Of The Rent Of Land

Rent, considered as the price paid for the use of land, is naturally the

highest which the tenant can afford to pay in the actual circumstances

of the land. In adjusting the terms of the lease, the landlord

endeavours to leave him no greater share of the produce than what is

sufficient to keep up the stock from which he furnishes the seed, pays

the labour, and purchases and maintains the cattle and other instruments

husbandry, together with the ordinary profits of farming stock in

the neighbourhood. This is evidently the smallest share with which the

tenant can content himself, without being a loser, and the landlord

seldom means to leave him any more. Whatever part of the produce, or,

what is the same thing, whatever part of its price, is over and above

this share, he naturally endeavours to reserve to himself as the rent of

his land, which is evidently the highest the tenant can afford to pay in

the actual circumstances of the land. Sometimes, indeed, the liberality,

more frequently the ignorance, of the landlord, makes him accept of

somewhat less than this portion; and sometimes, too, though more rarely,

the ignorance of the tenant makes him undertake to pay somewhat more,

or to content himself with somewhat less, than the ordinary profits of

farming stock in the neighbourhood. This portion, however, may still

be considered as the natural rent of land, or the rent at which it is

naturally meant that land should, for the most part, be let.

The rent of land, it may be thought, is frequently no more than a

reasonable profit or interest for the stock laid out by the landlord

upon its improvement. This, no doubt, may be partly the case upon some

occasions; for it can scarce ever be more than partly the case. The

landlord demands a rent even for unimproved land, and the supposed

interest or profit upon the expense of improvement is generally an

addition to this original rent. Those improvements, besides, are not

always made by the stock of the landlord, but sometimes by that of

the tenant. When the lease comes to be renewed, however, the landlord

commonly demands the same augmentation of rent as if they had been all

made by his own.

He sometimes demands rent for what is altogether incapable of human

improvements. Kelp is a species of sea-weed, which, when burnt, yields

an alkaline salt, useful for making glass, soap, and for several other

purposes. It grows in several parts of Great Britain, particularly in

Scotland, upon such rocks only as lie within the high-water mark, which

are twice every day covered with the sea, and of which the produce,

therefore, was never augmented by human industry. The landlord, however,

whose estate is bounded by a kelp shore of this kind, demands a rent for

it as much as for his corn-fields.

The sea in the neighbourhood of the islands of Shetland is more than

commonly abundant in fish, which makes a great part of the subsistence

of their inhabitants. But, in order to profit by the produce of the

water, they must have a habitation upon the neighbouring land. The rent

of the landlord is in proportion, not to what the farmer can make by

the land, but to what he can make both by the land and the water. It is

partly paid in sea-fish; and one of the very few instances in which

rent makes a part of the price of that commodity, is to be found in that


The rent of land, therefore, considered as the price paid for the use of

the land, is naturally a monopoly price. It is not at all proportioned

to what the landlord may have laid out upon the improvement of the land,

or to what he can afford to take, but to what the farmer can afford to


Such parts only of the produce of land can commonly be brought to

market, of which the ordinary price is sufficient to replace the stock

which must be employed in bringing them thither, together with its

ordinary profits. If the ordinary price is more than this, the surplus

part of it will naturally go to the rent of the land. If it is not more,

though the commodity may be brought to market, it can afford no rent

to the landlord. Whether the price is, or is not more, depends upon the


There are some parts of the produce of land, for which the demand must

always be such as to afford a greater price than what is sufficient to

bring them to market; and there are others for which it either may or

may not be such as to afford this greater price. The former must always

afford a rent to the landlord. The latter sometimes may and sometimes

may not, according to different circumstances.

Rent, it is to be observed, therefore, enters into the composition of

the price of commodities in a different way from wages and profit. High

or low wages and profit are the causes of high or low price; high or

low rent is the effect of it. It is because high or low wages and profit

must be paid, in order to bring a particular commodity to market, that

its price is high or low. But it is because its price is high or low,

a great deal more, or very little more, or no more, than what is

sufficient to pay those wages and profit, that it affords a high rent,

or a low rent, or no rent at all.

The particular consideration, first, of those parts of the produce of

land which always afford some rent; secondly, of those which sometimes

may and sometimes may not afford rent; and, thirdly, of the variations

which, in the different periods of improvement, naturally take place in

the relative value of those two different sorts of rude produce, when

compared both with one another and with manufactured commodities, will

divide this chapter into three parts.

PART I.--Of the Produce of Land which always affords Rent.

As men, like all other animals, naturally multiply in proportion to the

means of their subsistence, food is always more or less in demand. It

can always purchase or command a greater or smaller quantity of labour,

and somebody can always be found who is willing to do something in order

to obtain it. The quantity of labour, indeed, which it can purchase,

is not always equal to what it could maintain, if managed in the most

economical manner, on account of the high wages which are sometimes

given to labour; but it can always purchase such a quantity of labour as

it can maintain, according to the rate at which that sort of labour is

commonly maintained in the neighbourhood.

But land, in almost any situation, produces a greater quantity of

food than what is sufficient to maintain all the labour necessary for

bringing it to market, in the most liberal way in which that labour is

ever maintained. The surplus, too, is always more than sufficient to

replace the stock which employed that labour, together with its profits.

Something, therefore, always remains for a rent to the landlord.

The most desert moors in Norway and Scotland produce some sort of

pasture for cattle, of which the milk and the increase are always more

than sufficient, not only to maintain all the labour necessary for

tending them, and to pay the ordinary profit to the farmer or the owner

of the herd or flock, but to afford some small rent to the landlord. The

rent increases in proportion to the goodness of the pasture. The same

extent of ground not only maintains a greater number of cattle, but as

they we brought within a smaller compass, less labour becomes requisite

to tend them, and to collect their produce. The landlord gains both

ways; by the increase of the produce, and by the diminution of the

labour which must be maintained out of it.

The rent of land not only varies with its fertility, whatever be its

produce, but with its situation, whatever be its fertility. Land in the

neighbourhood of a town gives a greater rent than land equally fertile

in a distant part of the country. Though it may cost no more labour to

cultivate the one than the other, it must always cost more to bring the

produce of the distant land to market. A greater quantity of labour,

therefore, must be maintained out of it; and the surplus, from which are

drawn both the profit of the farmer and the rent of the landlord, must

be diminished. But in remote parts of the country, the rate of profit,

as has already been shewn, is generally higher than in the neighbourhood

of a large town. A smaller proportion of this diminished surplus,

therefore, must belong to the landlord.

