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The many good services and value of coals
being now ascertained, as well as their harmlessness
(except that they certainly did give
a bad colour to all the public edifices and
great houses), and the progressive increase of
many luxuries of life, together with their
advantages to numerous trades besides those
of the wisely-valiant and not-to-be-denied
blacksmiths and brewers who first adopted
and persisted in using them, every facility
for their importation into London was
naturally expected by the citizens of that
highly-favoured place. Innocent human nature!
vain hopes of children, who always
expect reason from those who preach it!
For now, various lets and hindrances were
cunningly devised, in the shape of taxes and
duties, so as to check the facilities of interchange
betweeen London and Newcastle.
So, the new fuelthe product of the mine
destined one day to become the Black
Diamonds of Englandhad to struggle for
its freedom through a succession of "wise and
happy reigns."



BEFORE a cargo of coals could be discharged
from a collier, it was necessary to get the
permission of the Lord Mayor to land them.
And how was this to be obtained? By what
sort of dulcet persuasion, we are left in no
difficulty to conjecture; but as to the amount
of the sum, a modest official veil of darkness
enshrouds the record. The perquisites, however,
granted to the aldermen, are fortunately
within reach of knowledge; and accordingly
we find it set down that the corporation were
empowered to measure and weigh coals, either
in person, and in their gowns, or by proxy, if
they preferred that course, and to charge the
sum of 8d. per ton for their labour. This
was confirmed by a charter in 1613. By this
tax the City made some 50,000l, a-year, and
rejoiced exceedingly.

This system of protection, under several
forms and pleasant variations, long continued,
and was extended all over England,
the pressure falling most unequally, to the
injury of the least wealthy and the poor,
according to the immemorial custom of
Governments. Some of the people of London
were audacious enough to complain that they
did not need to be protected from the Newcastle
coals, but all on the contrary, would
give any fair sum to obtain them; and that,
indeed, what they really needed was to be
protected from the Lord Mayor and Corporation,
and other taxes and duties. But these people
were reproved as ignorant and froward, and
told that they understood nothing at all:—
what they had to do, was simplyto pay,
first for the protection, and then for the
coals. So they paid. But the importance of
the article being found to exceed even the
greediness of the impost, the use of coals
became general during the reign of Charles
the First; the same, with other taxes, being
demanded, from the reign of William the
Third downwards.

In 1830, and not before, the heaviest of
the above duties were abolished; those, however,
which were collected from the Londoners
being exceptedfor their old impertinence
together with two or three sea-ports, who had
also spoken.

Who shall repress a truth? Coals were
excellent good thingsthere was no reason
in denying it. But any foolish people, and
there will always be more than enough found
to do it, can repress a truth for an abominably
long period, denying it without reason, yet
very effectually. Or, when they admit it,
then comes the tax and penalty to be paid for
the fact. Thus was the free introduction and
use of coals repressed throughout England
until 1830; from which date, its grand rise
from the bowels of the earth into a new and
most extensive importance may be dated.

Yet, as extremes meet, and as human
nature delights in opposites, if only by way
of reaction or relaxation, so the long-continued
obstinate slowness of past ages bids fair,
in our own day, to enter upon an extreme
change to flighty prematurities, and the overleaping
of all intermediate and necessary knowledge.
But the reign of the fast-ones is now
approaching its height; which having once
reached, it will then have a rapid decline into
contempt, and so give place to regular and
steady advances upon solid ground.

Still, we are not to infer from the present
flourishing state of things, that the great
black-diamond millionaires are very numerous,
or that fortunes are readily accumulated in
the trade. Coal mines are hazardous speculations:
costly is the sinking of shafts
precarious the lives of men and property
from constant dangers of explosion or
inundation; whereof it comes that no Insurance
Office will guarantee such property against
these or any other accidents. True may it be
that the large coal-owners on the Tyne and
the Wear rejoice in a sort of monopoly;
as do other owners; but herein shall we
not find the cause of coals being sold in
London at nearly three times the price they
cost at the pit's mouth. The cause is to be
sought in the expenses of transit (which,
alone, are often equal to, and not unfrequently
exceed, the cost price); in the loss of screening;
the expenses of lighters and lightermen
wharfs, officers, and wharfingers, coal-heavers,
carmen, horses, waggons, sacksto say nothing
of long credit, or bad debts;—and the profits of
the various middle-men, among the most
numerous of whom are the brass-plate coal
merchants (whose establishments simply consist
of an order-book, wherein it appeareth
that they get a little more than they give);
and the retailers of various gradations.

All these difficulties, and all these reductions
and dues, notwithstanding, and in spite
of,—the coal trade has risen during the last
twenty years to a magnitude in quantity and