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traffic had been tried, without effect, it was plain that it could only be put down by taking away the overpowering temptation to smuggle, or, in other words, by reducing the duties. The result has not belied the anticipations of those who advocated the measure on this ground. Smuggling, except in some remote districts of the country, where it is still practised to an inconsiderable extent, may be said to have entirely ceased. And thus, while the reduction of the duties has produced an additional revenue to the public, it has dried up one of the most prolific sources of outrage; and has powerfully contributed to produce the tranquillity, such as it is, that now prevails in the land of paupers and potatoes.
We confess, however, that it seems very difficult to reconcile the liberality and good sense displayed by ministers on this occasion, with their conduct in keeping up the present oppressively high duties on foreign spirits. Having seen the advantage of moderate duties in one case, why should they not be equally anxious to introduce them in others ? We do not wish them to act upon any speculative or doubtful principle; but we wish them to act consistently, and to give effect to principles which experience, as well as theory, has shown rest upon an unassailable foundation.
The prime cost of Brandy and Geneva may, we believe, be taken on an average at from 3s. to 4s. a gallon; but they are charged on being imported into this country, with the exorbitant duty of 19s. the wine gallon-being from 500 to 600 per cent. on their price! And as they are in very considerable demand amongst us, this most oppressive duty has naturally occasioned their clandestine importation in large quantities, the manufacture of counterfeits, and the reduction of the revenue. One is almost tempted to believe that this system had been originally framed for the purpose of diminishing the revenue, and serving as a bounty on smuggling; at all events, it is difficult to conceive for what other purpose it is still kept up. It appears from an account, printed by order of the House of Commons, (No. 251, Sess. 1825–6), that the excess of the number of gallons of brandy imported into Great Britain over those that were exported, or the number remaining for home consumption, in 1806, amounted to 1,521,653 gallons. The duty was at this period 14s. a gallon; so that the revenue must have amounted to 1,065, 1561. In 1807 the duty was raised to 16s. 6d., and the excess of imports over exports in 1808 was reduced to 1,256,345 gallons, yielding, at the increased rate of
• Excise Duty, 12s. 7 d.; Customs Duty, Is. 41%d.
duty, only 1,036,4841., being nearly 30,0001. less than had been obtained by the lower rate of duty. But Mr Vansittart was not a person whose purposes could be shaken by such an experiment as this; and, in 1811, an additional 2s, was added to the duties, which raised them to 18s. 6d. Unluckily, however, for Mr Vansittart's calculations, this increase of duty was still less productive than the former: For, instead of yielding any increase of revenue, the exports in 1811 exceeded the imports, and in 1812 the excess of imports only amounted to 205,425 gallons, yielding, at 18s. 6d. a gallon, 190,0181. or about one sixth part of what it had yielded when the duty was at 14s.! But this felo de se system did not stop even here. In the teeth of all this experience, and of the most obvious suggestions of common sense, the duties were again increased in 1812, and were fixed in 1814 at the rate at which they have ever since continued, of 19s. * the wine gallon, or of 22s. 6d. † the Imperial gallon. This excess of duty has had the effect which every man of sense must have anticipated. The average annual excess of the imports over exports, during the three years ending with 1818, was only 795,092 gallons, and the revenue 755,3371., being a diminution of 726,561 gallons in the annual consumption, and of 309,8181. in the annual revenue, as compared with 1806! The same spirit of speculation and overtrading that infected other branches of commerce, in 1824 and 1825, infected the brandy trade; but notwithstanding this extraordinary stimulus, the total excess of imports over exports, during the three years ending the 5th January 1826, amounted to only 5,381,810 gallons; while the total excess of imports over exports, during the three years ending with the 5th Jauuary 1810, amounted to 6,100,441 gallons, being upwards of 700,000 gallons of excess in favour of the latter period.
It is obvious, however, that unless the duties had been carried to such an as to defeat their own object, the consumption of, and consequently the revenue derived from brandy, would have been very greatly increased since the peace. The period when the duties were lowest, and when, as we have also seen, the consumption and revenue were greatest, was the very hottest period of the war. Commercial intercourse with France was then almost wholly interrupted; and the charges on account of freight, insurance, &c. were at least five or six times greater than at present. It was, it is true, incomparably more difficult to smuggle during the war, than
* 18s, 10d. 3-16ths.
+ 22s. 7d. 6-16ths
it has been since; but this circumstance is of itself a conclusive reason, why the duties imposed during its continuance should liave been reduced at its close, instead of being increased. Had the duty been fixed at 8s. or 10s. a gallon, in 1816, instead of 19s., there cannot be a doubt, that the consumption would have been increased in a threefold proportion, that clandestine importation would have been almost entirely unknown, and that the revenue would have been greatly augmented.
The effects of the increase of the duties on Geneva, which have for many years past been identical with those on brandy, are equally striking. The annual average consumption of Geneva in Great Britain, during the ten years ending with 1805, amounted to 724,381 gallons; but, during the ten years ending with 1825, when the duties had been about doubled, the annual average consumption only amounted to 117,401 gallons ! -So much for the facts of one brief chapter of Mr Vansittart's financial administration.
