is intended as an illustration of certain opinions submitted by him to the public in the year 1811, with a view of combating the fallacious notions then so generally prevailing, of a depreciation of our paper currency. Having, at that time, as he himself informs us, attributed the high price of bullion to its true cause, and recent experience having confirmed all his opinions, he now resumes the subject, for the purpose of assisting the agricultural classes in their present critical situation, and in justice also (he continues) to the endeavours which he made, on the occasion above alluded to, to open the eyes of his countrymen, and to dispel the prevalent delusion. Such views are undoubtedly laudable in the extreme; and we can only lament that, in the present case, the author's capacity to do good does not seem to keep pace with his inclination. The embarrassments of the farmers arise from the very obvious circumstance of their rents being out of all proportion greater than they are able to pay; and all that we learn from Mr Wilson on the subject, appears to be, that their condition would be vastly improved if these heavy rents were reduced. Mr Wilson's work being also intended as an antidote to the pernicious doctrines of the Bullion Committee, we naturally expected to find the arguments contained in their memorable Report most elaborately controverted-we expected to find an array of opposite reasons—and some attempt, at least, to shake the principle upon which the Committee founded their hypothesis. But, so far from any such display of argument as we had a right to look for, considering the pretensions with which the work is introduced, we find Mr Wilson relying chiefly on his own confident assertions-- we find his statements vague, inconclusive, and full of inconsistencies--and his arguments frequently conducted to a most triumphant conclusion, by the easy process of assuming what he ought to prove; and all this delivered in a tone of the most extraordinary dogmatism and assurance-such as would certainly be unbecoming even in one who had written with originality and precision on the subject.
Mr Wilson commences his work with an inquiry into the causes of that gradual rise admitted on all hands to have taken place in the price of corn during the last 50 years, and of the more remarkable fluctuations which it has lately experienced in this country. In any investigation of this sort, it seems necessary to establish as a preliminary point, whether these variations of price have arisen from a variation in the value of the corn, or from a variation in the value of the money with which corn has been purchased--as all the facts with which we are acquainted, may be accounted for by the one supposition as well as by the other. If the money with which corn has been purchased during the period in question, has fallen in its value, a greater quantity of it would of course be necessary to purchase the same quantity of corn, in the same manner as if corn had risen in its value, and the value of money had in the mean time remained the same. Though Mr Wilson, however, sets out with a statement of Dr Smith's views respecting the invariable "value of corn, and though he himself considers it, on this account, as the only proper standard for measuring the value of the precious metals, he never seems, in the course of his subsequent speculations, to advert to this important principle; but proceeds to reason as if corn were equally liable to vary in its value with other commodities. Connecting the question apparently of a general rise in the price of corn, with the controversy to which the state of our paper currency has lately given rise, he seems very reluctant to admit that the rise of price which took place for about 20 years previous to the year 1790, could have been occasioned by any depreciation in the value of money. He assumes that increase of price rather to have been occasioned by a real increase of value in this country, arising from the more extensive demands of our increasing population. Of this fact, he assures us that no impartial inquirer can entertain any doubt; and that therefore it would be superfluous, as well as unphilosophical to seek after other and more fanciful causes. The increased supply of the precious metals yielded by the American mines, since the years 1750 and 1760, so far from occasioning any reduction in their value, may, he imagines, ra. ther be presumed to have fallen short of the growing demands of Europe, America, and the East Indies; and, upon the whole, he considers the only cause of wonder to be, that the increasing produce of the mines should have been sufficient to supply the increased consumption. This, however, he accounts for by the general substitution, in all commercial countries, of paper for specie.
Such is the summary way in which Mr Wilson decides this difficult question. If, however, according to Dr Smith's theory, with which 'Mr Wilson seems to agree, it be an established principle that corn, from the steadiness of its own value, is the only proper standard for measuring the value of other commodities, a general and uniform increase in its average price necessarily denotes a fall in the value of the money with which it is purchased. We know, indeed, that the price and the real value also of corn vary from year to year, according to the produce of particular seasons. But if, in comparing the prices at distant periods, we find at one period the highest price given for corn, in a year of extraordinary scarcity, only equal to the lowest price given for it at another time, in a year of extraordinary plenty,-or if we find, generally, the price, either in seasons of scarcity or of plenty, to be more than double its former price in similar seasons—can it be supposed that, in these circumstances, the price indicates the true value of corn, or that the very different quantities of gold or silver, given for the same quantities of it, in those different periods, are to be taken as any standard of its real value ? The real value of corn, like that of every ther commodity, is determined by its relative plenty or scarcity. Now, if we hold, that, during the last century, gold and silver have not declined in their value ;-that the very different quantities of those metals, therefore, which, during that period, have been given for the same quantity of corn, are to be regarded as indicating its true value, or its relative plentity or scarcity,—we must suppose that corn has all that time been gradually growing
less abundant in the markets of this country,-a supposition which experience contradicts; and, according to this theory also, the high prices of corn in the years 1799 and 1800, and lately in 1812 and 1813, must have indicated such a degree of want as would have desolated the land. We know that at the close of the 16th century, seven years of such grievous scarcity occurred, that the lower classes perished in great numbers from absolute famine. Now, the price of the quarter of the finest wheat in the Windsor market, appears to have varied during those seven years, from 71s. to 53s.; and, considering that the coin was depreciated at the same time about 30 per cent., we may state the price in bullion at from 55s. to 60s. The price of the best wheat in the London market, rose, in the years 1800 and 1801 to 120s. and 140s. in paper; and with bullion it might have been purchased with 110s. or 115s. per quarter. Now, is it possible to suppose the prodigious difference of price, in those different periods, to have been solely occasioned by a greater degree of scarcity in the one case than in the other? The last
years of the 16th century were long noted in the traditions of the country as being fraught with misery unparalleled, either before or since: And how is it possible, then, to believe, that, in a rich and commercial community, with ample means of supply from other countries, corn should have been raised, by its scarcity, to double the price which it formerly cost, during seven successive years of grievous famine ? At present, too, the supply of corn is admitted, on all hands, to be remarkably abundant. Yet the price of the best wheat in the London market, is still about 70s. per quarter, which is higher than its price during the famine of the 16th century; and if it be denied that the precious metals have fallen in their value, we must believe the country to be at this moment afflicted with a most grievous famine; for, upon what other principle can we account for the present price of wheat, if we reject the more obvious supposition, that, in consequence of a fall in the value of gold and silver, it now requires a greater quantity of those metals than formerly to purchase the same quantity of corn? Nor do we see why Mr Wilson should treat this supposition as so fanciful, since gold and silver are liable, like other commodities, to vary in their value, according as the supply is either diminished or increased.
Mr Wilson indeed presumes, that the value of the precious metals has not varied for the last 50 years, because the supply has been nearly equal to the consumption. Now, we do not well understand upon what principle he founds this assertion. By what process of reasoning has he found out that the produce of the American mines, and the general improvement of the world,