Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

discontented, and fearing so cheap a price might injure their trade, held a meeting; but a shrewd merchant, named Stuart, prevented any increase of price, and persuaded them rather to direct their attention to a Spanish merchant, Bartholomeo Pancorvo, and put him down. Pancorvo being a scheming man, determined to open a direct trade with other northern ports, and therefore offered a higher price; but his money failing, he could not go through with his speculation, and became a bankrupt. The English then adulterated the wine terribly, mixing it with the sour wines of Beira and Minho, coloured it, and in short, at length destroyed its reputation,

In 1756, the company of upper Douro (a Companhia do alto Douro), was established by an order of the cabinet (alvará), which still continues in force, and has produced much good to the country, though its regulations and conduct are very faulty. It consists of a provedor or chief inspector, iwelve deputies, six counsellors, and a secretary. These nominate a kind of tribunal, consisting of a desembargador juiz conservador, a desembargador fiscal, with their subordinate attendants, a notary, a meirinhox, a caixeiros, feitores, administradores, &c. an intricate and complex constitution, which annually costa 100,000 crusades. This company depends immediately on the king, and is not under the jurisdiction of any other tribunal: for which reason they ventured on many arbitrary acts.

They were resolved to keep up the reputation of the wine, and that the price should be fixed. Their funds at first consisted of 1,200,000 crusades, which, however, were not destined inerely for the purchase of wine, but to make loans to the peasants at three per cent. These, however, have very seldom taken place, evasions having always been used to avoid them.

The company have not indeed a complete monopoly of the wine of upper Douro. The members are bound to take wine from each grower at a fixed price.* But if the grower prefers selling and transporting his wine elsewhere in the country, he may. however must be done through the intervention of the company, who receive six per cent. It is evident these regulations neeessasily give them a very considerable monopoly; but the restraint went still farther: a list was made of the produce of each vineyard for the last preceding five years, and no one was permitted to sell a larger quantity, either to the company or any one else. Thus all increase of this species of agriculture is entirely stopped, and what is still worse, the company employ various evasions not to take all the wine grown, nor at the prices fixed.

The district of upper Douro was divided into such parts as were to produce vinhos de feitoria (factory or export wine), and vinhos de ramo (wine for home consuinption), the former alone being destined for foreign parts, the latter being sent to the colonies and

* A pipe of the best quality was at first fixed at 25 to 30 milreas, that of in'erior quality at 20 to 25. in 1769, the price was raised, making the former 30 10 36, and the latter 25 to 30.

other

other provinces of the kingdom, but subject to the same restraints as the other.* The division itself is not properly made; for there are districts which bear bad export wine, and others, as for instance, the parishes of Villarinho des Freires, Alvaçoes do Corgo, Hormida, Abassas, Guiaes, Galafura, Couvelinhas, Goivaes, and others, where a wine is produced which far excels most of the wines destined for exportation. The port-wine de ramo, which we drank in good houses, was so excellent, that I at first thought this was the name of the best port-wine, and was much astonished when I learnt the contrary, and tasted the common bad ramo. wine. Every possible precaution is now taken to prevent the adulteration of the export-wines with the vinhos de ramo.

It was at first prohibited to send out of their districts the grapes for the export-wine, under penalty, that in that case they should pass for vinhos de ramo, in order to prevent every kind of fraud; which produced the ill effect of disabling the poorer farmers, who could not now carry their grapes to the press, from selling any factory wine. But even this did not prevent all deceptions of this kind, which were often contrived with great art. Hence, in 1768, a list was made of the districts, where vinhos de ramo were produced; but this not answering the expectations formed, recourse was had to coertion, a military force employed, in consequence of which many families were ruined, and even the buildin's employed for pressing, wine in the neighbourhood of the districts of the vinhos de ramo were pulled down. Such a measure diminished indeed the frauds committed, but it yet remains to be seen how much it will contribute to the real improvement of this important production.

