1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Corn Laws
CORN LAWS. In England, legislation on corn was early applied both to home and foreign trade in this essential produce. Roads were so bad, and the chain of home trade so feeble, that there was often scarcity of grain in one part, and plenty in another part of the same kingdom. Export by sea or river to some foreign market was in many cases more easy than the carriage of corn from one market to another within the country. The frequency of local dearths, and the diversity and fluctuation of prices, were thus extreme. It was out of this general situation that the first corn laws arose, and they appear to have been wholly directed towards lowering the price of corn. Exportation was prohibited, and home merchandise in grain was in no repute or toleration. As long as the rent of land, including the extensive domains of the crown, was paid in kind, the sovereign, the barons and other landholders had little interest in the price of corn different from that of other classes of people, the only demand for corn being for consumption and not for resale or export. But as rents of land came to be paid in money, the interest of the farmer to be distinguished by a remove from that of the landowner, the difference between town and country to be developed, and the business of society to be more complex, the ruling powers of the state were likely to be actuated by other views; and hence the force which corn legislation afterward assumed in favour of what was deemed the agricultural interest. But during four centuries after the Conquest the corn law of England simply was that export of corn was prohibited, save in years of extreme plenty under forms of state licence, and that producers carried their surplus grain into the nearest market town, and sold it there for what it would bring among those who wanted it to consume; and the same rule prevailed in the principal countries of the continent of Europe. This policy, though, as one may argue from its long continuance, probably not felt to be acutely oppressive, was of no avail in removing the evils against which it was directed. On the contrary it prolonged and aggravated them. The prohibition of export discouraged agricultural improvement, and in so much diminished the security and liberality even of domestic supply; while the intolerance of any home dealing or merchandise in corn prevented the growth of a commercial and financial interest strong enough to improve the means of transport by which the plenty of one part of the same country could have come to the aid of the scarcity in another.
Apart from this general feudal germ of legislation on corn, the history of the British corn laws may be said to have begun with the statute in the reign of Henry VI. (1436), by which exportation was permitted without state licence, English corn laws, 1436–1603. when the price of wheat or other corn fell below certain prices. The reason given in the preamble of the statute was that the previous state of the law had compelled farmers to sell their corn at low prices, which was no doubt true, but which also showed the important turn of the tide that had set in. J. R. M‘Culloch, in an elaborate article in the Commercial Dictionary, says that the fluctuation of the prices of corn in that age was so great, and beyond all present conception, that “it is not easy to determine whether the exportation price of 6s. 8d. for wheat” [12s. 10d. in present money per quarter] “was above or below the medium price.” But while the medium price of the kingdom must be held to be unascertainable in a remote time, when the medium price in any principal market town of England did not agree with that of another for any year or series of years, one may readily perceive that the cultivators of the wheat lands in the south-eastern counties of England, for example, who could frequently have sold their produce in that age to Dutch merchants to better advantage than in their own market towns, or even in London, but were prohibited to export abroad, and yet had no means of distributing their supplies at home so as to realize the highest medium price in England, must have felt aggrieved, and that their barons and knights of the shire would have a common interest in making a strong effort to rectify the injustice in parliament. This object appears to have been in some measure accomplished by this statute, and twenty-seven years afterwards (1463) a decided step was taken towards securing to agriculturists a monopoly of the home market by a statute prohibitory of importation from abroad. Foreign import was to be permitted only at and above the point of prices where the export of domestic produce was prohibited. The landed interest had now adopted the idea of sustaining and equalizing the value of corn, and promoting their own industry and gains, which for four centuries, under various modifications of plan, and great changes of social and political condition, were to maintain a firm place in the legislation and policy of England. But there were many reasons why this idea, when carried into practice, should not have the results anticipated from it.
