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of Richard III., the wine called Chalybonion, or Chalibon, grown near Damascus, was imported to England from Tyre in Venetian ships ; each cask of wine 'accompanied with ten yews for making bows. This wine was the Helbon of the prophet Ezekiel, sold at the fairs in Tyre.
There is no denying that wines were once made in the southern counties of England in considerable quantities, previous to and subsequent to the Norman conquest, and even down to the fifteenth century. Bede alludes to them in plain terms, and they are alluded to in the laws of Alfred. Edgar is stated to have made a present of a vineyard and vinedressers; and there are rude but unmistakable representations of vineyards and vine-dressers in the British Museum of the Saxon date. In Westminster, “Holeborne," and other parts of Middlesex, and in nine counties south of Cambridgeshire, north of which last county vines would not give fruit fit for wine, there are traces of vineyards. Gloucestershire was noted for the excellence of its vinous productions. “Vineyards” occur thirty-six times in Doomsday Book, and the tithes of Lincombe vineyards, near Bath, have been long upon record.
We are not among those who discredit this evidence on account of the present character of the climate of these islands. Wine is now made on the Rhine north of 51 deg. of latitude. There has been a change of temperature; cold east winds now prevail to the midsummer-day of the olden time. M. Arago, of the French Institute, says that in the sixteenth century the muscadine grape, which requires the warm sun of the south, ripened well at Macon, in the department of the Seine and Loirea circumstance now thought impossible. The vineyards of Etampes and Beauvais once grew good wine; all they make now is meagre and miserable.
Our fathers were men of good taste; they introduced fifty-six French, and no less than thirty kinds of Spanish, Italian, Greek, and Island wines, and in large quantities too. Elizabeth's court and symposiacs, where the cup went round in the debate, made men merry and wise together. Once there came into England, Gascony, Osey, Clarry, Romania, Bastardo, Malvasia, Lepe, Vernage, Malmsey, Cyprus, Candian, and many other wines, whose names are quite a catalogue. Sometimes they were perfumed, at others aromatic herbs and spices were infused into them, when they were called “ piment,” or made“ hippocras” of, as the writers of those times inform us. The quantity of wine consumed formerly in England was very large. The Archbishop of York, in the reign of Edward II., dispensed a hundred tuns of two hundred and fifty gallons each on his enthronement. His predecessor in the see consumed eighty tuns of claret annually in his household—an expenditure that would stagger a very wealthy man of the nineteenth century. Whether wine or ale, the Church always patronised them. Our total-abstinence supporters must read this portion of the history of vinology with due respect. Our old divines found they marvellously improved their spiritual functions by wine. From Walter de Mapes to Sidney Smith, its virtues have found a much more unanimous support than points of doctrine. Who could doubt the orthodoxy of such pillars of the Church as showed by experience the value of wine, or of ale by the less presuming clergy, contented with the home-made beverage, but sensible of the inspiration from both:
Then take up this tankard of rough massy plate,
And makes the poor curate as proud as the primate. There was a cordiality about those old square-toes looked for now in vain. The Methuen treaty of 1703, admitting port wine at one-third of the duty of most other kinds, drove away variety, and forced a taste for wine of a secondary class increasingly adulterated down to the wise abrogation of the differential duties.
We have a hatred for all tyrants which no language we know has words sufficiently vituperative to delineate, but of all tyrants, from Nero to the King of Ashantee, we detest most our Henry VIIL, the relentless butcherer of female loveliness, the heartless apostate in faith, who favoured the Reformation he had first opposed, because it occurred to him that he could plunder the existing hospitals, charities, and religious establishments of their wealth, and put it into his own purse, under the plea of supporting what the march of intellect would soon have done without his violence. If one gleam of sunshine breaks through the gloom of that monarch's character in our view, it was his bringing into notice a good wine-rather a selfish virtue to be sure, but we fully believe the only one he possessed. He procured a vineyard at Ay for himself, or in conjunction with Francis I. of France. Henry was not alone in his taste, if he led the fashion : Charles V. of Spain, and the Pope, whom Henry set at defiance, were all unanimous upon this cardinal point of doctrine, that Champagne was an unrivalled wine, and they too kept vineyards. Posterity has confirmed the sentence, with the understanding that the wine be always used“ in the present tense.” Thus did “ honey come out of the mouth of the lion”-no, that is a noble beast-out of the mouth of the ravenous wolf. This wine the differential duties excluded from all but persons of wealth, until those duties were equalised. For this alone, Paul Methuen deserved to be drowned in his own Portugal black strap! Who can state the amount of human enjoyment he thus abstracted? When our army was in France at the conclusion of the last war, Champagne was drunk before dinner, with dinner, and after dinner. It was so highly estimated, as we witnessed ourselves, that in a large city only one bottle, by accident, was obtainable--the English officers, they told us, had drank all the rest. We even suspect, from what we heard, that some of them were ready, when they could take no more, to cry out with the young sailor in the same plight, “ Pour it over me."
