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disease came upon them, as if to obliterate them for ever.
As clever Tom Clinch, while the rabble was bawling,
cap had a new cherry ribbon to tie't.
Swift. Verses on Clever Tom Clinch, 1727.
Bounties on Cape-Complaints of Cape Merchants—Huskisson— Poulett Thomson-South African-Fatal Day for Cape-Unfair Competition-Constantia-Colonial Interests overpower the Government-Indulgence granted to Cape-Frauds with Drawback claimed-Consumption and Percentage from 1831 to 1863.
N 1812, the rate of duty on Cape was 9s., the same as on port and sherry; on French, 13s. 6d.; on Rhenish, 11s. 3d. In 1813, French was 198. 8d.; others remaining the same, except Cape, which was reduced from 9s. to 3s.
After the battle of Waterloo, the restoration of our dear friends the Bourbons, and the expulsion for ever (!) from France of the family of Napoleon, we lowered the rate on French to 13s. 9d., from 19s. 8d.
In 1825, on the occasion of the reduction of French to 78. 3d., and all others to 4s. 10d., the Cape merchants were exceedingly indignant that Cape was made 28. 5d. instead of 1s. 9d., as they declared it ought to be, to stand in the same relative position as before; but fortunately our finance ministers were then Huskisson and Poulett Thomson, and not Nicholas Vansittart, Goulburn, Herries, and Courtnay,
the last of whom, to prove his impartiality (and he might have added, incapacity), likened his mind to a sheet of blank paper.
In 1831, when French wines were placed on an equality with others, at 5s. 6d. per gallon, Cape was still favoured by being charged the half rate, 2s. 9d. ; and again, in 1840, when 5 per cent. was added to all Customs' rates, others were 5s. 9d., and Cape was 2s. 11d.
I remember well, when I was a boy, hearing the words Cape wine' often mentioned, with much praise bestowed on Vansittart for his wisdom in supporting our own colony, and not giving away our money to foreigners; but although encouragement was offered to Germans from the Rhine, and to others, to settle there and enrich themselves by making Cape wine agreeable to British tastes, the attempt has proved unsuccessful. For my own part, I have never yet met with anyone courageous enough to place a bottle on his table.
After the reduction in 1815, from 9s. to 38., the annual consumption became about 440,000 gallons; in 1825, it was 670,639 gallons; in 1835, 522,941; in 1845, 357,953; in 1851, 234,672; in 1859, 785,926; and in 1863, 116,500 gallons. For some years previous to 1859, the word 'Cape' was discarded, and, being replaced by the euphonious 'South African,' the perseverance of some enterprising firms succeeded in making many believe in the discovery of a wine hitherto unknown.
The 29th of February, 1860, was a fatal day for Cape, when the edict went forth that it was to pay the same rate as every other kind.
Two or three times I have tasted Constantia remarkably fine, but only a few pipes are produced. Occasionally there have been shipments of the general kind, both red and white, tolerably good; but the falling-off during the last two years proves that Capes were imported solely on account of the differential rate in their favour. This protection was not only unjust, but was contrary to the law, as I more than once stated, and (presumptuous as it may appear for me to say so) explained to Mr. Gladstone; for the circumstances had evidently been entirely forgotten.
When Mr. Robinson reduced the duties in 1825 he acceded to the entreaties of the Cape merchants to extend for still three years the protection which they had enjoyed since 1813; but when the time had expired, no alteration was made. The low rate on Cape continued till 1831, when French and others were to be equalised by diminishing the former by 1s. 9d., and adding 8d. to the latter, making both 58. 6d. Cape was to have been included, but the colonial interests were then powerful, and actively co-operative, and the three or four of the existing Cape-wine firms left no stone unturned ; while other wine merchants did not trouble themselves in the matter.
Many a discussion I listened to on this question
in the gallery of the House of Commons; for the West India, the East India, the timber, the corngrowing, and other trades, felt that if protection were taken from Cape, their turn would probably come next, and they consequently united in a strong phalanx to overwhelm Poulett Thomson. He had really no assistance, for he alone had studied and understood the question ; but he made an admirable fight. Seeing him so greatly overmatched, I took the liberty to write to him, giving him some practical information and facts.
He expressed himself much obliged, and requested me to call, which I did ; and I remember his remark when leaving his room— Well, I am glad you think I have fought them well ; but you
; see it is useless, and we must give in.'
The Bill for equalisation passed, granting Cape the continuance of half duty for five years longer; but when this period had elapsed, all about the matter was forgotten, and, instead of five, it retained the privilege for thirty years.
While it paid only half duty, there was no fairness of competition, because it was used solely to mix with other kinds, the mixture being sold as sherry, &c., which respectable houses would not do; indeed many would not allow a gallon of Cape to enter their cellars.
It was also mixed with sherry, &c., that was to be exported, and the duty of 58. 9d. per gallon claimed as drawback, and received; while probably, 2s. 11d. had been paid on two-thirds of the quantity.