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An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations - Chapter 11

1. Introduction And Plan Of The Work

2. Book 1, Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 8 continue

11. Chapter 9

12. Chapter 10

13. Chapter 10 continue

14. Chapter 11

15. Chapter 11 continue

16. Chapter 11 continue.

17. Chapter 11 continue..

18. Chapter 11 continue...

19. Conclusion of the Chapter 11

20. Book 2 Introduction

21. Chapter 1

22. Chapter II

23. Chapter II continue

24. Chapter II continue

25. Chapter 3

26. Chapter 4

27. Chapter 5

28. Book 3, Chapter 1

29. Chapter 2

30. Chapter 3

31. Chapter 4

32. Book 4, Chapter 1

33. Chapter 1 continue

34. Chapter 2

35. Chapter 3, Part 1

36. Chapter 3, Part 2

37. Chapter 4

38. Chapter 5

39. Chapter 5 continue

40. Chapter 6

41. Chapter 7, Part 1

42. Chapter 7, Part 2

43. Chapter 7, Part 3

44. Chapter 7, Part 3 continue

45. Chapter 8

46. Chapter 9

47. Book 5, Chapter 1, Part 1

48. Chapter 1, Part 2

49. Chapter 1, Part 3

50. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue

51. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue B

52. Chapter 1, Part 4

53. Chapter 2, Part 1

54. Chapter 2, Part 2

55. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue

56. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue B

57. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue C

58. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue D

59. Chapter 3

60. Chapter 3 continue







Chapter XI. Of The Rent Of Land.

Rent, considered as the price paid for the use of land, is naturally the
highest which the tenant can afford to pay in the actual circumstances
of the land. In adjusting the terms of the lease, the landlord
endeavours to leave him no greater share of the produce than what is
sufficient to keep up the stock from which he furnishes the seed, pays
the labour, and purchases and maintains the cattle and other instruments
of husbandry, together with the ordinary profits of farming stock in
the neighbourhood. This is evidently the smallest share with which the
tenant can content himself, without being a loser, and the landlord
seldom means to leave him any more. Whatever part of the produce, or,
what is the same thing, whatever part of its price, is over and above
this share, he naturally endeavours to reserve to himself as the rent of
his land, which is evidently the highest the tenant can afford to pay in
the actual circumstances of the land. Sometimes, indeed, the liberality,
more frequently the ignorance, of the landlord, makes him accept of
somewhat less than this portion; and sometimes, too, though more rarely,
the ignorance of the tenant makes him undertake to pay somewhat more,
or to content himself with somewhat less, than the ordinary profits of
farming stock in the neighbourhood. This portion, however, may still
be considered as the natural rent of land, or the rent at which it is
naturally meant that land should, for the most part, be let.

The rent of land, it may be thought, is frequently no more than a
reasonable profit or interest for the stock laid out by the landlord
upon its improvement. This, no doubt, may be partly the case upon some
occasions; for it can scarce ever be more than partly the case. The
landlord demands a rent even for unimproved land, and the supposed
interest or profit upon the expense of improvement is generally an
addition to this original rent. Those improvements, besides, are not
always made by the stock of the landlord, but sometimes by that of
the tenant. When the lease comes to be renewed, however, the landlord
commonly demands the same augmentation of rent as if they had been all
made by his own.

He sometimes demands rent for what is altogether incapable of human
improvements. Kelp is a species of sea-weed, which, when burnt, yields
an alkaline salt, useful for making glass, soap, and for several other
purposes. It grows in several parts of Great Britain, particularly in
Scotland, upon such rocks only as lie within the high-water mark, which
are twice every day covered with the sea, and of which the produce,
therefore, was never augmented by human industry. The landlord, however,
whose estate is bounded by a kelp shore of this kind, demands a rent for
it as much as for his corn-fields.

The sea in the neighbourhood of the islands of Shetland is more than
commonly abundant in fish, which makes a great part of the subsistence
of their inhabitants. But, in order to profit by the produce of the
water, they must have a habitation upon the neighbouring land. The rent
of the landlord is in proportion, not to what the farmer can make by
the land, but to what he can make both by the land and the water. It is
partly paid in sea-fish; and one of the very few instances in which
rent makes a part of the price of that commodity, is to be found in that
country.

The rent of land, therefore, considered as the price paid for the use of
the land, is naturally a monopoly price. It is not at all proportioned
to what the landlord may have laid out upon the improvement of the land,
or to what he can afford to take, but to what the farmer can afford to
give.

