Famine and Dearth

An Appeal To All True Englishmen

AN
APPEAL
TO ALL
True English-men,
(If there be any such left,)
Or, A CRY for BREAD.

1699

1.

1.1.

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THE Philosopher having invited some curious Wits, and perhaps no dull Palats, to an Entertainment; when the Table was spread, and plentifully furnished with variety of excellent Dishes, and the Guess set; instead of falling on, and eating (as was expected) they all sat gazing on one another, no Man offering to touch any thing: At which, the Master of the Feast amazed, looks about to see if he could discover what should be the Reason that his Guests did not mind their Meat, and instantly he perceived that there was no Bread on the Board. A greater Error than perhaps some may think it; for the most delicious Viands without Bread are not savory; or at least will not be long so. Let other Dainties be what they will, Bread is the standing Dish: With those we may please our Palats, but without that we cannot Live. So that the Proverb hath only done it Justice, in telling us, That Bread is the Staff of Life: And that Country is most highly esteemed which can best secure its Inhabitants from the want of it.

Now our own Dear Country of England has been thought to yield to none for Fruitfulness in Corn, and consequently for fulness of Bread. Of old it, and Sicily, were accounted the Roman Granaries; though now it is quite another thing, and every way for the better: For considering how much the Art and Industry of the Husband-man at this time o'th' day excels those of former times, and how much the Ground is cleared from Roughs, Woods, Forests, Fens, and such kind of unprofitable or useless Places, as anciently eat up a great part of the Island, it may now be modestly judged to be capable of producing Four times the Quantity of Grain which it did in Roman Times; though then it was thought that it might vye with any other Place in the World. And I have heard some Men, who neither wanted Parts nor Experience, strenuously argue, and with seeming sound Reason conclude, That since the Improvement in the Northern and Western Parts, it is impossible that there should ever be any thing like a Famine in England, supposing Corn were not half a Crop, which rarely happens.

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These Things being so plain, we might perhaps think our selves the happiest People under the Sun, if we could fill our Bellies with Reasons; but I never knew an hungry Stomach surfeit with Arguments: A piece of Bread and Cheese is more worth to such a one than all the fine Talk in the World; and in spite of all that has or can be said, we find even in this fruitful Country such a Famine of Bread coming upon us, as is likely to pinch the Rich and starve the Poor. And what shall we do in this Case? Shall we believe those who tell us, that we cannot want in such a Country as this? I fear our gnawing Stomachs will not suffe our Understandings to be gull'd in a Matter of this Nature. What then? Shall we lie down, and dye? Shall we, like a Parcel of Sots and Fools, tamely sink under the Malady, and pine away the miserable Remainder of our Days without further Care? Or shall we try, if there be any Remedy? Certainly those Men have lost both their Wits and Senses too, who would not use their utmost Endeavors to prevent such a general Mischief as this. Now if we will seriously, and to any purpose, seek after a Remedy, we must first make Enquiry after the true Cause of our want; for if we can take away that, our old Plenty will return.

Well Country-men! shall we send Hui and Cry after the Cause of this Mischief and Misery? Any Man will say there is little need of that: For if it were possible to find out so meer a Cockney as never saw a Field of Corn in his Life; yet if you should ask him what might be the Reason of want of Bread, he would presently tell you want of Corn; and would say, That he were a most impudent Fellow who should affirm, that there could be any want of Bread in a Country, which at the same time afforded plenty of Corn. And yet such a Paradox as this I must maintain, if I will speak truth; and shew you the true Reason of your present want of Bread, which is daily like to be greater. Indeed if the Earth had play'd the Step-mother, and proved unkind to us, it would then have concerned us to have sent abroad, and furnished our selves from other Countries which have to space, as hath been the Practice and Prudence of some of our Neighbors, especially France of late, whose Policy it were better to imitate than starve. But that is not the Case; if we might enjoy our own, we need trouble no Body else. For I dare boldly affirm, That for Twenty Years last past, there hath scarce been a better general Crop of Bread-Corn, than was this Year, and the last. As for the last Year, what I say will be easily granted; yea, I verily believe, that it produced enough to furnish us for that Year, and this too, if an honest Use had been made of it. As for this Year, I find many possessed with another Opinion, which I cannot but admire; for I have had Occasion to view the Corn in several Counties: And in spite of any Dutch-man alive, will pretend to some Understanding of it; and I every where found Bread-Corn a good Crap; nay, Wheat to the Eye seemed to out-do that of the last Year. And though I do not think it to be really altogether so good, yet is it a Crop not to be complained of, and under which we need know no want. And though a Thousand New-fashion'd, Sham, Dutch Transubstantiation Arguments were brought against this, yet they shall never perswade me out of my Senses. I will therefore lay this down for a certain Conclusion; That the Reason of our Scarcity is not from the Products of the Earth, or for Want of a Crop.

