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An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations - Chapter 5

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 V. Of Bounties.

Bounties upon exportation are, in Great Britain, frequently petitioned
for, and sometimes granted, to the produce of particular branches of
domestic industry. By means of them, our merchants and manufacturers,
it is pretended, will be enabled to sell their goods as cheap or cheaper
than their rivals in the foreign market. A greater quantity, it is said,
will thus be exported, and the balance of trade consequently turned more
in favour of our own country. We cannot give our workmen a monopoly
in the foreign, as we have done in the home market. We cannot force
foreigners to buy their goods, as we have done our own countrymen. The
next best expedient, it has been thought, therefore, is to pay them
for buying. It is in this manner that the mercantile system proposes
to enrich the whole country, and to put money into all our pockets, by
means of the balance of trade.

Bounties, it is allowed, ought to be given to those branches of trade
only which cannot be carried on without them. But every branch of trade
in which the merchant can sell his goods for a price which replaces to
him, with the ordinary profits of stock, the whole capital employed
in preparing and sending them to market, can be carried on without a
bounty. Every such branch is evidently upon a level with all the other
branches of trade which are carried on without bounties, and cannot,
therefore, require one more than they. Those trades only require
bounties, in which the merchant is obliged to sell his goods for a price
which does not replace to him his capital, together with the ordinary
profit, or in which he is obliged to sell them for less than it really
cost him to send them to market. The bounty is given in order to make
up this loss, and to encourage him to continue, or, perhaps, to begin a
trade, of which the expense is supposed to be greater than the returns,
of which every operation eats up a part of the capital employed in it,
and which is of such a nature, that if all other trades resembled it,
there would soon be no capital left in the country.

The trades, it is to be observed, which are carried on by means of
bounties, are the only ones which can be carried on between two nations
for any considerable time together, in such a manner as that one of them
shall alway's and regularly lose, or sell its goods for less than it
really cost to send them to market. But if the bounty did not repay to
the merchant what he would otherwise lose upon the price of his goods,
his own interest would soon oblige him to employ his stock in another
way, or to find out a trade in which the price of the goods would
replace to him, with the ordinary profit, the capital employed in
sending them to market. The effect of bounties, like that of all the
other expedients of the mercantile system, can only be to force the
trade of a country into a channel much less advantageous than that in
which it would naturally run of its own accord.

The ingenious and well-informed author of the Tracts upon the Corn Trade
has shown very clearly, that since the bounty upon the exportation
of corn was first established, the price of the corn exported, valued
moderately enough, has exceeded that of the corn imported, valued very
high, by a much greater sum than the amount of the whole bounties which
have been paid during that period. This, he imagines, upon the true
principles of the mercantile system, is a clear proof that this forced
corn trade is beneficial to the nation, the value of the exportation
exceeding that of the importation by a much greater sum than the whole
extraordinary expense which the public has been at in order to get it
exported. He does not consider that this extraordinary expense, or the
bounty, is the smallest part of the expense which the exportation of
corn really costs the society. The capital which the farmer employed in
raising it must likewise be taken into the account. Unless the price
of the corn, when sold in the foreign markets, replaces not only the
bounty, but this capital, together with the ordinary profits of stock,
the society is a loser by the difference, or the national stock is
so much diminished. But the very reason for which it has been thought
necessary to grant a bounty, is the supposed insufficiency of the price
to do this.

The average price of corn, it has been said, has fallen considerably
since the establishment of the bounty. That the average price of corn
began to fall somewhat towards the end of the last century, and has
continued to do so during the course of the sixty-four first years
of the present, I have already endeavoured to show. But this event,
supposing it to be real, as I believe it to be, must have happened in
spite of the bounty, and cannot possibly have happened in consequence of
it. It has happened in France, as well as in England, though in France
there was not only no bounty, but, till 1764, the exportation of corn
was subjected to a general prohibition. This gradual fall in the average
price of grain, it is probable, therefore, is ultimately owing neither
to the one regulation nor to the other, but to that gradual and
insensible rise in the real value of silver, which, in the first book
of this discourse, I have endeavoured to show, has taken place in the
general market of Europe during the course of the present century. It
seems to be altogether impossible that the bounty could ever contribute
to lower the price of grain.

