« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
poor. The duty is now unvarying, but enormously high. It is unnecessary to assume that the cheap teas are now adulterated teas. In the London Price Currents of the present May, there are several sorts of tea as low as 8d. per pound, wholesale without duty. The finer teas vary from 1s. to 25. In 1833, previous to the opening of the China trade, the price of Congou tea in the Company's warehouses ranged from 2s. to 3s. per pound; in 1850 the lowest current price was 9d., the highest 1s. 4d. In 1833, the Company's price of Hyson tea varied from 3s. to 5s. 6d. ; in 1850, the lowest current price was ls. 2d., the highest 3s. 4d.
With the amount of duty on tea twice as high in 1850 as in 1833, how is it that tea may be universally bought at one half of the price of 1833 ? How is it that an article which yields five millions of revenue has become so cheap that it is now scarcely a luxury ? Before we answer this, let us explain why we say that the duty is twice as high now as in 1833. Before the opening of the China trade tea was taxed under the Excise at an ad-valorem duty of ninetysix per cent. on one sort, and one hundred per cent. on another, which gave an average of about half-a-crown a pound. Those who resisted the destruction of the Company's monopoly predicted that the supply would fall off under the open trade ; that the Chinese would not deal with private merchants ; that the market for tea in China was a limited one ; that tea would become scarcer and dearer. The Government knew better than this. It repealed the Excise duty with all its cumbrous machinery of permits; and it imposed a Customs duty at per pound, which exists now, as it did in 1836, with the addition of five per cent. Had the duty of 1833 been continued,—the hundred per cent duty—the great bulk of tea, which is sold
at an average of a shilling a pound would have been only taxed a shilling a pound; it is now taxed 2s. 21d. By a side-wind, the Government, with what some persons may call financial foresight, doubled the tax upon the humbler
But it may be fairly questioned whether, if the tax of 1833 had continued, the Government would not have secured as much revenue by the poor doubling their consumption of tea. The demand for no article of general use is so fluctuating as that for tea. In seasons of prosperity, the consumption rises several millions of pounds above the average; in times of depression it falls as much below. Tea is the barometer of the poor man's command of something more than bread. With a tax of 28. 21d. a pound, it is clear that if sound commercial principles, improved navigation, wholesale competition, and moderate retail profits, had not found their way into the tea-trade, since the abolition of the monopoly in 1833, the revenue upon tea would have been stationary, instead of having increased a million and a half. All the manifold causes that produce commercial cheapness in general-science, careful employment of capital in profitable exchange, certainty and rapidity of communication, extension of the market—have been especially working to make tea cheap. Tea is more and more becoming a necessary of life to all classes. Tea was denounced first as a poison, and then as an extravagance. Cobbett was furious against it. An Edinburgh Reviewer of 1823, keeps no terms with its use by the poor : "We venture to assert, that when a labourer fancies himself refreshed with a mess of this stuff, sweetened by the coarsest black sugar, and with azure blue milk, it is only the warmth of the water that soothes him for the moment; unless, perhaps, the sweetness may be palatable also.' It is dangerous even for great reviewers to 'venture to assert. In
a few years after comes Liebig, with his chemical discoveries; and demonstrates that coffee and tea have become necessa ries of life to whole nations, by the presence of one and the same substance in both vegetables, which has a peculiar effect upon the animal system ; that they were both originally met with amongst nations whose diet is chiefly vegetable; and, by contributing to the formation of bile, their peculiar function, have become a substitute for animal food to a large class of the population whose consumption of meat is very limited, and to another large class who are unable to take regular exercise.
Tea and coffee, then, are more especially essential to the poor. They supply a void which the pinched labourer cannot so readily fill up with weak and sour ale; they are substitutes for the country walk to the factory girl, or the seamstress in a garret. They are ministers to temperance; they are home comforts. Mrs. Piozzi making tea for Dr. Johnson till four o'clock in the morning, and listening contentedly to his wondrous talk, is a pleasant anecdote of the first century of tea ; the artisan's wife, lingering over the last evening cup, while her husband reads his newspaper or his book, is something higher, which belongs to our own times.
AGNETIC Electricity for telegraphic purposes has
nearly superseded pigeons. Till very recently a regular “service” of Carrier Pigeons existed between London and Paris, for the quick conveyance of such intelligence as was likely to affect the funds. The French capital was the focus of the system, in exemplification of the adage that “all roads lead to Paris," and pigeon expresses branched off in all directions from that city even to St. Petersburg. Relays of them are still kept up between Paris and Madrid, besides a few other places. The most cebrated relays of winged messengers were those which bore intelligence between Antwerp, Brussels, and Paris. In the former city a society of pigeon-fanciers, for amusement and emulation, keeps up an establishment of them. Their doings are amusingly chronicled in Kohl's last book of Travel, Reisen in den Neiderlanden.
Having been invited to join some members of the Society of Antwerp Pigeon Fanciers, he wended his way about five o'clock one morning through the silent streets of the ancient city. A few members of the association, he says,
, who directed the expedition, were followed by servants carrying two flat baskets, in which the pigeons, about to be dispatched, were carefully deposited. As we proceeded
along, my companions related to me some particulars concerning the carrier pigeons, or pigeons voyageurs," as these winged messengers are designated. The carriers are a peculiar race of pigeons endowed with powers of memory and observation which enable them to find their any place by a course along which they have once flown. Every kind of pigeon is not capable of being taught to do this. Of the methods adopted by the Antwerp association for training and teaching these carriers, I learnt the following particulars.
Supposing a dispatch of pigeons is to be sent off from Antwerp to Brussels or Paris, the birds are kept for some time at the place of arrival or terminus, and during that interval are plentifully fed and carefully tended. By little excursive flights, taken day by day, they are gradually familiarised with different parts of the town in which they have been nurtured, and with places in its vicinity. When sufficiently practised in finding their way to short distances, the pigeons are conveyed to a station some leagues from their dove-cote. Here they are kept for a time without food, and then set to flight. On taking wing, they rapidly soar to a vast height, scanning the line of the horizon to discern the church spires, or other lofty points which enable them to distinguish their home. Some of the less intelligent birds lose their way, and are seen no more. Those who return home (to Paris, or wherever else it may be), are again plentifully fed. Then after a little space of time they are carried in baskets some miles further in the direction of Antwerp; again they are put on a short allowance of food and negligently tended. When the pigeons depart on their next flight, the Parisian church spires have sunk far beneath the horizon; however, they soon succeed in combining that portion of the route with which they are