The import of grain from abroad, even in times of dearth and high prices at home, could not be considerable as long as the policy of neighbouring countries was to prohibit export; nor could the export of native corn, even with the Dutch and other European ports open to such supplies, be effective save in limited maritime districts, as long as the internal corn trade was suppressed, not only by want of roads, but by legal interdict. The regulation of liberty of export and import by rates of price, moreover, had the same practical objection as the various sliding-scales, bounties, and other legislative expedients down to 1846, viz. that they failed, probably more in that age than in later times, to create a permanent market, and aimed only at a casual trade. When foreign supplies were needed, they were often not to be found; and when there was an excess of corn in the country a profitable outlet was both difficult and uncertain. It would appear, indeed, that during the Wars of the Roses the statutes of Henry VI. and Edward IV. had become obsolete; for a law regulating export prices in identical terms of the law of 1436 was re-enacted in the reign of Philip and Mary (1554). In the preceding reign of Edward VI., as well as in the succeeding long reign of Elizabeth, there were unceasing complaints of the decay of tillage, the dearth of corn, and the privations of the labouring classes; and these complaints were met by the same kind of measures—by statutes encouraging tillage, forbidding the enlargement of farms, imposing severer restrictions on storing and buying and selling of grain, and by renewed attempts to regulate export and import according to prices. In 1562 the price at which export might take place was raised to 10s. per quarter for wheat, and 6s. 8d. for barley and malt. This only lasted a few years, and in 1570 the export of wheat and barley was permitted from particular districts on payment of a duty of 1s. 8d. per quarter, although still liable to prohibition by the government or local authority, while it was entirely prohibited under the old regulations from other districts. Only at the close of Elizabeth’s reign (1603) did a spark of new light appear in a further statute, which removed the futile provisions in favour of tillage and against enlargement of pastoral farms, and rested the whole policy for promoting an equable supply of corn, while encouraging agriculture, on an allowed export of wheat and other grain at a duty of 2s. and 1s. 4d. when the price of wheat was not more than 20s., and of barley and malt 12s. per quarter. The import of corn appears to have been much lost sight of from the period of the statute of 1463. The internal state of England, as well as the policy of other countries of Europe, was unfavourable to any regular import of grain, though many parts of the kingdom were often suffering from dearth of corn. It is obvious that this legislation, carried over more than a century and a half, failed of its purpose, and that it neither promoted agriculture nor increased the supply of bread. So great a variance and conflict between the intention of statutes and the actual course of affairs might be deemed inexplicable, but for an explanation which a close economic study of the circumstances of the times affords.
Besides the general reasons of the failure already indicated, there were three special causes in active operation, which, though not seen at the period, have become distinct enough since. (1) A comparatively free export of wool had been permitted in England from time immemorial. It was subject neither to conditions of price nor to duties in the times under consideration, was easier of transport and much less liable to damage than corn, and, under the extending manufactures of France and the Low Countries, was sure of a foreign as well as a domestic market. Here was one description of rural produce on which there was the least embargo, and on which some reliance could be placed that it would in all circumstances bring a fair value; while corn, the prime rural produce, was subject as a commodity of merchandise to every difficulty, internally and externally, which meddling legislation and popular prejudice could impose. The numerous statutes enjoining tillage and discouraging pastoral farms—or in other words requiring that agriculturists should turn from what was profitable to what was unprofitable—had consequently no substantial effect, save in the many individual instances in which the effect may have been injurious. (2) The value of the standard money of the kingdom had been undergoing great depreciation from two opposite quarters at once. The pound sterling of England was reduced in weight of pure metal from £1 : 18 : 9 in 1436, the date of the first of the corn statutes, to 4s. 7¾d. in 1551, as far as can be estimated in present money, and to £1 : 0 : 6¾ under the restoration of the coinage in the following year. At the same time the greater abundance of silver, which now began to be experienced in Europe from the discovery of the South American mines, was steadily reducing the intrinsic value of the metal. Hence a general rise of prices remarked by Hume and other historians; and hence also it followed that a price of corn fixed for export or import at one period became always at another period more or less restrictive of export than had been designed. (3) The wages of labour would have followed the advance in the prices of commodities had wages been left free, but they were kept down by statute to the three or four pence per day at which they stood when the pound sterling contained one-fourth more silver, and silver itself was much more valuable. This was a refinement of cruelty. The feudal system was breaking up; a wage-earning population was rapidly increasing both in the farms and in the towns; but the spirit of feudalism remained, and the iron collar of serfdom was riveted round the necks of the labourers by these statutes many generations after they had become nominally freemen. The result was chronic privation and discontent among the common people, by which all the conditions of agriculture and trade in corn were further straitened and barbarized; and an age, in some high respects among the most brilliant in the annals of England, was marked by an enormous increase of pauperism, and by the introduction of the merciful but wasteful remedy of the Poor Laws.