In years of plenty, it has already been observed, the bounty, by
occasioning an extraordinary exportation, necessarily keeps up the price
of corn in the home market above what it would naturally fall to. To
do so was the avowed purpose of the institution. In years of scarcity,
though the bounty is frequently suspended, yet the great exportation
which it occasions in years of plenty, must frequently hinder, more or
less, the plenty of one year from relieving the scarcity of another.
Both in years of plenty and in years of scarcity, therefore, the bounty
necessarily tends to raise the money price of corn somewhat higher than
it otherwise would be in the home market.

That in the actual state of tillage the bounty must necessarily have
this tendency, will not, I apprehend, be disputed by any reasonable
person. But it has been thought by many people, that it tends to
encourage tillage, and that in two different ways; first, by opening a
more extensive foreign market to the corn of the farmer, it tends, they
imagine, to increase the demand for, and consequently the production of,
that commodity; and, secondly by securing to him a better price than he
could otherwise expect in the actual state of tillage, it tends, they
suppose, to encourage tillage. This double encouragement must they
imagine, in a long period of years, occasion such an increase in the
production of corn, as may lower its price in the home market, much more
than the bounty can raise it in the actual state which tillage may, at
the end of that period, happen to be in.

I answer, that whatever extension of the foreign market can be
occasioned by the bounty must, in every particular year, be altogether
at the expense of the home market; as every bushel of corn, which is
exported by means of the bounty, and which would not have been exported
without the bounty, would have remained in the home market to increase
the consumption, and to lower the price of that commodity. The corn
bounty, it is to be observed, as well as every other bounty upon
exportation, imposes two different taxes upon the people; first, the tax
which they are obliged to contribute, in order to pay the bounty; and,
secondly, the tax which arises from the advanced price of the commodity
in the home market, and which, as the whole body of the people are
purchasers of corn, must, in this particular commodity, be paid by the
whole body of the people. In this particular commodity, therefore, this
second tax is by much the heaviest of the two. Let us suppose that,
taking one year with another, the bounty of 5s. upon the exportation
of the quarter of wheat raises the price of that commodity in the home
market only 6d. the bushel, or 4s. the quarter higher than it otherwise
would have been in the actual state of the crop. Even upon this very
moderate supposition, the great body of the people, over and above
contributing the tax which pays the bounty of 5s. upon every quarter of
wheat exported, must pay another of 4s. upon every quarter which they
themselves consume. But according to the very well informed author
of the Tracts upon the Corn Trade, the average proportion of the corn
exported to that consumed at home, is not more than that of one to
thirty-one. For every 5s. therefore, which they contribute to the
payment of the first tax, they must contribute 6:4s. to the payment of
the second. So very heavy a tax upon the first necessary of life-must
either reduce the subsistence of the labouring poor, or it must occasion
some augmentation in their pecuniary wages, proportionable to that in
the pecuniary price of their subsistence. So far as it operates in the
one way, it must reduce the ability of the labouring poor to educate
and bring up their children, and must, so far, tend to restrain the
population of the country. So far as it operate's in the other, it must
reduce the ability of the employers of the poor, to employ so great a
number as they otherwise might do, and must so far tend to restrain
the industry of the country. The extraordinary exportation of corn,
therefore occasioned by the bounty, not only in every particular year
diminishes the home, just as much as it extends the foreign market and
consumption, but, by restraining the population and industry of the
country, its final tendency is to stint and restrain the gradual
extension of the home market; and thereby, in the long-run, rather to
diminish than to augment the whole market and consumption of corn.

This enhancement of the money price of corn, however, it has been
thought, by rendering that commodity more profitable to the farmer, must
necessarily encourage its production.

I answer, that this might be the case, if the effect of the bounty was
to raise the real price of corn, or to enable the farmer, with an equal
quantity of it, to maintain a greater number of labourers in the same
manner, whether liberal, moderate, or scanty, than other labourers are
commonly maintained in his neighbourhood. But neither the bounty, it is
evident, nor any other human institution, can have any such effect.
It is not the real, but the nominal price of corn, which can in any
considerable degree be affected by the bounty. And though the tax, which
that institution imposes upon the whole body of the people, may be very
burdensome to those who pay it, it is of very little advantage to those
who receive it.

The real effect of the bounty is not so much to raise the real value
of corn, as to degrade the real value of silver; or to make an equal
quantity of it exchange for a smaller quantity, not only of corn, but of
all other home made commodities; for the money price of corn regulates
that of all other home made commodities.