Such parts only of the produce of land can commonly be brought to
market, of which the ordinary price is sufficient to replace the stock
which must be employed in bringing them thither, together with its
ordinary profits. If the ordinary price is more than this, the surplus
part of it will naturally go to the rent of the land. If it is not more,
though the commodity may be brought to market, it can afford no rent
to the landlord. Whether the price is, or is not more, depends upon the
demand.

There are some parts of the produce of land, for which the demand must
always be such as to afford a greater price than what is sufficient to
bring them to market; and there are others for which it either may or
may not be such as to afford this greater price. The former must always
afford a rent to the landlord. The latter sometimes may and sometimes
may not, according to different circumstances.

Rent, it is to be observed, therefore, enters into the composition of
the price of commodities in a different way from wages and profit. High
or low wages and profit are the causes of high or low price; high or
low rent is the effect of it. It is because high or low wages and profit
must be paid, in order to bring a particular commodity to market, that
its price is high or low. But it is because its price is high or low,
a great deal more, or very little more, or no more, than what is
sufficient to pay those wages and profit, that it affords a high rent,
or a low rent, or no rent at all.

The particular consideration, first, of those parts of the produce of
land which always afford some rent; secondly, of those which sometimes
may and sometimes may not afford rent; and, thirdly, of the variations
which, in the different periods of improvement, naturally take place in
the relative value of those two different sorts of rude produce, when
compared both with one another and with manufactured commodities, will
divide this chapter into three parts.


PART I.--Of the Produce of Land which always affords Rent.

As men, like all other animals, naturally multiply in proportion to the
means of their subsistence, food is always more or less in demand. It
can always purchase or command a greater or smaller quantity of labour,
and somebody can always be found who is willing to do something in order
to obtain it. The quantity of labour, indeed, which it can purchase,
is not always equal to what it could maintain, if managed in the most
economical manner, on account of the high wages which are sometimes
given to labour; but it can always purchase such a quantity of labour as
it can maintain, according to the rate at which that sort of labour is
commonly maintained in the neighbourhood.

But land, in almost any situation, produces a greater quantity of
food than what is sufficient to maintain all the labour necessary for
bringing it to market, in the most liberal way in which that labour is
ever maintained. The surplus, too, is always more than sufficient to
replace the stock which employed that labour, together with its profits.
Something, therefore, always remains for a rent to the landlord.

The most desert moors in Norway and Scotland produce some sort of
pasture for cattle, of which the milk and the increase are always more
than sufficient, not only to maintain all the labour necessary for
tending them, and to pay the ordinary profit to the farmer or the owner
of the herd or flock, but to afford some small rent to the landlord. The
rent increases in proportion to the goodness of the pasture. The same
extent of ground not only maintains a greater number of cattle, but as
they we brought within a smaller compass, less labour becomes requisite
to tend them, and to collect their produce. The landlord gains both
ways; by the increase of the produce, and by the diminution of the
labour which must be maintained out of it.

The rent of land not only varies with its fertility, whatever be its
produce, but with its situation, whatever be its fertility. Land in the
neighbourhood of a town gives a greater rent than land equally fertile
in a distant part of the country. Though it may cost no more labour to
cultivate the one than the other, it must always cost more to bring the
produce of the distant land to market. A greater quantity of labour,
therefore, must be maintained out of it; and the surplus, from which are
drawn both the profit of the farmer and the rent of the landlord, must
be diminished. But in remote parts of the country, the rate of profit,
as has already been shewn, is generally higher than in the neighbourhood
of a large town. A smaller proportion of this diminished surplus,
therefore, must belong to the landlord.

Good roads, canals, and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expense of
carriage, put the remote parts of the country more nearly upon a level
with those in the neighbourhood of the town. They are upon that account
the greatest of all improvements. They encourage the cultivation of the
remote, which must always be the most extensive circle of the country.
They are advantageous to the town by breaking down the monopoly of the
country in its neighbourhood. They are advantageous even to that part of
the country. Though they introduce some rival commodities into the old
market, they open many new markets to its produce. Monopoly, besides,
is a great enemy to good management, which can never be universally
established, but in consequence of that free and universal competition
which forces every body to have recourse to it for the sake of self
defence. It is not more than fifty years ago, that some of the counties
in the neighbourhood of London petitioned the parliament against the
extension of the turnpike roads into the remoter counties. Those remoter
counties, they pretended, from the cheapness of labour, would be able to
sell their grass and corn cheaper in the London market than themselves,
and would thereby reduce their rents, and ruin their cultivation. Their
rents, however, have risen, and their cultivation has been improved
since that time.

