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A CLASSIFIED AND ANALYSED SUMMARY OF PUBLIC BILLS, STATUTES,
PAPERS GENERALLY, OF
THE HOUSES OF LORDS AND COMMONS.
LEONE LEVI, F.S.A., F.S.S., &c. &c.,
OF LINCOLN'S INN, BARRISTER-AT-LAW,
AUTHOR OF "COMMERCIAL LAW OF THE WORLD," "MANUAL OF MERCANTILE LAW," ETC.
Dedicatąd by special permission to H. B. H. the Prince Consort.
The Eighth Volume of the ANNALS OF BRITISH LEGISLATION contains the usual amount of interesting matter, illustrative of economical and political progress of the nation.
Under Series A. “Finance, Commerce, and Agriculture,” the Board of Trade accounts exhibit at a glance what we produce, what we consume, and the extent of our commercial transactions with foreign countries. It is an important fact to record, that our imports in 1859 were valued at not less than 143,000,0001., and our exports at 130,000,000l. Separate returns show how vast has been the increase of consumption of sugar in this country within the present century; whilst in 1800 our imports of unrefined sugar amounted to little more than 3,300,000 cwts., in 1859 they exceeded 9,000,000 cwts. Considerable interest having been excited in the large consumption of spirits in Scotland, a return will be found, under this Series, showing that whilst in Scotland there was a marked decrease in the consumption within the last five years, in England the consumption had much increased. It must be remembered, moreover, that whilst the consumption of alcoholic drinks in Scotland is mainly confined to British spirits, in England there is also consumed a large quantity of Foreign and Colonial spirits, besides beer, which forms an important article of diet among all classes of the people. Connected with Finance, the most important return under this Series, is one showing the amount of property assessed under the different Schedules of the Property and Income Tax, the total sum assessed in the United Kingdom being 327,000,0001., of which 90,000,0001. consisted of profits from professional pursuits
of all kinds. The Report of the Commissioners into the state of the store and clothing depôts at Weedon, Woolwich, and the Tower will be read with interest; such an inquiry illustrates in a remarkable manner the extreme difficulty of maintaining an effective superintendence over the vast and varied departments of public administration. There are also included Reports of her Majesty's Secretaries of Embassy and Legation on the effect of the Vine Disease, containing much information as to the production and consumption of wine in different countries. The Report of Viscount Chelsea on the History and Present State of the Wine Trade in France, shows in a striking manner the effects of high duties on the consumption of wine, and has, doubtless, prepared us for the change in the tariff introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1860. The Statistical Tables of foreign countries contain interesting particulars respecting the commerce and finance of the United States of America. Now that the celebrated Union is on the eve of being finally dissolved, an additional interest is attached to the records of the gigantic progress achieved, whilst the forty States were happily bound together. The monetary convention agreed on by the German States for the purpose of assimilating the coins throughout Germany, has been inserted in extenso. The three chief currencies, the Prussian thaler and the Austrian and Rhenish florin—were, by that convention, to be reduced to an equal value, and certain coins of the Union were to be struck, to have the same currency as the national coins of each State. The degree of alloy was also settled to be 900-1000ths in silver and 100-1000ths in copper. It is upon some such basis that we might obtain a uniform coinage in all countries. With this difference in the standardssome nations adopting gold and some silver, and some both—and with the necessary operation of the exchanges on value generally, it may be impossible to obtain an absolute identity of value in the coinage of all countries; but if each nation would decimalize its own coins, establish a common degree of alloy, and adopt as its units such coins as have the widest circulation, a considerable advance might be made towards uniformity. The difficulty attending an identity in the value of coins does not obtain as respects weights and measures; and there is no valid reason why all nations should not at once agree to adopt the metrical system, which has already been so widely introduced throughout Europe. Among the Statutes under this Series, we may notice the Acts legalizing the issue of a coin of a mixed metal, to take its place together with the copper coinage, amending the law concerning superannuation, and granting additional rates of Income Tax.
Under Series B., “Diplomacy and War,” there will be found several documents of much historic value. The correspondence relative to the Earl of Elgin's official mission to China and Japan exhibits the difficulties which have attended our negotiations with China, and the strong prejudices which the Europeans have to meet when brought in contact with Asiatic ideas and manners. Successful as this first mission seemed to be, the treaty concluded by the Earl of Elgin was not carried into effect, and the recognition of European rights was only obtained after the capture of Pekin by the French and British forces. A singular incident is that of the Charles et Georges, a French barque, captured by the Governor of Mozambique, under the Portuguese law abolishing the slave trade, whilst engaged in taking a cargo
negroes for the Island of Reunion. After the strenuous efforts made to induce Portugal to abandon the slave trade, it is much to be regretted that the French Government should have peremptorily demanded the restoration of that vessel, under threats backed by French line-of-battle ships despatched to the Tagus. The reports of the Commissioners on the suppression of the slave trade are not encouraging; the temptations to engage in such a trade are great, and many are the devices successfully resorted to in order to evade the pursuit of the Allied squadron. Italian affairs have for several years attracted the attention of Europe. In the correspondence here inserted we have in detail the fruitless negotiations carried on in order to avert the war so suddenly foreshadowed amidst the congratulations of the new year in the palace of the Tuileries.
Series C., “ Ecclesiastical Affairs and Education," contains the