3 JANUARY 1880, Page 10

Sir William Harcourt made a speech to the Oxford Druids

on Thursday, in which he recalledthe agricultural circumstances of 1835. In that year, when Protection was still in the ascend- ant, and the farmer defended by a heavy import duty on corn, and there was no American competition, wheat was 35s. a quarter, and all farmers said they were ruined. A Select Com- mittee of the Commons was appointed to inquire, before which a witness from Bucks declared that "the clay land in his county would bear no rent," while witnesses from Cambridgeshire said "they would not farm rent-free." In Lincolnshire, it was stated that the farmers were "worse off than the labourers ;" while in Essex, the smaller farmers were declared to be "paupers." Mr. Jacob, however, the Controller of Corn Returns, said the cause of distress was a succession of superabundant har- vests, and the Committee, after hearing masses of evidence,. determined to make no report. The farmers soon recovered ;. and it is Sir William Ifarcourt's opinion that they will recover now, if they are only left alone, if full security is given them for their improvements, and if the owner of land obtains "absolute freedom of disposition," by the abolition of the- system of settlement, which Sir William publicly condemned six years ago, when he was a law officer of the Crown.