A corn field of moderate fertility produces a much greater quantity
of food for man, than the best pasture of equal extent. Though its
cultivation requires much more labour, yet the surplus which remains
after replacing the seed and maintaining all that labour, is likewise
much greater. If a pound of butcher's meat, therefore, was never
supposed to be worth more than a pound of bread, this greater surplus
would everywhere be of greater value and constitute a greater fund, both
for the profit of the farmer and the rent of the landlord. It seems to
have done so universally in the rude beginnings of agriculture.

But the relative values of those two different species of food, bread
and butcher's meat, are very different in the different periods of
agriculture. In its rude beginnings, the unimproved wilds, which then
occupy the far greater part of the country, are all abandoned to cattle.
There is more butcher's meat than bread; and bread, therefore, is the
food for which there is the greatest competition, and which consequently
brings the greatest price. At Buenos Ayres, we are told by Ulloa, four
reals, one-and-twenty pence halfpenny sterling, was, forty or fifty
years ago, the ordinary price of an ox, chosen from a herd of two or
three hundred. He says nothing of the price of bread, probably because
he found nothing remarkable about it. An ox there, he says, costs little
more than the labour of catching him. But corn can nowhere be raised
without a great deal of labour; and in a country which lies upon the
river Plate, at that time the direct road from Europe to the silver
mines of Potosi, the money-price of labour could be very cheap. It is
otherwise when cultivation is extended over the greater part of the
country. There is then more bread than butcher's meat. The competition
changes its direction, and the price of butcher's meat becomes greater
than the price of bread.

By the extension, besides, of cultivation, the unimproved wilds become
insufficient to supply the demand for butcher's meat. A great part of
the cultivated lands must be employed in rearing and fattening cattle;
of which the price, therefore, must be sufficient to pay, not only the
labour necessary for tending them, but the rent which the landlord, and
the profit which the farmer, could have drawn from such land employed in
tillage. The cattle bred upon the most uncultivated moors, when brought
to the same market, are, in proportion to their weight or goodness, sold
at the same price as those which are reared upon the most improved land.
The proprietors of those moors profit by it, and raise the rent of their
land in proportion to the price of their cattle. It is not more than a
century ago, that in many parts of the Highlands of Scotland, butcher's
meat was as cheap or cheaper than even bread made of oatmeal The Union
opened the market of England to the Highland cattle. Their ordinary
price, at present, is about three times greater than at the beginning
of the century, and the rents of many Highland estates have been tripled
and quadrupled in the same time. In almost every part of Great Britain,
a pound of the best butcher's meat is, in the present times, generally
worth more than two pounds of the best white bread; and in plentiful
years it is sometimes worth three or four pounds.

It is thus that, in the progress of improvement, the rent and profit of
unimproved pasture come to be regulated in some measure by the rent and
profit of what is improved, and these again by the rent and profit of
corn. Corn is an annual crop; butcher's meat, a crop which requires four
or five years to grow. As an acre of land, therefore, will produce a
much smaller quantity of the one species of food than of the other, the
inferiority of the quantity must be compensated by the superiority of
the price. If it was more than compensated, more corn-land would be
turned into pasture; and if it was not compensated, part of what was in
pasture would be brought back into corn.

This equality, however, between the rent and profit of grass and those
of corn; of the land of which the immediate produce is food for cattle,
and of that of which the immediate produce is food for men, must be
understood to take place only through the greater part of the improved
lands of a great country. In some particular local situations it is
quite otherwise, and the rent and profit of grass are much superior to
what can be made by corn.

Thus, in the neighbourhood of a great town, the demand for milk, and for
forage to horses, frequently contribute, together with the high price of
butcher's meat, to raise the value of grass above what may be called its
natural proportion to that of corn. This local advantage, it is evident,
cannot be communicated to the lands at a distance.

