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THE BLACK DIAMONDS OF
ENGLAND.

CHAPTER I.—THE DIAMONDS.

THE history and adventures of the 'great
diamonds' of Eastern, Northern, Southern,
and Western potentates, have been often
chronicled; their several values have been
estimated at hundreds of thousands, and at
millions; but not a syllable has ever been
breathed of their utility. The reason is
tolerably obvious; these magnificent
diamonds are of no practical use at all, being
purely ornamental luxuries. Now, it has
occurred to us that the diamonds indigenous
to England, are the converse of these brilliant
usurpers of the chief fame of the nether earth
(to say nothing of the vain-glories on the
upper surface) being black, instead of prismatic
whiteopaque, instead of transpicuous;
and in place of deriving a fictitious and fluctuating
value from scarcity and ornamental
beauty, deriving their value from the realities
of their surpassing utility and great abundance.
They certainly make no very striking
figure in the ball-room dress of prince or
princess; but it is their destiny and office to
carry comfort to the poor man's home, as well
as to the mansion of the rich; they are not
to be looked upon as treasures of beauty, they
are to be shovelled out and burnt; they are
not the bright emblems of no change, and no
activity, but like heralds, sent from the depths
of night, where Nature works her secret
wonders, to advance those sciences and industrial
arts which are equally the consequence
and the re-acting cause of the progress of
humanity.

In the reign of King Edward the First of
England, a new fuel was brought to London,
much to his subjects' objection and the perplexity
of his majesty. Listen to the history
not of the king, but of the great event of
his time which few historians mention.

If chemical nature beneath the earth be
accounted very slow, human nature above
ground is comparatively slower,—and without
the same reason for it. The transmutations
beneath the earth require centuries for their
accomplishment, and of necessity;—the proper
use of new and valuable discoveries on the
surface, is a matter of human understanding
and rational will. In the former case, the
thing is not perfect without its number of
centuries; in the latter, the thing has very
seldom been acknowledged without great
lapse and loss of time, because mankind will
not be made more comfortable and happy
without a long fight against the innovation.
Wherefore coals, the most excellent material
of fuel,—for cooking, for works of industry
and skill, for trades and arts, and the cutting
short of long journeys,—have only been in
use during the last three centuries.

The first mention of coals, as a fuel, occurs
in a charter of Henry the Third, granting
licenses to the burgesses of Newcastle to dig
for coals; and in 1281, this city had created,
out of these diggings, a pretty good trade.

In the beginning of the fourteenth century,
coals were first sent from Newcastle to London,
by way of a little experiment on the minds of
the blacksmiths and brewers, and a few other
trades needing fuel; but for no other purposes.
So the good black smoke rose from
a score or two of favoured chimneys.

As one man, all London instantly rose up
against it, and was exceeding wroth. Whereof,
in 1316, came a petition from Parliament to
the king, praying his Majesty,—if he had any
love for a fair garden, a clean face, yea, or a
clean shirt and ruff,—and if he did not wish his
subjects to be choked, or, at the very best, to
be smoked into bad hams,—to forbid all use of
the new and pestilent fuel called "coals."

So the king, seeing the good sense and
reasonableness of the request, forthwith
issued a Proclamation, commanding all use of
the dangerous nuisance of coals to cease from
that day henceforth.

But the blacksmiths and brewers took
counsel together, and they were joined by
several other trades, who had found great
advantage in the use of coals; and they resolved
to continue the same, as secretly as
might beforgetting all about the smoke,
or innocently trusting that it would not again
betray them.

No sooner, however, did the black smoke
begin to rise and curl above the chimneys,
than it was actually seen by many eyes!
and away ran the people bawling to Parliament;
and more petitions were sent; and
his Majesty, being now very angry, ordered all
these refractory coal-burning smiths, brewers,
and other injurious rogues to be heavily fined,
and their fire-places and furnaces cast down
and utterly demolished.

All this was accordingly done. Still, it was
done to no purpose; for so very excellent was
the result to the different trades of those who
had smuggled and used the prohibited fuel,
that use it by some means they would, let
happen what might. More chimneys than
ever now sent up black curling clouds, and
more fire-places and furnaces were destroyed;
and so they went on.

At length it was wisely discovered that
nobody had been choked, poisoned, "cured"
into a bad ham, or otherwise injured and
transformed. Now, then, of course, it was
reasonable to expect, as the advantages were
proved to be so great and numerous, the
injuries trivial, and the dangers nothing, the
use of coal would become pretty general,
without more prohibition, contest, or question.

No, indeed; this is not the way the world
goes on. Social benefits are not to be forced
upon worthy people at this rate. Centuries
must elapseeven as we find with the growth
of metals and minerals beneath the earth.
In the latter case, it is a necessary condition;
in the former, it is made one.

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