5 NOVEMBER 1853, Page 11


Faint a letter which Lord Ashburton has addressed to the Sta- tistical Committee of the Alresford Union, we are to understand that the proposal to collect agricultural statistics has created ex- actly the same apprehension that the improved survey created in the Candeish district of Bombay, and apparently for the same rea- son. That survey was intendea to improve the mode of levying the land-tax so as to be less oppressive ; but the unlucky r3ots, from old experience perhaps, thought that inquiry into their ways and means was only the prelude to new taxes. The grand thing from old experience perhaps, thought that inquiry into their ways and means was only the prelude to new taxes. The grand thing wanted to reconcile them was explanation ; and at last a Native officer volunteered that kindness ; just as Lord Ashburton has now done. Preconceived ideas, however, had so obtained possession of the Native mind in Candeish, that the explanation was treated as a new and insidious artifice, and the unfortunate Native officer was rewarded by those whom he enlightened with a severe thrash- ing for his zeal. It is to be hoped that Lord Ashburton will not find the parallel complete in the English Candeish. He explains, that Government does not seek the returns in order to pry into private affairs, or to publish to the world the actual state of every farmer's business, or to levy a new tax ; but to place agriculture in a position of equality in respect to information with shipping, trade, and manufactures. There is one advantage which the farmers enjoy in ignorance—it is that of concealing their difficulties from their own eyes. They can hope for "good luck" to the very last moment, although they have not taken the proper steps to secure it ; and when the good luck fails them, they can deplore the sternness of Providence or the wrongs of an unjust Legislature. In the mean time, however conciliatory to their feelings it may be thus to attribute their troubles to the injustice of adverse fate or the doom of predestination commercially the plan is unprofitable. The farmer has to stand the consequences of dealing with those who are better-informed than himself. The corn-dealer can be in the market before him, and divert into his own pocket all the profits of the farmer. Lord Ashburton shows how the stockjobber, with his exclusive couriers, used to enjoy the same advantage before the days of the electric telegraph : but the ease needs no illustration from another trade. The farmer knows well enough, that when there is abundance, he has to encounter, in common with other traders, low prices ; when there is scarcity, and he might have better prices, the corn-dealer is before him with sup- plies from abroad, and the improved prices are realized before he can come to market. Sometimes this foreign supply is wantonly over- done. The corn-jobbers, anticipating something like a scarcity, get up exaggerated rumours, raise prices artificially, and in August or September put into their own pockets the extra profit which might be realized by the genuine trader as well as the farmer a month or two later. Ultimately, corn always realizes its actual value ; and if there were not this crude ignorance and misrepresentation, the farmer would realize his proper share of that actual value, with a premium or natural " protection " exactly equivalent to the freight from abroad. This has been so apparent to other classes, that the statistics which will benefit the farmer are about to be forced upon him by a popular Government, after the long instigation of the Member for Manchester.

All arguments which apply to the collection and diffusion of in- formation on the subject of agricultural produce, apply to informa- tion respecting any commodity essential to the sustenance and in- dustry of this country, most extensively and primarily ; therefore to information respecting the supply of labour. It is indeed an astounding fact, that we should he upon the eve of obtaining accu- rate commercial and statistical information on agriculture before we obtain it for labour and wages. No doubt can remain on the mind of any intelligent observer, that a very great proportion of disputes, properly so called, between masters and men, arise from want of information on botis sides, as Mr. Cobden says, respecting the value and the supply and the demand of the commodity in ques- tion—labour. The masters have oftener than once incurred the inconvenience of a strike by resisting a demand, of which they afterwards acknowledged the practicability by submitting to it; and the men have still oftener persevered in inflicting damage upon themselves, and upon the trade from which their employment is drawn, by pursuing a strike which could not be sustained at last. In both cases, either side would have desisted if it had known the irresistible facts which it was attempting to resist in ignorance.

So strongly, indeed, has this truth impressed itself upon the mind of many amongst the working classes, that they have ori- ginated endeavours to obtain commercial and statistical informa- tion respecting the demand and supply for labour and the rates of wages throughout the country : but it is evident that,.—from their limited command of leisure, from their want of public offi- cers devoted to their own class, find from their want of an effi. • oient and trustworthy press—they have not at present the means of collecting and circulating the requisite information, either with .sufficient accuracy, or sufficient comprehensiveness of diffusion. The employing classes have such a means. That they are in- terested in enlightening both themselves and their labourers, is proved not only by the infliction of strikes which would not otherwise occur, but also by such facts as that stated in a letter to the Times from "An Employer of Labour." The manufac- turing trade, this letter-writer says, is leaving Manchester : and, strange as the assertion sounds, there is a great show of truth in it Manchester still flourishes as a mart for buying and selling ; but the new mills are built in other districts, where the rate of wages ranges perhaps 20 or 25 per cent lower than in Manchester. The Manchester manufacturers cannot hold their own ; the labourers are equally unable to retain trade at a rate of wages above the natural level ; and hence they must remain in Manchester without a corresponding trade, or they must emigrate to other places where wages are nominally lower. Of course, if the data for these calculations were ha- bitually and periodically before the employers of Manchester, and before the working classes, they would be equally ready to agree upon the necessary means for arresting the migration of trade from their town—both would clearly see their interest. It would, no doubt, take some time to impress the fact fully upon the mind ; but nothing would do so with so much force as the weekly sight of the statistics illustrating the subject. It would have exactly the same effect on the minds of those who are buyers and sellers of labour, as would any information on the statistics of the corn trade, or the sugar trade, or any other trade, upon its own dealers. Men do not attempt to struggle against the stream when they clearly see the way in which the stream is running.