WHEN, in February, the question of the Corn Laws came before Parliament for the third year in succession, circumstances had not improved for the agriculturists. The average price of wheat for January had been 60/8, and that of the loaf 111/4d. It was expected that the average price for the six weeks preceding 15th February would be below 63/- and so subject foreign wheat to the practically prohibitory duty of 24/3, but meanwhile the ports were open, and as yet there had been no relief from the war taxation. The foreign imports had been specially large during the later months of 1814. Upwards of 300,000 quarters of wheat came in four months from France alone.
Alarming condition of agriculture.
There was no question that agricultural distress was now at its worst. Spence probably did not exaggerate when lie said that the best grain was selling at a price that would have been a losing one even were the land rent free, while ordinary qualities were unsaleable; that thousands of farmers who, a year before, were living in prosperity, were utterly unable to raise money for their taxes alone, while tens of thousands to discharge them were forced to sell their produce at half its prime cost; that wide wasting ruin was extending over the farming world in every direction.1"I doubt," said Malthus at the beginning of 1815, "whether, in the most extensive mercantile distress that ever took place in this country, there was ever one fourth of the property or one tenth of the number of individuals concerned, when compared with the effects of the present rapid fall of raw produce combined with the very scanty crop of last year. There never perhaps____________________