The corn legislation of Elizabeth remained without change during the reign of James, the civil wars and the Commonwealth. But on the restoration of Charles II. in 1660, the question was resumed, and an act was passed of a more prohibitory character. Export and import of corn, while nominally permitted,
were alike subjected to heavy duties—the need of the exchequer
being the paramount consideration, while the agriculturists were
no doubt pleased with the complete command secured
to them in the home market. This 1660–
1773.act was followed by such high prices of corn, and so little advantage to the revenue, that parliament in 1663 reduced the duties on import to 9% ad valorem, while at the same time raising the price at which export ceased to 48s., and reducing the duty on export from 20s. to 5s. 4d. per quarter. In a few years this was found to be too much free-trade for the agricultural liking, and in 1670 prohibitory duties were re-imposed on import when the home price was under 53s. 4d., and a duty of 8s. between that price and 80s., with the usual make-weight in favour of home supply, that export should be prohibited when the price was 53s. 4d. and upwards. But complaints of the decline of agriculture continued to be as rife under this act as under the others, till on the accession of William and Mary, the landed interest, taking advantage of the Revolution as they had taken advantage of the Restoration to promote their own interests, took the new and surprising step of enacting a bounty on the export of grain. This evil continued to affect the corn laws of the kingdom, varied, on one occasion at least, with the further complication of bounties on import, until the 19th century. The duties on export being abolished, while the heavy duties on import were maintained, this is probably the most one-sided form which the British corn laws ever assumed, but it was attended with none of the advantages anticipated. The prices of corn fell, instead of rising. There had occurred at the period of the Revolution a depreciation of the money of the realm, analogous in one respect to that which marked the first era of the corn statutes (1436–1551), and forming one of the greatest difficulties which the government of William had to encounter. The coin of the realm was greatly debased, and as rapidly as the mint sent out money of standard weight and purity, it was melted down, and disappeared from the circulation. The influx of silver from South America to Europe had spent its action on prices before the middle of the century; the precious metals had again hardened in value; and for forty years before the Revolution the price of corn had been steadily falling in money price. The liberty of exporting wool had also now been cut down before the English manufactures were able to take up the home supply, and agriculturists were consequently forced to extend their tillage. When the current coin of the kingdom became wholly debased by clipping and other knaveries, there ensued both irregularity and inflation of nominal prices, and the producers and consumers of corn found themselves equally ill at ease. The farmers complained that the home-market for their produce was unremunerative and unsatisfactory; the masses of the people complained with no less reason that the money wages of labour could not purchase them the usual necessaries of life. Macaulay, in his History of England, says of this period, with little exaggeration, that “the price of the necessaries of life, of shoes, of ale, of oatmeal, rose fast. The labourer found that the bit of metal which, when he received it, was called a shilling, would hardly, when he purchased a pot of beer or a loaf of rye bread, go as far as sixpence.” The state of agriculture could not be prosperous under these conditions. But when the government of William surmounted this difficulty of the coinage, as they did surmount it, under the guidance of Sir Isaac Newton, with remarkable statesmanship, it necessarily followed that prices, so far from rising, declined, because, for one reason, they were now denominated in a solid metallic value. The rise of prices of corn attending the first years of the export bounty was consequently of very brief duration. The average price of wheat in the Winchester market, which in the ten years 1600–1699 was £2 : 10s., fell in the ten years 1716–1725 to £1 : 5 : 4, and in the ten years 1746–1755 to £1 : 1 : 2¾. The system of corn law established in the reign of William and Mary was probably the most perfect to be conceived for advancing the agricultural interest of any country. Every stroke of the legislature seemed complete