Good roads, canals, and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expense of

carriage, put the remote parts of the country more nearly upon a level

with those in the neighbourhood of the town. They are upon that account

the greatest of all improvements. They encourage the cultivation of the

remote, which must always be the most extensive circle of the country.

They are advantageous to the town by breaking down the monopoly of the

country in its neighbourhood. They are advantageous even to that part of

the country. Though they introduce some rival commodities into the old

market, they open many new markets to its produce. Monopoly, besides,

is a great enemy to good management, which can never be universally

established, but in consequence of that free and universal competition

which forces every body to have recourse to it for the sake of self

defence. It is not more than fifty years ago, that some of the counties

in the neighbourhood of London petitioned the parliament against the

extension of the turnpike roads into the remoter counties. Those remoter

counties, they pretended, from the cheapness of labour, would be able to

sell their grass and corn cheaper in the London market than themselves,

and would thereby reduce their rents, and ruin their cultivation. Their

rents, however, have risen, and their cultivation has been improved

since that time.

A corn field of moderate fertility produces a much greater quantity

of food for man, than the best pasture of equal extent. Though its

cultivation requires much more labour, yet the surplus which remains

after replacing the seed and maintaining all that labour, is likewise

much greater. If a pound of butcher's meat, therefore, was never

supposed to be worth more than a pound of bread, this greater surplus

would everywhere be of greater value and constitute a greater fund, both

for the profit of the farmer and the rent of the landlord. It seems to

have done so universally in the rude beginnings of agriculture.

But the relative values of those two different species of food, bread

and butcher's meat, are very different in the different periods of

agriculture. In its rude beginnings, the unimproved wilds, which then

occupy the far greater part of the country, are all abandoned to cattle.

There is more butcher's meat than bread; and bread, therefore, is the

food for which there is the greatest competition, and which consequently

brings the greatest price. At Buenos Ayres, we are told by Ulloa, four

reals, one-and-twenty pence halfpenny sterling, was, forty or fifty

years ago, the ordinary price of an ox, chosen from a herd of two or

three hundred. He says nothing of the price of bread, probably because

he found nothing remarkable about it. An ox there, he says, costs little

more than the labour of catching him. But corn can nowhere be raised

without a great deal of labour; and in a country which lies upon the

river Plate, at that time the direct road from Europe to the silver

mines of Potosi, the money-price of labour could be very cheap. It is

otherwise when cultivation is extended over the greater part of the

country. There is then more bread than butcher's meat. The competition

changes its direction, and the price of butcher's meat becomes greater

than the price of bread.

By the extension, besides, of cultivation, the unimproved wilds become

insufficient to supply the demand for butcher's meat. A great part of

the cultivated lands must be employed in rearing and fattening cattle;

of which the price, therefore, must be sufficient to pay, not only the

labour necessary for tending them, but the rent which the landlord, and

the profit which the farmer, could have drawn from such land employed in

tillage. The cattle bred upon the most uncultivated moors, when brought

to the same market, are, in proportion to their weight or goodness, sold

at the same price as those which are reared upon the most improved land.

The proprietors of those moors profit by it, and raise the rent of their

land in proportion to the price of their cattle. It is not more than a

century ago, that in many parts of the Highlands of Scotland, butcher's

meat was as cheap or cheaper than even bread made of oatmeal. The Union

opened the market of England to the Highland cattle. Their ordinary

price, at present, is about three times greater than at the beginning

of the century, and the rents of many Highland estates have been tripled

and quadrupled in the same time. In almost every part of Great Britain,

a pound of the best butcher's meat is, in the present times, generally

worth more than two pounds of the best white bread; and in plentiful

years it is sometimes worth three or four pounds.

It is thus that, in the progress of improvement, the rent and profit of

unimproved pasture come to be regulated in some measure by the rent and

profit of what is improved, and these again by the rent and profit of

corn. Corn is an annual crop; butcher's meat, a crop which requires four

or five years to grow. As an acre of land, therefore, will produce a

much smaller quantity of the one species of food than of the other, the

inferiority of the quantity must be compensated by the superiority of

the price. If it was more than compensated, more corn-land would be

turned into pasture; and if it was not compensated, part of what was in

pasture would be brought back into corn.

This equality, however, between the rent and profit of grass and those

of corn; of the land of which the immediate produce is food for cattle,

and of that of which the immediate produce is food for men, must be

understood to take place only through the greater part of the improved

lands of a great country. In some particular local situations it is

quite otherwise, and the rent and profit of grass are much superior to

what can be made by corn.

Thus, in the neighbourhood of a great town, the demand for milk, and for

forage to horses, frequently contribute, together with the high price of

butcher's meat, to raise the value of grass above what may be called its

natural proportion to that of corn. This local advantage, it is evident,

cannot be communicated to the lands at a distance.

Particular circumstances have sometimes rendered some countries so

populous, that the whole territory, like the lands in the neighbourhood

of a great town, has not been sufficient to produce both the grass

and the corn necessary for the subsistence of their inhabitants. Their

lands, therefore, have been principally employed in the production of

grass, the more bulky commodity, and which cannot be so easily brought

from a great distance; and corn, the food of the great body of the

people, has been chiefly imported from foreign countries. Holland is

at present in this situation; and a considerable part of ancient Italy

seems to have been so during the prosperity of the Romans. To feed

well, old Cato said, as we are told by Cicero, was the first and

most profitable thing in the management of a private estate; to feed

tolerably well, the second; and to feed ill, the third. To plough,

he ranked only in the fourth place of profit and advantage. Tillage,

indeed, in that part of ancient Italy which lay in the neighbour hood of

Rome, must have been very much discouraged by the distributions of corn

which were frequently made to the people, either gratuitously, or at a

very low price. This corn was brought from the conquered provinces, of

which several, instead of taxes, were obliged to furnish a tenth part of

their produce at a stated price, about sixpence a-peck, to the republic.

The low price at which this corn was distributed to the people, must

necessarily have sunk the price of what could be brought to the Roman

market from Latium, or the ancient territory of Rome, and must have

discouraged its cultivation in that country.

