§ MR. T. BARING
presented two petitions, signed by wholesale and retail dealers in coffee in the city of London, complaining of the operation of the Treasury Minute of August, 1840, with respect to the sale of coffee mixed with chicory, and stating that its effect had been to increase the fraudulent dealing in 512 coffee. He then said that the grievance complained of was so notorious, and the remedy for it so easy, that it would not he necessary for him to occupy very much of the time of the House in bringing this subject under their notice, especially after the able manner in which it had been already, on former occasions, brought under their consideration by the hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. C. Anstey). His object in again pressing it upon their attention was, that the reasons which the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had given for maintaining the present proceedings of the Excise under the Treasury Minute, had appeared to a great portion of the public neither satisfactory nor conclusive; and because the question of the fraudulent dealing in this article had now become one of such great and increasing importance to all interested in it, whether as producers, importers, dealers, or consumers of coffee, that those with whom he had communicated upon the subject, thought it desirable that it should be again submitted to the House by one who, like himself, was interested in the trade in coffee. Now, with reference to the present mode of proceeding on the part of the Excise regarding coffee, he might remind the House, with a view to the better explanation of his Resolution, that there were two Acts—the 41st and 42nd of George III.—which contained very stringent provisions with regard to the sale of coffee, and substances sold or substituted for coffee, the condition being that the substitutes for coffee should be sold under their real names. By the Act of 3rd George IV., however, the sale of these substituted articles, under their own names, was permitted to dealers, a penalty being at the same time imposed if they were sold as coffee. By the 7th and 8th George IV., c. 53) s. 51, all prosecutions relating to the revenue, Excise, and Customs, were prohibited unless they were instituted by the orders of the Commissioners of Excise and Customs, who were made subject to the order of the Lords of the Treasury. In the early part of the year 1832 the Commissioners of Customs instituted legal proceedings against the coffee dealers for a mixture of chicory and coffee; and on the 21st August, 1832, a Treasury Minute was issued, which said—Inform the Commissioners of Excise that my Lords are of opinion that the sale of chicory powder unmixed should not be interfered with, but that the sellers of coffee should be informed 513 that they must abide the consequences if, after a notice of two months, they shall continue to sell coffee mixed with any other ingredient, contrary to law.Things remained in this position until the 6th of August, 1840, when another Treasury Minute was issued in the following form:—Write to the Commissioners of Excise that my Lords consider that the law was altered with the view of admitting the admixture of chicory with coffee. My Lords, therefore, do not consider that any measures should be enforced to prevent the sale of coffee mixed with chicory, and are of opinion that the prosecutions in question should be dropped. My Lords do not consider such admixture will be a fraud on the revenue, so long as the chicory pays the proper duty; and, as between the seller and the consumer, my Lords desire that Government should interfere as little as possible.And on the 31st of August, 1840, their Lordships directed as follows:—In pursuance of directions from the Right Hon. the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, signified by Mr. Gordon's letters of the 6th. and 25th inst.—Ordered, that no objections be made on the part of the revenue to dealers in and sellers of coffee mixing chicory with coffee, or to their having the same so mixed on their premises.In consequence of that Minute, the general order of the Excise was, by Mr. Gordon's letters of the 6th and 25th of August, altered, and henceforth it was the custom that no objection could be made with respect to sellers mixing chicory with coffee. The House would observe that no prosecutions could be instituted except through the Excise, and that, therefore, while the law remained the same as to the prohibition of the admixture of other ingredients with coffee which was for sale, its operation had been suspended under the above-mentioned Treasury Minute Now, the first part of his Resolution, declaring that the present Treasury orders were opposed to the Excise regulations in force regarding other articles of consumption, was proved by every record to which they had access, by constant reports in the newspapers, and the knowledge of every one who now heard him; and, therefore, it was evident that the case of coffee was an anomaly, and that dealers in that article were allowed to sell, under the name of coffee, that which was not so. The next assertion of his Resolution was, that the present system encouraged very much the practice of fraud. At that late hour of the evening he should feel justified in abstaining from any details to prove that which he believed was within the knowledge of every one, that a totally different system had been pursued with 514 respect to other excisable articles of consumption, such as tea, sugar, pepper, and tobacco. No admixture of these articles was permitted by the authority of the Lords of the Treasury, nor were the almost daily excise prosecutions against those who had adulterated these articles arrested by an order of the Lords of the Treasury; therefore this anomaly existed, that the mixture of coffee alone was authorised by the Lords of the Treasury, and that dealers in coffee alone were authorised to sell under the name of coffee what was not coffee really. That was not done by law, but by a Treasury Minute, issued on a certain occasion, and which it was optional with the Treasury to withdraw when they saw fit. It was unnecessary for him to adduce detailed proof in support of this assertion, as the results of an extensive analysis of the various mixtures which were sold to the public under the name of coffee were pretty generally known. When this Treasury Minute was issued, the price of coffee in bond was 110s. per cwt., against 38s. at present; while, in consequence of the Chinese war, tea which now sold for 1s., was then at 3s. a pound (also in bond). As it might, therefore, then have occurred to the Government that if a wholesome ingredient could be mixed with coffee, it might be a relief to the consumer of that article, while as the ingredient to be mixed with coffee paid the same duty as coffee, there