Know all about Corn Laws
The article “All about Corn Laws” by Snehil Sharma intends to provide a conceptual insight into Corn Laws. It will be retracing the path travelled by corn laws from its origin to its abolition. The pivotal moment in 19th-century trade policy was the British parliament’s repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. The repeal sparked Britain’s mid-Victorian shift toward freer trade and paved the way for the late-19th-century rapid growth of the nation’s international trade.
A series of laws known as the Corn Laws were passed between 1815 and 1846 and maintained corn prices high. Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, this policy was designed to shield English farmers from grain imports from low-cost other countries. Before retracing the journey of corn laws, it is important to gain an understanding of what is referred to as corn laws.
What are Corn Laws
The dominant original cereal crop in any region is typically (though not universally) considered to be referred to as the term “corn.” In the UK, “corn” refers to either wheat or all conventional cereal crops (wheat, barley, oats, etc.). The United Kingdom imposed taxes and limitations known as the Corn Laws between 1815 and 1846.
The price of “corn,” which also refers to barley, corn, wheat, and all other grains, increased as a result of the Corn Laws. The Laws were created to safeguard English farmers from cheap grain imports from abroad. In response to the Napoleonic conflicts, this was being done. Farms throughout the British Empire made more money as a result of the blockade of continental Europe, and these farmers wanted to keep making more money.
Between 1845 and 1852, the first two years of the Irish famine, there were very few fresh food inventories. With the support of the Whigs in Parliament, conservative Sir Robert Peel overcame the opposition of the majority of his party to end the war. Any grain that required grinding was referred to as “corn,” especially wheat. The laws that were repealed by the Importation Act of 1846 were enacted by the Importation Act of 1815. The statutes were occasionally regarded as prime examples of British mercantilism. Co-proprietors (a long-established class that was disproportionately represented in Parliament) and the expanding class of manufacturers and fake employees (who were under-represented) split politically as a result of the same.
Origin of Corn Laws
A House of Commons Committee made a vow to restrict grain from foreign producers until the cost of domestically produced muck reached eighty shillings per quarter in 1813. The 1815 Corn Law was enacted by Lord Liverpool’s Tory government. Major riots in London and the Manchester Peterloo Massacre served as its culmination. Thomas Tooke’s merchandisers’ petition, which called for the abolition of protective tariffs and free trade, was presented to the Commons in 1820. Lord Liverpool stated that he was in favour of free trade but that it was challenging to stop protectionist practices due to the intricate constraints.
The British people could only purchase grain from within the country due to these stringent regulations and subsequent tariffs on any maize or grain that could enter the country. Due to this, bread prices as well as the cost of living increased. The Corn Laws restricted overall economic growth and the disposable income of the British population. The working class was forced to stop purchasing produced items since they could not afford anything other than their food, which decreased revenues for the top manufacturers. The Corn Laws did, however, increase landowners’ wealth. Even though they made up only 3% of the population at the time, affluent landowners at the time held exclusive voting rights.
The rich elite benefited from the Corn Laws despite the fact that they affected the working class. These restrictions persisted for a long period until Britain embraced a more free trade policy like what we see today because the rich members of parliament did not care about the hardship of the working class. Riots erupted as a result of the suffering of the time, but it took some time for an effective organisation to take legal action. A significant percentage of the merchant class was granted the right to vote in 1832, which eventually resulted in the repeal of the Laws.
Repeal of Corn Laws
The challenge of price creation that any sneaky scale would encounter was avoided by the fixed duty. Foreign Secretary George Canning and others were concerned that a permanent obligation would limit flexibility in times of failure, increasing the chance that the government would be forced to postpone the duty during comparable periods. Other politicians backed the sliding scale since it was founded on “expertise” rather than “proposition,” in contrast to the fixed obligation advocated by “cold-blooded political economists.”
According to Huskisson, the stealth scale fixed the worst aspect of 1815—severity. Because Huskisson’s pivot point of sixty shillings—from which the duty of twenty shillings would typically descend—would not provide them with appropriate security, the agronomists rejected his 1827 Bill.
Huskisson and the Duke of Wellington, who was appointed Prime Minister in 1828, got embroiled in an abecedarian argument while crafting the 1827 Bill. While the latter attempted to incorporate agricultural protection, the former sought to promote more open sludge trading. Huskisson and Wellington settled on a sliding-scale tariff on sludge in 1828, which meant that as the cost increased, so did the levy. Huskisson’s putrefied sliding scale was how Fay described the 1828 sliding scale. The 1828 Act fixed the pivot point at 66 shillings, contrary to Huskisson’s proposal of 60 or 62 shillings.