It regulates the money price of labour, which must always be such as
to enable the labourer to purchase a quantity of corn sufficient to
maintain him and his family, either in the liberal, moderate, or scanty
manner, in which the advancing, stationary, or declining, circumstances
of the society, oblige his employers to maintain him.

It regulates the money price of all the other parts of the rude produce
of land, which, in every period of improvement, must bear a certain
proportion to that of corn, though this proportion is different in
different periods. It regulates, for example, the money price of grass
and hay, of butcher's meat, of horses, and the maintenance of horses,
of land carriage consequently, or of the greater part of the inland
commerce of the country.

By regulating the money price of all the other parts of the rude produce
of land, it regulates that of the materials of almost all manufactures;
by regulating the money price of labour, it regulates that of
manufacturing art and industry; and by regulating both, it regulates
that of the complete manufacture. The money price of labour, and
of every thing that is the produce, either of land or labour, must
necessarily either rise or fall in proportion to the money price of

Though in consequence of the bounty, therefore, the farmer should be
enabled to sell his corn for 4s. the bushel, instead of 3s:6d. and to
pay his landlord a money rent proportionable to this rise in the money
price of his produce; yet if, in consequence of this rise in the price
of corn, 4s. will purchase no more home made goods of any other kind
than 3s. 6d. would have done before, neither the circumstances of the
farmer, nor those of the landlord, will be much mended by this change.
The farmer will not be able to cultivate much better; the landlord will
not be able to live much better. In the purchase of foreign commodities,
this enhancement in the price of corn may give them some little
advantage. In that of home made commodities, it can give them none at
all. And almost the whole expense of the farmer, and the far greater
part even of that of the landlord, is in home made commodities.

That degradation in the value of silver, which is the effect of the
fertility of the mines, and which operates equally, or very nearly
equally, through the greater part of the commercial world, is a matter
of very little consequence to any particular country. The consequent
rise of all money prices, though it does not make those who receive
them really richer, does not make them really poorer. A service of plate
becomes really cheaper, and every thing else remains precisely of the
same real value as before.

But that degradation in the value of silver, which, being the effect
either of the peculiar situation or of the political institutions of
a particular country, takes place only in that country, is a matter of
very great consequence, which, far from tending to make anybody really
richer, tends to make every body really poorer. The rise in the money
price of all commodities, which is in this case peculiar to that
country, tends to discourage more or less every sort of industry which
is carried on within it, and to enable foreign nations, by furnishing
almost all sorts of goods for a smaller quantity of silver than its own
workmen can afford to do, to undersell them, not only in the foreign,
but even in the home market.

It is the peculiar situation of Spain and Portugal, as proprietors of
the mines, to be the distributers of gold and silver to all the other
countries of Europe. Those metals ought naturally, therefore, to be
somewhat cheaper in Spain and Portugal than in any other part of Europe.
The difference, however, should be no more than the amount of the
freight and insurance; and, on account of the great value and small bulk
of those metals, their freight is no great matter, and their insurance
is the same as that of any other goods of equal value. Spain and
Portugal, therefore, could suffer very little from their peculiar
situation, if they did not aggravate its disadvantages by their
political institutions.

