At the present moment the people of England are only three-quarters fed, and the result of this improvement in the export of our manufactures would be, that they would be entirely fed.
Our people are unemployed and anxious to work for the food which foreigners can give us.
Our course, then, is clear; if we desire to put an end to pauperism, or to lessen it, we should import everything we can use or sell, in order that we may employ our unemployed hands, in making the goods by which we pay for these imports.
With an open trade in corn and a fixed duty we should have every man in the country fully fed and happy, instead of our present situation in which so much distress exists - distress of our own producing.
The advantage to Great Britain of a regular free trade in corn would, therefore, be more by raising the rest of the world to our standard and price, than by lowering the prices here to the standard of the Continent.
It is, and long has been my opinion, and I have heard honourable members in this House declare it to be theirs - that it is the duty of Parliament equally to protect all the different interests in the country.
We ought, therefore, to lessen the price of food to our manufacturers, and place them more on a level with the manufacturers who have cheaper food, and also much lighter taxation.
I maintain that the existing corn laws are bad, because they have given a monopoly of food to the landed interest over every other class and over every other interest in the kingdom.
In Great Britain the price of food is at a higher level than in any other country, and consequently, the British artisan labours at a disadvantage in proportion to the higher rate of his food.
There is abundant proof that the opening of our ports always tends to raise the price of foreign corn to the price in the English market, and not to sink the price of British corn to the price in the continental market.
I am willing to admit that if the agriculturists are oppressed by peculiar burdens, they ought to be relieved from them, or be allowed a fair and just protection equivalent to all such peculiar burdens.
I see no reason for giving the capital employed in agriculture greater protection than the capital vested in other branches of trade, manufacture, or commerce.
So that a famine price is vague, and the plan subject to all the inconvenience now experienced.