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First report from the /e/eH Committee appointed to take into consideration the present high price os Cora.
THE select committee appointed to take into consideration the present high price of corn, and to collect evidence relative thereto, and to report the same, from time to time, as it shall appear to them, to the house, with their observations thereupon, proceeded, in the first instance, to consider such information as bad been already collected concerning the fame.
They examined, for this purpose, the minutes of the evidence taken before the lords of his majesty's privy council, upon this subject. They received from sir John Sinclair, one of the members of the committee, the substance of such accounts of the state of the late crop of grain, as the correspondence of the board of agriculture had enabled them, at the present period, to collect. They had furtherthe opportunity of receiving from many of their members a statement of facts within their own knowledge or communicated by respectable authorities from their different counties.
They have received also from his majesty's principal secretary of state for the home department, such returns as had been hitherto made to the circular letter written by him, by his majesty's command, to the
custodes rotulorum and sheriffs depute in England and Scotland, desiring them to obtain meetings of the magistrates for the purpose of procuring an account of the state of the late crop: but these returns are not as yet sufficiently numerous or complete to lead to any precise conclusion.
On the whole, however, the general information derived from the sources above-raentionedi satisfied your committee, that the crop of other forts of grain than wheat has been upon the whole abundant, but that the produce of wheat has proved so far deficient, as to require the adoption of the speediest aud most effectual measures for the remedy or alleviation of so great an evil. They were therefore of opinion, that they mould best persona their duty by directing their immediate attention to the consideration of such measures j and have, on that account, deferred for the present pursuing a detailed inquiry into the exact amount of such deficiency; but they propose to report the same more particularly to the house, when they thall have received such further information as may enable them to collect more fully the general opinion, upon a point which they are sensible it is impossible at any time to ascertain with any great degree of accuracy.
The first and most obvious mode
of of supplying this deficiency is, the importation of grain from foreign parts—and for the purpose of forming an opinion as to what may be the prospect of supply from thence, and the mod expedient means to be adopted for procuring it, your committee proceeded to examine such persons, from whose knowledge and experience in the trade of corn they could expect the belt information. It appeared from their concurrent testimony, that, though the crop of wheat in the United States of America, and in the countries bordering upon the Mediterranean, was represented as abundant; and in the northern and eastern parts of Europe as not materially deficient ;• yet, as the old flock was much exhausted, and the demand great, the price, according to the last advices, was every where uncommonly high. But, though there was upon this point some difference of opinion, it appeared upon the whole very doubtful whether a supply to any considerable extent could be depended upon from foreign parts, whatever measures might be adopted. Your committee next proceeded to in-, quire w'hat measures, in the judgment ot these persons, afforded the best probability ot obtaining such a supply. They thought it right to bring distinctly under their consideration the alternative of leaving the whole care of such purchases to the executive government, who would (it was conceived) be in such case the only purchasers, and be publickly known to be so; or of leaving the same to the speculation of individual merchants, encouraged by a liberal bounty on importation, and by a public declalation on the part of government
(as soon as such declaration shall be practicable) of the quantity which they may then have at their disposal iu consequence of former orders, and of their intention to give no further orders for the purchafe of corn, and to fell what may have bi-en procured in limited quantities, and at the market price. It appeared to your committee to be the preponderant opinion amongst those persons lo whom this alternative was stated, that, upon the whole, the restoration of the trade in corn to its natural channel, with the additional encouragement of a bounty, was the molt eligible mode of endeavouring to procure from foreign parts such supplies as those markets might be found able to furnish. Yonr committee were further confirmed in this opinion by the information they received from some of their members, that there were merchants who had stated to them, their readiness, under those circumstances, to engage in speculations to a large extent. >\fter a full consideration and discussion of this important point, yonr committee were of opinion, " that it was expedient for the executive government to desist from making any further purchases of corn ; and that a bounty should be granted upon the importation of certain sorts of grain into this country, for the encouragement of private speculation."