Spain by taxing, and Portugal by prohibiting, the exportation of gold
and silver, load that exportation with the expense of smuggling, and
raise the value of those metals in other countries so much more above
what it is in their own, by the whole amount of this expense. When you
dam up a stream of water, as soon as the dam is full, as much water must
run over the dam-head as if there was no dam at all. The prohibition of
exportation cannot detain a greater quantity of gold and silver in Spain
and Portugal, than what they can afford to employ, than what the annual
produce of their land and labour will allow them to employ, in coin,
plate, gilding, and other ornaments of gold and silver. When they have
got this quantity, the dam is full, and the whole stream which flows in
afterwards must run over. The annual exportation of gold and silver from
Spain and Portugal, accordingly, is, by all accounts, notwithstanding
these restraints, very near equal to the whole annual importation.
As the water, however, must always be deeper behind the dam-head than
before it, so the quantity of gold and silver which these restraints
detain in Spain and Portugal, must, in proportion to the annual produce
of their land and labour, be greater than what is to be found in other
countries. The higher and stronger the dam-head, the greater must be the
difference in the depth of water behind and before it. The higher the
tax, the higher the penalties with which the prohibition is guarded, the
more vigilant and severe the police which looks after the execution of
the law, the greater must be the difference in the proportion of gold
and silver to the annual produce of the land and labour of Spain and
Portugal, and to that of other countries. It is said, accordingly, to
be very considerable, and that you frequently find there a profusion
of plate in houses, where there is nothing else which would in
other countries be thought suitable or correspondent to this sort of
magnificence. The cheapness of gold and silver, or, what is the same
thing, the dearness of all commodities, which is the necessary effect of
this redundancy of the precious metals, discourages both the agriculture
and manufactures of Spain and Portugal, and enables foreign nations
to supply them with many sorts of rude, and with almost all sorts of
manufactured produce, for a smaller quantity of gold and silver than
what they themselves can either raise or make them for at home. The tax
and prohibition operate in two different ways. They not only lower very
much the value of the precious metals in Spain and Portugal, but by
detaining there a certain quantity of those metals which would otherwise
flow over other countries, they keep up their value in those other
countries somewhat above what it otherwise would be, and thereby give
those countries a double advantage in their commerce with Spain and
Portugal. Open the flood-gates, and there will presently be less water
above, and more below the dam-head, and it will soon come to a level in
both places. Remove the tax and the prohibition, and as the quantity of
gold and silver will diminish considerably in Spain and Portugal, so
it will increase somewhat in other countries; and the value of those
metals, their proportion to the annual produce of land and labour, will
soon come to a level, or very near to a level, in all. The loss which
Spain and Portugal could sustain by this exportation of their gold and
silver, would be altogether nominal and imaginary. The nominal value of
their goods, and of the annual produce of their land and labour, would
fall, and would be expressed or represented by a smaller quantity of
silver than before; but their real value would be the same as before,
and would be sufficient to maintain, command, and employ the same
quantity of labour. As the nominal value of their goods would fall, the
real value of what remained of their gold and silver would rise, and a
smaller quantity of those metals would answer all the same purposes of
commerce and circulation which had employed a greater quantity before.
The gold and silver which would go abroad would not go abroad for
nothing, but would bring back an equal value of goods of some kind or
other. Those goods, too, would not be all matters of mere luxury and
expense, to be consumed by idle people, who produce nothing in return
for their consumption. As the real wealth and revenue of idle people
would not be augmented by this extraordinary exportation of gold and
silver, so neither would their consumption be much augmented by it.
Those goods would probably, the greater part of them, and certainly
some part of them, consist in materials, tools, and provisions, for the
employment and maintenance of industrious people, who would reproduce,
with a profit, the full value of their consumption. A part of the dead
stock of the society would thus be turned into active stock, and would
put into motion a greater quantity of industry than had been employed
before. The annual produce of their land and labour would immediately
be augmented a little, and in a few years would probably be augmented
a great deal; their industry being thus relieved from one of the most
oppressive burdens which it at present labours under.

The bounty upon the exportation of corn necessarily operates exactly in
the same way as this absurd policy of Spain and Portugal. Whatever be
the actual state of tillage, it renders our corn somewhat dearer in
the home market than it otherwise would be in that state, and somewhat
cheaper in the foreign; and as the average money price of corn
regulates, more or less, that of all other commodities, it lowers the
value of silver considerably in the one, and tends to raise it a little
in the other. It enables foreigners, the Dutch in particular, not only
to eat our corn cheaper than they otherwise could do, but sometimes to
eat it cheaper than even our own people can do upon the same occasions;
as we are assured by an excellent authority, that of Sir Matthew Decker.
It hinders our own workmen from furnishing their goods for so small a
quantity of silver as they otherwise might do, and enables the Dutch
to furnish theirs for a smaller. It tends to render our manufactures
somewhat dearer in every market, and theirs somewhat cheaper, than they
otherwise would be, and consequently to give their industry a double
advantage over our own.