The care the company bestowed on the goodness of the wine, went too far. In 1757 'manuring with dung was prohibited, because it tended to produce a large quantity, but of bad quality. Orders were also given to cut down every elder-tree within five leagues round upper Douro, to prevent colouring the wine with their berries. In 1771 this order was extended to the provinces of Beira, Traz-os-montes, and Minho; but no attention was paid to the phytolaccat decandria, which is grown in large quantities in Beira for colouring wine, as I have often yself seen. At length in 1773 orders were given to root up every vine that bore white grapes, and replace them with red, because the former give more, but worse wine. This measure was altogether prejudicial; for the difference between the prices of good and bad wine being very trifling, little attention was paid to the choice of the cuttings, those which gave a greater quantity being preferred to the better varieties. The wine-growers also suffered by it considerably, a new planted stock not bearing its proportion of fruit till five years old. The company itself, says the above-mentioned author, must falsify

* The company at first took almost all at milreas the pipe, afterwards at 10s, which is an extremely small pricc. + Pokeweed or American night-shade.

the

.

the wine, since they export as much factory-wine as they receive, though it loses a ninth part of its quantity in the warehouses where it is kept.

. The company have the monopoly of all the factory-wine exported to foreign parts, but send it almost entirely to England. In 1780 the wise plan was first put in force, of freighting ships loaded with port-wine directly to Petersburg. This has been repeated from time to time, but the number is still insignificant. Portugal might certainly find a considerable market for her wines in all the northern states, and men would soon drink larger quantities of this excellent wine, which so far excels the common sour French wine, were it not spoiled by that quantity of brandy, which none but the English can like. Perhaps, however, it was this brandied Portugueze wine that first corrupted the taste of the English, who were almost entirely confined to this kind of wine. Six per cent. for commission and shipping, and sixteen per cent. profit are allowed this company.

The company had at first the monopoly of all wine, vinegar, and brandy, sent to the colonies; but so early as 1776 the ports of Bahia, Pernambuco, Paraiba, and all the Asiatic and African colonies, had been open for the vinegar and brandy of Estremadura. Under the reign of the present queen the free exportation of Portugueze wine to Brasil was permitied, and the company only obtained the monopoly of the wines of upper Douro to Brasil and the other colonies, to which a great quantity of vinho de ramo is sent.

In 1760 they obtained the monopoly of brandy for the provinces of Beira, Minho, Traz-os-montes, and the colonies; on which account their funds received an addition of 60,000 crusades. From the year 1773 the apothecaries were also prohibited from distilling. The trade in wine for that purpose is entirely free of duty. Many of the ports of Brasil and the rest of the colonies, as I have already said, were excepted so early as 1776 from this prohibition, and still receive brandy from Estremadura.

The company have farther possessed, from their first erection, the monopoly of wine in the town of Oporto itself and the country three leagues round it, which distance was extended in 1760 to four leagues, in order as was given out to prevent all falsification of wine. This at first excited a tumult, which was suppressed by force, and the ring-leaders of which were severely punished. The company still possess this privilege, and every tavern bears the words Companhia do alto Douro. Here also much vinho de ramo is consumed by the common people.

At length, in 1772, the company acquired the privilege of exclusively furnishing with wine the taverns in the districts of Pezo da Regua, Penaguiao, Mezao-frio, Barqueiros, Teixeira, Touraes, and Sabroso de Folhadella, likewise under a pretext of preventing falsification; whereas it is evident, that the real object was to increase the privileges of the company; Barqueiros and Mezao-frio being districts appropriated to vinho de ramo, and Sabroso pro

upper Douro.

ducing no other wine whatever. Neither did Teixeira belong to

Such is the history of an institution, in which the spirit of the founder Pombal very clearly prevails. His exertions to benefit the country are every where apparent, but every where the measures he adopted were precipitate and despotic. Absolute governments generally run from one extreme to the other. Some expedient was necessary to improve the wine-trade of Portugal, or at least partly to wrest it from the hands of for igners, which the erection of the company of upper Douro has undoubtedly done;' hut was it therefore necessary to exceed the proper bounds of coercion with so despotic a hand! The ministry of the present queen in many respects alleviated the yoke of the preceding reign through a desire to oppose the measures of Pombal; but they fell into a state of total inactivity, and only directed their attention to restoring to the priesthood with usury what Pombal had taken from them.