You will say then, what is the Reason? If you please, Country-men, we will first examine those Reasons that pass for current, and then see if we can find out the true one. Some think, that it may contribute something to our Scarcity, That in many Places they are not able to manage their Harvest, and want Hands to get in their Corn. This, I confess, is a very deplorable Thing; and, if true, makes the Matter much worse. For if we already want Hands to get our Corn, by reason that those who used to assist in that Matter are gone for Soldiers, or knockt o'th' Head; in a while it will be in danger to [Page 3] come to this pass, That we shall want Hands to till and sow the Ground, and so we shall have no Corn at all. But however, this cannot be the Reason of our present Scarcity: For want of Hands may be a Reason for a more tedious Harvest, or may let Corn receive some Damage; but this, if by chance it make it something worse, yet it makes it nothing less: It may abate of the Pleasantness, but brings no want to our Door. And the very same thing may be said as to unseasonable Weather in many Places; and therefore I shall give that Objection no further answer.

But to be short, The great Cry, and generally received Opinion is, That there hath been such a general Blast, as hath destroyed or spoiled the Corn; That it is full of Choler, or black Ears; and that other Ears are light, yea often quite Empty. And thus we are striving to make that the Hand of God, which is the Fruits of our own Folly. It were just with him to deal thus with so wicked a Nation; but he hath not done so yet. And it were the height of Ingratitude to charge him as plaguing us with Famine, when he blesseth us with Plenty. I do not say, there is no Blast; some little Foundation there hath been for this Complaint, which hath been strangely spread and improv'd by those who are the real Cause of our Evils; and then being entertain'd by silly frightful People, who if they hear of a Blast, verily believe all the Corn to be spoiled, it got greater Credit. And no doubt but it hath been encouraged by the Farmer, with a Design to advance his Market. But this I say, and I make no doubt plainly to prove it, That the Blast is not the Cause of the present Scarcity, and Dearness of Corn. To this end, I shall consider the utmost that in all likelihood it can affect us. I grant, that the Blast hath been very busy, especially in some Places, as near the Sea-Coast, and in those Countries, which rarely change their Seed, where there is always some Blast, more or less: Yea, considering the backwardness of the Year, I am apt to think there may be a great deal of small Grain, especially in chalky Land, where the Clevel is always less than in Clay, mixt, or chiselly Earth. Yea further, suppose that the Corn were no where altogether so bold as it was the last Year; yet, for all this, we might have had Corn enough, and good, cheap. For though the Yeomen of Kent (whose Country is very subject to Blast, for which particular Reasons might be given) make great Complaint; and their Outcry, by reason of their Neighborhood, doth much affect the Citizens, yet in many Places the Blast is very inconsiderable. And I have seen, this very Year, many and large Fields of Corn free from black Ears, though not from some light Ears; and I never knew any crop of Corn altogether free. This ought also to be observed, That Wheat was thicker on the Ground this Year than the last; (which all allow to be a great Crop) and if more Straws, consequently there must be more Ears of Corn: So that if we should suppose the Blast to have destroyed every Third Ear of Corn (which I believe it hath not done the Tenth) there would have been a sufficient Crop to have supplied the Land , without making Corn dear. And then if we reckon upon the old Stock which remained, or ought to have remained, from the last Years Plenty, we might as reasonably have expected to have seen Wheat sold now at 3 s. or 3 s. 6 d. a Bushel, or (as some call it) a Strike, as in former Years.