A flourishing epoch in our commerce in wine with France took place under Charles II., soon after the restoration. The trade was wisely encouraged by the court, which saw its manifold advantages. Merchandise of all sorts, as well as wines, came in extensively, particularly from France. But the landed interest of that time became jealous of the mercantile, and too obtuse to perceive how much trade contributes to enhance the value of estates, by the most legitimate of all means. Accordingly, the adverse spirit, so well pointed out in its effects upon trade by the late Sir Henry Parnell, was then omnipotent. Anxious for itself, in the first place, it sounded the tocsin of ruin to the agriculturists. It was the custom then, as it was in times of a much later date, to charge everything untoward upon French influence. There is a tale of an English county which grew a great quantity of beans, and the agricultural interest there got up a petition to parliament, praying that a county adjoining should be prohibited from growing broad Windsors; thus lowering the price of that indigestible esculent to the petitioners' manifest injury. Just so stanch to their prejudices, and seeing nothing but popery and wooden shoes when France was named, they petitioned for a prohibitive law, and insisted that no more Gallic goods of any kind should come into the country. The price of land had fallen in the market; and this, they averted, was owing to the balance of trade with France being against us. They had no idea that the aggregate balance of trade might be in our favour, and that in place of paying the difference to France in coin, we might have paid it in bills on other countries given in return for our exports. They were not to be pacified. Nothing less than a total prohibition of wine, brandy, and all kinds of French merchandise and produce would appease them. They were all-powerful with the national antipathies on their side. The act was passed just when our commercial transactions had reached a state of prosperity unequalled before. At once an import of wines, which for many centuries it had till then been the usage of the country to receive, and to which the people had long been habituated, wholly ceased. In some years nearly twenty thousand tuns had been imported; it now became an illegal trade. A vote of the House of Commons declared that “trade with France was detrimental to the kingdom.”
The effect of this sudden prohibition upon those who had been accustomed, like their fathers before them, for six or seven hundred years to the wines of France, must have been a public calamity. Smuggling was encouraged to a great extent, and the wines of Portugal, of a very inferior character to those of France in purity, were introduced under the circumstances of the restriction.
But the prohibition of the pure wines of France was not the only consequence of the erroneous notion about land being lowered in price by a commerce of any kind with’ France. . The farmers were gratified ; brandy being no longer imported, distillation from malt was left almost unrestricted. Any person might distil by giving ten days' notice to the Excise. This was a boon to the landholder, who had most probably calculated upon such a result in aiding the prohibition. The Vintners' Company in London had before kept the management of distillation almost wholly under its own control, but it was now foiled; distillation continued to be encouraged for the protection of the landed interest down to the reign of George I. Then began that system of drunkenness among the poor, from the cheapness of spirits, that has deteriorated their health and morals so fearfully to this hour. The government now took the alarm at its own impolicy. It ran into the opposite extreme, and forbade any compound spirits to be made. This was followed by the imposition of a duty of five shillings per gallon, with a license costing twenty pounds, to be paid by all dealers in English-made spirits.
The suddenness of this legislation, without the slightest reflection that the government had been the cause of the evil it sought to remedy so abruptly, drove the people to illicit distillation and evasions of the law, the natural consequences of an ill-judged exercise of the legislative power. The retailing of spirits was then prohibited altogether.