was no loss to the revenue; and it might be thought that the price of coffee might thus be reduced so as to be brought within the reach of the consumers at large. He could not himself allow that it was proper ever to sanction anything like deception; but these circumstances might then have influenced the Lords of the Treasury in issuing this Minute. But the circumstances were now totally changed. There was cheap coffee now, and yet while the consumption of every other article was increasing with the population, that of coffee had very materially decreased. Nor did he know to what this could be attributed, except to the practice of mixture, because the habits of the people were more temperate than formerly; and, whatever might be the case with respect to the country generally, the prosperity of the inhabitants of the towns, who were the principal consumers of coffee, was rather on the increase. They could therefore only come to this conclusion—that the consumption of coffee had much diminished by the mixture of chicory and 515 other less wholesome articles, which might now be said to be authorised by the Treasury Minute; because, though that Minute only applied to chicory, yet it was evident that the Excise Commissioners considered it as a sanction for the mixture of every other article, for all prosecutions for the adulteration of coffee had now ceased. He had moved for a return of all the prosecutions by the Excise, for adulteration; and that return showed clearly that this was the proper inference to be drawn, inasmuch as there had not been any prosecution whatever for the adulteration of coffee. He could not understand the reason why there should be so much tenderness shown to the unscrupulous sellers of coffee. Whatever it was, the effect had been most injurious, for the whole system had now changed—chicory was no longer imported from abroad, it was largely grown in this country; and not only was chicory mixed with the coffee, which might not be so objectionable, but the coffee was also mixed with acorns, with roasted corn, beans, and peas, till now even those articles were found to be too expensive substitutes for chicory, and they bad come down to mahogany saw-dust, to tan, and to a variety of other base ingredients which he would not now detail to the House. Every day, in fact, some new invention was brought forward to enable the dealers in coffee to sell less coffee, and more of the substituted articles. Now, he must say that any attempt to sell an article under another name than its own—any practice which bore the appearance of fraud and deception—ought not to obtain the sanction of Government. He believed there could be but one opinion in that House, that, if they could prevent fraud, it was the duty of the House and the Government to do so. But be knew it was urged that, before his right hon. Relative (Sir F. Baring) issued the Treasury Minute in 1840, he put the question to the dealers in coffee, whether they could undertake to frame regulations which would prevent adulteration and fraud. He must say that was rather a puzzling question; and as honest men and honest traders, as men of common sense, they could give no other answer than to say that they could not undertake to prevent all fraud. But if his right hon. Relative was puzzled with the answer of the dealers, they must have been still more puzzled with the decision of the Treasury, which was, in effect—We cannot prevent fraud, and therefore we will sanction it. The question now before 516 them to consider was, what would be the real operation of the Resolution he should have the honour of proposing. It would be, that the Treasury Minute, which allowed the mixture of chicory with coffee, and under which the adulteration of coffee with every other ingredient was tacitly permitted, would be withdrawn; and that any coffee dealer or grocer would be allowed to sell coffee and chicory as heretofore, but they would be called upon to sell them each under their own name. This was the honest course, as it would neither demoralise the trader nor injure the producer. He had before him the statement of a number of respectable grocers, who stated that for years after the Treasury Minute was issued, they did not indulge in the practice, because they thought it was a deception practised upon their customers, but that they had ultimately been forced into it by their less scrupulous neighbours; and now, that really unwholesome ingredients had begun to be used, they asked for the protection of the Excise, and they declared they would not be parties to the adulteration, in such a manner as was now adopted, of an article that entered into general consumption, not only because those mixtures were deleterious, but because they would not sell for 1s., that which in reality cost them only 4d. That was the footing on which he desired the trade to be placed. He had no wish to revive the Act of George III., which prohibited the sale of chicory; he would allow the dealer to keep on his premises both coffee and chicory if he pleased; but he would require that each should be kept under its real, honest, and true name. What were the objections to this course? The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer said it would require an army of excisemen. Now, there was not a dealer in coffee who was not at the same time a dealer in tea, tobacco, and other exciseable articles; and the introduction of coffee into the list of articles which were placed under excise regulations would neither be an additional evil to the grocers, nor would it require that addition to the number of excisemen which the right hon. Gentleman imagined. The honest dealer would then have this benefit, that he would know he might sell chicory, though separate from coffee; while those who were not honest would yet be induced to conform to the regulations of the Excise by the fear of information and prosecution. But then it 'was said that there had been no petitions 517 from the consumers. Now, the consumers were not very likely to petition or to examine very closely the article which they purchased. Then it was said that the consumer had his remedy in his own hand, for he might roast and grind the article for himself. But those who bought coffee in powder were the poorest classes, who could not closely investigate it, who lived from day to day, and bought their coffee day by day in small quantities. To grind it themselves would involve the purchase of mills, which they could not afford, and to roast it themselves would require some habit and skill which they did not possess. They were told, again, that the withdrawal of this Treasury Minute would injure the home cultivators of chicory; but he made no proposal which would interfere with them at all, or put them under the control of the Excise; and the same facility for selling his