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because it may, peradventure once in ten thousand times, prove detrimental to some one through his own neglect-the more es pecially, when they whom it requires to perform the act are the parties immediately interested in it.
Secondly, The mischief of injuring credit, and especially commercial credit, by revealing encumbrances, appears greatly overrated. It may well be questioned, whether any good is gained by enabling a man in trade to obtain trust on the faith of having an estate in land, when he has only the name of one, the substance belonging to his mortgagees. Scotland bas been in the condition contemplated by the argument, ever since the year 1617; and Holland for nearly a century before that. No practical inconvenience has been found to result from publicity in either country. It appears strange, indeed, to hear the alarm of publicity sounded in England, where things of a much more delicate nature in private families are recorded, and accessible to all the world for the moderate sum of a shilling ;-we allude, of course, to the Registry of wills, which embraces, without any exception, every will relating to personal property, from the largest to the smallest in amount.
The other objections which have been urged, are either principally to the supposed details of the measure, founded indeed for the most part upon the experience of the very faulty Registry adopted in Middlesex and Yorkshire; or they are such as the very ingenious method proposed by the Commissioners in their Report, has a powerful tendency to remove. On the principles of that method, our limits prevent us from entering at present. But we cannot dismiss tbe subject without joining in the general applause which it has called forth ; and we trust, that before we return to the consideration of the subject, it will have been matured by the learned author, M. Duval, and his colleagues, and have finally received the sanction of the legislature.
Mr Bellenden Ker, whose tract has given occasion to these re
* We have in this article only had occasion to mention incidentally the important labours of this Commission. But while we reserve for another occasion a statement of what they have done, we cannot suffer this opportunity to pass without expressing what we are aware is the general feeling of gratitude to them for their unwearied exertions. No remune. ration, in the ordinary sense of the term can be deemed an adequate compensation to men, like Mr Campbell, in the highest walks of forensic practice, who devote the whole of their scanty leisure, not to recreation or needful repose, but to a most difficult and toilsome enquiry. Their true reward must be the consciousness of the service they are rendering their country, and the confidence that they will be held in lasting remembrance among those who have improved her most valued institutions,
marks, is certainly entitled to the best thanks of all who desire to study this question. He bas treated it in a manner which unites learning with perspicuity in an extraordinary degree. No person, be he ever so ignorant of law, can experience the least difficulty in following him throughout; and it would be hard to find a work upon a matter so purely professional, and of an aspect so forbidding, less deformed with pedantry, or less exposed io the charge of being either tedious or repulsive.
Art. VIII.-1. Report from, and Minutes of Evidence taken before,
the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Coal Trade. Folio. London. 1829. 2. On the Coal Trade. Pp. 16. London, 1830.
TUEL occupies a very prominent place amongst the articles
I most indispensable to existence. In our northern climates, it is, in fact, quite as essential as food or clothes. Its cost forms a large item in the expense of every family-in that of the peasant, as well as of his lord. It also enters deeply into the price of most species of manufactures. Every one knows that the comparatively rapid advancement of Manchester, Birmingham, Glas gow, Leeds, &c., in manufacturing industry, is principally to be ascribed to the great abundance and cheapness of fuel at those places.
Timber is the great article of fuel in France, and most of the Continental states; but with us it is far too scarce and dear to be used as such to any considerable extent. Our deficiency in this respect is, however, of little importance, as we have the good fortune to possess an inexhaustible supply of the very best coal. But this invaluable mineral is not distributed equally over the whole country. The great coal-fields are mostly in the northern counties; and as coal is a very bulky and heavy article, its price is necessarily much enhanced in London and the southern parts of the island, to which it must be conveyed by a distant sea-voyage or by a lengthened inland navigation.
Considering the importance of coal as a necessary of life, and in the arts, one not acquainted with the actual state of the coal trade, would naturally conclude, not only that it would be exempted from every sort of tax or duty, but that every possible facility would be given to the conveyance of coal from the mines to the more distant parts. This is what one would be disposed to infer à priori ; but we are sorry to say, that this is not the way in which the coal trade of England has been treated. Ge
nerally speaking, our commercial and financial system is founded on more enlarged and liberal principles than that of any other European country; but, in the particular instance of the coal trade, it can lay claim to no such distinction. On the contrary, this important department of industry is subjected to the most unjust and oppressive regulations. And the patience with which they have been submitted to, strikingly evinces the power of custom, in reconciling us to the most pernicious abuses.