In an open country, too, of which the principal produce is corn, a

well-inclosed piece of grass will frequently rent higher than any corn

field in its neighbourhood. It is convenient for the maintenance of the

cattle employed in the cultivation of the corn; and its high rent is,

in this case, not so properly paid from the value of its own produce, as

from that of the corn lands which are cultivated by means of it. It is

likely to fall, if ever the neighbouring lands are completely inclosed.

The present high rent of inclosed land in Scotland seems owing to

the scarcity of inclosure, and will probably last no longer than that

scarcity. The advantage of inclosure is greater for pasture than for

corn. It saves the labour of guarding the cattle, which feed better,

too, when they are not liable to be disturbed by their keeper or his


But where there is no local advantage of this kind, the rent and profit

of corn, or whatever else is the common vegetable food of the people,

must naturally regulate upon the land which is fit for producing it, the

rent and profit of pasture.

The use of the artificial grasses, of turnips, carrots, cabbages,

and the other expedients which have been fallen upon to make an equal

quantity of land feed a greater number of cattle than when in natural

grass, should somewhat reduce, it might be expected, the superiority

which, in an improved country, the price of butcher's meat naturally has

over that of bread. It seems accordingly to have done so; and there is

some reason for believing that, at least in the London market, the price

of butcher's meat, in proportion to the price of bread, is a good deal

lower in the present times than it was in the beginning of the last


In the Appendix to the life of Prince Henry, Doctor Birch has given

us an account of the prices of butcher's meat as commonly paid by that

prince. It is there said, that the four quarters of an ox, weighing

six hundred pounds, usually cost him nine pounds ten shillings, or

thereabouts; that is thirty-one shillings and eight-pence per hundred

pounds weight. Prince Henry died on the 6th of November 1612, in the

nineteenth year of his age.

In March 1764, there was a parliamentary inquiry into the causes of the

high price of provisions at that time. It was then, among other proof

to the same purpose, given in evidence by a Virginia merchant, that in

March 1763, he had victualled his ships for twentyfour or twenty-five

shillings the hundred weight of beef, which he considered as the

ordinary price; whereas, in that dear year, he had paid twenty-seven

shillings for the same weight and sort. This high price in 1764 is,

however, four shillings and eight-pence cheaper than the ordinary price

paid by Prince Henry; and it is the best beef only, it must be observed,

which is fit to be salted for those distant voyages.

The price paid by Prince Henry amounts to 3d. 4/5ths per pound weight of

the whole carcase, coarse and choice pieces taken together; and at that

rate the choice pieces could not have been sold by retail for less than

4½d. or 5d. the pound.

In the parliamentary inquiry in 1764, the witnesses stated the price of

the choice pieces of the best beef to be to the consumer 4d. and 4½d.

the pound; and the coarse pieces in general to be from seven farthings

to 2½d. and 2¾d.; and this, they said, was in general one halfpenny

dearer than the same sort of pieces had usually been sold in the month

of March. But even this high price is still a good deal cheaper than

what we can well suppose the ordinary retail price to have been in the

time of Prince Henry.

During the first twelve years of the last century, the average price of

the best wheat at the Windsor market was £ 1:18:3½d. the quarter of nine

Winchester bushels.

But in the twelve years preceding 1764 including that year, the average

price of the same measure of the best wheat at the same market was £


In the first twelve years of the last century, therefore, wheat appears

to have been a good deal cheaper, and butcher's meat a good deal dearer,

than in the twelve years preceding 1764, including that year.

In all great countries, the greater part of the cultivated lands are

employed in producing either food for men or food for cattle. The rent

and profit of these regulate the rent and profit of all other cultivated

land. If any particular produce afforded less, the land would soon be

turned into corn or pasture; and if any afforded more, some part of the

lands in corn or pasture would soon be turned to that produce.

Those productions, indeed, which require either a greater original

expense of improvement, or a greater annual expense of cultivation in

order to fit the land for them, appear commonly to afford, the one a

greater rent, the other a greater profit, than corn or pasture. This

superiority, however, will seldom be found to amount to more than a

reasonable interest or compensation for this superior expense.

In a hop garden, a fruit garden, a kitchen garden, both the rent of the

landlord, and the profit of the farmer, are generally greater than

in acorn or grass field. But to bring the ground into this condition

requires more expense. Hence a greater rent becomes due to the landlord.

It requires, too, a more attentive and skilful management. Hence a

greater profit becomes due to the farmer. The crop, too, at least in the

hop and fruit garden, is more precarious. Its price, therefore, besides

compensating all occasional losses, must afford something like the

profit of insurance. The circumstances of gardeners, generally mean,

and always moderate, may satisfy us that their great ingenuity is not

commonly over-recompensed. Their delightful art is practised by so many

rich people for amusement, that little advantage is to be made by those

who practise it for profit; because the persons who should naturally

be their best customers, supply themselves with all their most precious


The advantage which the landlord derives from such improvements, seems

at no time to have been greater than what was sufficient to compensate

the original expense of making them. In the ancient husbandry, after the

vineyard, a well-watered kitchen garden seems to have been the part

of the farm which was supposed to yield the most valuable produce. But

Democritus, who wrote upon husbandry about two thousand years ago,

and who was regarded by the ancients as one of the fathers of the art,

thought they did not act wisely who inclosed a kitchen garden. The

profit, he said, would not compensate the expense of a stone-wall: and

bricks (he meant, I suppose, bricks baked in the sun) mouldered with the

rain and the winter-storm, and required continual repairs. Columella,

who reports this judgment of Democritus, does not controvert it, but

proposes a very frugal method of inclosing with a hedge of brambles and

briars, which he says he had found by experience to be both a lasting

and an impenetrable fence; but which, it seems, was not commonly known

in the time of Democritus. Palladius adopts the opinion of Columella,

which had before been recommended by Varro. In the judgment of those

ancient improvers, the produce of a kitchen garden had, it seems, been

little more than sufficient to pay the extraordinary culture and the

expense of watering; for in countries so near the sun, it was thought

proper, in those times as in the present, to have the command of a

stream of water, which could be conducted to every bed in the garden.

Through the greater part of Europe, a kitchen garden is not at

present supposed to deserve a better inclosure than mat recommended

by Columella. In Great Britain, and some other northern countries, the

finer fruits cannot be brought to perfection but by the assistance of a

wall. Their price, therefore, in such countries, must be sufficient

to pay the expense of building and maintaining what they cannot be had

without. The fruit-wall frequently surrounds the kitchen garden, which

thus enjoys the benefit of an inclosure which its own produce could

seldom pay for.