chicory to the dealer would be possessed by the cultivator as at present. This was no proposition to interfere with the cultivation, or to lay a tax on the growth of coffee—all that was intended was to check the frauds to which the present system gave rise. There was another question to which he wished to call the attention of the House. He had already presented a petition against the present system from a number of grocers and others interested in the trade; but, to his mind, one of the most fearful features of the present system was, that a number of dealers were in favour of retaining deception. That there were numbers of them opposed to his Motion, was the most distressing result of the Treasury Minute, because he could not believe that any man could separate in his mind the practice of fraud in the article of coffee from the practice of fraud in any other article, such as tea or pepper; and if they looked upon the matter as an offence at all, the offence lay, not in the fraud, but in the discovery. He did not wish to touch upon the revenue question; but he thought it was a serious question for the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider when they saw the revenue daily diminishing on an article which in former years was constantly appealed to as the best test of the policy of reducing duties, as the low duties annually produced an increasing revenue. But under the present system that was no longer the case. Neither would he touch upon the sanitary question, on which indeed his opinion would be of little weight; but it was clear, from 518 an analysis of different kinds of substances sold as chicory and coffee, that various ingredients were used that were highly deleterious and very prejudicial to health; for it could not be too often repeated, that though the Treasury Minute sanctioned the mixture of only one article, yet the practical effect was to allow of the mixture of all sorts of ingredients. The withdrawal of the Treasury Minute would give the consumer an assurance that he could have the articles he wished at the price at which the dealer could afford to sell them. Having thus placed before the House the grievances and anomalies of which the growers of coffee justly complained, he entreated them, by passing his Resolution, to protect the honest dealer, to withdraw a legislative sanction to fraud, to destroy a system which had so demoralising an effect upon the retail trader, which injured the revenue, and which damaged the reputation of the Government itself.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That it is the opinion of this House, that the Directions of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury to the Officers of the Excise, signified by Orders of the 6th and 25th August, 1840, namely, 'That no objection be made on the part of the Revenue to dealers in and sellers of Coffee mixing Chicory with. Coffee,' are opposed to the Excise regulations in force regarding other articles of consumption, have encouraged very much the practice of fraud, and ought therefore to be revoked.
§ SIR JOHN TROLLOPE
wished to say a few words in favour of those who were engaged in the cultivation of chicory. Up to 1845 the bulk of the chicory used in this country was of foreign growth; but since that time it had become an article largely cultivated in this country. His constituents were much engaged in its cultivation, being encouraged to do so from a belief that the Treasury order would be permanent, and that it would not be withdrawn on account of the changed position of the coffee trade. He could assure the House that these growers were not implicated in the mixture or the adulteration of chicory. They grew a fair article; they delivered it pure and unadulterated to the grocers; and upon them must rest the charge of adulteration. He must add, that the cultivation of this article required a peculiar character of land, as well as a high degree of cultivation. The growth of it was extending every day; and at that moment he believed that a larger crop of chicory was under cultivation than had ever been known before. He thought that such a crop ought 519 not to be put to hazard by a mere vote in that House, for the cultivators had laid out large sums in the erection of expensive machinery, kilns, &c, that were used to prepare the article for the market. He protested against legislative interference with the cultivation of the soil, especially in the present depressed condition of agriculture; and he called upon his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say, once for all, whether he intended to revoke the Treasury order, and whether persons who had engaged in the growth of this article were to depend upon the legislation of this House or not for the continuance of their trade. He should certainly give his vote against the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
said, his hon. Friend (Sir J. Trollope) seemed entirely to have mistaken the question. The hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring) had no intention to propose any excise duty upon the sale of chicory—all the House was asked to do was, that the Treasury order should be withdrawn, and that chicory might be sold as chicory, and coffee as coffee. [An Hon. MEMBER: Nobody would buy chicory then.] He thought this was a question on which the dealers in coffee had great reason to complain, and he now hoped the House would look at this question fairly, and not allow an article which paid no excise duty to be sold under the name of another article which did. He hoped, therefore, the House would support this Resolution, and not allow the present state of fraud and deception to continue.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it was not clear whether his hon. Friend(Mr. T. Baring) intended to proceed upon sanitary grounds or not in this Motion. Whenever he talked of foreign chicory, he treated it as a wholesome article; but when he came to talk of chicory of a home growth, he treated it as if it were deleterious and unwholesome. [Mr. T. BARING: No, no!] This he could say, that, though many applications had been made to him on this subject, it was only within the last two months that any statements had been made to him that chicory was unwholesome. He knew that his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley) had published some strong-opinions as to the unwholesomcness of chicory; but, as far as he could learn, his hon. Friend was the only member of the 520 medical profession who was of that opinion. He was not going to quote medical opinions, though he was in possession of very important ones; but this at least he might remark, that chicory had been used for the last twenty or thirty years, and he had never heard any complaints of its unwholesomeness till within the last six months. He believed there was no man, either in this country or in France, Belgium, or Germany, who took the same ground that his hon. Friend did. