The directors of both dock companies displayed great
hostility, and combated the proceedings of the Customs
in every possible way. It is likely that the searches were
conducted in an arbitrary manner, that many of the
packages were seized on mere suspicion, and that the
Customs Solicitor was a little too masterful and dexterous
in his efforts towards securing the conviction of offenders
and the inculpation of the dock companies. But the
dock directors behaved in obstinate fashion, refusing to
accept the slightest blame for what must at all events
have constituted gross neglect, championing certain
employes of theirs who certainly did not deserve pro-
tection, and levelling accusations wholesale against the
customs men. They even insisted that large losses
discovered upon wines housed in the vaults were due to
the bibulous habits of the officers. The Customs Solicitor
entered actions in the Exchequer against both companies.
The St. Katherine's Dock Company compromised the
1852] DISPUTES AND INVESTIGATIONS 323
matter by paying Â£100, and admitting that great irregu-
larities had prevailed. The London Dock Company
fought their case, and, after a verdict had been given which
satisfied neither Customs nor company, the latter did the
same as the St. Katherine's Dock company had done.
Yet, though both companies thus admitted that they
were wrong and the Customs right, the latter were not to
come off with flying colours.
Fiery articles, denouncing the Customs Board, began
to appear in certain journals, and indignation meetings
were held at several influential ports. A petition, signed
by numerous merchants, was presented to the House of
Commons, and a Parliamentary Committee, of which Mr.
Gladstone was a member, sat to inquire into Customs
matters generally. While this Committee was at work
a separate Committee of merchants, elected by the trade,
also sat in Charlotte Row, heard much evidence, and for-
warded many recommendations to the Parliamentary
Committee. Afterwards the proceedings of this self-
appointed body were published in a volume, together with
many remarkable reflections upon the British Customs,
and especially upon the Customs Board.
The number of witnesses called up and examined by the
Parliamentary Committee was remarkable. Extremely
remarkable, too, was some of the evidence given by the
witnesses, especially those who were hostile to the Board.
Ship-owners, smack-owners, merchants, lightermen, and
wharfingers, joined in complaining bitterly of Customs
incompetence, circumlocution, and greed. Some of the
complaints appeared justifiable ; others were manifestly
made by men who had been trying to break the regu-
lations, and who, having failed and suffered, had evolved
The Parliamentary Committee's report was decidedly
unfavourable to the Board as constituted. It stated
that the Commissioners' holidays were excessive, and
recommended that at least one person from the mercantile
class and one practical customs officer should be admitted
324 TOWARDS FREE TRADE [1852
as Commissioners. It proceeded that the inferior officers
were shut out unfairly from promotion. There were six
classes of these officers, and, although they all entered
under educational tests that differed but little, promotion
from one grade to another was rare, and none could rise
from the five lower classes into the highest. The Com-
mittee found fault with the ad valorem duties, stating that
they produced little and were extremely troublesome,
and that the system adopted by the Crown of buying
undervalued goods and selling them by auction caused a
loss to the public. It was urged that greater powers in
the disposal of questions raised should be granted to the
higher outdoor officials, as under the method in use
vexatious delay was often inflicted on the mercantile
community. It was also suggested that in Customs
trials, when the duty involved did not exceed Â£100, a
much cheaper tribunal could be found than the Court of
Exchequer ; also that the owners of vessels should not be
fined for acts of smuggling committed by their employes,
except when the fraud was extensive, or the captain or
chief officer was implicated. Another reform suggested
was the transference of liability for duties on bonded
goods from the original importer to the warehouse-keeper,
the Customs to give the latter a voucher in all cases of
delivery of goods, and the Crown to take stock periodic-
ally, so that the then owner of the goods might be made
to re-enter them. Simplification of the method of
entering free goods was also recommended. Under the
system in vogue eack entry passed through the hands of
nineteen customs officers. The Committee thought all
entry of free goods by the separate consignees might be
dispensed with, and the ship's report be accepted.*
The Committee commented severely upon certain
tactics pursued by the Customs Solicitor in conducting
the case against the dock companies. It appears that
* This would have been impracticable, as there would be
nothing to make the consignee liable if his goods contained
i852] CENSURE AND REFORM 325
during the proceedings six labourers were charged by the
Customs as assistants in the assumed frauds. Five of
these men were bailed, the other remained in prison three
weeks, and was then bailed. Finally the dock company
took steps to have them defended. The informations
against them were filed by the Customs in December,
1850. Early in 1851 the defending solicitors asked four
times for particulars of the informations. These were
never furnished, nor were the informations tried, and at
the time of the Committee's report in 1852 the defendants
were still under bail, the charges against them being for
penalties amounting to ;Â£io,8oo !