The bounty, as it raises in the home market, not so much the real,
as the nominal price of our corn; as it augments, not the quantity of
labour which a certain quantity of corn can maintain and employ, but
only the quantity of silver which it will exchange for; it discourages
our manufactures, without rendering any considerable service, either to
our farmers or country gentlemen. It puts, indeed, a little more money
into the pockets of both, and it will perhaps be somewhat difficult to
persuade the greater part of them that this is not rendering them a
very considerable service. But if this money sinks in its value, in
the quantity of labour, provisions, and home-made commodities of all
different kinds which it is capable of purchasing, as much as it rises
in its quantity, the service will be little more than nominal and

There is, perhaps, but one set of men in the whole commonwealth to whom
the bounty either was or could be essentially serviceable. These were
the corn merchants, the exporters and importers of corn. In years of
plenty, the bounty necessarily occasioned a greater exportation than
would otherwise have taken place; and by hindering the plenty of the one
year from relieving the scarcity of another, it occasioned in years of
scarcity a greater importation than would otherwise have been necessary.
It increased the business of the corn merchant in both; and in the years
of scarcity, it not only enabled him to import a greater quantity, but
to sell it for a better price, and consequently with a greater profit,
than he could otherwise have made, if the plenty of one year had not
been more or less hindered from relieving the scarcity of another. It is
in this set of men, accordingly, that I have observed the greatest zeal
for the continuance or renewal of the bounty.

Our country gentlemen, when they imposed the high duties upon the
exportation of foreign corn, which in times of moderate plenty amount
to a prohibition, and when they established the bounty, seem to have
imitated the conduct of our manufacturers. By the one institution, they
secured to themselves the monopoly of the home market, and by the other
they endeavoured to prevent that market from ever being overstocked with
their commodity. By both they endeavoured to raise its real value, in
the same manner as our manufacturers had, by the like institutions,
raised the real value of many different sorts of manufactured goods.
They did not, perhaps, attend to the great and essential difference
which nature has established between corn and almost every other sort of
goods. When, either by the monopoly of the home market, or by a bounty
upon exportation, you enable our woollen or linen manufacturers to sell
their goods for somewhat a better price than they otherwise could get
for them, you raise, not only the nominal, but the real price of those
goods; you render them equivalent to a greater quantity of labour and
subsistence; you increase not only the nominal, but the real profit,
the real wealth and revenue of those manufacturers; and you enable them,
either to live better themselves, or to employ a greater quantity of
labour in those particular manufactures. You really encourage those
manufactures, and direct towards them a greater quantity of the industry
of the country than what would properly go to them of its own accord.
But when, by the like institutions, you raise the nominal or money price
of corn, you do not raise its real value; you do not increase the real
wealth, the real revenue, either of our farmers or country gentlemen;
you do not encourage the growth of corn, because you do not enable
them to maintain and employ more labourers in raising it. The nature of
things has stamped upon corn a real value, which cannot be altered by
merely altering its money price. No bounty upon exportation, no monopoly
of the home market, can raise that value. The freest competition cannot
lower it, Through the world in general, that value is equal to the
quantity of labour which it can maintain, and in every particular place
it is equal to the quantity of labour which it can maintain in the
way, whether liberal, moderate, or scanty, in which labour is commonly
maintained in that place. Woollen or linen cloth are not the regulating
commodities by which the real value of all other commodities must be
finally measured and determined; corn is. The real value of every other
commodity is finally measured and determined by the proportion which its
average money price bears to the average money price of corn. The real
value of corn does not vary with those variations in its average money
price, which sometimes occur from one century to another; it is the real
value of silver which varies with them.

Bounties upon the exportation of any homemade commodity are liable,
first, to that general objection which may be made to all the different
expedients of the mercantile system; the objection of forcing some part
of the industry of the country into a channel less advantageous than
that in which it would run of its own accord; and, secondly, to the
particular objection of forcing it not only into a channel that is less
advantageous, but into one that is actually disadvantageous; the trade
which cannot be carried on but by means of a bounty being necessarily a
losing trade. The bounty upon the exportation of corn is liable to this
further objection, that it can in no respect promote the raising of that
particular commodity of which it was meant to encourage the production.
When our country gentlemen, therefore, demanded the establishment of
the bounty, though they acted in imitation of our merchants and
manufacturers, they did not act with that complete comprehension of
their own interest, which commonly directs the conduct of those two
other orders of people. They loaded the public revenue with a very
considerable expense: they imposed a very heavy tax upon the whole body
of the people; but they did not, in any sensible degree, increase the
real value of their own commodity; and by lowering somewhat the real
value of silver, they discouraged, in some degree, the general industry
of the country, and, instead of advancing, retarded more or less the
improvement of their own lands, which necessarily depend upon the
general industry of the country.

