The Revenue Stamps of Mauritius

by John Wilson

Stamps Printed by Thomas de la Rue Ltd in Great Britain from 1869 Onwards

Internal Revenue Stamps

As with Bills of Exchange stamps, these were first introduced in 1869. There were, however, no locally-printed issues involved, the first coming from De La Rue. Prior to these arriving from Britain, it appears that postage stamps may have b een used for internal revenue purposes. There are eight such stamps listed on page 82 of Morley's 1910 catalogue, where he states "This set is catalogued by Moens, but no copies can be traced". Barefoot does not include them, and I have never seen the Moens listing. Neither have I ever seen a stamp with an obvious fiscal cancel from these Victorian issues. One must assume that copies are extremely rare that they just do not exist.

Governments found Internal Revenue stamps a very convenient form of tax collection, with administrative costs being kept to the minimum. They were used for a variety of purposes. Some of these are listed below, although this list is not necessarily exhaustive. Where known, Sterling price of the stamp required is shown in brackets after the heading. In cases where no value is shown, ad valorum duty was paid in most cases.

This is a legal document between a shipper of a particular commodity and the carrier detailing the type of goods, the quantity and the destination. It also serves as a receipt of the shipment when the goods are delivered to the prescribed destination.

Such a document would convey upon the patentee the exclusive right to prevent others from making, using or selling and distributing the patented invention without permission.

A debenture is normally issued by a company, in the form of a certificate of indebtedness by the company, to the owner of the debt. It will often contain express provisions regarding the payment of interest and the date on which the debt is to be repaid. Usually, a debenture can be transferred from one owner to another. A share certificate recognises that the holder owns a share of a company. Again, this is transferable from one owner to another.

CHARTER PARTY (Two shillings)
This is a contract between the owner of a vessel and the charterer for the use of a vessel. The charterer takes over the vessel for either a certain amount of time (a time charter) or for a certain point-to-point voyage (a voyage charter). These are the two main types of charter. The phrase “Charter Party” is derived from the Latin charter partite, a legal paper or instrument divided i.e. written in duplicate so that each party retains half.

DOCK WARRANT (Four shillings)
In law, this is a document by which the owner of a marine or river dock certifies that the holder is entitled to goods imported and warehoused in the docks.

PASSPORT (Four shillings)
As everyone knows, this is a document to enable free passage from one country to another. What is not so well-known is that some which were produced in earlier times, including those in Mauritius, required a Revenue stamp affixed as evidence of the duty paid to obtain the passport in the first place.

The description of this oath has various titles in different parts of the world. It is now generally known as the Oath of Allegiance and Pledge of Loyalty. A person cannot be registered or naturalised as a citizen of certain countries unless he or she has made the relevant citizenship oath and pledge at a citizenship ceremony.

Such a Report would usually be conducted by a qualified Marine Surveyor. Typically, this would include the structure, machinery and equipment and general condition of a vessel. It is often closely associated with marine insurance.

BOTTOMRY BOND (Three shillings)
This is a type of merchant funding using a ship as security for a loan, which may be needed to finance a voyage, to deal with urgent repairs or for some other emergency. Their use declined during the nineteenth century, and they are no longer utilised.

This could arise where bail was given to an offender.

This was done by Statutory Declaration to the Supreme Court of Mauritius, if it was necessary to prove that a signature was genuine. There are two examples of the type of document involved that are described later in this section on Internal Revenue stamps.

It is surprising to find this heading here, in view of the fact that Bills of Exchange stamps were specifically designed for this purpose. However, it is quite clear that Internal Revenue stamps were permitted to be used, as will be seen later.

Such certificates were issued by the Mauritian Collector of Customs for the clearance of ship's cargoes. An example is shown later in this section.

Out of all the applications shown above, I have only seen Internal Revenue stamps genuinely used on legalisation of signature documents , Bills of Exchange and Certificates of Clearance.