By this time I expect some should grow Testy, and say, If this be not the Reason, what is? For nothing can be more plain than that Corn is Dear, and continues Rising, to the endangering of many Thousands of Poor, perishing for want. Now I could give as plain a Reason for it, if an honest English-man might speak with safety; for we are now under Dutch Comptrollers, and as nothing must be done, so nothing must be said, that may be offensive to the Hogen Mogens: However I will out with it; and if my Country-men will not See, they may be Blind, til they are Starved: For I can do no more for them, than to tell them the plain Truth. nd to speak all in a Word, it is a DUTCH BLAST [Page 4] that makes this Scarcity, and will make it greater. Those dear Friends of ours, for whom we have spent our Bloud, and our Estates, (I am unwilling to say damn'd our Souls too) that we might raise and keep them at this Height, now carry away our Corn at that rate, That if Joseph's Granaries were among us, they would make a Dearth, if they are suffered to go on. Ten, Twenty, or Thirty Ships going out together from one Port of ours, laden with Corn, are not worth our taking Notice of; but as they have drove this Trade very briskly of late, and continue so to do, so it is not one Port alone which they Ply: But that if possible you may be sensible, that these Horse-leeches would suck you very last drop of Bloud; I will lay a kind of Scheme before you, together with the Arts by which our Corn is drawn from us.

Our Northern Seas, from whence we only cross to Holland, and they to us, are now the safest of all others, by reason that no Enemy can come thither. but either about Scotland, or by the Downs; and so will be in continual Danger of falling into the Mouths of the English or Dutch Men of War; which makes the Privateers and Pirates have little Kindness for that Road: So that our Corn-carriers have a safe and quick Passage to and from all our Ports on that Coast, even from the South-foreland to Tinmouth-haven, and further, if there be any thing to be had for them. And this Range takes in upon our Sea-Coast these Counties, Kent, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincoln, York and Durham: And in in these Counties these Ports, Dover, Sandwich, Margate, Colchester, Harwich, Yarmouth, Boston, Hull, Newcastle, and above a Hundred other Places; where they may either put in; or with their Boats fetch off Corn to their Ships: And to all these Ports they have already well plyed, and tolerably well drained them. But lest you should imagine that this only affects these maritine Counties, I will demonstrate to you how, by this means, they draw the Corn from all Parts, even out of the very Heart of the Country. For where there are navigable Rivers Corn will most certainly run after the Price, and travel to Sea; if more be bid for it there, than on Land. And the Farmer (let who will starve) by Hook or by Crook, by Night or by Day, will convey it away, if the Market please him: And so our Corn shall go as far as the River reaches, or they will carry it to it. For Instance; Suppose the Corn Vessels come into Boston-deep, with a Design to take in Lading at Boston, or Lynn, and other Places thereabout, here fall into the Sea (amongst others) Three Rivers navigable a very considerable way up into the Country: The Welland, navigable up as far as Stamford, a Town bordering upon Three Counties, Lincoln, Northampton, and Rutland. 2. The Nine, running through Lincolnshire, continues navigable beyond Peterborough in Northamplonshire. And 3dly, The use, which cutting through Norfolk, and the Isle of Ely, skirting Cambridgeshire, takes in the Cham, which is navigable up to Cambridge; and then passing on to St. Ives, and Hantingdon, and so onward into the very Bowels of the Country; in all, affects Six Counties; though I cannot justly say how far navigable. Next. if you please, we will convey our Corn Vessels to Hull, where they have been so often already, that by this time hey may know the way themselves: This stands upon the Humber, which is a confluence of Rivers, into which (not to name any other) runs the Trent; which passing through part of Yorkshire continues his current through Lincolnshire, and Nottinghamshire, and by Leicestershire, travelling through some of our best Corn Countries into the very heart of the Kingdom, and is navigable within Six Miles of Darby. But not to trouble you with many others, I think the Thames ought not to be forgotten; which one way brings up the rain of Kent and Essex, and the other way carries down and drains away Stores of Harfordshire, Middlesex, Surry, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire: And here, in nd about the City, our dearly beloved Darling Dutchmen are continually playing their Do tricks. Sometimes they traffick for [Page 5] our Corn with open Face; and when that becomes notorious, and grows distastful, then they deal underhand; and so many Guineas are given to a Factor to buy so many Thousand Quarters of Wheat in his own Name; or to a Brower to buy so many Thousand Quarters of Malt: And this is no sooner privately, or under a colour delivered, but it is as speedily conveyed away: For a Jugler cannot play his Tricks more nimbly, than these Whipsters. Now from all these Parts, which I have mentioned, they have already carried vast Quantities of Corn; so that it is not possible their Trade should hold there long, unless they would leave us nothing at all; and then when they are forced to go a little further a Field, along the Channel lie several Counties fruitful in Corn; as Suffex, Hampshire, Dorset, and Devonshire: And then, if you come about into the Channel of Bristol, the Severn will bring Corn to you out of the very middle of England; for touching upon Herefordshire, and running through Glocestershire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, in takes in also the Avon, which is navigable as far as Stratford, within Six Miles of Warwick; which, with Coventry, are stiled our Urbes Mediterraneoe. It is further to be observed, That there is scarce any Part of England, which is good Corn Land, but it is within Two days Journy of some navigable River: Now to fetch in that Land which the Water of it self will not, they have this Trick; they, or their Agents, go to the Farmer's House, and agree with him for so many Loads of Corn to be delivered at a certain Place, perhaps Twenty or Thirty Miles distant, where they can send it away by Water, or have easy Conveyances. Thus where the River will not lead them to the Corn, they bring the Corn to the River; and thus these ingenious Rogues will not leave a Mouse-hole unferretted, out of which they will not fetch our Corn: And if they be suffered to hold on this Trade, for any thing I know, the Rich as well as the Poor may in a short time be glad to leap at a Crust.