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had strong medical opinions in his possession to prove that the mixture of chicory with coffee was attended with beneficial results, and that coffee mixed with chicory was more wholesome than coffee alone. What hon. Gentlemen might like for their own taste was an entirely different question; but he entreated them not to run away with the idea that chicory was an unwholesome thing. His hon. Friend (Mr. T. Baring) had correctly enough stated what had taken place upon the subject. Before 1840 the grocers were in the habit of keeping chicory on their premises without any interference on the part of the Excise. But it was found from experience, that under these circumstances it was utterly impossible to prevent the mixture; and though the hon. Gentleman had assigned half a dozen very good reasons why the Treasury order had been issued, yet he might as well have taken the real reason which moved his right hon. Friend (Sir F. Baring), when Chancellor of the Exchequer, to issue the order, and that was, the impossibility of preventing the mixture of chicory with coffee, and the impolicy of entering into a crusade against it. The reason was not the high price either of coffee or tea, but that which he had mentioned. All that was done by the Minute was, not to sanction a fraud upon the public, but to exempt the dealer from the excise penalties. That subject was brought before the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) who preceded him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in the office he now held; but that right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Government of the late Sir Robert Peel declined interfering in the matter. They were of opinion that, as between the consumer and the trader, it was unnecessary for the Government to interfere, and that the mischief of excise interference was far greater than any question of revenue. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) entertained not the slightest doubt that for a considerable 521 time the consumption of coffee was increased to a great extent by the admixture of chicory. With respect to the demoralisation of the trader, referred to by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. Baring), from the circumstance of his adulterating coffee probably inducing him to adulterate other articles of consumption, did the hon. Gentleman suppose that no adulteration took place before the Treasury Minute of 1840? Had the hon. Gentleman never read Mr. Accum's book, entitled Death in the Pot, in which the effects of adulterating articles of food with deleterious substances were so graphically described? No one who had read Mr. Accum's book could believe it possible he could exist for a month, owing to the quantity of actual poison he daily swallowed in every article of food he consumed. His hon. Friend (Mr. T. Baring) presided at a meeting on this subject, where he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) thought opinions were very much divided; at least he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had received two deputations from that same meeting, one representing the majority, and the other the minority. The hon. Gentleman ought also to remember the extent to which sugar, tea, arrowroot, mustard, and many other articles of consumption among the people, were adulterated, more especially arrowroot, which alone was well worthy the consideration of hon. Gentlemen interested in the health of the metropolis. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) admitted it might be the duty of the Government to protect the health of the public against injury from the consumption of deleterious matters; but he did not hold it to be the duty of the Government to interfere in ordinary cases between the public and the seller. In such cases he held that the public must take care of themselves, and that the doctrine of caveat emptor must apply. He remembered some time ago reading in a periodical publication an entertaining, though at the same time a very disgusting article describing the component parts of London milk and cream, which the writer said, among other things, were extensively adulterated with horses brains and other articles brought from the knackers' yards. But there was no duty on milk or cream. Do not let the hon. Gentleman, therefore, run away with the idea that all the adulteration in coffee and chicory took place in consequence of the Treasury Minute. His hon. Friend had told the House that there had been representa- 522 tions from the retail dealers in favour of interference with the mixture of coffee and chicory: he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) must be permitted to say that he thought there were many more on the other side; because he was actually overwhelmed with the number of letters he received from grocers in nearly every town in Great Britain, urging the extreme injustice which was done them in the first place by having their characters impugned, and deprecating in the strongest terms the withdrawal of the Treasury Minute of 1840. Supposing it were withdrawn, what were the Excise officers to do? Were they to visit every grocer's shop in the kingdom, to see if coffee and chicory were mixed together, and to bring the parties suspected of being concerned in such admixture before the magistrates, with a view of convicting them of adulteration? Now, it was not very easy to prove this, because, although by a minute process it was possible to detect the mixture of chicory with coffee, it was exceedingly difficult to produce adequate proof of it. At all events, he was well assured that the effect of such an interference would be an extraordinary amount of trouble and vexation; and before three months were at an end there would be petitions sent up to that House from every town in England, complaining of such interference on the part of the Excise. That very day he had received a requisition, signed by 1,076 grocers in London, against any interference in this matter. He had received similar requisitions from almost every town in England, the aggregate signatures amounting to 3,682. He did not think that they made the request without reason, because, although the mixture might be a fraud in some cases, he believed that in nine cases out of ten the persons who bought it knew perfectly well that they were not buying pure coffee; and, unless he was very much deceived by the evidence before him, the mixture was very much liked—the admixture of chicory'—and the use of coffee was very much promoted by it. It was a remarkable fact, which indeed the hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. Baring) had admitted, that, on the part