18,000,000 in England, 8,200,000 Ireland, 2,800,000 Scotland,
Taking the population, at the present time, to be
18,000,000 in England, 8,200,000 Ireland, 2,800,000 Scotland,
they consume less, by 50 per cent., than the population of 1793, in proportion to numbers, and 100 per cent, less than the population of 1765. It must be seen, at a glance, that the quantities of strong beer and ales, and home-made spirits, consumed by the inhabitants are now moderate in proportion to their increased numbers and wealth, and to the manners and customs of the respective countries.
It would be of immense benefit both to Ireland and Scotland were the malt-duty reduced so as to encourage the consumpt of malted liquors in preference to whisky; but the task of equalising duties, to benefit the community, without immediately impairing the revenue of the country, is certainly one of difficulty. The reduction of the malt-tax would at first cut both ways. It would cause at the same time a loss of duty both on malt and on spirits, in proportion to the amount of their reduction ; and this loss could only be recovered by an increased consumption of malt at the reduced rate, such as took place when the duty on coffee was reduced; and by laying an equivalent tax on home-made spirits in England, Scotland, and Ireland,—that is, to raise the duty in Scotland and Ireland, and to lower it in proportion in England. This last plan would answer the purpose better were the system of licensing grocers in England to sell ales and British spirits, not to be consumed on the premises, adopted at the same time. Private families could ¿hus purchase from their grocers strong beer, ale, or the best spirits, as required; and the increased consumpt would ultimately compensate for the reduction of duties.
The revisal and modification qf the excise-laws, must be a subject of the deepest interest to malt-
n stars, brewers* and distillers. I shall take the opportunity of offering a few observation» on these important matters.
1. On the reduction of the duties «m malt, and equalisation of the spirit-duties.
2. Restriction of materials used in brewing and distillation.
3. Removal of the vexatious fiscal regulations« which injure the operations of the maltster and distiller, without benefiting the revenue.
1. Malt-duties.—It must be at once conceded,' that the present ministry, however liberal in principle, cannot part with so large an amount of revenue as the malt-tax produces, without substituting some other taxes, to make up the deficiency; and as such an arrangement is altogether hopeless, the question at once arises, were the reduction of the duty on malt effected to one-half of its present rate, and an equalisation of the duties on British spirits established, would the revenue arising from the increased consumption of malt and spirits compensate for the amount of malt-duty reduced ] Experience of the effects of reducing the duties on other articles of consumpt, completely proves that such an equivalent would be returned to the Government, and that a low duty on a large consumpt of malt would produce more revenue than a high duty on a small one.
The equalisation of the spirit-duties admits of a*
little doubt. The rate in England is 7s. lOd. per gallon, and in Scotland and Ireland 3s. 8d. and 2s. 8d. per gallon. Were the duties on home-made spirits lowered to 5s. per gallon, and the Scotch and Irish spirits raised in fair proportion, and licenses at the same time granted to the grocers of England to sell by retail, there cannot be any doubt whatever that the increased congumpt would be more than equivalent for the tax reduced.
But it might be urged that this additional duty in Scotland.and Ireland would raise a host of smugglers, with all concomitant evils. The fear is visionary. The Highland smuggler could not compete with the improved spirits which would soon appear in the market at a lower price than he could possibly afford to sell his own production; for unless he could obtain at least 14s. per gallon, he would not risk the adventure. Smuggling might take place to some extent in Ireland, as it does at all times, but not to such a degree as to hurt the fair trader.
2. Restriction in the use of materials.—In brewing ales and porter, neither molasses nor sugar, nor any other material, is cheaper than malt and hops. The equivalent to a quarter of malt is 200 lbs. of sugar. Even without a reduction of the malt-tax, no brewer can profitably use it. It is only when malt is very high in price, that sugar can be used in brewing, and that with no great advantage. Glucosin or starch-sugar differs in its fermenting principle from cane-eugar. When boiled with malt-wort, and cooled down to the point of fermentation, the difference still exists. In the process of fermentation, the glucosin or sugar-starch has the capacity of being first resolved into alcohol, leaving a great part of the former in a state of solution; and although the fermentation, or attenuation, as it is called, is carried down as far as the brewer thinks desirable, and the ale appears in fine condition in the gyle, yet in a short time after being sent into the customer's cellar, it springs rapidly into the second fermentation. With distillers the process is different; but unless the sugar is cheap, raw grain and malt distillation will be found to be the most profitable.
Were the reduction on the malt-duties to take place, it is evident, that to restrict the use of raw grain to a certain extent would be the best means for producing a larger consumpt of malt; and distillers could not object to this, because they would be remunerated by the higher price, and by enlarged „ consumption of finer spirits. To the agricultural interest, it is indifferent whether barley is used malted or unmalted at present; but the advantage would be very great by the additional demand for barley, which would immediately follow the reduction of the tax. Nor could any valid objection be urged, that such reduction would increase intemperance amongst the working-classes. It is too moderate to have any such effect. The increase in the consumpt, of a fine quality of spirit would extend to all classes in large commercial cities and towns; and it may be calculated, that from five to six millions of gallons additional would, in this manner, be annually consumed.
3. The removal of the vexatious restrictions and formalities which still encumber the operations of the maltster and distiller by the excise-laws, would be of very great importance to them, without in any manner endangering the revenue, or preventing the officers from doing their duty; but so many grievances exist in other manufactories, subject to excise sur-veyance. that it would be necessary to have the whole brought before Parliament, and an effectual remedy provided, by striking off from the code of excise-laws so many vexatious restrictions, which injure the fair trader, without any benefit to the revenue whatever.
The revis'al and modification of the excise-laws are rendered more imperative by the influence which free trade and the repeal of the corn-laws have already manifested on the trade and commerce of the country. For more than a century, the consumpt of malt has stood nearly at one point, notwithstanding the rapid increase of the population, the immense growth of wealth, commercial prosperity, and agricultural improvement. Taking a glance at the quantity of malt made, and the population of Great Britain and Ireland since the reign of Queen Anne to the present time, the truth becomes apparent, that the use of all sorts of liquors and ardent spirits manufactured from barley has declined as the popu lation advanced, and that» in proportion to numbers, the balance is so decidedly in favour of the population of the present time, that the fact ought to quiet the fears of those who suppose that intemperance has gained ground amongst the working-classes of the present day, notwithstanding the light of knowledge and the influence of education. In round numbers, the account stands thus:—
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