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reliance on private credit, and all the other delicate arrangements of the money market. If the necessity for this large import of grain became apparent only at the last moment, the general monetary disturbance would be all the greater; but it, through an honest and systematic tabulation of Agricultural Statistics, the deficiency of the crop could be known beforehand, merchants would look sharply around them, and the imported corn might possibly be paid for in British manufactures, instead of coin and bullion. "Mr. Leoni Levi, when he sketched this mode of illustration, could hardly have anticipated how strikingly his arguments would be verified within a few months, or even weeks; that which Mr. Levi said in June was exemplified in September and October, when, on account of deficient harvests in France and Prussia, France competed with England in the purchase of corn ; prices ran up; and this, combined with one or two peculiar circumstances in the monetary condition of Europe, affected our bullion deposits, our rate of dis. count, and our general commercial arrangements, to a most serious extent.
Thirdly, comes the effect upon freightage and shipping arrangements. Mr. Levi puts as a supposition that, at the last moment, in consequence of our ignorance of the probable amount of home-grown corn, we suddenly find ourselves six million quarters short of the necessary quantity for our national supply. This would perhaps occasion a sudden rise of 6s. per quarter. But more would yet have to be encountered. The suddenness of the demand would cause an enormous application for ships to bring over the corn; and the shipowners, making their market out of such favourable circumstances, would immediately raise the freightage, perhaps 4s. or 6s. higher. per ton. It might very probably be that we, as a bread-cating nation, should be called upon to pay 3,000,0001, more for this inported corn than would have been paid if, by knowing beforehand what we should want, our merchants had spread their purchases and speculations regularly over the year.
Superadded to all this, are certain considerations arising out of inequalities in the lateness of harvest in different countries. The later in the season we go into the foreign markets to purchase corn, the less we shall get, and the higher price we shall pay for it. The English harvest is generally about two months later than the harvest in France and Italy. Supposing then, that, in a particular year, England and France both have deficient harvests; France, knowing her wants two months earlier than England, sends at once to Odessa, or Galatz, or Taganrog, or Alexandria, or any other place where corn may happen to be abundant, and makes the requisite purchases; insomuch that when, two months afterwards, England finds that she has more mouths to fill than corn wherewith to fill them, she sees that France has had the “ pick of the market,” and that cheap Mediterranean corn is not easily obtainable. If the English merchants, by virtue of trustworthy agricultural statistics, could have known a few months before the harvest that the crop would probably be below an average, they would have gone to the foreign
markets betimes, and placed themselves on an equality with the merchants of France.
The reader, it is hoped, will detect in the above arguments materials for showing how vastly important, in a national as well as an individual point of view, is the possession of accurate information concerning the quantities of corn and other produce available in a given country at a given time. If it affect England, it must affect all other countries in a greater or lesser degree ; for great natural laws do not succumb to the merely artificial separation between different states. Consequently we find that many nations of Europe are now alive to this important subject, and are endeavouring to strengthen themselves by strengthening their knowledge, either through the operations of scientific societies, or through the agency of the state, which in most continental countries is more direct and centralised than in England.
Before noticing the attempts to gather wisdom in this path, it may be well to point out two sources of vagueness in most English estimates concerning corn-crops and corn-quantities : vagueness which vitiates conclusions unless duly taken into account. These relate, the first to corn measures, and the second to corn averages.
The doubts concerning weights and measures would not exist if men of science had been able to bring the mass of the community to agree in certain sensible alterations.