Particular circumstances have sometimes rendered some countries so
populous, that the whole territory, like the lands in the neighbourhood
of a great town, has not been sufficient to produce both the grass
and the corn necessary for the subsistence of their inhabitants. Their
lands, therefore, have been principally employed in the production of
grass, the more bulky commodity, and which cannot be so easily brought
from a great distance; and corn, the food of the great body of the
people, has been chiefly imported from foreign countries. Holland is
at present in this situation; and a considerable part of ancient Italy
seems to have been so during the prosperity of the Romans. To feed
well, old Cato said, as we are told by Cicero, was the first and
most profitable thing in the management of a private estate; to feed
tolerably well, the second; and to feed ill, the third. To plough,
he ranked only in the fourth place of profit and advantage. Tillage,
indeed, in that part of ancient Italy which lay in the neighbour hood of
Rome, must have been very much discouraged by the distributions of corn
which were frequently made to the people, either gratuitously, or at a
very low price. This corn was brought from the conquered provinces, of
which several, instead of taxes, were obliged to furnish a tenth part of
their produce at a stated price, about sixpence a-peck, to the republic.
The low price at which this corn was distributed to the people, must
necessarily have sunk the price of what could be brought to the Roman
market from Latium, or the ancient territory of Rome, and must have
discouraged its cultivation in that country.

In an open country, too, of which the principal produce is corn, a
well-inclosed piece of grass will frequently rent higher than any corn
field in its neighbourhood. It is convenient for the maintenance of the
cattle employed in the cultivation of the corn; and its high rent is,
in this case, not so properly paid from the value of its own produce, as
from that of the corn lands which are cultivated by means of it. It is
likely to fall, if ever the neighbouring lands are completely inclosed.
The present high rent of inclosed land in Scotland seems owing to
the scarcity of inclosure, and will probably last no longer than that
scarcity. The advantage of inclosure is greater for pasture than for
corn. It saves the labour of guarding the cattle, which feed better,
too, when they are not liable to be disturbed by their keeper or his
dog.

But where there is no local advantage of this kind, the rent and profit
of corn, or whatever else is the common vegetable food of the people,
must naturally regulate upon the land which is fit for producing it, the
rent and profit of pasture.

The use of the artificial grasses, of turnips, carrots, cabbages,
and the other expedients which have been fallen upon to make an equal
quantity of land feed a greater number of cattle than when in natural
grass, should somewhat reduce, it might be expected, the superiority
which, in an improved country, the price of butcher's meat naturally has
over that of bread. It seems accordingly to have done so; and there is
some reason for believing that, at least in the London market, the price
of butcher's meat, in proportion to the price of bread, is a good deal
lower in the present times than it was in the beginning of the last
century.

In the Appendix to the life of Prince Henry, Doctor Birch has given
us an account of the prices of butcher's meat as commonly paid by that
prince. It is there said, that the four quarters of an ox, weighing
six hundred pounds, usually cost him nine pounds ten shillings, or
thereabouts; that is thirty-one shillings and eight-pence per hundred
pounds weight. Prince Henry died on the 6th of November 1612, in the
nineteenth year of his age.

In March 1764, there was a parliamentary inquiry into the causes of the
high price of provisions at that time. It was then, among other proof
to the same purpose, given in evidence by a Virginia merchant, that in
March 1763, he had victualled his ships for twentyfour or twenty-five
shillings the hundred weight of beef, which he considered as the
ordinary price; whereas, in that dear year, he had paid twenty-seven
shillings for the same weight and sort. This high price in 1764 is,
however, four shillings and eight-pence cheaper than the ordinary price
paid by Prince Henry; and it is the best beef only, it must be observed,
which is fit to be salted for those distant voyages.

The price paid by Prince Henry amounts to 3d. 4/5ths per pound weight of
the whole carcase, coarse and choice pieces taken together; and at that
rate the choice pieces could not have been sold by retail for less than
4d. or 5d. the pound.

In the parliamentary inquiry in 1764, the witnesses stated the price of
the choice pieces of the best beef to be to the consumer 4d. and 4d.
the pound; and the coarse pieces in general to be from seven farthings
to 2d. and 2d.; and this, they said, was in general one halfpenny
dearer than the same sort of pieces had usually been sold in the month
of March. But even this high price is still a good deal cheaper than
what we can well suppose the ordinary retail price to have been in the
time of Prince Henry.

During the first twelve years of the last century, the average price of
the best wheat at the Windsor market was 1:18:3d. the quarter of nine
Winchester bushels.

But in the twelve years preceding 1764 including that year, the average
price of the same measure of the best wheat at the same market was
2:1:9d.

In the first twelve years of the last century, therefore, wheat appears
to have been a good deal cheaper, and butcher's meat a good deal dearer,
than in the twelve years preceding 1764, including that year.