The first issue of Internal Revenue stamps in 1869/72 were, as usual, preceded by De La Rue proofs. Two of these are shown on Plate 39. The first is a composite, partly hand-painted essay in an unadopted purple shade. An enlargement of the original is also shown to indicate the full details of the artist’s work. Everything is hand-drawn or painted with the exception of Queen Victoria’s head. No value tablet has been added because this would be separate die. The patterns were also not adopted, and the value tablet has pencil “scribble” to simulate burelage.This word is of French origin, and refers to an intricate network of fine lines, dots or other designs printed over or as a background of some stamps to prevent forgery.

Plate 39

Plate 39 (click to enlarge)

An example of a die proof value tablet is also shown on the same plate. This is for the one penny value and is printed in black, whereas the finally-issued stamp shows the value in blue. The proof has been pasted onto card, on which the words “Mauritius internal revenue Nov 4th” appear in manuscript.

Plate 40 displays a number of more advanced proofs in different forms. There are six proofs in total, and all show the final design including the burelage which was only simulated on the previous Plate. The first two stamps on the Plate are mounted on card without any values being shown. They are mounted on black card, which appears to be somewhat fugitive, because the colour overflows slightly onto the stamp itself. They are both overprinted “SPECIMEN”- Samuel type D7. The next four are on paper and are all in final colours of the values displayed. The two pence blue and blue, the one pound mauve and brown and the five shillings brown and purple are imperforate, but the two shillings is perforated 14. All except the five shillings have the Samuel type D7 overprint.

Copies of the actual De La Rue issues of 1869/72 Internal Revenue stamps are shown on Plates 41 and 42. Rather like the early primitives, the mint items are much harder to obtain, and only two are shown here - the one penny and the threepence. Apart from the one pound issue, the others are rather dull productions and unlike the later, more adventurous De La Rue attempts. This may, of course, have been influenced by the Crown Agents for the Colonies who were the final arbiters on design and colour.

I mentioned earlier that Internal Revenue stamps are also permitted to be used on Bills of Exchange. Plates 43 and 44 show an example of this. The first Plate displays the front of the Bill which is for £500 and is affixed with two Internal Revenue stamps for a total of two shillings and sixpence. This is the correct tax charge for a Foreign Bill of Exchange drawn in, but payable out of, Mauritius (see Plate 7 table of rates). the strange curly manuscript used to cancel the stamps is also repeated against the drawer's name on the Bill itself.

Plate 43

Plate 43 (click to enlarge)

The second Plate shows the reverse of the bill, and demonstrates why such documents are termed "negotiable instruments" i.e. the rights for ultimate encashment against James A Fraser can be passed by one person/firm to another, usually for goods or cash payment (often discounted). In this case, the Bill has been "negotiated" twice. On the face of the Bill it was first written in favour of Fraser himself, but it can be seen that he endorsed it on to the British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd who subsequently endorsed it to Messrs Scott & Co.

However, the story does not end here, because Plate 45 displays the top page of three containing a Supreme Court Statutory Declaration. Very faintly at the top left of the document, is the impression of a Supreme Court duty stamp for three pence. These impressed duty stamps do not copy well, and are even quite difficult to see in poor light on the original document. The impression is repeated on each of the three sheets, making total duty of nine pence. I have attempted to show a typed transcription on Plate 46 as the manuscript is difficult to read and, even then, I have been unable to understand some words where I have used a question mark instead.

Briefly stated, the Declaration was made by the Court Usher, who visited James A Fraser for the purpose of getting him the honour the Bill, which he refused to do. The Declaration could subsequently be used by Scott & Co as evidence if they wished to bring a Court action against Fraser.

This whole story is an interesting insight into some aspects of commercial life at that time in history. It was difficult to know in what section of the book I should introduce this tale but, in the end, the Internal Revenue stamps won against Bills of Exchange and Impressed Duty Stamps!

Apart from the elusive 10 rupees brown and purple issue, which is actually shown on the document on Plate 51, the rest of the 1878/79 stamps are shown on Plate 47. These are the first of the new currency, when rupees and cents in decimal form replaced pounds shillings and pence. Values are expressed in a mixture of figures and words. Some shades are shown as well, but these are not so markedly obvious in the printing reproduction. However, the rather unadventurous colours of earlier stamps continue to be used.