of the consumers, there had not been a single complaint against it. Every complaint that had been made to him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had come from the parties who sold coffee. From the persons upon whom the dreadful frauds were said to be practised, and who were alleged to be suffering from the mix- 523 ture, both in health and pocket, not a single complaint had, up to this time, been made to him. With respect to the taste of consumers in the matter, he had received the following letter from a large grocer in South Shields:—I am situated in the heart of the northern coal district, where the use of coffee by the mining and manufacturing population is most extensive. I would say it is more used here by our most respectable families than by those of the same class in any other part of Great Britain. I find it almost invariably preferred when mixed with chicory; so much so, that in many cases persons buying ground coffee, which already contains a very respectable proportion of chicory, at the same time buy a package of chicory to add to it, and thereby still more delight the palate. In one instance I remember where, in consequence of my stock of chicory being exhausted, I was necessitated to sell pure coffee for a single day, the complaining and returning of it lasted, more or jess, for a week.(A laugh.) Hon. Members might laugh, because it might so happen that they liked pure coffee; but it did not follow that other people might not prefer it mixed with chicory. If it were not that he wished not to weary the House, he could read to them a multitude of letters to the same effect as the one he had just read from South Shields. The following, for example, was from Liverpool:—If the Chancellor of the Exchequer would totally prohibit the growth and importation of chicory, we, as dealers in coffee, would have no cause to complain; for, although it would very much diminish the consumption of coffee, it would increase the consumption of tea; but so long as chicory can be had, even if it was double the price of coffee, it will be mixed with coffee. About twelve years ago we, for one week, sold our coffee without chicory, but we had it brought back from all quarters, our customers complaining that it was bad.In a letter from Cork it was stated—As far as my experience goes, if the Chancellor should prohibit the mixture of chicory with coffee, for every 100 bags of Ceylon coffee sold now in this country, there will not be 10. The fact is, the people would prefer pure chicory in itself to Ceylon coffee.He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would only say that those who liked to pay the best price for their coffee had the means of procuring good coffee. If the Government were to interfere in this matter of adulteration, they would have to go far beyond the article of coffee, for it did so happen that there was hardly any case in which it was so easy for the parties to protect themselves from adulteration as in that of coffee. It was difficult to protect ourselves from the adulteration of sugar, 524 tea, and many other articles; but persons might buy their coffee in the bean and grind it themselves, and so avoid adulteration. [Ironical cheers.] He repeated the assertion that the coffee bean could not be adulterated. Besides that, there was not a respectable grocer who would not always grind the coffee before the eyes of the parties buying it; therefore, there was no necessity to interfere to protect the public when the public can so easily protect themselves. He very much doubted whether they would even succeed in preventing the admixture of coffee with chicory; and he was not willing to subject the trader to the vexation and annoyance of an interference on the part of the Excise, with a view to prevent that admixture, by laying informations before the magistrates against parties on whom suspicion might rest. Against such an interference, he believed the House would receive petitions from one end of the kingdom to the other.
MR. E. H. STANLEY
Knowing and respecting as I do the consistency of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I cannot doubt but that he is ready to carry out to the fullest extent any principle of financial policy which he may have deliberately enunciated in debate; and, therefore, I was surprised when I heard the right hon. Gentleman state that he was not prepared, as he phrased it, to carry on a crusade against the adulteration of coffee; because in that case he should be compelled to apply the same rule to other adulterated articles. If, then, the right hon. Gentleman does not intend to interfere in any case of adulteration, what will he do in respect of tea, of tobacco, of pepper, and spices generally? for in all these instances Government does interfere to prevent adulteration, and provides a legislative remedy. All that we ask of the right hon. Gentleman to do, is not, as he seems to suppose, that he should introduce any new principle into the law, but merely that he should carry out in this particular case the same principle upon which in every other case, he at this moment acts, but which here alone he refuses to apply. Then the right hon. Gentleman says that the late Government recognised the existence of these abuses of which we now complain, by taking no steps to remove them. I might leave that question in the hands of others who are more directly interested than myself in the acts of the late Government: but I believe the truth to be this, that during their tenure of office the re- 525 venue derived from coffee did not diminish, but increased, and that they abstained from action solely upon this ground—that it is not usual to employ the machinery of the Excise, except for the one purpose of protecting the revenue, which at that time needed no protection. Again, the right hon. Gentleman contends that nothing is so easy as for the customer to guard against fraud by the simple expedient of buying his coffee in the bean. If that remedy be so easy of application, how comes it never to have been thought of before? How comes it that such a clamour has been raised, and that dissatisfaction is so generally expressed throughout the country, if the parties suffering have within reach, and in their own hands, the means of righting themselves? There is evidently more practical difficulty and inconvenience in applying that remedy than the right hon. Gentleman imagines: certainly more inconvenience than could possibly arise from taking the course recommended by my hon. Friend. But the real question is this—the right hon. Gentleman admits that there has been of late a falling-off in the consumption of coffee. Now, there are only three causes capable of producing a diminution in the consumption of any article of food. The first is a diminished power of consumption on the part of the people, which