Two prominent members of the Board resigned, and
it was not deemed necessary to fill up the vacancies.
Undoubtedly the Consolidation Act of the following year
resulted from the strong agitation against many Customs
restrictions that was kept up by the mercantile com-
munity. Yet, while this agitation was going on, a huge
memorial was presented to the Commons by the ship-
owners, bewailing the repeal of the bulk of the Navigation
laws ! To suit all classes of the commercial community
is as hopeless a task as that essayed by iEsop's old wittol,
who, in trying to please everybody, pleased nobody, and
lost his ass into the bargain.*
The Tasmanian Act 5 of 15 Vict., passed February 19,
1852, for regulating the Customs in that island, stated
that the discovery of gold in the neighbouring colonies
had raised the price of goods in Tasmania, and made it
necessary to increase official salaries. It repealed certain
previous revenue Acts, and imposed a tariff upon im-
ported spirits, wine, tobacco, tea, sugar, coffee, dried
fruit, hops, and malt liquors.
Up to 1852, the maritime revenue in Victoria had
arisen from harbour, entrance, lighthouse, and tonnage
dues, and a comprehensive tariff with many ad valorem
items. In 1851 the dues had produced but Â£6,501, and
the tariff Â£106,260, of which Â£91,688 came from spirits,
* See pp. 150, 151, vol. i., ' The King's Customs.*
326 TOWARDS FREE TRADE [1852-53
wine, tobacco, tea, sugar, and coffee. A Victorian Act
of 1852 abolished the vexatious dues, and all import
duties except upon the six prolific articles.
(These colonial revisions are mentioned to show that
the progress of opinion in some of the colonies was similar
to that in the United Kingdom.)
Among the Customs ' Plantation ' documents for 1852
appear many cancelled commissions from Australia and
Tasmania, illustrating the complete severance of colonial
Customs control and the home supervision. (The con-
trollers of Navigation laws, etc., still continued to report
to the Board upon matters such as trade and copyright.)
The Customs in New Zealand completed severance in
On April 21, 1853, a remarkable debate on Customs
reform took place in the House of Commons. The
Secretary for the Treasury opened the proceedings by a
recapitulation of the circumstances attending the dis-
pute between the Board and the dock companies, and
referred to a deputation of City men that had waited on
the Chancellor of the Exchequer early in 1853, when it
had been promised that matters should be improved and
a Customs Consolidation Act passed. He stated that the
weighers and tide-waiters might with fairness be admitted
to higher appointments, and that certain arrangements
had been made in that direction. He described the
system previously obtaining as one which seemed ' to
savour more of the spirit of Eastern caste than of English
freedom.'* On account of the many under- valuations
of ad valorem goods, it was intended that there should be
as few ad valorem duties in the forthcoming tariff as
possible. Every person who considered himself aggrieved
by a Customs seizure, detention, etc., might be allowed
to have his case dealt with in open court by one of the
* It cannot be truly said, even at the present day, that any
branch of the Civil Service is free from the influence of ' the
spirit of caste.' There is a strong prejudice against ' outdoor
men.' Talent and energy count for little, unless the exponent
be a ' clerk ' or a ' University man.'