to this end. Yet it wholly failed of its purpose. The price of wheat again rose in 1750–1760 and 1760–1770 to £1 : 19 : 3¼ and £2 : 11 : 3¾, but many causes had meanwhile been at work, as invariably happens in such economic developments, the operation of which no statutes could embrace, either to control or to prevent. Between the reign of William and Mary and that of George III., the question of bounty on export of grain had, in the general progress of the country, fallen into the background, while that of the heavy embargoes on import had come to the front. Therefore it is that Burke’s Act of 1773, as a deliberate attempt to bring the corn laws into some degree of reason and order, is worthy of special mention. This statute permitted the import of foreign wheat at a nominal duty of 6d. when the home price was 48s. per quarter, and it stopped both the liberty to export and the bounty on export together when the home price was 44s. per quarter. The one blemish of this statute was the stopping export and cutting off bounty on export at the same point of price.
Few questions have been more discussed or more differently interpreted than the elaborate system of corn laws dating from the reign of William and Mary. So careful an observer as Malthus was of opinion that the bounty on export had enlarged the area of subsistence. That it had large operation is sufficiently attested by the fact that, in the years from 1740 to 1751, bounties were paid out of the exchequer to the amount of £1,515,000, and in 1749 alone they amounted to £324,000. But the trade thus forced was of no permanence, and the British exports of corn, which reached a maximum of 1,667,778 quarters in 1749–1750, had fallen to 600,000 quarters in 1760 and continued to decrease.
Burke’s Act lasted long enough to introduce a regular import
of foreign grain, varying with the abundance or scarcity of the
home harvest, yet establishing in the end a systematic
preponderance of imports over exports. The period,
moreover, was marked by great 1791–
1846.agricultural improvements, by extensive reclamation of waste lands, and by an increased home produce of wheat, in the twenty years from 1773 to 1793, of nearly 2,000,000 quarters. Nor had the course of prices been unsatisfactory. The average price of British wheat in the twenty years was £2 : 6 : 3, and in only three years of the twenty was the price a fraction under £2. But the ideas in favour of greater freedom of trade, of which the act of 1773 was an indication, and of which another memorable example was given in Pitt’s commercial treaty with France, were overwhelmed in the extraordinary excitement caused by the French Revolution, and all the old corn law policy was destined to have a sudden revival. The landowners and farmers complained that an import of foreign grain at a nominal duty of 6d., when the price of wheat was only 48s., deprived them of the ascending scale of prices when it seemed due; and on this instigation an act was passed in 1791, whereby the price at which importation could proceed at the nominal duty of 6d. was raised to 54s., with a duty of 2s. 6d. from 54s. to 50s., and at 50s. and under 50s. a prohibitory duty of 24s. 3d. The bounty on export was maintained by this act, but exportation was allowed without bounty till the price reached 46s.; and the permission accorded by the of 1773 to import foreign corn at any price, to be reexported duty free, was modified by a warehouse duty of 2s. 6d. in addition to the duties on import payable at the time of sale, when the corn, instead of being re-exported, happened to be sold for home consumption. The legislative vigilance in this to prevent foreign bread from reaching the home consumer is remarkable. There were deficient home harvests for some years after 1791, particularly in 1795 and 1797, and parliament was forced to the new expedient of granting high bounties on importation. At this period the country was involved in a great war; all the customary commercial relations were violently disturbed; freight, insurance and other charges on import and export were multiplied fivefold; heavier and heavier taxes were imposed; and the capital resources of the kingdom were poured with a prodigality without precedent into the war channels. The consequence was that the price of corn, as of all other commodities, rose greatly: and the Bank of England having stopped paying in specie in 1797, this raised nominal prices still more under the liberal use of bank paper in loans and discounts, and the difference that began to be established in the actual value of Bank of England notes and their legal par in bullion.