assuredly does not exist at the present moment. [Cheers.] Yes. I give you the benefit of that admission; I don't, therefore, infer that it is the result of your commercial policy; I don't enter into the question whether this state of things is likely to be of long duration or not; but I apprehend there is no doubt but that the labouring classes now consume more largely than they have done for some years past. [Cheers from, the Government benches.] By that cheer, then, you admit that the diminished consumption of coffee is not attributable to a general diminution of the power to consume. What is the second cause? The substitution of some other article of food for that in question. Looking to this, I find that the consumption of tea and cocoa has increased to some extent (although as to the amount of the increase there has been much exaggeration); but, making allowance for that fact, is there nothing to set on the other side? Has the temperance movement made no progress? Has there been no diminution in the quantity of spirituous liquors consumed? I set against this diminution the increased demand for tea and cocoa, and I think it is 526 fair to assume that the one balances the other. The third cause, is an increase in the price of the article consumed. That, certainly, has not been the case with coffee, for it is well known—the planter of Ceylon knows it to his cost—the purchaser in England knows it to his benefit—that so far from an increase, there has been a very large reduction in the price of coffee within the last few years. Yet, with all this—no one of these three causes operating—the consumption has greatly diminished. In 1847, the quantity sold in England for the home market exceeded 37,000,000 lbs. Since that time it has regularly decreased, until, inl850,it fell to about 31,000,0001bs., a reduction of just one-sixth. Now, for that reduction there has been nothing to account—no single explanation has been given of its cause, except that which we allege, namely, adulteration. It is not easy to speak with accuracy of the quantity of so-called coffee consumed in the country; but, taking a calculation which I have seen, one carefully drawn out, and of which I know no reason to doubt the accuracy, I may assume that quantity at not less than 40,000 tons. Now, by the previous statement it is shown that of genuine coffee imported and retained there are not above 14,000 tons. In other words, of the whole of that which is sold as coffee, only one-third is so in reality, and the rest is made up of some spurious article. Who are the losers by this substitution? In the first place, the revenue, for the substituted article pays no duty, and the Exchequer accordingly loses on two-thirds of the whole amount consumed. Next, the public, for though it may be quite true that in consequence of the admixture a cheaper article is obtained, yet the House must remember that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred this article is sold, not openly as a mixture, but under the name and at the price of genuine coffee. But the revenue and the public are not the only sufferers. I do not wish to dwell on the claims of the colonial producer, for I am well aware that that is a topic not likely to find favour in the eyes of the House. Yet this I may say, that, consistently with the strictest principles of free trade, it is unfair to subject him to the payment of an import duty on coffee, while by far the greater part of that which is sold as coffee pays nothing whatever to the revenue. There is, however, a fourth class which suffers by the present working of the law quite as much as any of them—I mean that class of 527 whose existence the right hon. Gentleman appears to doubt—the class of honest retailers. The right hon. Gentleman has stated several cases in which tradesmen being obliged to sell coffee instead of chicory, wanting, not the will, but the power to adulterate—their customers had left them in consequence, and gone to other houses with their orders. Surely that is a circumstance which may be very simply explained, without accepting the solution of the right hon. Gentleman. The explanation will undoubtedly be found, not in the difference of quality between the pure and the adulterated coffee, which the right hon. Gentleman represents as in favour of the latter, but in that of which we are all aware—the necessary difference of price. Of course, the genuine article is the more expensive of the two: there would otherwise be no temptation to adulterate. The correspondents of the right hon. Gentleman, then, being driven to sell their coffee unmixed, could not do otherwise than charge a much higher price than usual. Their customers, not knowing or not considering the superior quality of the article, complained of the increase of price, and went elsewhere. That is an obvious explanation of the circumstance on which the right hon. Gentleman builds one of his strongest arguments. Hitherto I have assumed, as the right hon. Gentleman does, that the admixture of chicory in coffee is harmless in a sanitary point of view. The contrary has often been asserted, and we have been told, on high medical authority, that it produces effects very injurious to health. That is a disputed question, and I do not enter upon it. But surely the harmlessness of chicory is no reason why a man should be made to pay for it about three times its proper value. There is no sort of adulteration or fraud that may not be similarly defended. Gooseberry wine may, for aught I know, be a very wholesome compound; but it does not follow that we should be content to buy it at the price of champaign. Again, we have heard nothing of the adulteration of chicory itself with other articles wholly unfit for human food. Do hon. Gentlemen know what those articles are? Here are a few samples: horsebeans, burnt beans, dog biscuits, powdered earth, and tan. There can be no doubt as to the unwholesomeness of this adulteration; and though I admit that the right hon. Gentleman does not attempt to defend it, yet he may recollect that it is the necessary consequence of that which 528 he does defend—I mean the fraudulent sale of chicory under the name of coffee. Then the right hon. Gentleman talks of vexatious inquiries, and the employment of an army of excisemen. There is no need of either the one or the other. We do not ask for any excise upon chicory—first, because an excise is a very undesirable form of taxation; next, because it would do nothing to remedy that second and worse kind of adulteration of which we complain, the adulteration of chicory itself. We do not ask for any restrictions upon the sale of chicory; we ask only that it shall be sold under its own name, and sold unmixed with coffee. The right hon. Gentleman objects to that proposal, and speaks of the inconvenience that would ensue. Why, Sir, there