That the vineyard, when properly planted and brought to perfection,

was the most valuable part of the farm, seems to have been an undoubted

maxim in the ancient agriculture, as it is in the modern, through all

the wine countries. But whether it was advantageous to plant a new

vineyard, was a matter of dispute among the ancient Italian husbandmen,

as we learn from Columella. He decides, like a true lover of all curious

cultivation, in favour of the vineyard; and endeavours to shew, by a

comparison of the profit and expense, that it was a most advantageous

improvement. Such comparisons, however, between the profit and expense

of new projects are commonly very fallacious; and in nothing more so

than in agriculture. Had the gain actually made by such plantations been

commonly as great as he imagined it might have been, there could have

been no dispute about it. The same point is frequently at this day

a matter of controversy in the wine countries. Their writers on

agriculture, indeed, the lovers and promoters of high cultivation, seem

generally disposed to decide with Columella in favour of the vineyard.

In France, the anxiety of the proprietors of the old vineyards to

prevent the planting of any new ones, seems to favour their opinion, and

to indicate a consciousness in those who must have the experience,

that this species of cultivation is at present in that country more

profitable than any other. It seems, at the same time, however, to

indicate another opinion, that this superior profit can last no longer

than the laws which at present restrain the free cultivation of the

vine. In 1731, they obtained an order of council, prohibiting both the

planting of new vineyards, and the renewal of these old ones, of which

the cultivation had been interrupted for two years, without a particular

permission from the king, to be granted only in consequence of an

information from the intendant of the province, certifying that he had

examined the land, and that it was incapable of any other culture. The

pretence of this order was the scarcity of corn and pasture, and the

superabundance of wine. But had this superabundance been real, it would,

without any order of council, have effectually prevented the plantation

of new vineyards, by reducing the profits of this species of cultivation

below their natural proportion to those of corn and pasture. With regard

to the supposed scarcity of corn occasioned by the multiplication of

vineyards, corn is nowhere in France more carefully cultivated than

in the wine provinces, where the land is fit for producing it: as in

Burgundy, Guienne, and the Upper Languedoc. The numerous hands employed

in the one species of cultivation necessarily encourage the other, by

affording a ready market for its produce. To diminish the number

of those who are capable of paying it, is surely a most unpromising

expedient for encouraging the cultivation of corn. It is like the policy

which would promote agriculture, by discouraging manufactures.

The rent and profit of those productions, therefore, which require

either a greater original expense of improvement in order to fit the

land for them, or a greater annual expense of cultivation, though often

much superior to those of corn and pasture, yet when they do no more

than compensate such extraordinary expense, are in reality regulated by

the rent and profit of those common crops.

It sometimes happens, indeed, that the quantity of land which can be

fitted for some particular produce, is too small to supply the effectual

demand. The whole produce can be disposed of to those who are willing to

give somewhat more than what is sufficient to pay the whole rent, wages,

and profit, necessary for raising and bringing it to market, according

to their natural rates, or according to the rates at which they are paid

in the greater part of other cultivated land. The surplus part of the

price which remains after defraying the whole expense of improvement and

cultivation, may commonly, in this case, and in this case only, bear

no regular proportion to the like surplus in corn or pasture, but may

exceed it in almost any degree; and the greater part of this excess

naturally goes to the rent of the landlord.

The usual and natural proportion, for example, between the rent and

profit of wine, and those of corn and pasture, must be understood to

take place only with regard to those vineyards which produce nothing but

good common wine, such as can be raised almost anywhere, upon any light,

gravelly, or sandy soil, and which has nothing to recommend it but its

strength and wholesomeness. It is with such vineyards only, that the

common land of the country can be brought into competition; for with

those of a peculiar quality it is evident that it cannot.

The vine is more affected by the difference of soils than any other

fruit-tree. From some it derives a flavour which no culture or

management can equal, it is supposed, upon any other. This flavour, real

or imaginary, is sometimes peculiar to the produce of a few vineyards;

sometimes it extends through the greater part of a small district, and

sometimes through a considerable part of a large province. The whole

quantity of such wines that is brought to market falls short of the

effectual demand, or the demand of those who would be willing to pay the

whole rent, profit, and wages, necessary for preparing and bringing them

thither, according to the ordinary rate, or according to the rate at

which they are paid in common vineyards. The whole quantity, therefore,

can be disposed of to those who are willing to pay more, which

necessarily raises their price above that of common wine. The difference

is greater or less, according as the fashionableness and scarcity of the

wine render the competition of the buyers more or less eager. Whatever

it be, the greater part of it goes to the rent of the landlord. For

though such vineyards are in general more carefully cultivated than most

others, the high price of the wine seems to be, not so much the effect,

as the cause of this careful cultivation. In so valuable a produce, the

loss occasioned by negligence is so great, as to force even the most

careless to attention. A small part of this high price, therefore, is

sufficient to pay the wages of the extraordinary labour bestowed upon

their cultivation, and the profits of the extraordinary stock which puts

that labour into motion.

The sugar colonies possessed by the European nations in the West Indies

may be compared to those precious vineyards. Their whole produce falls

short of the effectual demand of Europe, and can be disposed of to those

who are willing to give more than what is sufficient to pay the whole

rent, profit, and wages, necessary for preparing and bringing it to

market, according to the rate at which they are commonly paid by any

other produce. In Cochin China, the finest white sugar generally sells

for three piastres the quintal, about thirteen shillings and sixpence

of our money, as we are told by Mr Poivre {Voyages d'un Philosophe.}, a

very careful observer of the agriculture of that country. What is there

called the quintal, weighs from a hundred and fifty to two hundred Paris

pounds, or a hundred and seventy-five Paris pounds at a medium, which

reduces the price of the hundred weight English to about eight shillings

sterling; not a fourth part of what is commonly paid for the brown or

muscovada sugars imported from our colonies, and not a sixth part

of what is paid for the finest white sugar. The greater part of the

cultivated lands in Cochin China are employed in producing corn and

rice, the food of the great body of the people. The respective prices of

corn, rice, and sugar, are there probably in the natural proportion,

or in that which naturally takes place in the different crops of the

greater part of cultivated land, and which recompenses the landlord and

farmer, as nearly as can be computed, according to what is usually the

original expense of improvement, and the annual expense of cultivation.