In all great countries, the greater part of the cultivated lands are
employed in producing either food for men or food for cattle. The rent
and profit of these regulate the rent and profit of all other cultivated
land. If any particular produce afforded less, the land would soon be
turned into corn or pasture; and if any afforded more, some part of the
lands in corn or pasture would soon be turned to that produce.

Those productions, indeed, which require either a greater original
expense of improvement, or a greater annual expense of cultivation in
order to fit the land for them, appear commonly to afford, the one a
greater rent, the other a greater profit, than corn or pasture. This
superiority, however, will seldom be found to amount to more than a
reasonable interest or compensation for this superior expense.

In a hop garden, a fruit garden, a kitchen garden, both the rent of the
landlord, and the profit of the farmer, are generally greater than
in acorn or grass field. But to bring the ground into this condition
requires more expense. Hence a greater rent becomes due to the landlord.
It requires, too, a more attentive and skilful management. Hence a
greater profit becomes due to the farmer. The crop, too, at least in the
hop and fruit garden, is more precarious. Its price, therefore, besides
compensating all occasional losses, must afford something like the
profit of insurance. The circumstances of gardeners, generally mean,
and always moderate, may satisfy us that their great ingenuity is not
commonly over-recompensed. Their delightful art is practised by so many
rich people for amusement, that little advantage is to be made by those
who practise it for profit; because the persons who should naturally
be their best customers, supply themselves with all their most precious
productions.

The advantage which the landlord derives from such improvements, seems
at no time to have been greater than what was sufficient to compensate
the original expense of making them. In the ancient husbandry, after the
vineyard, a well-watered kitchen garden seems to have been the part
of the farm which was supposed to yield the most valuable produce. But
Democritus, who wrote upon husbandry about two thousand years ago,
and who was regarded by the ancients as one of the fathers of the art,
thought they did not act wisely who inclosed a kitchen garden. The
profit, he said, would not compensate the expense of a stone-wall: and
bricks (he meant, I suppose, bricks baked in the sun) mouldered with the
rain and the winter-storm, and required continual repairs. Columella,
who reports this judgment of Democritus, does not controvert it, but
proposes a very frugal method of inclosing with a hedge of brambles and
briars, which he says he had found by experience to be both a lasting
and an impenetrable fence; but which, it seems, was not commonly known
in the time of Democritus. Palladius adopts the opinion of Columella,
which had before been recommended by Varro. In the judgment of those
ancient improvers, the produce of a kitchen garden had, it seems, been
little more than sufficient to pay the extraordinary culture and the
expense of watering; for in countries so near the sun, it was thought
proper, in those times as in the present, to have the command of a
stream of water, which could be conducted to every bed in the garden.
Through the greater part of Europe, a kitchen garden is not at
present supposed to deserve a better inclosure than mat recommended
by Columella. In Great Britain, and some other northern countries, the
finer fruits cannot Be brought to perfection but by the assistance of a
wall. Their price, therefore, in such countries, must be sufficient
to pay the expense of building and maintaining what they cannot be had
without. The fruit-wall frequently surrounds the kitchen garden, which
thus enjoys the benefit of an inclosure which its own produce could
seldom pay for.

That the vineyard, when properly planted and brought to perfection,
was the most valuable part of the farm, seems to have been an undoubted
maxim in the ancient agriculture, as it is in the modern, through all
the wine countries. But whether it was advantageous to plant a new
vineyard, was a matter of dispute among the ancient Italian husbandmen,
as we learn from Columella. He decides, like a true lover of all curious
cultivation, in favour of the vineyard; and endeavours to shew, by a
comparison of the profit and expense, that it was a most advantageous
improvement. Such comparisons, however, between the profit and expense
of new projects are commonly very fallacious; and in nothing more so
than in agriculture. Had the gain actually made by such plantations been
commonly as great as he imagined it might have been, there could have
been no dispute about it. The same point is frequently at this day
a matter of controversy in the wine countries. Their writers on
agriculture, indeed, the lovers and promoters of high cultivation, seem
generally disposed to decide with Columella in favour of the vineyard.
In France, the anxiety of the proprietors of the old vineyards to
prevent the planting of any new ones, seems to favour their opinion, and
to indicate a consciousness in those who must have the experience,
that this species of cultivation is at present in that country more
profitable than any other. It seems, at the same time, however, to
indicate another opinion, that this superior profit can last no longer
than the laws which at present restrain the free cultivation of the
vine. In 1731, they obtained an order of council, prohibiting both the
planting of new vineyards, and the renewal of these old ones, of which
the cultivation had been interrupted for two years, without a particular
permission from the king, to be granted only in consequence of an
information from the intendant of the province, certifying that he had
examined the land, and that it was incapable of any other culture. The
pretence of this order was the scarcity of corn and pasture, and the
superabundance of wine. But had this superabundance been real, it would,
without any order of council, have effectually prevented the plantation
of new vineyards, by reducing the profits of this species of cultivation
below their natural proportion to those of corn and pasture. With regard
to the supposed scarcity of corn occasioned by the multiplication of
vineyards, corn is nowhere in France more carefully cultivated than
in the wine provinces, where the land is fit for producing it: as in
Burgundy, Guienne, and the Upper Languedoc. The numerous hands employed
in the one species of cultivation necessarily encourage the other, by
affording a ready market for its produce. To diminish the number
of those who are capable of paying it, is surely a most unpromising
expedient for encouraging the cultivation of corn. It is like the policy
which would promote agriculture, by discouraging manufactures.