To encourage the production of any commodity, a bounty upon production,
one should imagine, would have a more direct operation than one upon
exportation. It would, besides, impose only one tax upon the people,
that which they must contribute in order to pay the bounty. Instead of
raising, it would tend to lower the price of the commodity in the home
market; and thereby, instead of imposing a second tax upon the people,
it might, at least in part, repay them for what they had contributed
to the first. Bounties upon production, however, have been very rarely
granted. The prejudices established by the commercial system have
taught us to believe, that national wealth arises more immediately
from exportation than from production. It has been more favoured,
accordingly, as the more immediate means of bringing money into the
country. Bounties upon production, it has been said too, have been found
by experience more liable to frauds than those upon exportation. How
far this is true, I know not. That bounties upon exportation have been
abused, to many fraudulent purposes, is very well known. But it is not
the interest of merchants and manufacturers, the great inventors of all
these expedients, that the home market should be overstocked with their
goods; an event which a bounty upon production might sometimes occasion.
A bounty upon exportation, by enabling them to send abroad their surplus
part, and to keep up the price of what remains in the home market,
effectually prevents this. Of all the expedients of the mercantile
system, accordingly, it is the one of which they are the fondest. I have
known the different undertakers of some particular works agree privately
among themselves to give a bounty out of their own pockets upon the
exportation of a certain proportion of the goods which they dealt in.
This expedient succeeded so well, that it more than doubled the price
of their goods in the home market, notwithstanding a very considerable
increase in the produce. The operation of the bounty upon corn must have
been wonderfully different, if it has lowered the money price of that

Something like a bounty upon production, however, has been granted
upon some particular occasions. The tonnage bounties given to the white
herring and whale fisheries may, perhaps, be considered as somewhat of
this nature. They tend directly, it may be supposed, to render the
goods cheaper in the home market than they otherwise would be. In other
respects, their effects, it must be acknowledged, are the same as those
of bounties upon exportation. By means of them, a part of the capital of
the country is employed in bringing goods to market, of which the price
does not repay the cost, together with the ordinary profits of stock.

But though the tonnage bounties to those fisheries do not contribute
to the opulence of the nation, it may, perhaps, be thought that they
contribute to its defence, by augmenting the number of its sailors and
shipping. This, it may be alleged, may sometimes be done by means of
such bounties, at a much smaller expense than by keeping up a great
standing navy, if I may use such an expression, in the same way as a
standing army.

Notwithstanding these favourable allegations, however, the following
considerations dispose me to believe, that in granting at least one of
these bounties, the legislature has been very grossly imposed upon:

First, The herring-buss bounty seems too large.

From the commencement of the winter fishing 1771, to the end of the
winter fishing 1781, the tonnage bounty upon the herring-buss fishery
has been at thirty shillings the ton. During these eleven years, the
whole number of barrels caught by the herring-buss fishery of Scotland
amounted to 378,347. The herrings caught and cured at sea are called
sea-sticks. In order to render them what are called merchantable
herrings, it is necessary to repack them with an additional quantity of
salt; and in this case, it is reckoned, that three barrels of sea-sticks
are usually repacked into two barrels of merchantable herrings. The
number of barrels of merchantable herrings, therefore, caught during
these eleven years, will amount only, according to this account, to
252,231. During these eleven years, the tonnage bounties paid amounted
to 155,463:11s. or 8s:2d. upon every barrel of sea-sticks, and to
12s:3d. upon every barrel of merchantable herrings.

The salt with which these herrings are cured is sometimes Scotch, and
sometimes foreign salt; both which are delivered, free of all excise
duty, to the fish-curers. The excise duty upon Scotch salt is at present
1s:6d., that upon foreign salt 10s. the bushel. A barrel of herrings is
supposed to require about one bushel and one-fourth of a bushel foreign
salt. Two bushels are the supposed average of Scotch salt. If the
herrings are entered for exportation, no part of this duty is paid up;
if entered for home consumption, whether the herrings were cured with
foreign or with Scotch salt, only one shilling the barrel is paid up. It
was the old Scotch duty upon a bushel of salt, the quantity which, at
a low estimation, had been supposed necessary for curing a barrel of
herrings. In Scotland, foreign salt is very little used for any other
purpose but the curing of fish. But from the 5th April 1771 to the 5th
April 1782, the quantity of foreign salt imported amounted to 936,974
bushels, at eighty-four pounds the bushel; the quantity of Scotch salt
delivered from the works to the fish-curers, to no more than 168,226, at
fifty-six pounds the bushel only. It would appear, therefore, that it
is principally foreign salt that is used in the fisheries. Upon every
barrel of herrings exported, there is, besides, a bounty of 2s:8d. and
more than two-thirds of the buss-caught herrings are exported. Put
all these things together, and you will find that, during these eleven
years, every barrel of buss-caught herrings, cured with Scotch salt,
when exported, has cost government 17s:11d.; and, when entered for home
consumption, 14s:3d.; and that every barrel cured with foreign salt,
when exported, has cost government 1:7:5d.; and, when entered for
home consumption, 1:3:9d. The price of a barrel of good merchantable
herrings runs from seventeen and eighteen to four and five-and-twenty
shillings; about a guinea at an average. {See the accounts at the end of
this Book.}