The average price of British wheat rose to £5 : 19 : 6 in 1801. So unusual a value must have led to a large extension of the area under wheat, and to much corn-growing on land that after great outlay was ill prepared for it. In the following years there were agricultural complaints; and in 1804, though in 1803 the average price of wheat had been as high as £2 : 18 : 10, an act was passed, so much more severe than any previous statute, that its object would appear to have been to keep the price of corn somewhere approaching the high range of 1801. A prohibitory duty of 24s. 3d. was imposed on the import of foreign wheat when the home price was 63s. or less; and the price at which the bounty was paid on export was lowered to 40s., while the price at which export might proceed without bounty was raised to 54s. Judging from the prices that ruled during the remaining period of the French wars, this statute would appear to have been effective for its end, though, under all the varied action of the times on a rise of prices, it would be difficult to assign its proper place in the general effect. The average price of wheat rose to £4 : 9 : 9 in 1805, and the bank paper price in 1812 was as high even as £6 : 6 : 6. The bullion prices from 1809 to 1813 ranged from 86s. 6d. to 100s. 3d. But it was foreseen that when the wars ended a serious reaction would ensue, and that the rents of land, and the general condition of agriculture, under the warlike, protective and monetary stimulation they had received, would be imperilled. In the brief peace of 1814 the average bullion price of British wheat fell to 55s. 8d. All the means of select committees of inquiry on agricultural distress, and new modifications of the corn laws, were again brought into requisition. The first idea broached in parliament was to raise the duties on foreign imports, as well as the prices at which they were to be leviable, and to abolish the bounty on export, while permitting freedom of export whatever the home price might be. The latter part of the scheme was passed into law in the session of 1814; but the irritation of the manufacturing districts against the new scale of import duties was too great to be resisted. In the subsequent session an act was passed, after much opposition, fixing 80s. (14s. more than during the wars) as the price at which import of wheat was to become free of duty.
This act of 1815 was intended to keep the price of wheat in the British markets at about 80s. per quarter; but the era of war and great expenditure of money raised by public loans had ended, the ports of the continent were again open to some measure of trade and to the equalizing effect of trade upon prices, the Bank of England and other banks of issue had to begin the uphill course of a resumption of specie payments, the nation had to begin to feel the whole naked weight of the war debt, and the idea of the protectors of a high price of corn was proved by the event to be an utter hallucination. The corn statutes of the next twenty years, though occupying an enormous amount of time and attention in the Houses of Parliament, may be briefly treated, for they are simply a record of the impotence of legislation to maintain the price of a commodity at a high point when all the natural economic causes in operation are opposed to it. In 1822 a statute was passed reducing the limit of prices at which importation could proceed to 70s. for wheat, 35s. for barley, 25s. for oats; but behind the apparent relaxation was a new scale of import duties, by which foreign grain was subjected to heavy three-month duties up to a price of 85s.,—17s. when wheat was 70s., 12s. when between 70s. and 80s., and 10s. when 85s., showing the grasping spirit of the would-be monopolizers of the home supply of corn, and their reluctance to believe in a lower range of value for corn as for all other commodities. This act never operated, for the reason that, with the exception in some few instances of barley, prices never were so high as its projectors had contemplated. The corn trade had passed rapidly beyond reach of the statutes by which it was to be so painfully controlled; and as there were occasional seasons of scarcity, particularly in oats, the king in council was authorized for several years to override the statutes, and do whatever the public interests might require.