De La Rue plate proofs comprise Plate 48, when in 1879 the values were changed to words only. Plates 49, 50, 51 and 52 show mint and used issues in use from 1879 to 1896, although not in complete sets. Colour variety is much improved, and some shades are shown in the used sections.

Plate 49

Plate 49 (click to enlarge)

A mint block of four of the 10 rupees issue with inverted watermark is displayed on Plate 50. This is not listed in Barefoot, as it normally does not include such varieties, except where it is planned or consistent.

I illustrate another Supreme Court Statutory Declaration dated 14 January 1880 which comprises four pages. I have shown the first page on Plate 53, but refrained from showing the rest. There is a transcript of the whole document on Plate 54. Although it cannot readily be seen on the scan there are impressed Court Duty stamps on each page of twelve cents. This compares with the previous document on Plate 45 of three pence per sheet, therefore reflecting the change of currency. The declaration itself is in many ways similar to the previous one where a Bill of Exchange was dishonoured, although the actual Bill itself is not part of the exhibit.

The Chief Judge's signature (A G Ellis) is shown halfway down the front page, and his initials appear also on the Internal Revenue stamp for five rupees, a third of the way down on the left hand side: in addition on the left there is a red Supreme Court wax seal. The adhesive stamp is Barefoot #46 brown and purple (1879/96 issue).

It is worth observing the procedures used to secure further supplies of revenue stamps when these were necessary. Communications between Mauritius and the United Kingdom were virtually all by ship, and therefore when the authorities wanted more supplies they had to order well in advance. Plate 55 shows a letter from the Colonial Secretary's Office in Mauritius addressed to The Crown Agents for the Colonies at Downing Street London S W, and dated 12 April 1884. As will be seen readily, this is a copy of the original letter. Although it is hand-written, the oval receipt handstamp of the Crown Agents has been roughly sketched in by hand in pen and ink, and is dated 8 May 1884 ; so it took four days less than a calendar month to reach London.

This letter, and the subsequent related documents, are all extracted from the De La Rue archive books. Attached to the letter is a copy of the actual requisition from the Mauritius General Post Office dated 7 April 1884 and shown on Plate 56. I believe that the red ink markings were added by De La Rue to complete their records. the blue twenty-five cents Internal Revenue stamp is an original also, I suspect, added by the printers.

Why are these only copies, one may ask? The final exhibit in this set of three documents gives the answer. Plate 57 shows again a copy. This time it is a letter from De La Rue to the Crown Agents returning the Requisition, and providing an estimate of the time which would be taken to produce the printed item.

So one can calculate that at least three months was needed from start to finish of the whole operation. This example also illustrates how significantly technology has advanced over the past 100 years plus, in matters of printing techniques, copying, email, air travel etc.

Continuing with the 1879/96 issues, Plate 58 dated 20 June 1885, and described as Appendix A, is an original from the De La Rue archives showing perforated plate proofs of the lower values, none of which were adopted in this form. De La Rue tended at this time to use the doubly fugitive colours of purple or green on many of their basic proofs of lower values. These colours were sometimes used on the final stamps, and are notable on some of the Great Britain stamps of about this time. These colours were sensitive to light and/or water, and many examples of bad fading exist, reducing values dramatically.

Appendix A is somewhat larger than A4 size paper, and I have had to transfer a copy of the handstamped date from the top of the sheet, which has been folded over, to he right hand side about an inch and a half from the top.

Between 1885 and 1896, many provisional surcharges on previous issues of Internal Revenue stamps. Some of the original material dates back to the Sterling period of production. This was obviously a good and economical way to use up old obsolete and/or surplus stock. One also suspects - although I have no concrete evidence of this - that thoughts had already started on the possibility of combining the use of stamps for both postage and revenue purposes: thus there was some reticence in ordering new issues. Plates 59 and 60 display some of the mint and used (with shades) overprinted stamps.

These are not so easy to find, as is supported by Barefoot's catalogue prices. However, a full listing is shown, together with all the other Internal Revenue stamps later in this section.