No longer back than twenty years ago, corn was sold in England in four different ways—by measure alone; by weight alone; by measure with a fixed weight per measure ; and by measure with the actual weight per measure in each case. In the districts where weight was employed as the standard for the dealings between buyers and sellers, it was often a tale or rate of weight different from that in use in other places; where measure was used, a different denomination of measure was adopted in one place from that in another; different multiples of the same measure were used in different places ; and sometimes all these diversities of system were observable in one and the same town or county. As a consequence of these anomalies, when corn was bought in one place by weight, and afterwards sold in another by measure, difficulty arose in determining at what rate it should be sold, for want of a standard or common point of relation between the two systems. Frequent misunderstandings hence arose; the labour of discharging and estimating cargo was increased, and the quotations in the prices of corn in different markets were often rendered unintelligible--a sort of perplexity known by analogy to the housewives of different towns, in one of which, perhaps, potatoes are sold by the pound, while in another they are sold by the pottle or peck. Furthermore, as the corn buyer finds it necessary to attend to quality as well as quantity ; as the quality of corn depends mainly on the ratio between the bran and the flour or meal which it yields; and as more flour and bread are produced from corn of heavy than of light specific quality-it became difficult for any controlling body to lay down a convenient general mode of determining quantity and quality. It will be observed that in the four modes mentioned above, measure
alone will determine the quantity but not the quality ; tne like may be said of the method by weight alone, and also of that wherein measure is combined with a fixed weight per measure ; but the fourth method-measure, combined with a statement of the weight per measure in each particular case-determines both the quantity and the quality. The last of the four is, in fact, a determination of the value of corn by the bulk and the specific gravity-just as the excise officer determines the exciseable value of a vessel of spirits by the bulk and the specific gravity.
Unfortunately, practical men, in their daily shopkeeping arrangements, are rather afraid of so scientific a term as “ specific gravity,” and view with distrust any but the simplest modes of weighing and measuring. A Committee of the House of Commons, appointed to investigate this matter in 1834, recommended that the double system, the weight and the specific gravity, should be enforced by the legislature ; but the nation seems to have settled down pretty generally into the adoption of imperial measure leaving the purchaser to determine the weight and specific gravity and quality of the corn purchased, in any way that may be satisfactory to himself. The nature and origin of this imperial measure have been abundantly explained in former volumes of the Companion to the Almanac.*
· Notwithstanding the apparent stringency of the law, it is known that farmers and country people manage to evade the 'imperial measure,' and cling to the old familiar local measures which Parliament has taken so much trouble to suppress. The innumerable varieties of bushel' in use in past days, have been discountenanced by the legislature, and superseded by a bushel of definite capacity, which was to determine all sales of corn and other grain. Yet in many cases grain is practically sold by weight. It arises in this way. A bushel of wheat of good quality weighs about 63 lb. avoirdupois; wheat of poor quality may only weigh 58 lbs.; while medium qualities will occupy a middle position in the scale of weight. A corn factor, it is said, will expect 63 lbs. per bushel from an East Lincolnshire wheat grower, but will sell that same wheat at 60 lbs. per bushel in the great clothing towns of the West Riding; this difference in weight appears to have been originally intended to cover the freight from Lincolnshire to Yorkshire ; but as the Yorkshireman will of course have his eyes open to the nature of the bargain he is making, it is difficult to see how the plan can do other than complicate the book-keeping arrangements between the respective parties. It has been lately ascertained, by a parliamentary inquiry, that in seventyseven of the market towns in England and Scotland, from which weekly corn-reports are made, the bushel is expected to contain a certain definite weight of corn; and if, as is very likely, a particular sample fails to reach this standard, the difference is made up artificially. Thus, if corn at 58 lbs. be sold at a market where 63 lbs. is regarded as a standard, 5 lbs. per bushel extra are given to make up the weight-thereby rendering the mode of purchase fully as much determined by weight as by measure. Let us see how this operates,
* Comp. Alm, for 1828, pp. 98-104 ; 1829, pp. 111-114; 1830, pp. 112-118; 1835, pp. 112-116; id., pp. 146-147; 1836, p. 129.
in the official returns of the financial dealings of the nation in respect to corn. The inspector ignores these differences; he asks not, cares not, how many pounds per bushel the corn may weigh; he requires only measures, not.weights ; if the seller have given 5 lbs. per bushel over, because the corn belongs to the poor or 58 lbs. class, the inspector takes no account of the 12 per cent. or upwards thus added ; and his returns become, in respect to such a transaction, fallacious. Such, in perhaps a smaller degree, is the case in relation to oats, barley, rye, beans, peas, &c.; all are more or less subjected to the double process of measuring and weighing—measuring, because the law requires it; weighing, because the dealers regard it as essential to the condition of an intelligible and equitable bargain. Some writers estimate a bushel of good barley at 48 lbs., of oats at 40 lbs., of rye at 52 lbs., of Indian corn at 60 lbs., of beans at 64 lbs.,—but whether these estimates be correct or not, the dealers like to assume a certain weight per bushel for each, and to give or receive a few pounds additional if the weight be below this standard. In Ireland, the cwt. of 112 lbs. is extensively used in the corn trade, without employing measure at all; and many persons in England regard this as a useful system.