In 1827 Canning introduced a new system of duties, under which there would have been a fixed duty of 1s. per quarter when the price of wheat was at or above 70s., and an increased duty of 2s. for every shilling the price fell below 69s.; but though Canning’s resolutions were adopted by a large majority in the House of Commons, his death and the consequent change of ministers involved the failure of his scheme of corn duties. In the following year Charles Grant introduced another scale of import duties on corn, by which the duty was to be 23s. when the price was 64s., 16s. 8d. when the price was 69s., and only 1s. when the price was 73s. or above 73s. per quarter; and this became law the same year. This sliding scale was more objectionable, as a basis of foreign corn trade, than that of Canning, though not following so closely shilling by shilling the variation of prices, because of the abrupt leaps it made in the amount of duties leviable. For example, a merchant who ordered a shipment of foreign wheat when the home price was 70s. and rising to 73s., instead of having a duty of 1s. to pay, should on a backward drop of the home price to 69s. have 16s. 8d. of duty to pay. The result was to introduce wide and incalculable elements of speculation into all transactions in foreign corn. The prices during most part of this period were under the range at which import was practically prohibited. The average price of British wheat was 96s. 11d. in 1817, but from that point there was in succeeding years a rapid and progressive decline, varied only by the results of the domestic harvests, till in 1835 the average price of wheat was 39s. 4d., of barley 29s. 11d. and oats 22s. The import of foreign grain in these years consisted principally of a speculative trade, under a privilege of warehousing accorded in the statute of 1773, and extended in subsequent acts, by which the grain might be sold for home consumption on payment of the duties, or re-exported free, as suited the interest of the holders.
The act of 1822 admitted corn of the British possessions in North America under a favoured scale of duties, and in 1825 a temporary act was passed, allowing the import of wheat from these provinces at a fixed duty of 5s. per quarter, irrespective of the home price, which, if maintained, would have given some stability to the trade with Canada. The idea of a fixed duty on all foreign grain, however, appears to have grown in favour from about this period. It was included in the programme of import duty reforms of the Whig government in 1841, and fell with its propounders in the general election of that year. Sir Robert Peel, on succeeding to office, and commencing his remarkable career as a free-trade statesman, introduced and carried in 1842 a new sliding scale of duties somewhat better adjusted to the current values. But public opinion by this time was changing, and the prime minister, convinced, as he confessed, by the arguments of Cobden and the Anti-Corn-Law League, and stimulated into action by the failure of the potato crop in Ireland, put an effectual end to the history of the corn laws by the famous act of 1846. It was provided under this measure that the maximum duty on foreign wheat was to be immediately reduced to 10s. per quarter when the price was under 48s., to 5s. on barley when the price was under 26s., and to 4s. on oats when the price was under 18s., with lower duties as prices rose above these figures; but the conclusive part of the enactment was that in three years—on the 1st of February 1849—these duties were to cease, and all foreign corn to be admitted at a duty of 1s. per quarter, and all foreign meal and flour at a duty of 4½d. per cwt.—the same nominal imposts which were conceded to grain and flour of British possessions abroad from the date of the act. In 1869 even these nominal duties were abolished by Robert Lowe in a Customs Duties Act. In 1902 a registration duty of 3d. per cwt. was imposed on imported corn, and 5d. per cwt. on imported flour, in the expectation that such a duty would broaden the basis of taxation. The duty was, however, repealed the following year. But a low duty on imported foreign corn was made an essential part of the tariff reform scheme advocated by Mr. J. Chamberlain (q.v.) from 1903 onwards.
