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Engraving. Evidence of Mr. Pye.
which interrupt the present works." (Evid. I., 938.) And again: “I should have painted some of my own subjects, as the effect produced on glass, would be particularly adapted to them, if the experiments, &c., had been less expensive. This cost I have the more regretted, as works executed on plate glass, on a large scale, would have been most magnificent in cathedrals or great public buildings. The knowledge and experience gained in our experiments would have enabled us to produce grander works than have yet been seen. (Ib. 940.)
With reference to the effect of these duties on the progress of ENGRAVING, Mr. John Pye, the celebrated landscape engraver, very justly observing that but little has been done in England for its encouragement in the way in which it is so extensively encouraged in France and other parts of the Continent, namely, by its application to the decoration of rooms, ascribes much of the difference to the higher price of glass, which in England is somewhat more than eight times dearer than the French glass, of better quality for the purpose mentioned, the glazing of prints.
Mr. Pye having submitted to the Committee specimens of French and English glass, adapted to the glazing of prints, handed in the following comparative list of prices:
£. s. d. 26 in. x 24 in.
0 16 6
2 0 28
0 18 6
2 3 32
1 3 0
2 9 “I have looked,” adds Mr. Pye, “a great deal into the dwellinghouses of the people of France, and I have seen their rooms covered completely all over with engravings, while in England the same class of persons have not any."* (Evid. II. 2188.)
x 24 x 24
* I may mention that, having been present at the committee when Mr. Pye was examined, I can add my testimony to the superiority of the French glass which he exhibited for the purpose in view.
That in the Art of glass making itself, the want of further improvement is mainly to be attributed to the interference of the excise laws obstructing the free career of experiment, is pretty generally acknowledged. Their effects on price, by deadening compe- Effects of tition, are less widely known, but are of no small glass mak importance.
ing itself. Mr. Toplis, after stating that no experiments can be made as to improving the quality of glass, except under the authority and inspection of the excise, hibition which forms the stumbling-block in that particular branch of Art,” justly adds:
“There are certain qualities of glass for optical instruments that we have never been able to reach in this country ; and we are obliged to go to the continent for them now, in consequence of the imperfect state of glass making.”
But, as Mr. Toplis might have added, such a tendency has apathy on any subject, however induced, to perpetuate itself, that even the very improvements in this Art, made on the Continent, have often failed to excite attention in England, despite of all her astronomical pretensions. It was nearly twenty years after the rumours of Guinand's splendid experiments had attracted Fraunhofer to Brenetz, that a piece of his glass first found its way to England, although many magnificent instruments had been made from it in Paris. Guinand succeeded (and in his success began a new era in the history of astronomical observation) in spite of difficulties which would have disheartened most men; but at Brenetz there were no excise duties. The first flint glass which Guinand used he obtained from England, and its badness set him to work to make good glass for himself, but what would he have accomplished had he
lived in England under the “inspection of the excise?” He must have sat down in despair.*
The injurious effects of the excise duties upon glass, in respect of decorative architecture, it is very difficult adequately to estimate. The application of glass, in architecture, is yet in its infancy; and he would be a bold man who should predict how far that application may be hereafter extended. But enough has been already said in pointing out the impediments which hence obstruct the
improvement of the article itself. Facilities
To have adduced the high rates of Postage, as among of com
the impediments which obstruct the progress of the Fine munication through the Arts, would, perhaps, a few years ago have been consiPost Office.
dered ridiculous. But happily the public mind has been so much aroused to the grave importance of the subject, and its bearings on our highest social interest, that no
fear of this kind need now be entertained. Report of
“ The facility of frequent, punctual, and quick Revenue
communication,” say the Commissioners of Revenue Commission on the Enquiry, “is subservient to all the ends of national Post Office.
policy, ... and in this view the Post Office possesses an importance superior to its title to consideration as a productive branch of the revenue."
• The reader will not think this an exaggeration, if he recall to bis recollection how Guinand proceeded, and the duration of his experiments. When he began, about 1785, he made daily experiments in his blast furnace with meltings of three or four pounds weight, noting down the results of each ; and continued them for several years. After some time he constructed a furnace capable of fusing two hundred-weight of glass, and went on, despite the failure of his crucibles, the bursting of bis furnace, and many other untoward accidents, wbich served to invigorate instead of disheartening him, carefully studying each flaw which broke the homogeneity of his glass, until at last he succeeded in obtaining discs of twelve and even eighteen inches diameter, uniformly transparent and refractive. Imagine an excise inspector quartered upon bim from 1785 to 1801.
Among these "ends of national policy" to be subserved by quick AND FACILE communication, no one is more important than the wide dissemination of intelligence concerning the progress of literature and of the Arts, as well in other countries as in our own. To this end the greatest possible facility for the correspondence, both of societies and of individuals engaged in promoting such objects, and of publishing firms, is indispensable, and may well lay claim to the earnest attention of government.
But it is in evidence that, so far from the greatest possible facility being thus afforded, the excessive CHARGE and the often inefficient methods of the Post Office, greatly obstruct, and in an immense multitude of cases absolutely prevent this free correspondence, in all respects so desirable. And this evidence has been established beyond dispute.
And it has been also established: First, that even if the present whole expense of the Post Office be regarded the
necessary cost of conveying the letters and newspapers, the superadded tar upon the transmission of the former is now upwards of three hundred per cent. upon that apparent* cost, or, in other words, that the average cost of conveying a letter or newspaper, under the present arrangements, is one penny and one third of a penny; the average charge sixpence.
Secondly, that, deducting the franked letters and newspapers, the entire average cost of conveyingt each
* The Post Office revenue being charged with pensions to the Dukes of Marlborough and Grafton for abolished offices, and with various superannuation allowances, lc., which ought to be charged upon the general revenue, the apparent cost of that department exceeds the real cost.
† Including receipt, transit, and distribution, as well as the collection of the tax. See the Report of the Committee on the Post Office, and the admirable pamphlet of Mr. Hill, entitled Post Office Reform.
chargeable letter is host of a penny, or less than three farthings ;* but the average charge actually made for each letter being sixpence, therefore includes a superadded tax of seven hundred per cent. on the actual cost.
And, thirdly, that, in consequence of the great reductions which might be made in the average necessary costs of conveyance, collection, &c. (arising partly from increased communication, partly from other causes which have been fully detailed) an average rate of postage of one penny (paid in advance) for every letter of half an ounce weight, from any one post town to any other in the United Kingdom, would still yield a profit or tax of 200 per cent. on such necessary costs; which, after paying for the distribution of franks and newspapers, would afford a probable net revenue of at least o£1,278,000 per annum.
And, reasoning by analogy upon all experience of the effects of fiscal reduction on articles of universal demand, a very few years would, even at this minimum rate, carry the revenue beyond its present amount.
Fully affirming these general conclusions, but, preferring to place the question on its true basis, the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge thus conclude a memorial addressed to the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury:
“Your memorialists are unwilling to rest a question, affecting in so high a degree the EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE, on any purely financial consideration; and they feel assured, that an enlightened government will not consider it sound policy, for the sake of avoiding the risk of some injury to a comparatively unimportant branch
* But it appears by an estimate founded on data contained in the Seventh Report of the Commissioners on the Post Office, that the actual cost of transit for each letter between London and Edinburgh is but zo of a penny: in the estimate above, it is ealculated at too, which is very excessive. See Hill (3d edit.), p. 12.
+ The net revenue of the Post Office, in the year 1836, was £1,622,700.