A VINDICATION OF THE Conduct of the Ministry, IN THE Scheme of the Excise ON WINE and TOBACCO. Robert WALPOLE.
A VINDICATION OF THE Conduct of the Ministry, IN THE Scheme of the Excise ON WINE and TOBACCO
A VINDICATION OF THE Conduct of the Ministry, IN THE Scheme of the Excise ON WINE and TOBACCO
A VINDICATION OF THE Conduct of the Ministry, IN THE Scheme of the Excise ON WINE and TOBACCO
A VINDICATION OF THE Conduct of the Ministry, IN THE Scheme of the Excise ON WINE and TOBACCO
Fighting Wine Fraud in Great Britain.

A VINDICATION OF THE Conduct of the Ministry, IN THE Scheme of the Excise ON WINE and TOBACCO

Only Edition. Robert Walpole, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and most influential politician in Great Britain, had come about his power by avoiding foreign wars, and had elevated his popularity (at least among the landed gentry) by reducing the land tax from £4 to £1 over eleven years. But coffers were evaporating, and the smuggling of goods into the country had grown rampant. Walpole's solution was an excise, first on salt, then on wine and tobacco, a move that was met with public outrage and vigorous parliamentary dissent—the prevailing thought being that the limited excise would be a gateway to a general excise on all goods. At the critical moment, following a copious pamphlet war, Walpole withdrew the bill. Epidemic celebration followed, and Walpole's majority, though hamstrung, was saved. Our pamphlet is presented by its anonymous author ex proprio motu as an appraisal of the excise proposal and its effect, and also as a kind of speculative imagining of what might have happened had the excise been imposed. Of particular interest to historians of the English wine trade is the author's summary of the two-part purpose of the excise to forestall the blights on that industry. We read, on page 11:


The Fraud practised on Wines is of two Sorts; the first and most considerable is by the vast Quantities of Wines Imported in the Kingdom, by Vessels of about eighteen or Twenty tonns Burthen which come all along the Coasts of this Island during the whole Course of the Year, but especially in the Winter; and the said Wines are put on the Shore in the Night time, and immediately carried farther into the Country. A second kind of Fraud in known to the whole Town; and it is by a Composition that is made of several Ingredients, the Juice of Elder Grains, Wild Mulberries, and Cyder, which sell to the Vintners at a third or fourth Part cheaper than Wine sells at; and they, in their Retail, sell it mix'd with Wine, for real Wine, as many people complain they do, and especially the wine merchants. 


Since the excise (which would have had an immediate effect on smuggling) was withdrawn, the frauds continued unabated; and perhaps even accelerated, as the methods were now public and no longer trade secrets among smugglers and retailers. For the next fifty years, no excise on any goods (except briefly, cutlery and plate) was ever promulgated on the English populace. Withal a most compelling exposition of the arguments of both sides of the failed 1733 excise scheme on tobacco and wine, and an important document in the history of the criminal side of the wine industry in England.

London: J. Roberts, 1734.

Octavo in fours, 215 x 140 x 5 mm. A-G4, H2; 60 pp. Stab-stiched, untrimmed, and unopened, as issued. Interior: Some soiling and wear to extremities, last leaf with minor marginal tears. Manuscript free frank of Anthony Harp, Esq. to last page, and also a  note in the same hand: Prooff at Wooten & Lynn. Very good copy in original retail condition.

ESTC T11920; Kress 7228; Turner, Raymond. "The Excise Scheme of 1733." The English Historical Review Vol. 42, No. 165 (OUP: January 1927), pp. 34-57.

Item #88

Price: $650.00

See all items by