from any other cause but a real scarcity, occasioned 
sometimes, perhaps, and in some particular 
places, by the waste of war, but in by 
far the greatest number of cases by the fault 
of the seasons; and that a famine has never 
arisen from any other cause but the violence 
of government attempting, by improper means
to remedy the inconveniencies of a dearth
In an extensive corn country, between all 
the different parts of which there is a free 
commerce and communication, the scarcity 
occasioned by the most unfavourable seasons 
can never be so great as to produce a famine
and the scantiest crop, if managed with frugality 
and economy, will maintain, through 
the year, the same number of people that are 
commonly fed in a more affluent manner by 
one of moderate plenty. The seasons most 
unfavourable to the crop are those of excessive 
drought or excessive rain. But as corn 
grows equally upon high and low lands, upon 
grounds that are disposed to be too wet, and 
upon those that are disposed to be too dry, 
either the drought or the rain, which is hurtful 
to one part of the country, is favourable 
to another; and though, both in the wet and 
in the dry season, the crop is a good deal less 
than in one more properly tempered; yet, in 
both, what is lost in one part of the country 
is in some measure compensated by what is 
gained in the other. In rice countries, where 
the crop not only requires a very moist soil
but where, in a certain period of its growing, 
it must be laid under water, the effects of a 
drought are much more dismal. Even in such 
countries, however, the drought is, perhaps, 
scarce ever so universal as necessarily to occasion 
a famine, if the government would allow 
a free trade. The drought in Bengal, a few 
years ago, might probably have occasioned a 
very great dearth. Some improper regulations
some injudicious restraints, imposed by the 
servants of the East India Company upon the 
rice trade, contributed, perhaps, to turn that 
dearth into a famine
When the government, in order to remedy 
the inconveniencies of a dearth, orders all the 
dealers to sell their corn at what it supposes
reasonable price, it either hinders them from 
bringing it to market, which may sometimes 
produce a famine even in the beginning of the 
season; or, if they bring it thither, it enables 
the people, and thereby encourages them to 
consume it so fast as must necessarily produce 
a famine before the end of the season. The 
unlimited, unrestrained freedom of the corn 
trade, as it is the only effectual preventive of 
the miseries of a famine, so it is the best palliative 
of the inconveniencies of a dearth; for 
the inconveniencies of a real scarcity cannot 
be remedied; they can only be palliated. No 
trade deserves more the full protection of the 
law, and no trade requires it so much; because 
no trade is so much exposed to popular 
In years of scarcity, the inferior ranks of 
people impute their distress to the avarice of 
the corn merchant, who becomes the object of 
their hatred and indignation. Instead of making 
profit upon such occasions, therefore, he 
is often in danger of being utterly ruined
and of having his magazines plundered and 
destroyed by their violence. It is in years of 
scarcity, however, when prices are high, that 
the corn merchant expects to make his principal 
profit. He is generally in contract with some 
farmers to furnish him, for a certain number 
of years, with a certain quantity of corn, at a 
certain price. This contract price is settled 
according to what is supposed to be the moderate 
and reasonable, that is, the ordinary or 
average price, which, before the late years of 
scarcity, was commonly about 28s. for the 
quarter of wheat, and for that of other grain 
in proportion. In years of scarcity, therefore, 
the corn merchant buys a great part of his corn 
for the ordinary price, and sells it for a much 
higher. That this extraordinary profit, however, 
is no more them sufficient to put his 
trade upon a fair level with other trades, and 
to compensate the many losses which be sustains 
upon other occasions, both from the perishable 
nature of the commodity itself, and 
from the frequent and unforeseen fluctuations 
of its price, seems evident enough, from this 
single circumstance, that great fortunes are as 
seldom made in this as in any other trade. 
The popular odium, however, which attends 
it in years of scarcity, the only years in which 
it can be very profitable, renders people of character 
and fortune averse to enter into it. It 
is abandoned to an inferior set of dealers
and millers, bakers, meal-men, and meal-factors, 
together with a number of wretched hucksters
arr almost the only middle people that, 
in the home market, come between the grower 
and the consumer
The ancient policy of Europe, instead of 
discountenancing this popular odium against 
a trade so beneficial to the public, seems, on 
the contrary, to have authorised and encouraged 
By the 5th and 6th of Edward VI. cap. 14, 
it was enacted, that whoever should buy any 
corn or grain, with intent to sell it again, 
should be reputed an unlawful engrosser, and 
should, for the first fault, suffer two months 
imprisonment, and forfeit the value of the 
corn; for the second, suffer six months imprisonment
and forfeit double the value; and, 
for the third, be set in the pillory, suffer imprisonment 
during the king's pleasure, and 
forfeit all his goods and chattels. The ancient 
policy of most other parts of Europe was no 
better than that of England. 
Our ancestors seem to have imagined, that 
the people would buy their corn cheaper of 
the farmer than of the corn merchant, who, 
they were afraid, would require, over and 
above, the price which he paid to the farmer