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FARMERS’ CORN EXCHANGE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 39, 25 December 1879
FARMERS’ CORN EXCHANGE.
To the Editor. Sir, —The proceedings of the members of the Corn Exchange, so fully recorded in your Tuesday’s issue are commendable. I was pleased to find you, in your leader, in clear and well aimed remarks, made reference to the good recommendations put forth by those who took part in the meeting referred to. The farmers as a body, throughout the length and breadth of New Zealand, are indeed under d&jp obligation to the gentlemen who have interested themselves on behalf of the farmers. There is a great amoii&t of good likely to be t-he -o itoome of that'ebmparatively small meeting held at the Corn Exchange last Saturday. The lethargical farmer, as some term him, will soon take advantage of a' course which is sure to give him additions to his present net income. It 'will be necessary for him to bear in mind the vast progress in almost every department of material production which lias been witnessed during the past century. Even now-a-days a girl of fifteen steering a team of horses in a case of absolute necessity can mow with a machine more grass both faster and better than five men could cut it by hand. Such labor saving machines as double and t.-eble furrow ploughs, reapers and binders, steam thrashers, cultivators, horse-rakes, &c., have combined to render farming less rugged and risk}’, far more efficient, and more productive thiin formerly. It would be keeping well within the mark to say that an average day’s work produces now twice the food, fibre, cloth, or ware that it did a century ago. But while production has thus been so wonderfully increased by the invention of machinery* which renders labor more effective, no corresponding improvement has been made in the usual machinery of distribution. Traffic, through all its multiform ramifications) is continually sucking the life-blood of industry. There is no doubt that there is room for improvement. Mr. Parke Godwin, ah eminent apostle of free trade, in his ingenuous youth wrote thus, pertinently and forcibly : —“ Commerce is designed to bring'the producer and consumer into relation ; thau is, if it has any object. But in itself it produces nothing : it adds nothing to the comnio ditics which it circulates. It is obviously, then, for the general interest to reduce commercial agents to the smallest number, and to carry over the excess to some productive employment ” . . • “ In our societies, precisely the contrary takes
place ; the agents of commerce are multiplied beyond measure ; designed only to play a subordinate part, they have usurped the highest rank; they absorb the largest portion of the common dividend, out of all manner of proportion to the services they render; they hold the producer in a servile dependence; they reduce to its lowest terms the wages of [ woi-ktueli, and they extort from the consumer- With' ut mercy. ” “ Blind competition, so much boasted of by the Political Economist, has largely contributed to the evil. Traffickers, in consequence of it, give themselves up to a! regular war against each other ; and, in order that they may not be beaten, they are ready to resort to any. expedient. They .lie,- cheat, and falsify products; they adulterate grains, meats, wines, sugars' ; they would poison the community,' if they dared, as we hare recently seen in- oho or two instances; and they spoliate the public in a thousand modes, by exchange, brokerage, usury, bankruptcy : in short, they deceive in every way, and defraud ’ at all seasons ; yet commerce, in our corrupted societies, is the moat certain way of arriving rt fortune, honor, and distinction. " ‘ ; We speak hero only of intermediate commerce, by which we hiean the commerce that consists in buying from one in order to sell to another. The manufacturer and the mechanic belong to the class of productive laborers, although rheir functions are often complicated with the character and views of commerce, strictly speaking. ”
“ We know very well that humanity must employ a portion of its force in the transportation of products, in order to bring them within reach of the consumer. But it is evident that it ought to devote to this task only tho force that is rigorously necessary ; every expenditure of time or money beyond this minimum being a real loss for society. ” Now, air, you will, I think, quite agree with me that tho true distinction as here taken, is that commerce is essentially a producer, since eachcaimot advantageously produce all that is required to satisfy bis wants ; but it is not necessary nor desirable that commerce, should appropriate the grist and leave only the toll to production. There must l>e, it is true, men employed—call them‘middle-men, hucksters, or what you like—in exchanging the products of the agriculturist, or realising - upon them ; but where one self supported institution can do this work it would certainly be a great " waste-gate ” stopped. The establishment <>f a Corn Exchange as a means of shipping grain in place of the middle man or grain trafficker is to be likened unto the results from the establishment of a co-operative system. It is remarkable how, in many cases great results came out of small beginnings. It is recorded that only some thirtyfive yeai*s-' since a dozen poor, humble, ignorant weavers mob in the back room of a mean tarem at Rochdale in Lancashire, to devise ways’ and means of improving their condition The political agitations of the time had reached them, and Chartism, free trade, &0. , were doubtless discussed, as . were strikes and the kindred engines of trades unions. The larger number of tho little company could not feel that any decided or practical good was likely to be realised from any or all of these devices. At length one of them spoke to this effect: — ‘‘lf we cannot command higher wages, our best course is to try to make our present earnings go further than they now do. In this age, every great enterprise is prosecuted by combination or companies. Thus, railroads are constructed, canals dug, and many things achieved that would else be impossible. Let us imitate the project ovs of these works oil the small' s-'.-iic dictated by scanty means by combining io buy J 'wholesale i rice, the necessaries or life. ” After discussion, the suggestion was approved, and an attempt to reduce it to practice resolved on. The origin < f this li tie business is of interest, viz.', a basis of organisation for the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was forthwith drawn up, and signed by each of those present, who were to pay twenty pence per week into the common fund of •the Association to form a working capital Only a part were able to do this on the instant, and a year was thenceforth spent in accumulating a cash capital of L2B, wherewith to launch the new store. Meantime their number had increased to twenty-eight, and they had hired and rudely fitted up a building in Toad Lane for their store, which was duly opened, in presence of the assembled associates and their families, on the evening of December 21st, 1844. Rent and fitting up had absorbed nearly half their capital, so that barely Ll 4 remained for investment in those prime necessaries, flour, butter, sugar. As they could not afford clerk hire, their store was opened in the evenings only ; tho members by turns waiting upon purchasers. Scoffers and and sceptics stood around to hoot and jeer, but the pioneers minded their own business, and let the heathen rage. Such was the humble beginning of an association of workers for scanty wages, which has ever since been in prosperous activity, and which has grown, in the course of a quarter of a century, into a company of 67,000 members, wielding a capital of over Lloo,ooo, buying grain by the cargo, to be ground in their mill and sold to members and customers as flour or bread, while cattle are likewise bought by it in scores, slaughtered, cut up, and sold out as required. A clothing-store, a drygoods store, three shoe-stores, and five meat-shops, besides a magnificent central warehouse are among the structures owned and used by the pioneers, whose library ot five thousand well-chosen volumes, and reading-rooms supplied with the best newspaper? are free to the members and their families, two and a-half per cent, of >■ the profits of the business being devoted to educational uses. To buy only the most substantial and serviceable fabrics, to offer no adulterated or inferior article, to buy and sell for cash only ; to charge moderate prices ; and to divide all profits equitably among the members—such are the cardinal principles propounded and lived up to by the equitable piouet ra.
It seems to me that the few members who gave the Canterbury Corn Exchange such support on Saturday last have the same object in view as the few weavers had when the latter started the Rochdale Society of equitable pioneers. I hope the farmers will support those grand points so forcib y put forward as the cardinal principles upon which the Corn Exchange should be worked. If they do, succesawUl inevitably follow.—l am, Ac.,
P. N. C.
FARMERS’ CORN EXCHANGE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 39, 25 December 1879
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