Nothing but the pressure of the most overwhelming necessity could ever justify the imposition of a duty on so indispensable an article as coal. Surely, however, if such a tax is to be imposed, it ought to be made equally to affect all classes and districts. What would be thought of Parliament were it to enact that a heavy tax should be laid on all the bread consumed to the south of the Humber, from which all that was made use of to the north of that river should be exempted? Would not such a proceeding be a manifest violation of one of the first duties of Government, which is bound to extend the same protection to all who are under its authority, and to subject them all to the same equal burdens ? But this obvious and universally recognised principle has been trampled under foot in the case of the coal duty. It is not made to affect the whole empire, but only particular portions of it. Had it been made to fall exclusively on the inhabitants of those districts where coal is produced, and where it is naturally cheapest, something, perhaps, might have been found to say in its favour; but such is not the case. The duty is imposed on water-borne coals only, or on those that are conveyed to great distances, and does not affect those that are consumed near the mines, or that may be conveyed by land. All the southern counties of England, as Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey, &c., are destitute of coal-mines, and are obliged to import supplies of coal from the north by sea. And because such is the case, because the coal-fields happen to be in Northumberland, Durham, and Lancashire, Government interposes to increase the naturally high price of coal sent to the metropolis and the southern counties, by laying a duty on the sea-borne coal of no less than six shillings a-chaldron, being fully fifty per cent upon the price of coals as sold by the miners! Whether there be any tax so grossly unequal and oppressive in Turkey or Spain, we know not; but we believe we may safely affirm, that it has no parallel in any other European country. The nobility and gentry of the North may consume any quantity of coals that they please, without paying a single sixpence of duty. The owners of Alnwick and Raby Castles escape a tax that presses with grinding severity on the poorest
VOL. LI. NO. CI.
artisan and peasant in the south of England. Whatever may be said as to the equality of Englishmen's rights, it is worse than ludicrous, so long as this tax exists, to talk about the equality of their burdens.
Several statements have recently been made in the House of Commons, which have set, in a very clear point of view, the superior condition of the labouring classes in the northern counties, as compared with those in the South. A good deal of this difference must no doubt be ascribed to the pernicious system so general in the South, of paying wages out of poor's rates. Much, however, must also be ascribed to the operation of the coal duty, and of the various regulations under which the coal trade is conducted. Were there a heavy tax on the beef, beer, or leather, used in the southern counties, which did not extend to the north, does any one doubt that it would have a most injurions effect upon the individuals subjected to its influence ? But fuel being quite as indispensable as any of the articles referred to, a tax on it must equally affect those on whom it falls, and must depress their condition, as compared with those who enjoy an exemption from so oppressive an impost. It is singular, that so obvious a cause of the greater poverty of the peasantry of the south should, at least so far as we know, have totally escaped the notice of our legislators.
Besides the duty of 6s. a-chaldron payable to government on coals carried by sea, they are subject, especially those imported into London, to various charges, if possible, still more indefensible. But, before proceeding to investigate these items, we shall lay before our readers some account of the prime cost and price of coal.
Much has frequently been said of the coal-owners' monopoly; but we are satisfied, after a pretty careful investigation of the circumstances, that no such monopoly bas ever existed, and that the enormously high price of coal in the metropolis is to be ascribed wholly to the various duties and charges laid upon it from the time that it passes from the hands of the owner, to the time that it is lodged in the cellar of the consumer. means have the coal-owners of obtaining a monopoly price for their coal ? They enjoy no exclusive privileges of any sort; they are a numerous body; and the trade is as open as any one else to all capitalists to engage in. Instead of the business of coal-mining being, generally
speaking, an advantageous one, it is distinctly the reverse. Sometimes, no doubt, large fortunes have been made by individuals and associations engaged in this business, but these are rare instances. The opening
of a mine is a very expensive and hazardous operation, and of very uncertain result. Collieries are exposed to an infinite number of accidents, against which no caution can guard. The chances of explosion have, it is true, been a good deal lessened by the introduction of Sir Humphrey Davy's lamp; and some mines are now wrought that, but for the invention of this admirable instrument, must have been entirely abandoned. But besides explosions, which are still every now and then occurring, from the carelessness of the workmen, and other contingencies, mines are very liable to be destroyed by creeps, or by the sinking of the roof, and by drowning, or the irruption of water from old workings, through fissures which cannot be seen, and consequently cannot be guarded against. So great, indeed, is the hazard attending this sort of property, that it has never been posa sible to effect an insurance on a coal-work.
Mr Buddle, of Wallsend, a coal-owner and engineer of the highest respectability, and intimately acquainted with the state of the coal trade, informed the late Committee of the House of Lords, that · Although many collieries, in the hands of fortunate individuals and companies, have been perhaps making more
than might be deemed a reasonable and fair profit, accord• ing to their risk, like a prize in a lottery; yet, as a trade, ta• king the whole capital employed on both rivers, he should say * that certainly it has not been so.'—(Report, p. 56.) Again, being asked, "What have the coal-owners on the Tyne and Wear, in your opinion, generally made on their capital em
ployed ?' He replied, According to the best of my know• ledge, I should think that by no means ten per cent has been made as simple interest, without allowing any extra interest for the redemption of capital.'-(P. 57.)
In addition to the vast expense attending the sinking of shafts, the erection of steam-engines, &c., and the risk of accidents, the coal, after being brought to the surface, has frequently to be conveyed seven or eight miles to the place of shipping; and those whose collieries are in that situation, have to pay way-leave rents, amounting, in some cases, to L.500 a-year, for liberty to open a communication, or a rail-road, through the properties lying between them and the shore.
But the coal-owner is subjected to still farther difficulties. The smallness of the coal used in London is uniformly remarked by every individual from the north who visits the motropolis. And yet, singular as it may seem, none but large coals are shipped from the Tyne and the Wear for London. The cause of the metamorphosis which the coal undergoes in its passage to the consumer is not, however, difficult to discover ;