RETURN of Joseph Planta, Esq. principal Librarian to the British :

Museum, to the Special Orders of the Committee appointed to enquire into the State of the PUBLIC RECORDS of the Kingdom, concerning the different modes hei etofore used in WRITING and PRESERVING the public Records and Papers of the Realm, and the MODES which may

be most adviscable to use in future.

In obedience to the order of the honourable the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the public records, &c. of the kingdom, directing me to communicate such observations as may have occurred to me concerning the best mode of writing, and the most secure manner of preserving public records, I have the honour to report as follows on the six questions therein proposed :

First; As to the characters used in public records, every one acquainted with the writing of different periods must have observed how much those of the earlier times are superior in beauty and distinctness to those of the middle and more recent ages; and that not content with the neglect of neatness and elegance, modern writers have also at different times introduced a variety of hands, . equally obscure and unsightly, and moreover loaded with such an abundance of contractions and abbreviations, as to render public instruments almost unintelligible. Being persuaded that the greatest facility to those who have occasion to peruse public documents ought to be provided for, 1 humbly conceive that it would be greatly conducive to this purpose, if the variety of hand-writings still used in the practice of the law, and in some of the public offices, were totally abolished, and none but a plain round hand,

without

without ornaments or abbreviations, were adopted for all instruments of legal authority.

Secondly; Concerning the kinds of ink best calculated for distinctness and permanency, it must be bwned that the sort used in the tenth and the preceding centuries, appears to have been of a much superior quality to those now made: the former which seems to have been a body colour greatly resembling Indian ink; we are told, was composed of either soot, lamp-black, or ivory-black, and certain kinds of gums, without any vitriol or vegetable astringent.* Whether it be possible to recover that ink I cannot take upon me to say, but I think it would be adviseable to cause an inquiry to be made for that purpose: as to modern ink, the subject has been fully and ably treated by the late Dr. Lewis, who proceeding upon accurate chemical experiments, has given us not only the composition of a liquid, of as black and durable a colour as the materials now used are likely to afford, but also a mode of preparing paper or parchment, so as to render the duration of writing upon them more permanent than they would be without that preparation.t

It is worthy of notice however that instances occur, where paper written upon with astringent ink has been entirely corroded and destroyed whenever it has come in contact with the liquid: this probably has been occasioned by the improper use of acids in the preparation of the ink, an evil which must be carefully guarded against, and which would be wholly obviated if the composition of the antients could be recovered.

Concerning the danger of erasures, which perhaps was the prin cipal inducement of prefering the modern to the antient ink, it is to be observed that the application of certain acids lately discovered, renders it as easy to discharge the stain of the former, as it is to scrape away or wipe out the body colour of the antients; an essential difference however, which may determine the preference, is, that it will be easier to detect the erasures of the one than the other, it being scarce possible to efface the antient ink, without in some measure injuring the surface of the paper or parchment; whereas, with the modern liquid, if the erasure is performed with skill and dexterity, the injury will hardly be perceptible.

It may not be foreign to the present purpose to mention the fluids which are occasionally used for reviving writings which are faded or nearly obliterated: an infusion of gall-nuts and the successive application of the phlogisticated alkali, and a dilute mineral acid, recommended by Sir Charles Blagden, † are the two only means with which I am at present acquainted; but I am informed that there are others used in some of the public offices, which are as yet kept secret; if so, and if they are actually as useful as they are reported to be, I humbly submit whether it would not be

* Vide Caneparius de Atramcntis, p. 256. Edit. Lond.
+ Vide L.cwis's Commercium Philosophico-Technicum, p. 377–401.

Vide Phil. Trans. Vol. lxxvii. p. 451-457.
VOL. 2,-NO. 7.

adviseable

« AnteriorContinuar »