Proceeding to 1897, on 21 April a requisition was sent to De La Rue from the Crown Agents, together with a letter on the same page. This is shown on Plate 61. The requisition covers not only Internal Revenue items but also Bills of Exchange and Insurance stamps: the letter itself only refers to the three Internal Revenue supplies required, and specifies changed colours.

The Appendix on Plate 62 compiled by De La Rue shows these rather attractive colours, and was approved by the Crown Agents on 27 April 1897. This seems to indicate that the stamps were not produced in 1896, as indicated in the Barefoot catalogue, but in the subsequent year.
Continuing with the 1879/96 issues, I illustrate a piece cut from the De La Rue archives (cut rather badly I am afraid) showing a request from the Crown Agents for further quantities of the 50 cents and R2.50 stamps in yellow and black and violet and black respectively. These are on Plate 63 and it can be seen that both stamps are denominated "fifty cents". They are imperforate. This item is also shown in black and white in Ibbotson's book "The Postal History and Stamps of Mauritius" page 86.

Why the printers were still issuing plate proofs as late as 21 October 1898 is not clear. Whether this was instigated by them, or it came as a request from Mauritius or the Crown Agents is not known. Nevertheless, this Appendix shown on Plate 64 displays imperforate combinations of bistre, brick red and blue-green. The one Rupee value tablets are printed in red, blue or greenish-blue. None of these were adopted.

Plate 64

Plate 64 (click to enlarge)

Another example of an original die proof is shown on Plate 65, and again this was not adopted. It was originally dated by De La Rue 17 November 1898, and cancelled by the red diagonal line on 14 January 1899, when it was decided not to go ahead.
The following schedules give similar details to those shown under the Bills of Exchange section, but it is worth mentioning (although in some cases it is obvious) that the statistics shown for dates and quantities of sheets issued are incomplete. This applies not only to items where "Not known" is shown, but also it is likely to extend to other items as well, as it cannot be certain that all issues have been discovered.
But I do feel that the statistics do give some help in ascertaining the approximate rarity of one stamp as opposed to another. For example, rather extreme I admit, if one totals up the number of sheets issued of the 25 cents blue and blue cat #30 below, one arrives at a total of 6,814 sheets or 408,840 actual stamps at 60 stamps per sheet. Compare this with the 40 sheets at #47 - 2,400 stamps, and the first exceeds the second by more than 170 times!