The rent and profit of those productions, therefore, which require
either a greater original expense of improvement in order to fit the
land for them, or a greater annual expense of cultivation, though often
much superior to those of corn and pasture, yet when they do no more
than compensate such extraordinary expense, are in reality regulated by
the rent and profit of those common crops.

It sometimes happens, indeed, that the quantity of land which can be
fitted for some particular produce, is too small to supply the effectual
demand. The whole produce can be disposed of to those who are willing to
give somewhat more than what is sufficient to pay the whole rent, wages,
and profit, necessary for raising and bringing it to market, according
to their natural rates, or according to the rates at which they are paid
in the greater part of other cultivated land. The surplus part of the
price which remains after defraying the whole expense of improvement and
cultivation, may commonly, in this case, and in this case only, bear
no regular proportion to the like surplus in corn or pasture, but may
exceed it in almost any degree; and the greater part of this excess
naturally goes to the rent of the landlord.

The usual and natural proportion, for example, between the rent and
profit of wine, and those of corn and pasture, must be understood to
take place only with regard to those vineyards which produce nothing but
good common wine, such as can be raised almost anywhere, upon any light,
gravelly, or sandy soil, and which has nothing to recommend it but its
strength and wholesomeness. It is with such vineyards only, that the
common land of the country can be brought into competition; for with
those of a peculiar quality it is evident that it cannot.

The vine is more affected by the difference of soils than any other
fruit-tree. From some it derives a flavour which no culture or
management can equal, it is supposed, upon any other. This flavour, real
or imaginary, is sometimes peculiar to the produce of a few vineyards;
sometimes it extends through the greater part of a small district, and
sometimes through a considerable part of a large province. The whole
quantity of such wines that is brought to market falls short of the
effectual demand, or the demand of those who would be willing to pay the
whole rent, profit, and wages, necessary for preparing and bringing them
thither, according to the ordinary rate, or according to the rate at
which they are paid in common vineyards. The whole quantity, therefore,
can be disposed of to those who are willing to pay more, which
necessarily raises their price above that of common wine. The difference
is greater or less, according as the fashionableness and scarcity of the
wine render the competition of the buyers more or less eager. Whatever
it be, the greater part of it goes to the rent of the landlord. For
though such vineyards are in general more carefully cultivated than most
others, the high price of the wine seems to be, not so much the effect,
as the cause of this careful cultivation. In so valuable a produce, the
loss occasioned by negligence is so great, as to force even the most
careless to attention. A small part of this high price, therefore, is
sufficient to pay the wages of the extraordinary labour bestowed upon
their cultivation, and the profits of the extraordinary stock which puts
that labour into motion.