1853] MINISTERIAL OPINIONS 327
Commissioners if in London, and at an outport by the
collector. The Treasury stated that arrangements would
be made allowing the inland carriage of transhipment
goods from one port to another, so as to foster British
shipping, and predicted that this would work wonders in
the way of making the United Kingdom a place of tran-
shipment. He declared that British shipping had in-
creased considerably since the repeal of the Navigation
laws in 1850. The Government were also prepared to
rescind the prohibition of importing arms in transit, and
to allow the transfer of goods in bond. They would
abolish the varjdng warehouse privileges, and make all
bonded warehouses subject to the same restrictions (the
warehouse-keeper to be responsible for losses). But the
Government declined the Committee's suggestion that
there should be no entry for duty-free goods except the
ship's report, and here the Secretary enlivened his
audience by a few anecdotes of smuggling â€” viz., of the
' oil-cake case ' (see p. 347), of tobacco found in casks of
potatoes, tubs of butter, tierces of provisions, and barrels
of resin ; of the ' rape-oil case ' (see p. 364) ; and of a
recent capture of the mate of a steamer from Boulogne,
who was preparing to walk ashore wearing a corset
containing forty watches. (The Secretary produced the
corset to his audience. This was probably the first time
that a smuggler's panoply had been exhibited in Parlia-
ment.) He then told an amusing tale, illustrative of the
impudent and false charges occasionally brought against
the Customs. A merchant doing business in Holborn
employed as receiver a woman who lived near Bedford
Row. Eleven cases of smuggled watches were found in
her house. After the receiver had suffered and the
watches had been sold, the merchant came forward and
claimed restoration of the goods, and made abominable
and unfounded charges against the seizing officers. For
instance, he accused them of wrongfully detaining his
personal correspondence, although it had been restored
to him long before, and although it furnished evidence
328 TOWARDS FREE TRADE [1853
that he was not only the importer of the watches seized
at Bedford Row, but a patron of the corset-wearing mate
of the Boulogne steamer.
The Secretary then proceeded to lay an extra coat of
flattery upon the already overlarded James Deacon
Hume, consolidator of Customs laws, describing the woik
done by him as ' one of the greatest mental wonders
ever achieved by man !' Then he made cheerful com-
parison between shipping in 1817 and in 1850 ; but we
will refrain from quoting his statistics, whilst expressing
hope that they were correct. Then came a list of exports,
which showed that the export trade of Liverpool was more
than double that of London, while that of Hull nearly
equalled London, and that the shipping of London was
less than that of Liverpool. Yet the Customs revenue of
London was more than three times that of Liverpool,
which, even when we take into account that all exports
were free, leaves room for scepticism. But the most
remarkable comparison was that between London and
London's tonnage was 3,289,000 ; Hull's was 836,000.
(It should be remembered that this was a statement on
foreign trade, so we may presume coasting ships were not
included.) London's exports were of the value of
;f 14, 137,000 ; Hull's, Â£10,366,000. London's Customs
revenue (all from imports) was Â£11,285,000 ; Hull's
Â£353.000- Therefore, if the imported goods were at all
similar at each port, London's imports would be about
thirty-two times the bulk of the Hull imports. London's
exports slightly exceeded those of Hull, so we may leave
the relative bulk of goods, export and import combined,
as 32 to I. Yet the relative tonnage of shipping was
exactly 4 to i. The Financial Secretary seems to have
perceived that there was a discrepancy, but he kept on
quoting statistics. It is to be wondered if he had ever
given a few moments' thought to the question whether
this statistical porridge with which, since the days of
Adam Smith, the British voter and member of Parhament
i853] STATISTICS AND RECRIMINATIONS 329
had been so liberally dosed, was made of corn or of
After the Financial Secretary had ended, the member
for Bridport criticized his speech, and was severe on the
Chairman of the Customs Board, stating that his adminis-
tration was responsible for the late vengeful proceedings.
He said that ninety-four informations were framed
against the dock companies, that the case against the
London Dock cost the defendants ^^12,000, and that the
only verdict obtained in the Exchequer was one con-
demning two boxes of sugar. Then he had a slap at the
Customs Solicitor. 'A few years before,' said he, 'this
solicitor, Mr. Hamel, was an obscure attorney at the
inland town of Tamworth. . . . Here was an ignorant
and vain man, who said to himself, " I will distinguish
myself ; I will show by mj^ conduct that I have the
talents to justify my appointment," ' etc.
