1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > British Agriculture since 1815: Laws Affecting Agriculture. Cattle Murrain and Potato Disease.

(Part 7)


Progress since 1815: Laws Affecting Agriculture. Cattle Murrain and Potato Disease.

Laws Affecting Agriculture

The abundant crop of 813, and restored communication with the continent of Europe in the same year, gave the first check to these unnaturally exorbitant prices and rents. The restoration of peace to Europe, and the re-enactment of the Corn Laws in 1815, mark the commencement of another era in the history of our national agriculture. It was unshed in with a time of severe depression and suffering to the agriculture community. The immense fall in the price of farm-produce with then took place was aggravated, first by the unpropitious weather and deficient harvest of the years 1816, 1817; and still more by the passing in 1819 of the Bill restoring cash payments, which, coming into operation in 1821, caused serious embarrassment to all persons who had entered into engagements at a depreciated currency, which had now to be met with the lower prices of an enhanced one. The much debated Corn Laws, after undergoing various modifications, and probing the fruitful source of business uncertainty, social discontent, and angry partizanship, were finally abolished in 1846, although the Act was not consummated until three years later. Several other Acts of the Legislature, passed during this period, have exerted an important influence on agriculture. Of these, the first in date and importance is the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836. All writers on agriculture had long concurred in pointing out the injurious effects on agriculture of the tithe system as it then stood. The results of the change have amply verified the anticipations of those who were instrumental in procuring it. Since the removal of this formidable hindrance, improvements has been stimulated by those Acts under which the Government has been overpowered to advance money on certain conditions for the draining of estates. An important feature in these advances is, that the 6 _ per cent. Of interest charged upon them provides a sinking fund by which the debt is extinguished in twenty-two years. Additional facilities have also been granted by the Act passes in 1848 for disentailing estates, and for burdening such as are entailed with a share of the cost of certain specified improvements.

Cattle Murrain and Potato Disease

Another class of outward events, which has had an important influence upon agriculture, required our notice. We refer to those mysterious diseased affecting both the animal and vegetable kingdoms, the causes and remedies for which have alike baffled discovery. The murrain or "vesicular epizootix," appeared first in 1841, having been intr5oduced, as is supposed, by foreign cattle. It spread rapidly over country, affecting all out domesticated animals, except horses, and causing everywhere great alarm and loss, although seldom attended by fatal results. It has prevailed ever since, in a greater or less degree, and has been more widely diffused as well as more virulent in 1871 and 1872 than over before. It was soon followed by the more terrible lung-diseases, or pleuro-prenumonia which continues to cause serious mortality among our herds. In 1865 the rinderpest, or steppe murrain, originating amongst the vast herds of the Russian steppes, where it would appear to be never altogether wanting, had spread westward over Europe., until it was brought to London by foreign cattle. Several weeks elapsed before the true character of the disease was known, and in this brief space it had alr4eady been carried by animals purchased in Smithfield market to all parts of the country. After causing the most frightful losses, it was at last stamped out by the resolute slaughter of all affected animals and of all that had been in contact with them. In the autumn of 1872 this cattle plague was again detected in several cargoes of foreign cattle brought to our ports,. Happily the stringent provisions of the Contagious Diseased (Animals) Act had the effect of preventing to Hull, from which the plague was conveyed to several herds in the adjacent parts of Yorkshire, and cased considerable losses before it was again stamped out. Severe as have been the losses in our flocks and herds from these imported diseases, they have been as nothing in comparison with the effects of the mysterious potato blight, which, first appearing in 1845, had since pervaded the whole Europe, and in Ireland especially proved the sad precursor of famine and pestilence. This seemingly insignificant blight for a time well-nigh withdrew from cultivation one of our most esteemed field crops; it influences the business of farming in a may that baffles the shrewdest calculator, and is producing social changes of which no man can predict the issue.

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