But in our sugar colonies, the price of sugar bears no such proportion

to that of the produce of a rice or corn field either in Europe or

America. It is commonly said that a sugar planter expects that the rum

and the molasses should defray the whole expense of his cultivation,

and that his sugar should be all clear profit. If this be true, for I

pretend not to affirm it, it is as if a corn farmer expected to defray

the expense of his cultivation with the chaff and the straw, and that

the grain should be all clear profit. We see frequently societies of

merchants in London, and other trading towns, purchase waste lands in

our sugar colonies, which they expect to improve and cultivate with

profit, by means of factors and agents, notwithstanding the great

distance and the uncertain returns, from the defective administration of

justice in those countries. Nobody will attempt to improve and cultivate

in the same manner the most fertile lands of Scotland, Ireland, or

the corn provinces of North America, though, from the more exact

administration of justice in these countries, more regular returns might

be expected.

In Virginia and Maryland, the cultivation of tobacco is preferred,

as most profitable, to that of corn. Tobacco might be cultivated with

advantage through the greater part of Europe; but, in almost every part

of Europe, it has become a principal subject of taxation; and to collect

a tax from every different farm in the country where this plant might

happen to be cultivated, would be more difficult, it has been supposed,

than to levy one upon its importation at the custom-house. The

cultivation of tobacco has, upon this account, been most absurdly

prohibited through the greater part of Europe, which necessarily gives

a sort of monopoly to the countries where it is allowed; and as Virginia

and Maryland produce the greatest quantity of it, they share largely,

though with some competitors, in the advantage of this monopoly. The

cultivation of tobacco, however, seems not to be so advantageous as that

of sugar. I have never even heard of any tobacco plantation that was

improved and cultivated by the capital of merchants who resided in Great

Britain; and our tobacco colonies send us home no such wealthy planters

as we see frequently arrive from our sugar islands. Though, from the

preference given in those colonies to the cultivation of tobacco above

that of corn, it would appear that the effectual demand of Europe for

tobacco is not completely supplied, it probably is more nearly so than

that for sugar; and though the present price of tobacco is probably more

than sufficient to pay the whole rent, wages, and profit, necessary for

preparing and bringing it to market, according to the rate at which

they are commonly paid in corn land, it must not be so much more as the

present price of sugar. Our tobacco planters, accordingly, have shewn

the same fear of the superabundance of tobacco, which the proprietors of

the old vineyards in France have of the superabundance of wine. By

act of assembly, they have restrained its cultivation to six thousand

plants, supposed to yield a thousand weight of tobacco, for every negro

between sixteen and sixty years of age. Such a negro, over and above

this quantity of tobacco, can manage, they reckon, four acres of Indian

corn. To prevent the market from being overstocked, too, they have

sometimes, in plentiful years, we are told by Dr Douglas {Douglas's

Summary, vol. ii. p. 379, 373.} (I suspect he has been ill informed),

burnt a certain quantity of tobacco for every negro, in the same manner

as the Dutch are said to do of spices. If such violent methods are

necessary to keep up the present price of tobacco, the superior

advantage of its culture over that of corn, if it still has any, will

not probably be of long continuance.

It is in this manner that the rent of the cultivated land, of which the

produce is human food, regulates the rent of the greater part of other

cultivated land. No particular produce can long afford less, because the

land would immediately be turned to another use; and if any particular

produce commonly affords more, it is because the quantity of land which

can be fitted for it is too small to supply the effectual demand.

In Europe, corn is the principal produce of land, which serves

immediately for human food. Except in particular situations, therefore,

the rent of corn land regulates in Europe that of all other cultivated

land. Britain need envy neither the vineyards of France, nor the olive

plantations of Italy. Except in particular situations, the value of

these is regulated by that of corn, in which the fertility of Britain is

not much inferior to that of either of those two countries.

If, in any country, the common and favourite vegetable food of the

people should be drawn from a plant of which the most common land, with

the same, or nearly the same culture, produced a much greater quantity

than the most fertile does of corn; the rent of the landlord, or the

surplus quantity of food which would remain to him, after paying

the labour, and replacing the stock of the farmer, together with its

ordinary profits, would necessarily be much greater. Whatever was the

rate at which labour was commonly maintained in that country, this

greater surplus could always maintain a greater quantity of it, and,

consequently, enable the landlord to purchase or command a greater

quantity of it. The real value of his rent, his real power and

authority, his command of the necessaries and conveniencies of life with

which the labour of other people could supply him, would necessarily be

much greater.

A rice field produces a much greater quantity of food than the most

fertile corn field. Two crops in the year, from thirty to sixty bushels

each, are said to be the ordinary produce of an acre. Though its

cultivation, therefore, requires more labour, a much greater surplus

remains after maintaining all that labour. In those rice countries,

therefore, where rice is the common and favourite vegetable food of

the people, and where the cultivators are chiefly maintained with it, a

greater share of this greater surplus should belong to the landlord than

in corn countries. In Carolina, where the planters, as in other British

colonies, are generally both farmers and landlords, and where rent,

consequently, is confounded with profit, the cultivation of rice is

found to be more profitable than that of corn, though their fields

produce only one crop in the year, and though, from the prevalence

of the customs of Europe, rice is not there the common and favourite

vegetable food of the people.

A good rice field is a bog at all seasons, and at one season a bog

covered with water. It is unfit either for corn, or pasture, or

vineyard, or, indeed, for any other vegetable produce that is very

useful to men; and the lands which are fit for those purposes are not

fit for rice. Even in the rice countries, therefore, the rent of rice

lands cannot regulate the rent of the other cuitivated land which can

never be turned to that produce.

The food produced by a field of potatoes is not inferior in quantity to

that produced by a field of rice, and much superior to what is produced

by a field of wheat. Twelve thousand weight of potatoes from an acre

of land is not a greater produce than two thousand weight of wheat. The

food or solid nourishment, indeed, which can be drawn from each of those

two plants, is not altogether in proportion to their weight, on account

of the watery nature of potatoes. Allowing, however, half the weight

of this root to go to water, a very large allowance, such an acre of

potatoes will still produce six thousand weight of solid nourishment,

three times the quantity produced by the acre of wheat. An acre of

potatoes is cultivated with less expense than an acre of wheat;

the fallow, which generally precedes the sowing of wheat, more than

compensating the hoeing and other extraordinary culture which is always

given to potatoes. Should this root ever become in any part of Europe,

like rice in some rice countries, the common and favourite vegetable

food of the people, so as to occupy the same proportion of the lands

in tillage, which wheat and other sorts of grain for human food do at

present, the same quantity of cultivated land would maintain a much

greater number of people; and the labourers being generally fed with

potatoes, a greater surplus would remain after replacing all the stock,

and maintaining all the labour employed in cultivation. A greater share

of this surplus, too, would belong to the landlord. Population would

increase, and rents would rise much beyond what they are at present.