The member for Sunderland took up the cudgels on
behalf of Mr. Hamel, stating that gentleman had been
Sir Robert Peel's solicitor, and Sir Robert Peel had put
him in his present position. Mr. Hamel had been spoken
of as an obscure country attorney. Why should a man's
original obscurity be a bar to his filling an important
office ? etc. (Other members defended the Customs
Cap. 95 of 16 and 17 Vict, prolonged indefinitely the
provisions of the Act of 1833 (see p. 172) as to govern-
ment by the East India Company of the territories within
their charter. But the Governor-General's previous
powers of control were amplified, and it was provided
that the imperial Commander-in-Chief should be Com-
mander-in-Chief of the Company's forces in India. (The
Company were allowed to increase the number of their
European soldiers from 12,200 to 20,000.)
Cap. 106 announced the promised Consolidation and
the new tariff. The following goods were still subject
to ad valorem duties : Agates, boxes, unenumerated cotton
manufactures, unenumerated embroidery, essence of
330 TOWARDS FREE TRADE [1853
spruce, extracts (of cardamoms, coculus indicus, grains
of paradise, liquorice, nux vomica, opium, Guinea pepper,
Peruvian bark, quassia, radix rhatanias, and vitriol),
unenumerated extracts, unenumerated manufactures of
hair, iodine, japanned ware, jewels set, hand-made lace,
unenumerated leather manufactures, unenumerated linen
manufactures, unenumerated musical instruments, foreign
ships for breaking up, unenumerated manufactured silks,*
gauzes, velvets, and mixtures of silk with other materials,
unenumerated wood, unenumerated woollens, and all
goods partly or wholly manufactured and not prohibited
which had not been mentioned in the tariff list.
The goods liable to specific duties were certain kinds of
almonds, almond-paste, apples, arrowroot, pearl barley,
baskets, beads except of glass, beer, biscuit and bread,
books of editions printed since 1800, certain brass manu-
factures, gold and silver brocade, bronze manufactures,
butter, candles, certain sticks, caoutchouc manufactures,
capers, playing-cards, cassia lignea, cassava powder,
cheese, cherries, chicory, chinaware, cinnamon, clocks
(varying according to value), cloves, cocoa, coculus
indicus, coffee, comfits, confectionery, unenumerated
copper manufactures, coral negligees and beads, corks
(except fishermen's corks), corn, flour, and meal, cotton
fringe, gloves, and stockings, currants, daguerrotype
plates, dates, dice, unenumerated earthenware, eggs,
certain kinds of feathers, figs, fig-cake, artificial flowers,
unenumerated raw fruit, ginger, certain kinds of glass,
grains of paradise, grapes, gutta-percha manufactures,
hats and bonnets, hops, iron and steel manufactures, lace,
lead manufactures, enumerated leather manufactures,
certain kinds of linen manufactures, liquorice, matches,
macaroni, mace, mandioca flour, manna croup, marma-
lade, medlars, millboards, morphia, enumerated musical
instruments, mustard, nutmegs, certain kinds of nuts,
nux vomica, certain oils, oilcloth, onions, opium, oranges
* Some manufactured silks, etc., might be charged with either
specific or ad valorem duties at customs option.
1853] A REFORMED TARIFF 33i
and lemons, paper, pasteboard, pears, pepper, percussion
caps, perfumery, pewter manufactures, pickles in vinegar,
pimento, gold and silver plate, platting, preserved and
French plums, pomatum, potato flour, hair powder and
starch, prints and drawings, prunes, quassia, quinces,
sulphate of quinine, raisins, rice, sago, salicine, unenu-
merated sauces, scaleboards, caraway-seeds, semolina,
enumerated manufactures of silk, gauze, and velvet, and
of silk mixed with other stuffs, soap, soy, spa ware,
unenumerated spelter manufactures, spirits, stearine,
succades, sugar and molasses, tallow, tapioca, tea, tinfoil
and unenumerated tin manufactures, tobacco and snuff,
toys, turnery, varnish containing spirit, veneers, vermi-
celli and macaroni, vinegar, washing-balls, watches
(varying according to value), Cologne-water, wine,
enumerated wood (except small staves, hoops, teak,
waste wood, stringy bark, red and blue gum, green-heart,
certain kinds of tree-nails, shovel-hilts, wood for herring
barrels, and colonial firewood), woollen carpets, rugs,
shawls, scarves, handkerchiefs, and gloves, and worsted
yarn for embroidery. On most of these the rates were
much reduced. The tea duty was to diminish annually
till it reached is. a pound in 1856, and several other
articles were also subject to diminishing duties â€” in some
cases until they became free. The only preferential
rates on colonial goods allowed to remain were those on
apples, books, butter, cheese, eggs, unenumerated em-
broidery, ginger, liquorice paste and powder, caraway-
seed, unenumerated silk manufactures, spirits, sugar and
molasses, tallow, wine, and wood.