The sugar colonies possessed by the European nations in the West Indies
may be compared to those precious vineyards. Their whole produce falls
short of the effectual demand of Europe, and can be disposed of to those
who are willing to give more than what is sufficient to pay the whole
rent, profit, and wages, necessary for preparing and bringing it to
market, according to the rate at which they are commonly paid by any
other produce. In Cochin China, the finest white sugar generally sells
for three piastres the quintal, about thirteen shillings and sixpence
of our money, as we are told by Mr Poivre {Voyages d'un Philosophe.}, a
very careful observer of the agriculture of that country. What is there
called the quintal, weighs from a hundred and fifty to two hundred Paris
pounds, or a hundred and seventy-five Paris pounds at a medium, which
reduces the price of the hundred weight English to about eight shillings
sterling; not a fourth part of what is commonly paid for the brown or
muscovada sugars imported from our colonies, and not a sixth part
of what is paid for the finest white sugar. The greater part of the
cultivated lands in Cochin China are employed in producing corn and
rice, the food of the great body of the people. The respective prices of
corn, rice, and sugar, are there probably in the natural proportion,
or in that which naturally takes place in the different crops of the
greater part of cultivated land, and which recompenses the landlord and
farmer, as nearly as can be computed, according to what is usually the
original expense of improvement, and the annual expense of cultivation.
But in our sugar colonies, the price of sugar bears no such proportion
to that of the produce of a rice or corn field either in Europe or
America. It is commonly said that a sugar planter expects that the rum
and the molasses should defray the whole expense of his cultivation,
and that his sugar should be all clear profit. If this be true, for I
pretend not to affirm it, it is as if a corn farmer expected to defray
the expense of his cultivation with the chaff and the straw, and that
the grain should be all clear profit. We see frequently societies of
merchants in London, and other trading towns, purchase waste lands in
our sugar colonies, which they expect to improve and cultivate with
profit, by means of factors and agents, notwithstanding the great
distance and the uncertain returns, from the defective administration of
justice in those countries. Nobody will attempt to improve and cultivate
in the same manner the most fertile lands of Scotland, Ireland, or
the corn provinces of North America, though, from the more exact
administration of justice in these countries, more regular returns might
be expected.

In Virginia and Maryland, the cultivation of tobacco is preferred,
as most profitable, to that of corn. Tobacco might be cultivated with
advantage through the greater part of Europe; but, in almost every part
of Europe, it has become a principal subject of taxation; and to collect
a tax from every different farm in the country where this plant might
happen to be cultivated, would be more difficult, it has been supposed,
than to levy one upon its importation at the custom-house. The
cultivation of tobacco has, upon this account, been most absurdly
prohibited through the greater part of Europe, which necessarily gives
a sort of monopoly to the countries where it is allowed; and as Virginia
and Maryland produce the greatest quantity of it, they share largely,
though with some competitors, in the advantage of this monopoly. The
cultivation of tobacco, however, seems not to be so advantageous as that
of sugar. I have never even heard of any tobacco plantation that was
improved and cultivated by the capital of merchants who resided in Great
Britain; and our tobacco colonies send us home no such wealthy planters
as we see frequently arrive from our sugar islands. Though, from the
preference given in those colonies to the cultivation of tobacco above
that of corn, it would appear that the effectual demand of Europe for
tobacco is not completely supplied, it probably is more nearly so than
that for sugar; and though the present price of tobacco is probably more
than sufficient to pay the whole rent, wages, and profit, necessary for
preparing and bringing it to market, according to the rate at which
they are commonly paid in corn land, it must not be so much more as the
present price of sugar. Our tobacco planters, accordingly, have shewn
the same fear of the superabundance of tobacco, which the proprietors of
the old vineyards in France have of the superabundance of wine. By
act of assembly, they have restrained its cultivation to six thousand
plants, supposed to yield a thousand weight of tobacco, for every negro
between sixteen and sixty years of age. Such a negro, over and above
this quantity of tobacco, can manage, they reckon, four acres of Indian
corn. To prevent the market from being overstocked, too, they have
sometimes, in plentiful years, we are told by Dr Douglas {Douglas's
Summary, vol. ii. p. 379, 373.} (I suspect he has been ill informed),
burnt a certain quantity of tobacco for every negro, in the same manner
as the Dutch are said to do of spices. If such violent methods are
necessary to keep up the present price of tobacco, the superior
advantage of its culture over that of corn, if it still has any, will
not probably be of long continuance.

It is in this manner that the rent of the cultivated land, of which the
produce is human food, regulates the rent of the greater part of other
cultivated land. No particular produce can long afford less, because the
land would immediately be turned to another use; and if any particular
produce commonly affords more, it is because the quantity of land which
can be fitted for it is too small to supply the effectual demand.

In Europe, corn is the principal produce of land, which serves
immediately for human food. Except in particular situations, therefore,
the rent of corn land regulates in Europe that of all other cultivated
land. Britain need envy neither the vineyards of France, nor the olive
plantations of Italy. Except in particular situations, the value of
these is regulated by that of corn, in which the fertility of Britain is
not much inferior to that of either of those two countries.