The land which is fit for potatoes, is fit for almost every other useful

vegetable. If they occupied the same proportion of cultivated land which

corn does at present, they would regulate, in the same manner, the rent

of the greater part of other cultivated land.

In some parts of Lancashire, it is pretended, I have been told, that

bread of oatmeal is a heartier food for labouring people than wheaten

bread, and I have frequently heard the same doctrine held in Scotland. I

am, however, somewhat doubtful of the truth of it. The common people in

Scotland, who are fed with oatmeal, are in general neither so strong

nor so handsome as the same rank of people in England, who are fed with

wheaten bread. They neither work so well, nor look so well; and as there

is not the same difference between the people of fashion in the two

countries, experience would seem to shew, that the food of the common

people in Scotland is not so suitable to the human constitution as that

of their neighbours of the same rank in England. But it seems to be

otherwise with potatoes. The chairmen, porters, and coal-heavers in

London, and those unfortunate women who live by prostitution, the

strongest men and the most beautiful women perhaps in the British

dominions, are said to be, the greater part of them, from the lowest

rank of people in Ireland, who are generally fed with this root. No food

can afford a more decisive proof of its nourishing quality, or of its

being peculiarly suitable to the health of the human constitution.

It is difficult to preserve potatoes through the year, and impossible to

store them like corn, for two or three years together. The fear of not

being able to sell them before they rot, discourages their cultivation,

and is, perhaps, the chief obstacle to their ever becoming in any great

country, like bread, the principal vegetable food of all the different

ranks of the people.

PART II.--Of the Produce of Land, which sometimes does, and sometimes

does not, afford Rent.

Human food seems to be the only produce of land, which always and

necessarily affords some rent to the landlord. Other sorts of

produce sometimes may, and sometimes may not, according to different


After food, clothing and lodging are the two great wants of mankind.

Land, in its original rude state, can afford the materials of clothing

and lodging to a much greater number of people than it can feed. In its

improved state, it can sometimes feed a greater number of people than

it can supply with those materials; at least in the way in which

they require them, and are willing to pay for them. In the one state,

therefore, there is always a superabundance of these materials, which

are frequently, upon that account, of little or no value. In the other,

there is often a scarcity, which necessarily augments their value. In

the one state, a great part of them is thrown away as useless and the

price of what is used is considered as equal only to the labour and

expense of fitting it for use, and can, therefore, afford no rent to

the landlord. In the other, they are all made use of, and there is

frequently a demand for more than can be had. Somebody is always willing

to give more for every part of them, than what is sufficient to pay the

expense of bringing them to market. Their price, therefore, can always

afford some rent to the landlord.

The skins of the larger animals were the original materials of clothing.

Among nations of hunters and shepherds, therefore, whose food consists

chiefly in the flesh of those animals, everyman, by providing himself

with food, provides himself with the materials of more clothing than

he can wear. If there was no foreign commerce, the greater part of them

would be thrown away as things of no value. This was probably the case

among the hunting nations of North America, before their country was

discovered by the Europeans, with whom they now exchange their surplus

peltry, for blankets, fire-arms, and brandy, which gives it some value.

In the present commercial state of the known world, the most barbarous

nations, I believe, among whom land property is established, have some

foreign commerce of this kind, and find among their wealthier neighbours

such a demand for all the materials of clothing, which their land

produces, and which can neither be wrought up nor consumed at home, as

raises their price above what it costs to send them to those wealthier

neighbours. It affords, therefore, some rent to the landlord. When the

greater part of the Highland cattle were consumed on their own hills,

the exportation of their hides made the most considerable article of the

commerce of that country, and what they were exchanged for afforded some

addition to the rent of the Highland estates. The wool of England, which

in old times, could neither be consumed nor wrought up at home, found a

market in the then wealthier and more industrious country of Flanders,

and its price afforded something to the rent of the land which produced

it. In countries not better cultivated than England was then, or than

the Highlands of Scotland are now, and which had no foreign commerce,

the materials of clothing would evidently be so superabundant, that a

great part of them would be thrown away as useless, and no part could

afford any rent to the landlord.

The materials of lodging cannot always be transported to so great a

distance as those of clothing, and do not so readily become an object

of foreign commerce. When they are superabundant in the country which

produces them, it frequently happens, even in the present commercial

state of the world, that they are of no value to the landlord. A good

stone quarry in the neighbourhood of London would afford a considerable

rent. In many parts of Scotland and Wales it affords none. Barren

timber for building is of great value in a populous and well-cultivated

country, and the land which produces it affords a considerable rent. But

in many parts of North America, the landlord would be much obliged to

any body who would carry away the greater part of his large trees. In

some parts of the Highlands of Scotland, the bark is the only part of

the wood which, for want of roads and water-carriage, can be sent to

market; the timber is left to rot upon the ground. When the materials

of lodging are so superabundant, the part made use of is worth only the

labour and expense of fitting it for that use. It affords no rent to

the landlord, who generally grants the use of it to whoever takes

the trouble of asking it. The demand of wealthier nations, however,

sometimes enables him to get a rent for it. The paving of the streets

of London has enabled the owners of some barren rocks on the coast of

Scotland to draw a rent from what never afforded any before. The woods

of Norway, and of the coasts of the Baltic, find a market in many parts

of Great Britain, which they could not find at home, and thereby afford

some rent to their proprietors.

Countries are populous, not in proportion to the number of people whom

their produce can clothe and lodge, but in proportion to that of

those whom it can feed. When food is provided, it is easy to find the

necessary clothing and lodging. But though these are at hand, it may

often be difficult to find food. In some parts of the British dominions,

what is called a house may be built by one day's labour of one man. The

simplest species of clothing, the skins of animals, require somewhat

more labour to dress and prepare them for use. They do not, however,

require a great deal. Among savage or barbarous nations, a hundredth, or

little more than a hundredth part of the labour of the whole year, will

be sufficient to provide them with such clothing and lodging as satisfy

the greater part of the people. All the other ninety-nine parts are

frequently no more than enough to provide them with food.