There were no export duties. Drawback was payable
at export upon rice cleaned in the United Kingdom,
sugar refined in the United Kingdom, tobacco manu-
factured in the United Kingdom, and wine ; and there
was an export allowance upon British manufactured
Such articles as had previously been liable to duty in
the Isle of Man, and had been made duty-free into the
TOWARDS FREE TRADE
United Kingdom, became duty-free into the dependency.
The duties on two or three of the other articles into the
island were increased, but the vexatious licence and
quantity regulations were abolished.
The other alterations effected by the Act have been
foretold in our account of the Parhamentary debate
at pp. 326, 327.
The above scale of duties will appear formidable to
readers, yet it is diminutive compared with the previous
Below is an account of the ports and creeks of the
United Kingdom, as shown in the Customs records of
SUBPORTS AND CrEEKS.
/Balbriggan, Howth, Wicklow, Ark-
l low, Kingstown.
Renfrew, Bowling Bay.
/Holyloch, Lochgilphead, Oban,
\ Tobermory, Rothesay.
TNewhaven, Cockenzie, Fisherow,
j Dunbar, North Berwick, Eye-
(Kinsale, Clonakilty, Youghal,
I Robert's Cove, West Passage.
Devonport, St. Germains, Calstock.
Passage, Dungarvan, Dunmore.
Peterhead, Stonehaven, Newburgh.
/Topsham, Exmouth, Teignmouth,
Tarbert, Kilrush, Clare, Dingle.
PORTS AND CREEKS
SUBPORTS AND CrEEKS.
Cleveland Point, Middlesbrough.
Lowestoft, Beccles, Southwold.
Derbyhaven, Peel, Ramsay.
TGlasson Dock, Arnside, Ulverston,
-! Ireleth, Angerton, Barrow, Wal-
l ney, Poulton.
rWarrenpoint, Newcastle, Ardglass,
Killala, Donegal, Ballyshannon.
Budle Bay, Holy Island, Alnmouthi
Wainfleet, Saltfleet, Spalding.
Combwich, Minehead, Watchet.
Aberthaw, Barry, Sully.
Flint, Wepra, Mostyn, Rhuddlan.
Newport, Yarmouth, Ryde.
Brixham, Torquay, Salcombe.
/Annan, Carsethorn, Barlocco, Kirk-
St. Mawes, Penryn, Gweek.
/Pentewan, Mevagissy, Charlestown,
\ Par, Polkerris, Looe.
/Cromarty, Burghead, Findhorn,
J Lossiemouth, Portmahomack,
1 Fortrose, Fort George, Fort
(Leven, Largo, Dysart, Burnt-
island, Anstruther, Pittenweem,
St. Andrews, Crail.
/Little Haven, Nolton, Pembroke,
I Saundersfoot, Haverfordwest.
TOWARDS FREE TRADE
SUBPORTS AND CrEEKS.
/Hesketh Bank, Skippool, Freckle-
l ton, Lytham.
/Newton, Oxwich, Penarth, Aber-
1 a von, Neath.
fCastletownsend, Bear Haven, Ban-
\ try, Skibbereen.
Fraserburgh, Garmouth, Buckie.
/"Holyhead, Amlwch, Conway,
/Brucehaven, Limekilns, Charles-
l town, Inverkeithing, St. David's.
Pwllheli, Barmouth, Portmadoc.
Cromer, Mundesley, Wells.
Whitstable, Heme Bay, Milton.
Mistley, Walton, Thorpe, Holland.
Troon, Saltcoats, Largs, Ardrossan.
Pembrey, St. Clair, Carmarthen.
fBurnham, Bradwell, Leigh, Roch-
Port Isaac, Bude, Boscastle.
PORTS AND CREEKS
SUBPORTS AND CrEEKS.
/Drummore, Portnessock, Port-
Sandsend, Robin Hood's Town.
/Aberdovey, Llansantfifraid, Aber-