Secondly, The bounty to the white-herring fishery is a tonnage bounty,
and is proportioned to the burden of the ship, not to her diligence or
success in the fishery; and it has, I am afraid, been too common for the
vessels to fit out for the sole purpose of catching, not the fish but
the bounty. In the year 1759, when the bounty was at fifty shillings the
ton, the whole buss fishery of Scotland brought in only four barrels of
sea-sticks. In that year, each barrel of sea-sticks cost government,
in bounties alone, 113:15s.; each barrel of merchantable herrings

Thirdly, The mode of fishing, for which this tonnage bounty in the white
herring fishery has been given (by busses or decked vessels from twenty
to eighty tons burden ), seems not so well adapted to the situation of
Scotland, as to that of Holland, from the practice of which country it
appears to have been borrowed. Holland lies at a great distance from
the seas to which herrings are known principally to resort, and can,
therefore, carry on that fishery only in decked vessels, which can carry
water and provisions sufficient for a voyage to a distant sea; but the
Hebrides, or Western Islands, the islands of Shetland, and the
northern and north-western coasts of Scotland, the countries in whose
neighbourhood the herring fishery is principally carried on, are
everywhere intersected by arms of the sea, which run up a considerable
way into the land, and which, in the language of the country, are called
sea-lochs. It is to these sea-lochs that the herrings principally resort
during the seasons in which they visit these seas; for the visits of
this, and, I am assured, of many other sorts of fish, are not quite
regular and constant. A boat-fishery, therefore, seems to be the mode of
fishing best adapted to the peculiar situation of Scotland, the fishers
carrying the herrings on shore as fast as they are taken, to be either
cured or consumed fresh. But the great encouragement which a bounty of
30s. the ton gives to the buss-fishery, is necessarily a discouragement
to the boat-fishery, which, having no such bounty, cannot bring its
cured fish to market upon the same terms as the buss-fishery. The
boat-fishery; accordingly, which, before the establishment of the
buss-bounty, was very considerable, and is said to have employed a
number of seamen, not inferior to what the buss-fishery employs at
present, is now gone almost entirely to decay. Of the former extent,
however, of this now ruined and abandoned fishery, I must acknowledge
that I cannot pretend to speak with much precision. As no bounty
was-paid upon the outfit of the boat-fishery, no account was taken of it
by the officers of the customs or salt duties.

Fourthly, In many parts of Scotland, during certain seasons of the year,
herrings make no inconsiderable part of the food of the common people.
A bounty which tended to lower their price in the home market,
might contribute a good deal to the relief of a great number of our
fellow-subjects, whose circumstances are by no means affluent. But the
herring-bus bounty contributes to no such good purpose. It has ruined
the boat fishery, which is by far the best adapted for the supply of
the home market; and the additional bounty of 2s:8d. the barrel upon
exportation, carries the greater part, more than two-thirds, of the
produce of the buss-fishery abroad. Between thirty and forty years ago,
before the establishment of the buss-bounty, 16s. the barrel, I have
been assured, was the common price of white herrings. Between ten and
fifteen years ago, before the boat-fishery was entirely ruined, the
price was said to have run from seventeen to twenty shillings the
barrel. For these last five years, it has, at an average, been at
twenty-five shillings the barrel. This high price, however, may have
been owing to the real scarcity of the herrings upon the coast of
Scotland. I must observe, too, that the cask or barrel, which is usually
sold with the herrings, and of which the price is included in all the
foregoing prices, has, since the commencement of the American war, risen
to about double its former price, or from about 3s. to about 6s. I must
likewise observe, that the accounts I have received of the prices of
former times, have been by no means quite uniform and consistent, and an
old man of great accuracy and experience has assured me, that, more
than fifty years ago, a guinea was the usual price of a barrel of good
merchantable herrings; and this, I imagine, may still be looked upon as
the average price. All accounts, however, I think, agree that the
price has not been lowered in the home market in consequence of the