But though the present exorbitant duties had been as effectual in producing an increase of revenue as they have been in Jessening it, they would still be altogether indefensible. The stimulus they have given to illicit importation, has been so very great, that they have gone far to render the whole south-east coast of England a prey to all the horrors of civil war. Murderous contests are daily taking place on the coasts of Kent and Sussex, between the officers engaged in the preventive service, and the country people and smugglers; and the peasantry are, in consequence, gradually becoming more and more demoralised, and more ready to place themselves in opposition to the authority of government and the laws. The temptation to smuggle is so overpowering, that many individuals have been induced to embark large capitals in the contraband trade; and the high profits they make on a successful adventure, enable them to run any risk, and to give large bonuses to those by whom they are assisted in effecting the landing of the cargo.
When such incentives to violate the laws are thus suffered to exist, the immoderate penalties imposed on those who are detected in violating them, serve only to increase the evil. Officers are deterred from informing against poor creatures, when they know that they will be fined 1001. or sent on board one of his Majesty's tenders, for having what most gentlemen would wish to have-a keg of smuggled spirits in their possession! The excess of the penalties has thus been productive of a double mischief: for, while it paralyses the exertions of every class of officers,
* Parliamentary Paper, No. 248, Sese. 1825-6.
and occasions the corruption of many, * it renders the smugglers more desperate, and procures for them the sympathy and commiseration, and frequently even the active cooperation of the public. The continuance of such a system, in short, is most disgraceful to the country. It is subversive of every principle of justice; it diminishes the public revenue ; injures our foreign trade; and is productive of nothing but perjury, villany, and bloodshed!
We have heard it said, that though the effect of a reduction of the duties on brandy and geneva to 89. a gallon, might not occasion any reduction in the revenue derived from them, it would lessen the consumption, and, by consequence, the revenue derived from British spirits. But it must be recollected, that the ffect of this measure would be, to put an instant stop to the practice of smuggling, and to a considerable extent also to the practice of adulterating; and it may well be doubted, when allowance is made for the great quantity of brandy that is now clandestinely imported, and also for that which is furnished by the practices of adulterators, whether the consumption would be very greatly increased. But supposing it were, still it is plain, inasmuch as the duties on brandy would be as high as the duties on rum, and much higher than those on whisky, that the revenue could lose nothing in that way.
In every point of view, therefore, in which this subject can be placed, the policy of reducing the duties is obvious. We certainly have no desire, to use a phrase of Mr Robinson's, to ride a willing horse to death ;' and we are fully aware, that, under the present circumstances of the country, no portion of revenue can be spared. But we feel perfectly confident that we are not asking the Right Honourable Gentleman to part with a single shilling. On the contrary, if he adopts the plan we have ventured to suggest, we think there is little doubt that he will add 300,0001. or 400,0001. a year to the public revenue, and save 100,0001. a year in the Customs department; at the same time that he will give peace to extensive districts, and will suppress one of the most fruitful sources of crime anel atrocity.
* Two officers were, not long since, convicted of a collusive seizure; having planned with a smuggler where he should land some of his goods, in order that they might be seized, and that he might share in the res ward given by government !
ART. VII. Anti-Slavery Monthly Reporter. 8vo. London,
stituted for mitigating the Evils of Slavery, and effecting its Gradual Abolition, has published during the last two years. It contains the intelligence most interesting to the friends of this great and good cause; with such remarks as are fitted to make the passing events produce their due effect towards its furtherance and final success. The price is, by the liberality of the Society, made exceedingly moderate, being only eight shillings a hundred, when the number consists of a whole sheet, and so in proportion when it is larger or smaller. It is therefore somewhat less than a penny per sheet. At this price, any anti-slavery society is entitled to receive a supply, by making application to the Office, No. 18, Aldermanbury, London, and pointing out the conveyance by which the work is to be sent. Such is the announcement in the front of each number; and we gladly take this opportunity of giving it greater publicity.
The tinie now approaches when we were taught to expect, last Session of Parliament, that the West Indian Legislatures would show their disposition to adopt the necessary changes in their system, pointed out by the Government of the mother country: and we cannot better employ the interval that yet remains, than by examining what those feats of colonial reformation were, which so inspired our rulers and legislators at home with confidence in their tropical brethren, as to make them perfectly easy while abdicating their own functionstheir highest functions of justice and mercy-and leaving the rights of 800,000 fellow-creatures in bondage, and the controul over their masters, to select bodies-composed of those masters, and of them alone. We examined a portion of this subject some months ago ; but the more recent acts of the colonial Assenblies had not then arrived ; and as much was said in the discussions that took place before Easter, respecting certain provisions then in progress, or enacted, but not yet received in this country, we cannot have a complete view of the question without adverting to the information laid before Parliament, in the latter part of the Session. This will enable us to clear the ground, as it were, and be prepared for the reception of whatever may come from the Islands, in consequence of last Session's renewed appeal to them. Possibly it may be found to confine our expectations on this score within very narrow