is no inconvenience in the case; at the worst, all that could be required would be, that coffee should be bought at one shop, and chicory at another. But even this is not necessary; for the same person may be allowed to sell both, provided only that they be not mixed. Lastly, the right hon. Gentleman says, that if we pass such a law, it will be evaded. If he means that individual and isolated cases of transgression will occur, I do not deny that this would probably happen; but that is an objection which applies equally, not only to every law passed for the purpose of preventing adulteration, but to those laws of which nobody complains, preventing the sale of unwholesome meat. Hardly a week passes without some tradesman being brought before the magistrate for a violation of some one of those laws: yet will it, therefore, be contended that they are inoperative? Or have any complaints been made of undue interference by the Legislature in those instances? Even if, as the right hon. Gentleman alleges, some inconvenience should arise from the application in this case of a similar principle, I believe that it will be more than counterbalanced by the general advantage to the country. You have before you a great evil, and you must apply to it a rigorous remedy. Believing that the Resolution of my hon. Friend will serve to protect the revenue—that it will protect the fair trader—and, not less important, that it will protect the poor man (who, in the circumstances of his position, is indeed incapable of protecting himself), at once from having pecuniary loss, and from the even more serious injury now inflicted on his health—believing, moreover, that all this may be effected with 529 little, if any inconvenience to the public, I shall certainly support the Motion.
said, an eminent firm in the West Riding with whom he was acquainted, maintained that there was nothing like deceit in their mixture of chicory with coffee, because their customers had a ready way of knowing whether they were buying a mixture of chicory, by comparing the price of the mixture per pound with that of coffee in the bean. [Cries of "Oh!" and laughter.] The facility with which hon. Gentlemen broke into raptures of mirth was something extraordinary. It only entailed on him the necessity of going into the argument, and if they would listen they would see whether he ought to be laughed at, or somebody else. Supposing his informants sold their ground mixed coffee at 1s. 2d., and coffee in the berry at 2s. per lb. their customers must be idiots if they fancied they were buying unmixed coffee, or if, knowing the price of chicory, they could not tell to a fraction how much chicory was in the mixture they bought, and how much coffee. His informants also explained the falling-off in the consumption of coffee by saying, that when the working classes found their condition good, they bought less coffee and more meat and beer; but when their condition was bad, they what in the manufacturing districts was called "clamm'd" upon coffee.
SIR JOHN TYRRELL
said, that there had been a great meeting in the City on this subject, at which the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring) had said, that he was interested in the growth of coffee in Ceylon and the East Indies, and the hon. Member was consequently interested against the mixture of chicory with coffee. It must, therefore, be conceded that this was altogether a mixed question—not only as regarded the mixture of chicory with coffee, but as regarded the positive and actual facts of the case. He (Sir J. Tyrell) was prepared to state as a fact that whether coffee was consumed in a palace or a cottage, the best was that which was composed of genuine coffee with a small admixture of chicory. There was the testimony of tradesmen in all parts of the country, that their trade would be greatly diminished if any obstruction were raised against mixing chicory with coffee. He was quite willing to admit that chicory was adulterated to a greater extent than coffee; but he would ask those hon. Members who were in the habit of going much out to 530 parties where champagne was drunk whether they thought they imbibed the genuine article, or a sophisticated mixture, the largest portion of which was the juice of the gooseberry? He had heard of a gentleman who said to his guests, that of the wines he gave them, he could only be answerable for his port, and that he had made himself. At the meeting in the City on this question, the people there seemed equally divided, and many of the retail dealers did not care how much adulteration was practised. There would be a great disadvantage in entering upon a crusade against all those who adulterated coffee with chicory. The hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. E. H. Stanley) had treated this as a poor man's question; but he would consent to take the vote upon that view of the case, and he said that the mixture was the better article. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon had admitted that he was interested in the growth of coffee in Ceylon and the East Indies; and he (Sir J. Tyrell) begged to tell him that he was interested in the growth of chicory in the county of Essex. He contended, that even on the ground of benefiting the poor man, the Motion should be negatived, for at present he could buy a better article, whether it was called coffee or any other mixture. He (Sir J. Tyrell), looking to his own interest in as clear a point as possible, would give his support on this occasion to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. WAKLEY
thought that the wrong-headedness exhibited by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this subject was most extraordinary. He had boldly come forward, and had taken under his special care and patronage the fraudulent dealers throughout the country. Was the honest trader to have no sympathy whatever? The right hon. Gentleman quoted the fraudulent dealer everywhere, and said there were some 3,000 of them who had encouraged him to proceed in his improper and injudicious course. Was it not unfortunate that the Government should absolutely go out of its way to sanction a system of fraudulent dealing? Lot them see the effect it had produced on the innocent Baronet opposite. He could not look upon those two hon. Baronets after the speeches they had made, without witnessing a melancholy spectacle. The hon. Baronet who spoke last had frankly told them he was an interested party; and he advised the right hon. Gentle- 531 man the Chancellor of the Exchequer to continue in the pursuit of a course which must lead still further to the perpetration of fraud. The hon. Member for Lincolnshire (Sir J. Trollope) had asked, would they stop their trade without notice, and throw the growers of chicory in Lincolnshire into confusion; was not