Whatever the crying Sins or villanous Contrivances of Men may effect, doubtless the Creator, who is a God of Goodness. never originally designed one Nation to undo another. But such are the Variety of Products, and withal the particular Necessities of particular Countries, that it should seem God designed to oblige them to help and succour each other. If therefore the Dutch were in want of Corn, it were good Reason that we should help them, so as not to hurt our selves: But even then, it were no Reason that we should starve our selves to make them abound; and they would deserve never to find help at need, who should attempt or but desire such a Thing: Yet this, and worse, do these insatiable Sooterkins now endeavour to bring to pass. They do not fetch away our Corn for any Want, but with design to compleat our Ruin: They are not without Three or Four years Provisions before-hand; and when they have advanced it to that Rate, that Thousands amongst us must Perish, because they cannot reach the Price, then perhaps they may be so Charitable as to sell us some of our own Corn again. This, no prudent Nation under Heaven would offer to any People, whom they did not think so altogether Insensible, that the deepest Injuries could not move them; but in the Dutch, it is insufferable and unpardonable as to us: For we all along supported them in their lowest Condition; we held up their Heads, when they could not swim; we raised them to a State, or else they had sunk in their Bogs: And as soon as they were able, they flew in our Faces. Nevertheless in all Streights we still upheld them; and at this very time our Men fight their Battles, our Money pays their Charges, our Fleet it unreasonably hazarded for their Safety; we suffer them to engross our Trade; they Hector and Domineer in our Country; they buy the Estates of our impoverished Gentry, and Dutch Pages are made English Nobles. Nay, even the Flower of the Crown-Revenues is given to a base-born Fellow; as if he who [Page 6] came young, with his Pack at his Back to the Loo, to beg a Service, were shortly to the made Prince of Wales: And yet all this will not do, unless they may sow up our Mouths, or (which is worse) cause us miserably to languish away for want of Bread, whilst our Country affords Plenty. Thus we have nourished a Monster to devour us; and have so long, and so egregiously play'd the Fool, that we are not the Pity, but the Scorn of all Nations.