Your committee next proceeded to the consideration of the amount and distribution of such bounty. They had been informed that, from the abundance of the crop oswheat in the countries bordering upon the Mediterranean, there might be a considerable disposable surplus in those markets; but that, from the high, price of freight and insurance from those ports, and from the difficulty of procuring (hipping to go thither in ballast, a larger bounty would be required to encourage private speculation in that 'juarler than in any other; they were therefore of opinion, that a bounty of twenty stiillin«s per quarter, and a proportional b.xinty p^r barrel, should be given on any number of quarters of wheat, weighing not less than 44.0 pounds avoirdupois, or on any number of barrels of flour, weighing not less than igopoundsavoirdupois, which shall be imported into Great Britain from any port of Europe south of Cape Finisterre, or from any port in the Mediterranean, or in Africa, before the 3 tsi day of August, 1796; until the quantity of Inch wheat and flour, taken together, thai! eiju.il 300,000 quarters.
They were further satisfied, upon the best information they could collect, that from the other parts cf Europe, and from America, a bounty of 1 5s. per quarter upon a certain quantity of wheat, and of 10s. per quarter upon all exceeding it, would be sufficient to give a fair chance of procuring-for the British markets a large proportion of whatever supply those countries might be expected to furnish beyond their own consumption: and they were therefore of opinion, that a bounty ot fifteen (hillings per quarter, and a proportional bounty per barrel, should be given on any number of quarters of wheat, weighing not less than 44.01b. avoirdupois, or on any number of barrels of flour, weighing not less than 1961b avoirdupois, which (hall be imported 'v'jiti all other parts of Europe, be
fore the 31st day of August 1796; until the quantity of such wheat aud flour, taken together, snail equal 500,000 quarters. Your committee were also of opinion, that a bounty of fifteen shillings per quarter, aud a proportional bounty per barrel, should be given oti any number of quarters of wheat weighing not less than 4401b.. avoirdupois, or on any number of barrels of Hour, weighing not less than 1961b. avoirdupois, which stiall be imported from any of his majesty's colonies in America, or from the United States, before the 31st of August i;y&; until the quantity of such wheat and flour, taken together, shall equal 500,000 qrs. Your committee were also of opinion, that a bounty of ten (hillings per quarter, and a proportional bounty per barrel, should be given on any number of quarters of wheat, weighing not less than 44clb. avoirdupois, or on any number of barrels of flour, weighing not less than 1961b avoirdupois, which (hall be imported into Great Britain before the 31st day of August i 7_j6, and on which none of the before-mentioned bounties stiall have been paid.
Your committee being convinced, that isa considerable quantity of Indian corn could be obtained (which from the abundance os that crop appears not improbable) it would afford a material relics, were also of opinion, that a bounty of five shillings per quarter, and a proportional bounty per barrel, sliould be given on any number of quarters of Indian corn, or on any number of barrels ot Indian meal, which shall be imported into Great Britain before the 31st day of Auguli 1796; until the quantity of such Indian
corn corn and meal, taken together, shall equal 500,000 quarters. Your committee were also of opinion, that a bounty of three (hillings per quarter, and a proportional bounty per barrel, should be given on any number of quarters of Indian corn, or on any number of barrels of Indian meal, which shall be imported into Great Britain before the 31st day of August, 1796; and on which the before mentioned bounty (hall not have been paid
Your committee have some reason to believe, that there may appear such a deficiency in the crop of rye, as may lead to the/application of similar measures for the encouragement of the importation of that species of grain, as have been recommended respecting wheat; but they do not yet consider their information upon that point as sufficient to authorize them, at the present moment, to report any opinion to that effect.'
