CUSTOMS-DUTIES consist for the most part of taxes levied upon goods and produce brought for consumption from foreign countries; such duties are some times collected upon exports made to foreign countries, and upon goods and produce passing from one port to an other of the same country. Of this na ture were the duties on coals, slate, and stone, carried coastwise from one port in the United Kingdom to another, which duties were repealed in 1831. Since the abolition of the export duty on coal in 1845, the only duties outwards consist of an ad valorem duty of one-half per cent. on the shipment of some articles of Bri tish production, and it will not produce so much as 1500/. a year.
The earliest statute passed in this coun try whereby the crown was authorised to levy customs-duties, was the 3rd of Edward 1. The mode long employed in the collection of these duties was to affix a certain rate or value upon each kind or article of merchandise, and to grant what was called a subsidy upon these rates. This subsidy was generally one shilling of duty for every twenty shillings of value assigned in the book of rates. The early acts which grant these duties speak of them as subsidies of tonnage and pound age. The word tonnage was applied to a specific duty charged on the importa tion of each tun of wine and the export ation of each tun of beer ; and the word poundage was applied to other articles valued as already explained.
The first " book of rates agreed upon by the House of Commons," is believed to be that compiled by a committee in 1642, during the reign of Charles I., and pub lished under the authority of the House by Lawrence Blaiklock. The next book of rates of which we have any record was also published by order of the House of Commons in 1660, the year of the restoration of Charles II. In the fifteenth and twenty-second years of the reign of that king, the principle of poundage was altered as respected some articles, and upon those articles specific duties were charged instead, though the system was still followed with regard to the great bulk of articles. But in the reigns of William HI. and Anne many additional specific rates were imposed, in place of the valuation for the subsidy. This
course of substitution was continued from time to time, and some other innovations were adopted, by which the simplicity of the ancient plan was destroyed; so that in a work of authority, published by Mr. Henry Saxby, of the Custom-House, Lon don, in 1757, we find as many as thirty nine principal branches of customs-duties, with subdivisions applying to different kinds of goods, whereby a degree of com plication was introduced into the subject which must have caused great embarrass ment to traders.
The difficulties here mentioned were increased by the great number of acts of parliament passed from year to year for altering the duties or regulations of this branch of the revenue ; and the great bulk and intricacy of the customs-laws had caused such inconvenience that about the year 1810 the lords of the Treasury employed Mr. Jickling to prepare a digest of those laws. years were employed in completing this task, and some idea may be formed of the laborious nature of the work, and of the necessity for its performance, from the fact that the digest forms a large octavo volume of 1375 pages. The work is entitled ' A Digest of the Laws of the Customs, com prising a Summary of the Statutes in force from the earliest period to the 53rd George III. inclusive.' The effect of numerous fresh enactments to impair the usefulness of this exposition of the reve nue laws was very soon apparent, and in 1823 Mr. flume, the secretary of the Board of Trade, then comptroller of the Customs in the port of London, was ap pointed by the Treasury " to undertake the preparation of a general law or set of laws for the consolidation of the Customs of the United Kingdom." In the per formance of this duty, Mr. Hume pre pared eleven bills, which received the royal assent in July, 1825, and came into operation 1st ofJanuary, 1826. These acts were 6 Geo. IV. caps. 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116. The first of these acts repealed 443 sta tutee, many of which were obsolete. In 1833 eight of Mr. Hume's acts were pealed or altered by 3 & 4 Wm. IV. caps.