An efficient plan of obtaining ayricultural statistics ought therefore, it is evident, to take cognizances of these anomalies in the determination of quantities.
What are called the corn averages, are entries or tables originally intended to regulate the duty on corn ; but if modified and improved, they might be made an auxiliary to agricultural statistics. For a century previous to the year 1821, such returns were collected from the principal seaports of twelve maritime counties- entirely in relation to the imposition of duty on foreign corn; the collector of the returns was appointed by the magistrates of the town or borough in which the return was made, but his salary was paid by the government. In 1921 a change was made. The averages were ordered to be collected from 120 large market-towns in England and Wales. Every corn. merchant, miller, baker, and maltster, was ordered to make weekly returns to the inspector. The inspector provided a place for the reception of these return3; he posted up in some convenient locality the gross weekly returns, with the average price of each description of grain sold in the preceding seven days. These averages were then forwarded to the Comptroller of Corn Returns, in London, who added up all the gross amounts from all the inspectors, and struck a six weeks' average for the whole kingdom—which average regulated the duties on the admission of foreign corn for home consumption. When the sliding-scale' came into operation, there were several instances of the averages being tampered with, in London and some of the outports, by false returns; this was done by fraudulent persons, with a view of lowering the rate of duties by fictitious sales of large quantities of corn; thus swelling the quantity returned, raising the prices, and lowering the duty. In 1842 à motive of economy, whether wise or not, led to the appointment of excisemen, without any increase of salary, in place of inspectors, as the latter might die off, for taking the corn averages; and the returns are believed to have suffered in accuracy from this change. When the corn laws were repealed, further changes were made; the corn averages ceased to be as valuable as before in respect to fiscal regulations; but they remained important in connexion with the commutation of tithes; and it is now considered that they might render useful aid to the agricultural statists. The list of towns whence the returns are made has been largely increased ; in all the towns thus added, excisemen haro been appointed instead of inspectors. This arrangement would probably be changed, if the whole system came under the jurisdiction of the Board of Trade.
Lord Berners, one of the members of the Lords' Committee in 1855, gave an account of the very exact method adopted in the Haddington Corn Exchange, to regulate the entries of all the transactions in grain. Each person exposing grain for sale at the Exchange, prepares a sample bag, or boll of four bushels; this is taken to a weighing-machine, and weighed by persons appointed by the magistrates ; the weight is marked with chalk on the sack. This sample-bag being deposited in an office at the Exchange, the seller obtains a ticket from a clerk, on which is marked the No. of the sample, the quantity for sale, and the weight of the sample of four bushels. This ticket is deposited in the sample-bag for the examination of buyers. The clerk, when making out the ticket, enters similar figures in a book kept for the purpose. Preliminaries being thus settled, the farmer is at liberty to sell his grain from the sample. A sale being effected, the farmer or his servant returns the ticket to the clerk ; stating at the same time the quantity sold and the price per quarter obtained. The books of the clerk then exhibit the history of the transaction in seven columns; viz., the No. of the sample, the name of the seller, the weight of the grain per boll of four bushels, the quantity exposed for sale, the quantity sold, the price per quarter, and the total money proceeds. The clerk keeps one book for wheat, and one each for barley, oats, and beans. A penalty of 5s. is imposed on any seller who neglects to fill up and return a ticket. All the tickets for any given day having been thus completed and returned, the clerk adds up the total quantity of each kind of grain exposed for sale, and the total quantity sold. He is then enabled to calculate the value or gross proceeds of each kind, by first summing up the different columns in the book, and then dividing the proceeds by the quantity sold. The average price of each kind of grain or corn, thus ascertained, is communicated to the newspapers which circulate in and near Haddingdon. And not only so, but various other particulars concerning the state of the day's market-such as the quantities of each kind at market, the quantities sold, the price fetched by each parcel, the average of all these prices, and the contrast which the prices present to those of the preceding market day, whether higher or lower in respect to each kind of grain. This system, though requiring many words to describe, need not be complicated or tedious in practice; and it certainly seems to possess this advantage—that the weight or specific gravity . or quality of the grain is indicated as well as the measure.
Foreign countries, we have observed, have effected something