Economic Annals of the Nineteenth Century

By William Smart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
1801. "THE PEACE WHICH ALL MEN WERE GLAD OF BUT NO ONE COULD BE PROUD OF"

THE first three months of 1801 were critical and alarming to the last degree. All the emergency measures adopted in 1800 were continued and strengthened. Wheat continued to rise till, in April, it was 151/4.1 The Committee on the High Price of Provisions, in February, issued a recommendation that premiums, amounting in all to about £30,000, should be given for the growing of potatoes -- "people were obliged to eat what had never been the common food of the people." With wheat rose all other grain, while meat was double what it had been in January, 1799. On the continent, everything seemed to be going against us. When the first Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland met on 22nd January, the nation, as Carnarvon said, had fallen to the lowest point of despondency.

Everything against us.

Pitt, however, kept a brave face. When he introduced the Budget on 18th February,2 all that he dwelt on was the flourishing state of the finances and of trade. The year 1801, he said, might be called the era of our prosperity as well as of our trial. The war had been attended with a constant increase of

Pitt's optimism.

____________________
1
The prices of wheat quoted by various historians and statistical writers during the period covered by this volume are extremely divergent. For instance, the average price per imperial quarter in England and Wales, for 1800, is given by Porter as 110/5, by the Annual Register at 112/8, by Tooke as 113/7, by M'Culloch and by the Customs Tariff blue-book as 113/10. As only one of these, the Annual Register, gives the monthly prices as well as the annual, and as it is sometimes essential to note the variations in prices during the year, I have occasionally had to take the prices which appear in the Annual Register of each year. I propose, however, to adopt in general the Board of Agriculture prices, extracted from the Annual Agricultural Returns for Great Britain, as given in the Customs Tariffs blue-book of 1897 (c. 8706), and in the Wholesale and Retail Prices blue-book, 1903 (321).
2
Hansard, xxxv. 971.

-42-

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