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Wine Duties in 1822–Manner of Paying—East Vault Exchange

Tasting-Dock Company's Responsibility-Wines in Bond-Wine Trade a bad Trade - Young Gentlemen as Cellarmen-Agents in the Hunting-Field — Bribery— Treatment of Wines—Ignorance existing -South African-Elbe Sherry—Ebro Port-Adulterations—Lord Palmerston-Greek and Roman Wines - Constituents of good Wine -Mr. Ballantyne's Letter—Christopher Smith in 1750 — Taverndrinking-White Port—Teneriffe— Introduction of Sherry-Claret of first Growth, viá Boulogne-Claret in Scotland-Wine-drinking in the Hebrides--Bad Cellars in modern Houses-Wine Merchants' Clerks— Tasting in the open Air-Sinful' Prices—Wine like Horsedealing—Drunkenness formerly not disgraceful—Tavern Bill in 1728 -Recollections of 1773–Wine for Twenty in 1863—Few Drunken People now-A Bishop's Claret—The Royal Sailor–The First Gentleman in Europe-Duke of York's Aide-de-Camp— Jockey of Norfolk—Pepys's Memoirs-Poulett Thomson-Author's Obstinacy

- Wine Committee-Duty reduced-Wine as a general BeverageConsumption since 1855—Alcoholic Test-Song from Punch--Evasion of Alcoholic Rate — The Wine Association-Uniform Rate of 1/0 -Effects of Wine Disease—Prices in Montpelier-Consumption in Paris, in Mayence, and in London—Table of Rates of Duty since 1671-Statistical Tables Wine and the Poets.

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THE following details respecting excise and customs

men, dock coopers, duty-paying, and similar matters, forty years ago, possess little value in them



selves; but those who remember them are rapidly passing away, and it may be interesting to others to know how the wine trade was carried on in times gone by.

On the 14th of May, 1822, began my acquaintance with the wine duties, and the manner of paying them, which was very different from the present mode.

If a cask or case was to be taken out of bond, it was necessary, first, to write what was called a Require-note, which

gave full particulars of the ship, entry, mark, number, gauge, &c., of the cask, and stated that you Required to pay duty. This was taken to the Excise Office at the dock-gate, and if found correct was initialled. Furnished with this authority another paper was necessary, called the warrant, besides two more, with the gallons in figures.

All these were for the Excise, whose office was on Tower Hill; and as there was only one collector through whom all had to pass, it may be imagined how tired we poor clerks often were of waiting our


For the Customs one paper written in full, with another in figures, was demanded ; but on these were placed the letters C. A., which being interpreted, were found to denote'cum aliis,' with others ; proving the classical knowledge of Her Majesty's Commissioners of Customs, and that they were always wanting something more. Few, if any, merchants attempted to pass their entries with the Customs



themselves, preferring to employ agents ; some of whom, though receiving salaries of only 3001. or 4001., left fortunes of 100,000. Many firms paid them 4/6 for each entry; and when it was of importance to get the cask off on the same day, what was called a Reading-out entry was necessary, for which an additional 1/6 was charged. The next day, on showing the Excise warrant, a permit was granted for the person to whom the wine was to be sent; and this being shown to the excise officer at the vault, he compared it with the delivery order of the dock company. If the customs officer happened to be near, the delay might not be very great; but as it was necessary that the two should be present together to “pass the cask, a most tedious waste of time was often the result.

Increase, or reduction, of the duty, at that time, and until 1824, was made by adding or deducting so much per tun; and this being divided by the number of gallons in the tun, gave the rates per old gallon. Part was paid to the Excise, and the remainder to the Customs. The whole, upon Port, Sherry, Cape, &c., was 7/7, of which the Excise received 4/2, and the Customs 3/5. On Madeira it was 7/8, on Rhenish 9/5, and on French 11/5; each branch of the revenue receiving its proportion of these sums.

After wine was “ permitted' out of the docks into the dealers' cellars, French and Cape had to be kept


separate from Port, &c.; and all stocks were under Excise supervision, so that even twelve bottles were not allowed to be sent out without a permit, causing much trouble and loss of time. But as there was no prohibition against sending out eleven bottles (less than 2 gallons), cellars might be thus legally emptied ; and as permits were often not drawn for sales to private customers, credits with the Excise were thus gained, and permits frequently given to oblige dealers who had received wine without a permit out of private cellars. As to the form of keeping the 'French,' • French not,' and · Cape,' separate, it was a mere farce, for all who chose could evade it.

It was generally known on which day the officer's visit might be expected; and as he could often find means to give annoyance, a dinner and a good bottle of wine were usually ready for him.

I recollect an instance, in my own experience, of the way these officers sometimes acted. On a shelf in my counting-house there stood sixteen or seventeen bottles of French wines which had been sent as samples, for which I could show no permit. To my astonishment, I received a letter, nearly a foot long, freighted with, at least, a quarter of a pound of wax; and on opening it, found that it was from the Honourable Sirs' in the old Excise Office in Old Broad Street, ordering me to appear before them for breaking the law, for which I was liable to a penalty of 501. I went as commanded,



and was ushered into a large room with a green table, round which were three very solemn-looking gentlemen, and the officer standing at the end. He told his story, and I told mine, and the Honourable Sirs were so kind as to let me off, with the forfeiture of the wine, and two guineas, one of which the officer got. I do not know how the unfortunate sixteen bottles were appropriated, but I hope that a few of them were uncorked, to enliven the lugubrious faces of the three men round the green table.

All goes on so easily now, that some may doubt whether such things could have existed only a comparatively short time ago, but I can assure the incredulous that her Majesty's revenue officers were almost ubiquitous. There are few who have not had experience of their presence on arriving from a foreign country, but I can state from personal knowledge that on one occasion I was not allowed to go to a foreign country without having my portmanteau searched : it was in 1823, when, embarking at Newhaven for Dieppe, a strict examination was made to discover if I was carrying abroad any models or plans of machinery! A few years previously, just after the war, great distress existed, and many weavers from Paisley wished to emigrate. It was feared that they would carry with them our skill in weaving, and the customs officers in Greenock, and, I suppose, in other parts,

had instructions to examine the hands of emigrants, and to stop those who had soft, weaver-like hands!

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