But when, by the improvement and cultivation of land, the labour of one

family can provide food for two, the labour of half the society becomes

sufficient to provide food for the whole. The other half, therefore, or

at least the greater part of them, can be employed in providing other

things, or in satisfying the other wants and fancies of mankind.

Clothing and lodging, household furniture, and what is called equipage,

are the principal objects of the greater part of those wants and

fancies. The rich man consumes no more food than his poor neighbour.

In quality it may be very different, and to select and prepare it may

require more labour and art; but in quantity it is very nearly the same.

But compare the spacious palace and great wardrobe of the one, with the

hovel and the few rags of the other, and you will be sensible that the

difference between their clothing, lodging, and household furniture, is

almost as great in quantity as it is in quality. The desire of food is

limited in every man by the narrow capacity of the human stomach;

but the desire of the conveniencies and ornaments of building, dress,

equipage, and household furniture, seems to have no limit or certain

boundary. Those, therefore, who have the command of more food than they

themselves can consume, are always willing to exchange the surplus,

or, what is the same thing, the price of it, for gratifications of this

other kind. What is over and above satisfying the limited desire, is

given for the amusement of those desires which cannot be satisfied, but

seem to be altogether endless. The poor, in order to obtain food, exert

themselves to gratify those fancies of the rich; and to obtain it more

certainly, they vie with one another in the cheapness and perfection of

their work. The number of workmen increases with the increasing quantity

of food, or with the growing improvement and cultivation of the lands;

and as the nature of their business admits of the utmost subdivisions of

labour, the quantity of materials which they can work up, increases in

a much greater proportion than their numbers. Hence arises a demand for

every sort of material which human invention can employ, either usefully

or ornamentally, in building, dress, equipage, or household furniture;

for the fossils and minerals contained in the bowels of the earth, the

precious metals, and the precious stones.

Food is, in this manner, not only the original source of rent, but every

other part of the produce of land which afterwards affords rent, derives

that part of its value from the improvement of the powers of labour in

producing food, by means of the improvement and cultivation of land.

Those other parts of the produce of land, however, which afterwards

afford rent, do not afford it always. Even in improved and cultivated

countries, the demand for them is not always such as to afford a greater

price than what is sufficient to pay the labour, and replace, together

with its ordinary profits, the stock which must be employed in bringing

them to market. Whether it is or is not such, depends upon different


Whether a coal mine, for example, can afford any rent, depends partly

upon its fertility, and partly upon its situation.

A mine of any kind may be said to be either fertile or barren, according

as the quantity of mineral which can be brought from it by a certain

quantity of labour, is greater or less than what can be brought by an

equal quantity from the greater part of other mines of the same kind.

Some coal mines, advantageously situated, cannot be wrought on account

of their barrenness. The produce does not pay the expense. They can

afford neither profit nor rent.

There are some, of which the produce is barely sufficient to pay the

labour, and replace, together with its ordinary profits, the stock

employed in working them. They afford some profit to the undertaker

of the work, but no rent to the landlord. They can be wrought

advantageously by nobody but the landlord, who, being himself the

undertaker of the work, gets the ordinary profit of the capital which he

employs in it. Many coal mines in Scotland are wrought in this manner,

and can be wrought in no other. The landlord will allow nobody else to

work them without paying some rent, and nobody can afford to pay any.

Other coal mines in the same country, sufficiently fertile, cannot be

wrought on account of their situation. A quantity of mineral, sufficient

to defray the expense of working, could be brought from the mine by the

ordinary, or even less than the ordinary quantity of labour: but in

an inland country, thinly inhabited, and without either good roads or

water-carriage, this quantity could not be sold.

Coals are a less agreeable fuel than wood: they are said too to be less

wholesome. The expense of coals, therefore, at the place where they are

consumed, must generally be somewhat less than that of wood.

The price of wood, again, varies with the state of agriculture, nearly

in the same manner, and exactly for the same reason, as the price of

cattle. In its rude beginnings, the greater part of every country is

covered with wood, which is then a mere incumbrance, of no value to

the landlord, who would gladly give it to any body for the cutting. As

agriculture advances, the woods are partly cleared by the progress of

tillage, and partly go to decay in consequence of the increased number

of cattle. These, though they do not increase in the same proportion

as corn, which is altogether the acquisition of human industry, yet

multiply under the care and protection of men, who store up in the

season of plenty what may maintain them in that of scarcity; who,

through the whole year, furnish them with a greater quantity of food

than uncultivated nature provides for them; and who, by destroying and

extirpating their enemies, secure them in the free enjoyment of all that

she provides. Numerous herds of cattle, when allowed to wander through

the woods, though they do not destroy the old trees, hinder any young

ones from coming up; so that, in the course of a century or two, the

whole forest goes to ruin. The scarcity of wood then raises its price.

It affords a good rent; and the landlord sometimes finds that he can

scarce employ his best lands more advantageously than in growing barren

timber, of which the greatness of the profit often compensates the

lateness of the returns. This seems, in the present times, to be nearly

the state of things in several parts of Great Britain, where the profit

of planting is found to be equal to that of either corn or pasture. The

advantage which the landlord derives from planting can nowhere exceed,

at least for any considerable time, the rent which these could afford

him; and in an inland country, which is highly cuitivated, it will

frequently not fall much short of this rent. Upon the sea-coast of a

well-improved country, indeed, if coals can conveniently be had for

fuel, it may sometimes be cheaper to bring barren timber for building

from less cultivated foreign countries than to raise it at home. In

the new town of Edinburgh, built within these few years, there is not,

perhaps, a single stick of Scotch timber.

Whatever may be the price of wood, if that of coals is such that the

expense of a coal fire is nearly equal to that of a wood one we may be

assured, that at that place, and in these circumstances, the price of

coals is as high as it can be. It seems to be so in some of the inland

parts of England, particularly in Oxfordshire, where it is usual, even

in the fires of the common people, to mix coals and wood together, and

where the difference in the expense of those two sorts of fuel cannot,

therefore, be very great. Coals, in the coal countries, are everywhere

much below this highest price. If they were not, they could not bear

the expense of a distant carriage, either by land or by water. A

small quantity only could be sold; and the coal masters and the coal

proprietors find it more for their interest to sell a great quantity at

a price somewhat above the lowest, than a small quantity at the highest.

