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SUMMARY OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCE STATISTICS (WHEAT, BARLEY,
Some Thoughts on the Agricultural Situation.
Mr. STURGE'S brief but excellent Paper on the agricultural situation, in the last number of "Professional Notes," should be read side by side with the speech of Mr. R. L. EVERETT, in the House of Commons, in seconding Mr. LOPEZ's motion of censure on the Government for their apparent indifference to the severity of the present crisis, on the 27th July last. The fact of the mover of the resolution, Mr. LOPEZ, being on the Opposition side of the House and Mr. EVERETT on the side of the Government, is quite sufficient to divest the motion of any party character.
Mr. EVERETT, it will be seen, agrees absolutely with Mr. STURGE as to the periods of adversity and prosperity in agriculture. Mr. EVERETT (and his statements cannot be upset) contends that periods of agricultural prosperity march with those of monetary expansion, and adversity with those of contraction. It is now, I submit, the duty of everyone who has thought about the question at all, to advance any
opinions that he may have formed with vigour, and with all the force of expression he may be capable of. Those whose money is employed in the cultivation of land must sicken of the treatment of this great question of agricultural ruin, by charlatans and theorists, and they must loathe the tedious dissertations about railway rates, nitrates, phosphates, parochial rates, and improved methods, advocated by those who are not, and who never have been, in the business. Among my acquaintance I know no practical man, with his capital at stake, who does not admit that the present is a price crisis, and that, unless the continual droop in prices can be arrested or restored, no prosperity can return to agriculture. If a man has a cancer eating away his vitals, what does he say to the doctor who gives him a dose of magnesia?
As much a quack he is who wastes his wit and his breath about halfpennies and pennies when the whole agricultural capital is melting, or has melted, like butter in the sun.
Mr. EVERETT occupies almost an unique position in the House of Commons, inasmuch as his money is invested in, and he lives by the occupation of, land. Such credentials and such qualifications as these should commend his opinions to the consideration of practical persons. Mr. STURGE and he both agree as to the various periods of agricultural prosperity and adversity. Mr. STURGE wonders, and Mr. EVERETT explains, why they have occurred and may again occur.
I think it is safe to affirm that every economist of repute in the four quarters of the globe admits that the quantity of legal tender money in existence must have a considerable effect upon prices; that, if the volume of money is expanded by the fertility of the fields in which gold and silver is harvested, prices have a tendency to rise in propor
tion to that fertility; that, if by those fields becoming sterile (as in 1840-50), or other cause, contraction sets in, prices must proportionately fall.
Sterility of the mines may be one cause of contraction : the disuse of one or other of the metals by legal enactment may be another. Unfortunately for this generation the effects of both causes have been felt simultaneously. From the fifties to the nineties the production of the yellow metal has largely decreased, while the white metal has been generally demonetised. No wonder that contraction has again set in in a most acute form: no wonder that Mr. STURGE has cause for complaint! During the last six months this demonetising mania has spread to India and the United States.
In India the free coinage of silver-money has been stopped. In the United States the Sherman Act has been repealed (though only with a rider in favour of International Bimetallism). This latter never conferred the privilege of free coinage upon silver, but was merely a palliative, such as Mr. ALFRED DE ROTHSCHILD proposed, as a delegate of the British Government, at the Brussels Conference. Nevertheless, it provided largely for the use of silver as money. That is now at an end, and Asia and America will now want gold money. Must not this mean still further contraction, and a still further fall in gold prices? Those who foretold (and with accuracy), twenty years ago, that a general fall of prices must be expected are worthy of credence when they tell us now that, in consequence of recent legislation, a still further decline of values must be expected.
They tell us, still further, that this decline, with its train of ruin, difficulty, embarrassment, hunger, and distress, is the work of human law, and is capable of remedy. It can hardly be wondered, therefore, that they are inclined to press the acceptance of their doctrines upon the country
while there is yet time to avert the calamities that appear to impend. Every word of Mr. STURGE'S Paper is interesting, and his recommendation as to laying down to pasture and the extension of the dairy industry, which best holds its own, is, doubtless, the best and most practical advice that can be given. As one largely engaged in farming, both vicariously and on my own account, I agree with his facts and recommendations in every particular; but, if asked to contribute my thoughts upon the agricultural situation, I am compelled to submit that all such remedies as altered. and improved systems, readjustment of taxation, cheaper local transit, and so on, though most desirable in their way, are but shallow and superficial at best, and do not touch even the fringe of that great malady, monetary contraction, which is sapping the foundations of credit and sucking the life-blood of the nation. The words of an eminent American jurist are here worthy of quotation :—
"That hard times are upon our country, and upon all countries, is a fact of universal recognition. It may be 'due to a great many causes, but the causa causans, the "cause behind and generating all others, is the modern
endeavour to destroy the monetary value of half the specie "in the world. Nature's money, gold and silver, is the "basis of all currencies, all credit, all trade and commerce. "In proportion as this money abounds, is prosperity felt in "the occupations and enterprises of men. Restriction of its
quantity, contraction of its volume, is death to prosperity. "To destroy half of it, in order that obligations payable in "the other half may be increased in value, is the boldest speculation ever attempted by the Stock Exchanges against property and labour; by the city against the country; by Mammon against the Million. Many of the "best intellects of modern times are in protest against this "sin against Providence. Some of the noblest characters