When the undertakers of fisheries, after such liberal bounties have been
bestowed upon them, continue to sell their commodity at the same, or
even at a higher price than they were accustomed to do before, it might
be expected that their profits should be very great; and it is not
improbable that those of some individuals may have been so. In general,
however, I have every reason to believe they have been quite otherwise.
The usual effect of such bounties is, to encourage rash undertakers to
adventure in a business which they do not understand; and what they lose
by their own negligence and ignorance, more than compensates all that
they can gain by the utmost liberality of government. In 1750, by
the same act which first gave the bounty of 30s. the ton for the
encouragement of the white herring fishery (the 23d Geo. II. chap. 24),
a joint stock company was erected, with a capital of 500,000, to which
the subscribers (over and above all other encouragements, the tonnage
bounty just now mentioned, the exportation bounty of 2s:8d. the barrel,
the delivery of both British and foreign salt duty free) were, during
the space of fourteen years, for every hundred pounds which they
subscribed and paid into the stock of the society, entitled to three
pounds a-year, to be paid by the receiver-general of the customs in
equal half-yearly payments. Besides this great company, the residence of
whose governor and directors was to be in London, it was declared lawful
to erect different fishing chambers in all the different out-ports of
the kingdom, provided a sum not less than 10,000 was subscribed into
the capital of each, to be managed at its own risk, and for its own
profit and loss. The same annuity, and the same encouragements of all
kinds, were given to the trade of those inferior chambers as to that of
the great company. The subscription of the great company was soon filled
up, and several different fishing chambers were erected in the different
out-ports of the kingdom. In spite of all these encouragements, almost
all those different companies, both great and small, lost either the
whole or the greater part of their capitals; scarce a vestige now
remains of any of them, and the white-herring fishery is now entirely,
or almost entirely, carried on by private adventurers.

If any particular manufacture was necessary, indeed, for the defence
of the society, it might not always be prudent to depend upon our
neighbours for the supply; and if such manufacture could not otherwise
be supported at home, it might not be unreasonable that all the other
branches of industry should be taxed in order to support it. The
bounties upon the exportation of British made sail-cloth, and British
made gunpowder, may, perhaps, both be vindicated upon this principle.

But though it can very seldom be reasonable to tax the industry of the
great body of the people, in order to support that of some particular
class of manufacturers; yet, in the wantonness of great prosperity, when
the public enjoys a greater revenue than it knows well what to do with,
to give such bounties to favourite manufactures, may, perhaps, be as
natural as to incur any other idle expense. In public, as well as in
private expenses, great wealth, may, perhaps, frequently be admitted as
an apology for great folly. But there must surely be something more
than ordinary absurdity in continuing such profusion in times of general
difficulty and distress.

What is called a bounty, is sometimes no more than a drawback, and,
consequently, is not liable to the same objections as what is properly
a bounty. The bounty, for example, upon refined sugar exported, may
be considered as a drawback of the duties upon the brown and Muscovado
sugars, from which it is made; the bounty upon wrought silk exported,
a drawback of the duties upon raw and thrown silk imported; the bounty
upon gunpowder exported, a drawback of the duties upon brimstone and
saltpetre imported. In the language of the customs, those allowances
only are called drawbacks which are given upon goods exported in the
same form in which they are imported. When that form has been so altered
by manufacture of any kind as to come under a new denomination, they are
called bounties.

Premiums given by the public to artists and manufacturers, who excel in
their particular occupations, are not liable to the same objections as
bounties. By encouraging extraordinary dexterity and ingenuity, they
serve to keep up the emulation of the workmen actually employed in those
respective occupations, and are not considerable enough to turn towards
any one of them a greater share of the capital of the country than what
would go to it of its own accord. Their tendency is not to overturn the
natural balance of employments, but to render the work which is done
in each as perfect and complete as possible. The expense of premiums,
besides, is very trifling, that of bounties very great. The bounty
upon corn alone has sometimes cost the public, in one year, more than

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