The most fertile coal mine, too, regulates the price of coals at all the

other mines in its neighbourhood. Both the proprietor and the undertaker

of the work find, the one that he can get a greater rent, the other

that he can get a greater profit, by somewhat underselling all their

neighbours. Their neighbours are soon obliged to sell at the same price,

though they cannot so well afford it, and though it always diminishes,

and sometimes takes away altogether, both their rent and their profit.

Some works are abandoned altogether; others can afford no rent, and can

be wrought only by the proprietor.

The lowest price at which coals can be sold for any considerable time,

is, like that of all other commodities, the price which is barely

sufficient to replace, together with its ordinary profits, the stock

which must be employed in bringing them to market. At a coal mine for

which the landlord can get no rent, but, which he must either work

himself or let it alone altogether, the price of coals must generally be

nearly about this price.

Rent, even where coals afford one, has generally a smaller share in

their price than in that of most other parts of the rude produce of

land. The rent of an estate above ground, commonly amounts to what is

supposed to be a third of the gross produce; and it is generally a rent

certain and independent of the occasional variations in the crop. In

coal mines, a fifth of the gross produce is a very great rent, a tenth

the common rent; and it is seldom a rent certain, but depends upon the

occasional variations in the produce. These are so great, that in a

country where thirty years purchase is considered as a moderate price

for the property of a landed estate, ten years purchase is regarded as a

good price for that of a coal mine.

The value of a coal mine to the proprietor, frequently depends as

much upon its situation as upon its fertility. That of a metallic

mine depends more upon its fertility, and less upon its situation. The

coarse, and still more the precious metals, when separated from the ore,

are so valuable, that they can generally bear the expense of a very long

land, and of the most distant sea carriage. Their market is not confined

to the countries in the neighbourhood of the mine, but extends to the

whole world. The copper of Japan makes an article of commerce in Europe;

the iron of Spain in that of Chili and Peru. The silver of Peru finds

its way, not only to Europe, but from Europe to China.

The price of coals in Westmoreland or Shropshire can have little effect

on their price at Newcastle; and their price in the Lionnois can have

none at all. The productions of such distant coal mines can never be

brought into competition with one another. But the productions of the

most distant metallic mines frequently may, and in fact commonly are.

The price, therefore, of the coarse, and still more that of the precious

metals, at the most fertile mines in the world, must necessarily more

or less affect their price at every other in it. The price of copper

in Japan must have some influence upon its price at the copper mines in

Europe. The price of silver in Peru, or the quantity either of labour or

of other goods which it will purchase there, must have some influence

on its price, not only at the silver mines of Europe, but at those of

China. After the discovery of the mines of Peru, the silver mines of

Europe were, the greater part of them, abandoned. The value of silver

was so much reduced, that their produce could no longer pay the expense

of working them, or replace, with a profit, the food, clothes, lodging,

and other necessaries which were consumed in that operation. This was

the case, too, with the mines of Cuba and St. Domingo, and even with the

ancient mines of Peru, after the discovery of those of Potosi. The

price of every metal, at every mine, therefore, being regulated in

some measure by its price at the most fertile mine in the world that is

actually wrought, it can, at the greater part of mines, do very little

more than pay the expense of working, and can seldom afford a very high

rent to the landlord. Rent accordingly, seems at the greater part of

mines to have but a small share in the price of the coarse, and a still

smaller in that of the precious metals. Labour and profit make up the

greater part of both.

A sixth part of the gross produce may be reckoned the average rent of

the tin mines of Cornwall, the most fertile that are known in the world,

as we are told by the Rev. Mr. Borlace, vice-warden of the stannaries.

Some, he says, afford more, and some do not afford so much. A sixth

part of the gross produce is the rent, too, of several very fertile lead

mines in Scotland.

In the silver mines of Peru, we are told by Frezier and Ulloa, the

proprietor frequently exacts no other acknowledgment from the undertaker

of the mine, but that he will grind the ore at his mill, paying him the

ordinary multure or price of grinding. Till 1736, indeed, the tax of the

king of Spain amounted to one fifth of the standard silver, which till

then might be considered as the real rent of the greater part of the

silver mines of Peru, the richest which have been known in the world. If

there had been no tax, this fifth would naturally have belonged to the

landlord, and many mines might have been wrought which could not then be

wrought, because they could not afford this tax. The tax of the duke of

Cornwall upon tin is supposed to amount to more than five per cent. or

one twentieth part of the value; and whatever may be his proportion, it

would naturally, too, belong to the proprietor of the mine, if tin was

duty free. But if you add one twentieth to one sixth, you will find that

the whole average rent of the tin mines of Cornwall, was to the whole

average rent of the silver mines of Peru, as thirteen to twelve. But the

silver mines of Peru are not now able to pay even this low rent; and the

tax upon silver was, in 1736, reduced from one fifth to one tenth. Even

this tax upon silver, too, gives more temptation to smuggling than the

tax of one twentieth upon tin; and smuggling must be much easier in

the precious than in the bulky commodity. The tax of the king of Spain,

accordingly, is said to be very ill paid, and that of the duke of

Cornwall very well. Rent, therefore, it is probable, makes a greater

part of the price of tin at the most fertile tin mines than it does of

silver at the most fertile silver mines in the world. After replacing

the stock employed in working those different mines, together with

its ordinary profits, the residue which remains to the proprietor is

greater, it seems, in the coarse, than in the precious metal.

Neither are the profits of the undertakers of silver mines commonly

very great in Peru. The same most respectable and well-informed authors

acquaint us, that when any person undertakes to work a new mine in Peru,

he is universally looked upon as a man destined to bankruptcy and ruin,

and is upon that account shunned and avoided by every body. Mining, it

seems, is considered there in the same light as here, as a lottery, in

which the prizes do not compensate the blanks, though the greatness

of some tempts many adventurers to throw away their fortunes in such

unprosperous projects.

As the sovereign, however, derives a considerable part of his revenue

from the produce of silver mines, the law in Peru gives every possible

encouragement to the discovery and working of new ones. Whoever

discovers a new mine, is entitled to measure off two hundred and

forty-six feet in length, according to what he supposes to be the