The scale of 1828 was different from Huskisson’s scale since there were large leaps in the scale (13 shillings, eight pence, duty for sixty-nine shillings, and a 1-shilling duty for seventy-three shillings).
During times of high prices, speculators profited from the rapid-fire descent of the scale by delaying transactions until the price rose by one or two shillings in order to avoid paying tariffs. The 1828 legislation persisted despite this issue until Peel introduced a suitable sliding scale in 1842. Between 1811 and 1841, the population of the United Kingdom rose from 12.6 million to 18 million, which reduced British farmers’ ability to meet domestic demand. Another element that proved fatal to the sludge laws was the increase of British industrial assiduity and import trade, particularly in fabrics. Furthermore, businesspeople became vocal against the agronomist’s “illegal” protection as the early 1830s phony drug and import crush faded.
The League Machine
The Anti-Corn Law League was the first cutting-edge, politically-active pressure organisation in the UK. In 1836, the Anti-Corn Law League was established in London; by 1838, however, it had relocated to Manchester. The League’s functional approach depended heavily on its civic promotion and electoral enrollment juggernauts. There were substantial League subscriptions.
It maintained a tiny army of workers and speakers on the road, distributing a large number of pamphlets (most famously, the infamous anti-Corn Law Circular) and delivering countless talks on the virtues of free trade and the immoralities of protection. The League used the enrollment drive to install free-trade advocates in Parliament in favour of protectionist co-owners.
Following free traders’ electoral setbacks in 1841 and 1842, the League concentrated its energy and resources on achieving free-trade maturity in the approaching general election in 1848. Ultimately, its founders recommended a political strategy that included interfering with name registries and exploiting propaganda bias by being choosers. In preparation for the 1848 election, the League aimed to add as many free merchants as possible while removing as many protectionists as possible from these lists.
The League faced a different challenge from the Chartist movement. The well-organized working-class movement known as the Chartists battled for administrative reform, stressing the significance of reform spanning the entire social and political spectrum. On the other side, the League waged a focused campaign to win repeal. When Chartists and Leaguers disagreed, their arguments frequently devolved into open hostility and acts of violence, with Chartists accusing Leaguers of being enemies of reform and Leaguers accusing Chartists of expecting unrealistic reforms and thereby undermining their targeted approach.
Repercussions of Corn Laws
Sludge cost remained to be 52 shillings over the two decades that followed 1850. The Champaign granges of North America were suitable for exporting significant quantities of low muck due to the development of speedier modes of transportation, such as rail and steamboat as well as the modernization of the Agrarian Ministry. Every country that produces sludge, with the exception of Belgium and the United Kingdom, anticipated tariff rises in response. English-grown sludge cost 56 shillings, or 9 cents, in 1877, but for the remainder of the nineteenth century, the price never dropped below ten shillings.
The price was lowered to 46 shillings and 5 pence in 1878. Sludge-raising land had decreased by a million acres by 1885, and in 1886, the price of sludge had fallen to thirty-one shillings a quarter. British reliance on imported grain increased from 2% in the 1830s to 24% in the 1860s to 45% in the 1880s to 65% in the 1890s. According to the 1881 story, there had been a reduction of 250 agrarian sloggers from 1871, but an increase of 496 local sloggers. Even though agricultural loggers get the highest earnings in Europe, many of these were formerly ranch employees who relocated to cities in search of employment.
The British could only purchase grain from within their own borders due to these severe limitations and the ensuing levies on any grain entering the kingdom. As a result, both the cost of chicken and general living increased. The Corn Laws reduced both the overall discretionary income of the British people and their rate of economic growth. The working class ceased purchasing produced items as a result of their inability to travel anywhere other than for food, which lowered leading manufacturing gains.
The sludge laws helped property owners despite this. Even though they barely made up 3% of the populace at the time, wealthy lessees occasionally had the chance to bounce. The sludge laws consequently hurt the working class while benefiting the rich elite. Long before Britain pushed for a more open trade policy like the one we currently have, the wealthy in Congress were apathetic about the pain of the lower class. This is why these restrictions persisted for such a long period. due to the suffering of the moment, heard screaming, but it took some time for the genuine association to fairly handle the issues. A significant portion of the trafficker class was given the right to bounce in 1832, which led to the creation of the laws.
1) Rachit Garg, Corn Laws, Available Here
2) David Ross, The Corn Laws, Available Here
3) Maksym Chepeliev, The economic consequences of Sir Robert Peel: A quantitative assessment of the repeal of the Corn Laws, Available Here
4) Marjie Bloy, The Corn Laws, Available Here