that an admission that the chicory was sold as coffee? If the statements of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer were true, how were they to account for the circumstance that in London, when it became known that certain coffee dealers carried on an honest trade, the publication of the fact increased their business tenfold in a single week? Let them consider the effect the present system was producing on the honest trader. When they found parties in the same street selling coffee 30 or 40 per cent under them, they were also under the necessity of adulterating it to maintain their trade. Such a practice could not be long tolerated; and the Government, by maintaining the present Treasury Minute, was producing the utmost pain and annoyance to the honest and industrious traders throughout the metropolis. What the people complained of was, not that chicory was sold, but that it was sold as coffee. A great deal had been said of the qualities of chicory; it was a powerful narcotic and a powerful diuretic, and the hon. Baronet who spoke last knew that well. When it was known how it would act upon the human organs when persons were under the influence of disease, what must be its effect if constantly used by persons in health? It was inevitable that in the end disease must be produced by it; but that was not the question now to be argued; the question was, whether the House would give its sanction to a system of fraud. He hoped a majority of that House would give their support to the Motion of the hon. Member for Huntingdon; and if his Motion were lost on the present occasion, he was quite sure it would be carried in a future Session of Parliament.
§ MR. HUME
was surprised that his hon. Friend, who was against the interference of the Government in everything else, should support this Motion. The watchword of his hon. Friend on all previous occasions was, "Let the people take care of themselves;" he was, therefore, much astonished that he should have taken so strange a course on this question. The people could very well take care of themselves in the matter of chicory and coffee. 532 He (Mr. Hume) looked upon all excise visitations as abominations, and he should therefore oppose the Motion. The question now was, whether the Government were right in refusing to interfere. He thought they were perfectly right. To interfere would only increase the vexation. He could say with respect to tobacco, respecting the adulteration of which he had once taken some trouble, that he discovered the fact that men who chewed tobacco preferred the adulterated article, and would use no other. He hoped the House would sec the propriety of leaving the public to take care of themselves.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, he would not have troubled the House with any remarks on this question, had it not stood in some relation to agriculture; but he thought that he and his hon. Friends near him were justified in considering how far the excise laws affected the cultivation of the land. In the article of barley they were equally restricted by the excise law. He wished to put it to the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he intended to-morrow morning to institute prosecutions by the Treasury against those who adulterated tea, while he sanctioned the adulteration of coffee? He wished the taste of the country was entirely in favour of chicory, for he was certain that they could produce all that would be consumed; but, as they were restricted with regard to other articles, he thought they should carry out the principle so long as they maintained it; and therefore he should support the Motion.
§ MR. BASS
said, he could not sufficiently express his approbation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's desire to avoid all vexatious interference with respect to those parties connected with the Excise; but as he was so liberal with respect to those who had the sale of coffee, he should like to know whether he would extend the same indulgence to the brewers? He should like to know whether they might mix anything they pleased with their beer? He should also like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he did not consider that great injury had been inflicted upon those unfortunate publicans who had often been brought before the magistrates, and fined 300l. or 600l. for mixing something with their beer, while the adulterators of coffee were let off scot free.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 89; Noes 94: Majority 5.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Heald, J.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Herbert, H. A.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Herries, rt hon. J. C.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Bass, M. T.||Hill, Lord E.|
|Bell, J.||Hindley, C.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Hornby, J.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Keating, R.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Keogh, W.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Knox, hon. W. S.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Lockhart, W.|
|Cardwell, E.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Cochrane, A.D.R.W.B.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Compton, H. C.||Masterman, J.|
|Currie, H.||Miles, W.|
|Denison, J. E.||Moffatt, G.|
|Disraeli, B.||Mundy, W.|
|Dod, J. W.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Douro, Marq. of||O'Connell, J.|
|Duke, Sir J.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Duncan, G.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Duncuft, J.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Edwards, H.||Rufford, F.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Sadleir, J.|
|Ellice, E.||Sandars, G.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Scully, F.|
|Farrer, J.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Fox, W. J.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Smith, J. A.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Spooner, R.|
|Galway, Visct.||Stanford, J. F.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Stanley, hon. E. H.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W.E.||Sullivan, M.|
|Goold, W.||Sutton, J. H. M.|
|Granger, T.C.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Greenall, G.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Greene, J.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Guernsey, Lord||Vane, Lord H.|
|Gwyn, H.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Wakley, T.|
|Halsey. T.P.||Walter, J.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Wegg-Prosser, F. R.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||TELLERS.|
|Hastie, A.||Baring, T.|
|Hastie, A.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after One o'clock.