I have thus, in short, laid before you the plain Reason; and true Cause of this growing Scarcity; the Remedy is not my Province, nor in my Power, though I could wish it were, for my Countries sake: But to quicken you to seek for a Remedy in time, before it be too late; as I have shewed you the Cause, so I will briefly touch upon what in likelihood may be the Effects and Tendencies of this destructive (and yet connived at) Practice. First, Our Country will be filled with the lamentable doleful Crys of famishing Persons: Those, whose Modesty will not suffer them to beg, nor their Consciences to steal, must the soonest languish into their Graves; and so the best must perish first. Others, who will not endure to want, if it can be any ways supplied, will fall to pilfering and stealing; and so will be driven to this sad Choice, either to be hanged or starved: And this very Thing will fill the Country with Violence, and Peoples Hearts with Horror and Fear; when a Man cannot go to Bed, but with an Apprehension that his House or Barns will be broke open before Morning and perhaps their Throats cut in their Beds to Boot. Others, endeavouring to prolong a wearisome Life, will fall to Begging: And those who are once habituated to that Trade scarce ever leave it; so that if they chance to survive the Famine, they will stock our Country with an idle unprofitable sort of Cattle, good for nothing, but consume the Fruits of the Earth: And when Things are brought to this pass, the Richest will be but in an ill Condition. But in the next Place, pardon me if I do believe that one Design of these Dutch Practices is, That they may sport themselves with our Miseries: For those, who have observed their Ingratitude and insolent Humour, and have read or heard of their unparallel'd Barbarities and Cruelties all over the World, must acknowledge them to be a People who are not pleased with any thing so much, as the Miseries of others; and then most of all, when it is by their own Procurement. They are Proud of, and Glory in such Practices. Another Design of theirs, I think to be, to serve their Turns of our Men, and to thin our Country, in hopes in time to be absolute Masters of it: For when Men want both Bread, and Money to buy it, and have little hopes of Relief by begging, and are unwilling to be hang'd for stealing, they will be very free to become Soldiers; especially if it be but for this Privilege, That if you will not give the Soldier Bread, he takes it: This serves the Turn for a while; but then on a sudden they are commanded into Flanders, where they are put upon all desperate Attempts, till their few Brains are knockt out, and there's an end of them; it is but sending hither for more Recruits, till the Kingdom is so dispeopled, that they may quietly enter upon, and take possession of it, without any Disturbance. But not to trouble you any further, I cannot but think their main Design to be, to see what they can bring us to; and whether we be already fitted, or can be fitted, to make Dutch Slaves. For those who have suffered their Men, their Money, their Trade, to be taken away; and after this, will suffer the Bread to be taken out of their Mouths, and be content to starve quietly; doubtless these Men will suffer any thing: And so they may, if they please; For who shall hinder them from starving who have a mind to it? Or who shall pity them if they do starve, who have Bread enough, and areable to keep it, and yet tamely suffer others to carry it away from them? I think such senseless Sots before were never heard of: But if this will hold, farewell the Fortune of England.

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If I were a Person of any considerable Interest or Authority in the Government, I would suggest to them this one Consideration: Those, who are best affected to the Government, will own, That some Things not very Commendable have been done, which yet have been justified by the Pleas of Necessity, the Inclination of the People, or publick Good. Now I am sure there cannot be many Things more necessary than the maintaining Life; and if the Peoples Inclination should not lead them to have Bread, and to have it as cheap as may be reasonably expected, I should think them Ten times madder than they are: And I believe none will question, but that Plenty is more for the publick Good than Famine. So that without any Sham, or Pretences, here is a real and plain Necessity that our Corn be stopt, or we otherwise provided for; and over and above, the Thing is Just, Commendable, and Popular, and withal may be easily done; which, one would think, should invite some of our Great Seven to engage in it. It hath also been observable, in all Governments whatsoever, That want of Bread hath made the People become Mutinous, Troublesom, and sometimes very Dangerous; so that the Provision mentioned is not only honest, but prudent and safe. And therefore, I hope, that upon due Consideration such care will be taken, that at least we may keep what Corn is left: But if after all no Course be taken, and after mature Consultation it shall be thought more necessary to starve than relieve the People, I shall leave it to others to enquire into the Mystery; for it is such Reason of State, as I can neither understand, nor approve; and such as I believe no mortal ever before heard of. But I know not what heavier or more dreadfull Judgment can befal us, than for English-men to become their own Executioners.

Quos Deus vult perdere, dementat priùs.
FINIS.
This is the full version of the original text

Keywords

bread, corn, crops, earth, famine, harvest, plenty, trade

Source text

Title: An Appeal To All True Englishmen

Author: Samuel Grascome

Publication date: 1699

Edition: 2nd edition

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: http://eebo.chadwyck.com/home Bibliographic name / number: Wing (2nd ed.) / G1567 Physical description: 7 p. Copy from: Bodleian Library Reel position: Wing / 1718:17

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Original author(s): Samuel Grascome

Language: English

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Acknowledgements