Scarcely had the general importation been once more permitted, and French wines nearly recovered their former amount of importation, than the accession of William III. and a new war occurred, tantamount to a second prohibition. The plea of exchanging woollen goods for Portugal wine, under a differential duty which operated as a bonus, was in every sense impolitic and unjust. The bait was eagerly swallowed by the leading party. Spanish wines as well as French were rejected, although the duty was little different between the wines of Spain and Portugal. An importation of eleven thousand tuns of Spanish, in 1701, sank to seven thousand in the following year, and in the next to thirteen hundred ; nor did the Spanish importation increase again until 1709, so deeply did the pseudo appeal to patriotism in the shape of our woollen manufactures and the British fleece carry away the sense of the country,
The introduction of the wines of Portugal did not occur without considerable opposition from those who were accustomed to the wines of other countries. The feeling of those who were for rejecting everything French had aroused the jealousy of the lovers of the wine of that country. This was shown in periodical publications circulated as early as 1693. The tastes of the wine-drinkers and of the majority in the legislature were opposed. The “Farewell to Wine," published in that year, treats the black strap of Portugal very unceremoniously:
Mark how it smells--methinks a real pain
and has as many different tastes,
As can be found in compound pastes. This refers to the lack of the true vinous bouquet in port wine. We learn, too, that its modern virtue of spirituousness was at that time not among its failings. Prior makes several references to port wine, which show the dislike entertained towards it subsequently to the above date. Even as late as 1733, “muddy Portugal wine " was contrasted with claret, to the great disadvantage of the former. The addition of brandy was early noticed. There is no reason to think this spirit was added in any great quantity until the Oporto Company was established, and adulteration and monopoly had been systematised. It was said that without brandy port wine would not suit the English palate, which had taken pure growths for centuries. It is possible, however, that the spirit-drinking, encouraged for the sake of consuming the produce of the land by distillation, had now in some degree raised the temperature of the stomachs of Englishmen, so that the drinker, no longer able to select a wine as cheap as port, it became necessary for the merchant to adapt the cheap growth to the high-seasoned taste, or rather, as at present, keep a variety of the same wine artificially concocted, to suit the taste of all inquirers after any particular flavour, a great convenience to the dealer rather difficult to effect with pure, natural wine. This was confessed in substance in the late evidence before the House of Commons. We are there told how, under the well-sustained monopoly of the company at Oporto, wine is mingled with the adulterating liquid, called
Gerupiga, to suit all tastes and all hues, from “ black, sweet, and strong,"
Bold and erect the Caledonian stood,
He drank the poison, and his spirit died ! No less than five thousand hogsheads of claret are said to have been smuggled into Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset, at the time of its total prohibition. It is clear that port wine was forced, in the first instance, upon the public in the way of “ Hobson's choice;" that in a generation or two it became naturalised, and as that occurred, the abuses and adulterations of the wine continued to increase, while, after 1820, they have become much greater than before. Since the peace and the winemarket of the world is once more opened to us, the wine of Oporto, which at one time was a seventy-fifth per cent. of all consumed, has fallen in consumption to less than the fortietb. Notwithstanding its acclimation, here we are just beginning to receive again a variety of wines of the existence of which a few years ago we were in total ignorance, but the resistance to their introduction is great on the part of those attached to the old system.
We dwell upon this part of the subject the more, because it conveys a true picture of the evils of a system which was so long and strenuously advocated, to the protraction of an opposite commercial policy, and of a wiser course in raising the revenue. Yet this very system, namely, a free interchange of commodities, was offered by France to England at the treaty of Utrecht, under the auspices of De Torcy, the French minister; but it was regarded by the ruling party in parliament as an insidious attempt to injure Great Britain. It did, in fact, carry an appearance of equity too evidently not to be suspected by the influential party in the government of that time, with its strong feeling of private interest, and its crude notions of the true principles of traffic.
De Torcy desired a commercial treaty in the spirit of that concluded with Charles II., the tariffs of the two nations to be the same. But rents had fallen subsequently to that treaty, and it became the imputed cause, as already stated, in alluding to the prohibition of French pro
. * The adulterous mixture is 56lbs. of dried elderberries, 60 of treacle or coarse brown sugar, 78 gallons of unfermented grape-juice, and 39 of brandy.