Foreign Corn Laws.—Freedom of export of corn from customs duties has become the general rule of nearly all foreign countries. It is somewhat curious that Spain saw the advantage to her wheat-producing provinces of freedom of export of wheat as early as 1820, and three years afterwards extended this freedom to all “fruits of the soil” in Spain. The import Spain. duty on wheat, as on other grain, has varied from time to time. The tariff of 1882 fixed the duty at 2s. 3¼d. per cwt.; a law of February 1895 raised the duty to 4s. 3¼d. per cwt., at which rate it remained till 1898, when it was reduced to 2s. 5¼d., though in this same year, that of the war with the United States, it was for some three months suspended, owing to distress in the country. In 1899 it was raised to 3s. 3d., and by a law of March 1904 fixed at 6.00 pesetas per 100 kilos (2s. 5¼d. per cwt.) as long as the average price of wheat in the markets of Castile does not fall below 27.00 pesetas per 100 kilos (11s. per cwt.). The duty on rye, oats, barley and maize is 1s. 9½d. per cwt. The duty on flour varied from 3s. 4½d. per cwt. in 1882 to 7s. 0½d. in 1895; by the law of March 1904 it was fixed at 4s. 0¾d. per cwt. The duty on rice is 2s. 1¾d. per cwt. in the husk and 4s. 3¾d. not in the husk. Portugal. In Portugal the import duty on wheat was fixed by a law of May 1888 at 20 reis per kilo (4s. 7d. per cwt.). By a law of July 1889, as amended by laws of August 1891 and July 1899, importation is prohibited except in the event of the home-grown crop being insufficient, and even then permission is confined to millers. The duty, in the event of permission to import being accorded, is to be charged on a sliding scale intended to keep the cost of wheat to the millers, including the duty, at 60 reis (3¼d.) per kilo (2.2 ℔s.). Maize is subject to a duty of 4s. 1½d. per cwt., and rye, oats and barley to one of 3s. 8d. per cwt. By laws of July 1889 and August 1891 the importation of flour was prohibited except in the event of a strike of the mill-hands, and the duty was fixed at 6s. 2d. per cwt. Export and import of France. grain in France were prohibited down to the period of the repeal of the British corn laws, save when prices were below certain limits in the one case and above certain other limits in the other. But export of grain and flour from France has long been free of duty. On the other hand, import duties have varied considerably. By a law of 1881, the duty on wheat was fixed at 3d. per cwt.; this duty was raised in 1885 to 1s. 2¾d. per cwt. and again in 1887 to 2s. 0½d. By a law of 1894 the duty was fixed at 2s. 10¼d. per cwt. In 1898, owing to the sudden rise in the price of corn occasioned by the war between Spain and the United States, the duty was temporarily (the 4th of May to the 30th of June) suspended. By a law of 1873 free importation of rye, barley, maize and oats was permitted, but by a law of 1885 Belgium.a duty was fixed at 7¼d. per cwt., and this was subsequently (1887) increased to 1s. 2¾d. In 1881 the duty on imported flour was as low as 5¾d. per cwt., but this was increased successively by laws of 1885, 1887, 1891 and 1892, and in 1894 was fixed at 4s. 5¾d. per cwt. at the rate of extraction of 70% and over; 5s. 5¾d. at 70 to 60%; and 6s. 6d. at 60% and under. In Belgium both the export and import of wheat, rye, barley and maize are free of duty; so also were oats and flour. Since 1895, however, there has been a duty of 1s. 2½d. on oats, and of 9¾d. on flour. The policy of the Netherlands was, owing to the advantages possessed by its ports, long favourable to the import and export of grain. But for some years prior to 1845 there was a Netherlands.moderate sliding scale of import duties, and this gave place, on the ravages of the potato disease, to a low fixed duty; since 1877, however, the importation of cereals and flour has been free. In Italy there are no duties on the export of grain. The import duties show a progressive Italy. increase. In 1878 the import duty on wheat was 6¾d. per cwt.; this was increased to 1s. 2¾d. in 1888, and in 1894 to 3s. 0½d. As in Spain and France, there was a temporary reduction and suspension during 1898, on the Spanish-American war. The duty on rye, barley, oats and maize was fixed by the tariff of 1878 at 5½d. per cwt. By a decree of 1894 the duty on rye was raised to 1s. 10d.; that