Your committee have thought it incumbent upon them, humbly to suggest such measures as have hitherto appeared, in their judgment, the most likely to facilitate the procuring, without loss of time, in the least exceptionable manner, and on the least unreasonable terms, the largest supply of grain from foreign parts, which, in the present relative state of the markets, they can be expected to afford. It was particularly with a view to expedition that they have suggested the proposed plan of arranging the boonty. But they feel it, at the fame time, their indispensable duty expressly to state, that they are far from entertaining any opinion that any supply, by importation, can be expended upon to such an amourit as to remove the necessity of
recurring to every other practicable and reasonable mode, by which the present scarcity may be relieved; and particularly of attending to strict economy in the consumption of wheat and flour, and of promoting the substitution, lo a certain exient, of other articles of food.
They intend to proceed immediately to the consideration of these and other parts of this extensive and important subject; and will, with the permission of the house, report, from time to time, such 0pinions as they may be enabled to form thereupon.
Second report from the seletl CommVn appointed to lake into conjidtratzn the present high price of Corn. THE select committee appointed to take into consideration the present high price of corn, and to collect evidence relative thereto, and to report the same from time to time, as it (hall appear to them, to the house, with their observation! thereupon,—have received, since their last report, further information respecting the deficiency in the crop of rye, and the great want of that article in those parts of the country where it forms the principal subsistence of the people; and they are thereby induced to think that similar measures ought to be adopted for the encouragement of the importation of that species of grain, as have been recommended respecting wheat. They beg leave therefore to submit their opinion to the house, that a bounty of ten shillings per quarter should be given for every quarter of rye, weighing not less than fifty pounds per bushel, which (hall be imported into Great Britain before the 30th day of September, 1796, until the quantity quantity of such rye shall exceed ■ 00,000 qmrters; and also that a bounty of tix (hillings per quarter ihould be given for every quarter of rye which (hall ba imported in to Great Britain before the 30th day of September, 1796, exceeding the quantity to which the beforementioned bounty is limited.
Your committee are also inclined to recommend an extension of the period for which the several "bounties on grain and flour are proposed to be granted. They observe, from the weekly returns of the price of wheat in the whole kingdom, and of the, price and quantity in the London imrket, .since Janmry last, that the highest price and the greatest scarcity took place during the months of July and August, and particularly in the latter. These, therefore, are the months for which it is most important to provide; and they are led to fear, that if the bounty is confined to such coin as may arrive before the 3 1 It of August, merchants m v be discouraged from sending supplies to this coun ry during that month, by the apprehension that they may not arrive in time to be entitled to the bounty. They beg leave therefore to suggest an extension of ihe time to the 30th of September; and they submit, whether it might not aiso be expedient to place, in proper hands, a discs tionary power of allowing the bounties to such ships as may arrive before the isth of Oiiober, upon proof of their having actually set sail from Great Britain, from their respective ports, at such tin:;; that they might, in the ordinary course of their voyage, have arrived before the 3 jth of September.
Your commitiee have also re
ceived a suggestion from merchants trading to the southern parts of Europe ond to Africa, that it would be adviseable (o enlarge the quantity to which the highest bounty upon corn, brought from those quarters, was proposed to be limited: they do not state an expectation that the whole os that quantity can be, procured; hut they are apprehensive that the original limitation mav tend to check speculation, by the fear of exceeding the quantity specified -and they propose, therefore, that tiie highell bounty Ihould be extended to 4:0,0:30 quarters.
Your committee have also examined several merchants respecting the proportion which the bounty upon flour ought to bear to that upon wheat; they have been sa* tisfied by this examination that, in consideration of th-^ various si/.fS and weight of the barrels used in different countries, it would le more adviseable to grant a bounty on the hundred-weight of flour than on the barrel, as had been <<t first suggested; that it is expedient to adopt, on the importation of wheat and wheat flour, the fame proportion of bounties which has been already established by the legislature on the exportation o£ the same (i. e ) Is od. per hundred weight of wheat flour, as equivalent to 5s. per quar.cr of wheat; and that t!v lame rule ought to be applied to Indian com and meal.
Iu suggesting, in their former report, tliat the bounty given on. wheat ought to b? limited to such as wught.d not less than at the rate of 55 pounds per bushel, your committee proceeded on information then received, that wheat of a lower weight was usually of so
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