If, in any country, the common and favourite vegetable food of the
people should be drawn from a plant of which the most common land, with
the same, or nearly the same culture, produced a much greater quantity
than the most fertile does of corn; the rent of the landlord, or the
surplus quantity of food which would remain to him, after paying
the labour, and replacing the stock of the farmer, together with its
ordinary profits, would necessarily be much greater. Whatever was the
rate at which labour was commonly maintained in that country, this
greater surplus could always maintain a greater quantity of it, and,
consequently, enable the landlord to purchase or command a greater
quantity of it. The real value of his rent, his real power and
authority, his command of the necessaries and conveniencies of life with
which the labour of other people could supply him, would necessarily be
much greater.

A rice field produces a much greater quantity of food than the most
fertile corn field. Two crops in the year, from thirty to sixty bushels
each, are said to be the ordinary produce of an acre. Though its
cultivation, therefore, requires more labour, a much greater surplus
remains after maintaining all that labour. In those rice countries,
therefore, where rice is the common and favourite vegetable food of
the people, and where the cultivators are chiefly maintained with it, a
greater share of this greater surplus should belong to the landlord than
in corn countries. In Carolina, where the planters, as in other British
colonies, are generally both farmers and landlords, and where rent,
consequently, is confounded with profit, the cultivation of rice is
found to be more profitable than that of corn, though their fields
produce only one crop in the year, and though, from the prevalence
of the customs of Europe, rice is not there the common and favourite
vegetable food of the people.

A good rice field is a bog at all seasons, and at one season a bog
covered with water. It is unfit either for corn, or pasture, or
vineyard, or, indeed, for any other vegetable produce that is very
useful to men; and the lands which are fit for those purposes are not
fit for rice. Even in the rice countries, therefore, the rent of rice
lands cannot regulate the rent of the other cuitivated land which can
never be turned to that produce.

The food produced by a field of potatoes is not inferior in quantity to
that produced by a field of rice, and much superior to what is produced
by a field of wheat. Twelve thousand weight of potatoes from an acre
of land is not a greater produce than two thousand weight of wheat. The
food or solid nourishment, indeed, which can be drawn from each of those
two plants, is not altogether in proportion to their weight, on account
of the watery nature of potatoes. Allowing, however, half the weight
of this root to go to water, a very large allowance, such an acre of
potatoes will still produce six thousand weight of solid nourishment,
three times the quantity produced by the acre of wheat. An acre of
potatoes is cultivated with less expense than an acre of wheat;
the fallow, which generally precedes the sowing of wheat, more than
compensating the hoeing and other extraordinary culture which is always
given to potatoes. Should this root ever become in any part of Europe,
like rice in some rice countries, the common and favourite vegetable
food of the people, so as to occupy the same proportion of the lands
in tillage, which wheat and other sorts of grain for human food do at
present, the same quantity of cultivated land would maintain a much
greater number of people; and the labourers being generally fed with
potatoes, a greater surplus would remain after replacing all the stock,
and maintaining all the labour employed in cultivation. A greater share
of this surplus, too, would belong to the landlord. Population would
increase, and rents would rise much beyond what they are at present.

The land which is fit for potatoes, is fit for almost every other useful
vegetable. If they occupied the same proportion of cultivated land which
corn does at present, they would regulate, in the same manner, the rent
of the greater part of other cultivated land.

In some parts of Lancashire, it is pretended, I have been told, that
bread of oatmeal is a heartier food for labouring people than wheaten
bread, and I have frequently heard the same doctrine held in Scotland. I
am, however, somewhat doubtful of the truth of it. The common people in
Scotland, who are fed with oatmeal, are in general neither so strong
nor so handsome as the same rank of people in England, who are fed with
wheaten bread. They neither work so well, nor look so well; and as there
is not the same difference between the people of fashion in the two
countries, experience would seem to shew, that the food of the common
people in Scotland is not so suitable to the human constitution as that
of their neighbours of the same rank in England. But it seems to be
otherwise with potatoes. The chairmen, porters, and coal-heavers in
London, and those unfortunate women who live by prostitution, the
strongest men and the most beautiful women perhaps in the British
dominions, are said to be, the greater part of them, from the lowest
rank of people in Ireland, who are generally fed with this root. No food
can afford a more decisive proof of its nourishing quality, or of its
being peculiarly suitable to the health of the human constitution.

It is difficult to preserve potatoes through the year, and impossible to
store them like corn, for two or three years together. The fear of not
being able to sell them before they rot, discourages their cultivation,
and is, perhaps, the chief obstacle to their ever becoming in any great
country, like bread, the principal vegetable food of all the different
ranks of the people.




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