on barley, by a decree of 1896, to 1s. 7½d.; that on oats, by a decree of 1888, to 1s. 7½d.; and that on maize, by a decree of 1896, to 3s. 0½d. The duty on flour, fixed at 1s. 1½d., by the tariff of 1878, was raised to 2s. 5¼d. in 1888, to 3s. 6½d. in 1888, and to 5s. in 1894. In Germany, the duty on wheat and rye, as fixed by the tariff of 1879, was 6d. per cwt. In 1885 this Germany. was raised to 1s. 6¼d., and in 1888 to 2s. 6½d. By treaty in 1892 this was decreased to 1s. 9¼d. On oats the duty in 1879 was 6d. per cwt., increased to 9¼d. in 1885, and again, in 1888, to 2s. 0½d., but reduced to 1s. 5d. in 1892. On barley the duty in 1879 was 3d., in 1885 9¼d., in 1888 1s. 1¾d., and in 1892 1s. 0¼d. On maize, 3d. in 1879, 6d. in 1885, 1s. 0¼d. in 1888, and 9¾d. in 1892. On flour, 1s. 0¼d. in 1879, 3s. 9¾d. in 1885, 5s. 4d. in 1888, and 3s. 8½d. in 1892. The new German tariff of 1906 which formed the basis for the new German commercial treaties with Russia, Italy, Austria-Hungary, &c., and which was passed when the influence of the agrarian party was predominant, increased still more the import duties on cereals. Under this tariff there are two rates of duties: (1). Those of the new “general” tariff as applied to imports from all countries entitled to most favoured-nation treatment. (2). “Conventional” tariff rates, conceded to other states as the result of treaties. Under this tariff the “general” and “conventional” duties, respectively, on wheat are 3s. 9½d. and 2s. 9d.; on oats Austria-Hungary. and rye, 3s. 6½d. and 2s. 6¼d.; on “common baker’s produce,” 8s. 3d. and 5s. 2d. In Austria-Hungary the import duty on wheat and rye is, under the tariff of 1887, 1s. 6¼d. per cwt.; on barley and oats, 9¼d.; on maize, 6d., and on flour, 3s. 9¾d.
The great countries, famous for a production of raw materials
much beyond their own means of consumption, are favourable, of
course, to the utmost freedom of export. The empire
of China itself was never unwilling to sell to foreigners tea for which there was United States.
India. no domestic use. The United States promotes transit and export of grain, internally and externally, with all the intelligence and resources of a civilized people. Although the import duty on “breadstuffs” imposed by the United States tariff is very high, and is, possibly, a useful protection against the importation of “baker’s products,” yet it is to a certain extent unnecessary for a country which must dispose of its surplus by exportation. The same remark applies to Russia, whose exportation and importation are alike free, though there is an import duty on wheat flour of 2s. 11½d. per cwt. In the British colonies probably the only example of an export duty is that on rice in British India; it amounts to 3 annas per maund (4d. per cwt.). The import of grain into India is free. In Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and all mainly agricultural countries, there is no export duty. In each of these countries, however, there is an import duty; in the cases of Australia and New Zealand, designed, to a certain extent, as a precaution Australia,
New Zealand, Canada.
South Africa. against possible rivalry on the part of the other. The Australian import duty is 1s. 6d. per cental (100 ℔ av.), and the New Zealand 9d. per cental. The Canadian import duties on grain are important only in the light of being a species of retaliation against similar duties imposed by the United States with the design of restricting inter-frontier exchange. The Canadian import duty is, on barley, 30% ad valorem; on buckwheat, rye and oats, 4.93d. per bushel, and on wheat, 5.92d. per bushel. The South African production of cereal is still insufficient to meet the demand for home consumption, and there is a considerable grain importation. The import duty, which undoubtedly acts as an encouragement to home agriculture, is 1s. per cental. (See also Grain Trade.) (R. So.; T. A. I.)
- M‘Culloch found from a comparison of the prices of corn and wages of labour in the reign of Henry VII. and the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth, that in the former period a labourer could earn a quarter of wheat in 20, a quarter of rye in 12, and a quarter of barley in 9 days; whereas, in the latter period, to earn a quarter of wheat required 48, a quarter of rye 32, and a quarter of barley 29 days’ labour.