CORN LAWS, the name popularly given to certain statutory enactments which had for their object a restriction of the trade in grain. The English C. L. date as far back as the year 1360, in the reign of Edward III. Before this period, there seems to have been a general rule carried into effect by the crown against the exportation of any grain; and the act of 1360 enacts the prohibition. but at the same time excepts Calais and Gas coigne, with any other places which the king may appoint by license, from its opera= tion. In 1393, the arrangement was reversed, and the right to export was made gen eral, unless to those places to which it was prohibited by royal proclamation. An act of 1436 permitted exportation when the price of wheat did not exceed 68. 8d. per quar ter. Hitherto, there seem to have been no prohibitions against importation; but in 1463, an act was passed prohibiting it so long as the price at home was below the Os. 8d. at which there was free exportation, The next change was in the reign of Hen ry,VIII., when an act of 1534 prohibited all exportation except by license specially granted under the great seal. This act was not found to work well; and 20 years later, the previous arrangement was adopted of allowing exportation when the. price had reached a certain point. The subsequent legislation for some time merely changed the price at 'which exportation might begin, generally enlarging it. After the restoration. the policy of increasing the duties on importation, for the protection of agriculture and the landed interest at home, begins to be perceptible. At the same time, the effect of that event on the condition of Scotland and England towards each other forms a curious illustra tion of such fiscal regulations. Under the protectorate, they were one country, with free intercommunion of trading privileges. Scotland was increasing in wealth under this arrangement; but the countries were separated by the restoration of Charles II., and became the same to each other as foreign nations. The English duties restricted the importation of grain from Scotland; and in 1663, the Scotch parliament, in retaliation, laid heavy duties on the importation of English and all other foreign grain. Had not the union of 1707 made the countries 'one again, England and Scotland would probably have continued a corn-law contest against each other, like the French provinces.
The agricultural interest continuing powerfully to modify this department of legis lation, an act was passed in 1670, for virtually prohibiting importation, until the home price had reached 53s. 4d., and laying a heavy duty on it above that point. This law
had, however, little effect in favor of the landed interest, from the circumstance, that then, and for long afterwards, Britain was an exporting, not an importing country—that is to say, it generally produced more corn than its population required. A new device was adopted at the revolution, and a bounty was awarded on exportation—that is, a sum was paid to the producer for what lie exported, so that if the price in the foreign market might not induce him to send corn abroad, the bounty, in addition to that price, might. For upwards of a century, the numerous enactments in this department will be found to be a mere shifting, according to circumstances, of the incidence of the bounty on the one hand, and of the import duty on the other. In 1773, a permanent adjustment was supposed to be reached by Burke's act, which removed the bounty, and prohibited exportation when the price reached 443., and allowed importation at a nominal duty of 6d., at a price of 48s. Afterwards, and especially during the great war of the French revolution, it became usual to profess that the chief object of this kind of legislation was to have always a sufficient supply of grain at home for our own wants, and to render us entirely independent of foreign nations for the food of the people. It was maintaiued that the bounty effected this object, since its tendency was to promote the production of more grain than was necessary at home, and it thus supplied a garnary to be drawn upon in case of famine. It was otherwise, however, maintained, that the prohibiting, or, at all events, restraining the introduction of foreign grain, would Five a much greater impulse to home production. Looking at it from the agricultural interest solely, this view was well founded; for, as the tendency of Britain to be an importing rather than an exporting country was increasing, the exportation, even with the encouragement of the bounty, was likely to be small. It could not, however, escape consideration, that to increase home production by a pressure on importation, was virtually to aggrandize the landed interest by a pressure on the food of the people. With these views, the price at which importation might begin was raised in 1804, and was again raised in 1814, when the bounty was abandoned as worthless for its purposes. There had been a tendency to what is called " a sliding scale" in the duties on importation. This arrangement was brought into systematic shape by the act of 1814, and subsequently, by the celebrated act of 1828, it reached what was considered by its supporters a state of perfection.