Economic Annals of the Nineteenth Century

By William Smart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
1804. THE NEW CORN LAW

THE Corn Law passed in 1804 can scarcely be understood without some reference to its predecessors. For nearly four centuries after the Conquest, the importation of corn was free and the exportation was prohibited, both, according to the ideas of the times, in the interests of the consumer. In 1436, as a concession to the agricultural interests, exportation was allowed when the price of wheat fell to 6/8 per qr., and, in 1463, importation was prohibited until it rose above 6/8. From 1570, the consideration of revenue seems to have had some place, and an export duty was now charged: under the last Stewarts, the duties were raised so high as to kill the exports. In 1633, first, the internal corn trade was made free by the abolition of the Engrossing Acts which had practically prevented the moving of grain from one district to another. In 1670, came the first systematic corn law. No corn was now admitted free. When the home price was 53/4 or under, the imports paid what was considered a prohibitory duty of 16/-; between 53/4 and 80/-, the duty was 8/- ; above 80/-, the duty was 5/4. There can be no explanation of such a law but Protection, for even 53/4 was "a famine price" in these days. In 1689, this importation scale was continued, but now, again in the interests of agriculture, the old exportation policy of duties on export was reversed, and a bounty of 5/- was given when the price was at or below 48/-, the intention being to prevent the price falling too low. In 1773, came the second corn law, the work of Burke, which Adam Smith said was like the laws of Solon : "though not the best in itself, it is the best which the interests, prejudices, and temper of the times would admit of." When the home price was not above 48/-, the high duty of 16/- was imposed; above that figure, only a nominal duty of 6d.

Former Corn Laws.

In 1670.

In 1773.

-90-

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