Schedule of Internal Revenue Stamps Issued

Cat No
Stamp Value and Colour Date and Quantity of Sheets Issued
  1869/72 issue  
1 1d claret and blue 29.01.1872 : 527
1a 1d claret and blue (perf 12.5)
Note: Ibbotson states "Exceptionally, this printing comprised
sheets of 120 stamps instead of the normal 60" It could
be that the perforation change listed by Barefoot was
occasioned by the change in stamps per sheet, although
I have no evidence of this.
22.08.1876 : 148
2 2d blue and blue Not known
3 3d blue and blue 29.01.1872 : 521
4 4d blue and blue Not known
5 6d blue and blue
29.01.1872 : 1026
20.12.1873 : 1033
6 8d blue and blue Not known
7 1s brown and purple
29.01.1872 : 519
20.12.1873 : 1023
8 2s brown and purple 29.01.1872 : 259
20.12.1873 : 1025
9 3s brown and purple Not known
10 4s brown and purple Not known
11 5s brown and purple Not known
12 10s brown and purple Not known
13 £1 mauve and brown Not known
  1874 issue  
14 14 6d blue and blue Not known
15 15 1s brown and purple Not known
16 16 2s brown and purple Not known
  1878/79 issue (new currency)
Figures and words
17 5c red and blue 07.10.1877 : 243
20.03.1877 : 238
18 15c blue and blue 07.10.1877 : 404
20.03.1877 : 404
19 25c blue and blue 07.10.1877 : 1018
20.03.1878 : 986
20 50c brown and blue 07.10.1877 : 502
20.03.1878 : 494
21 1r brown and purple 07.10.1877 : 416
20.03.1878 : 398
22 1r50c brown and purple 07.10.1877 : 103
23 2r brown and purple 07.10.1877 : 74
20.03.1878 : 74
24 2r50c brown and purple 07.10.1877 : 85
20.03.1878 : 78
25 5r brown and purple 07.10.1877 : 55
20.03.1878 : 56
26 10r brown and purple 07.10.1877 : 28
20.03.1878 : 26
  1879/96 issue as above
but value in words
27 5c red and blue 27.04.1881 : 550
03.10.1884 : 250
30.07.1885 : 253
27a 5c red and blue-black 10.05.1886 : 500
16.08.1894 : 102
06.03.1895 : 1024
24.08.1900 : 200
18.09.1901 : 400
28 15c blue and blue 11.08.1890 : 96
06.10.1891 : 103
04.04.1892 : 92
16.08.1894 : 102
25.06.1896 : 72
29 15c grey and black 24.07.1897 : 204
30 25c blue and blue 06.01.1883 : 402
05.06.1884 : 817
30.07.1885 : 608
10.05.1886 : 1010
24.07.1888 : 402
23.03.1891 : 253
06.10.1891 : 410 04.04.1892 : 400
20.07.1893 : 402
16.10.1894 : 400
06.03.1895 : 510
08.05.1896 : 500
30.04.1900 : 300
18.09.1901 : 400
31 50c blue and blue 06.01.1883 : 203
03.10.1884 : 240
30.07.1885 : 410
04.04.1892 : 100
21.03.1893 : 85
30.12.1893 : 150
16.10.1894 : 305
32 50c yellow and black 25.01.1898 : 506
16.01.1899 : 172
24.08.1900 : 150
18.09.1901 : 300
33 75c green and black 06.11.1878 : 205
30.12.1893 : 102
06.03.1895 ; 102
34 1r brown and purple
Note: No details are available of when #34 was
changed to #35. The printings have therefore been
shown under one heading for both issues.
28.02.1884 : 96
35 1r brown and red 30.07.1885 : 200
10.05.1886 : 250
06.10.1891 : 92
04.04.1892 : 92
30.12.1893 : 146
16.10.1894 : 203
08.05.1896 : 122
36 1r red and black 14.07.1897 : 202
18.09.1901 : 60
37 1r25c red and black 06.11.1878 : 152
30.12.1893 : 104
38 1r50c brown and purple 30.12.1893 : 104
39 1r85c red and black 06.11.1878 : 100
30.12.1893 : 100
40 2r brown and purple 27.07.1882 : 103
03.10.1884 : 60
30.12 1893 : 104
41 2r green and black 14.07.1897 : 100
42 2r50c brown and purple Not known
43 2r50 violet and black Not known
44 3r brown and blue 16.01.1899 : 86
45 3r75c brown and black 06.11.1878 : 52
46 5r brown and purple 27.07.1882 : 86
10.05.1886 : 58
47 5r orange and purple 16.01.1899 : 18
06.08.1901 : 22
48 7r50c grey and black 06.11.1878 : 52
49 10r purple and brown 27.07.1882 : 22
11.08.1890 : 12
03.09.1895 : 17
16.01.1899 : 18
06.08.1901 : 22
  Because all of the rest of this listing comprises overprinted surcharges of Internal Revenue stamps already produced, and hopefully recorded above, I merely list catalogue numbers and descriptions for the sake of completion in showing the whole of the Barefoot categories.
  1885/94 issue
Provisional Surcharges
50 15c on 4s  
51 25c on 3d  
52 25c on 6d  
  1886/94 issue
Further Provisional Surcharges
53 5c on 75c  
54 15c on 1s  
55 15c on 1r50c  
56 25c on 6d  
57 25c on 15c  
58 25c on 75c  
58a 25c on 75c (dropped "c")  
59 25c on 1r25c  
60 25c on 1r50c  
61 25c on 1r85c  
62 25c on 1s  
63 1r on 1r25c  
64 1r on 2s  
65 1r on 3s  
66 1r on 4s  
67 1r on 5s  

Again, as with other Revenue stamps, the cancels are worthy of examination and collection. In analysing these, even more are indistinct than those on the Bills of Exchange material, although stronger magnification and assiduous application may decipher more than I have able to achieve. I have found the following firms etc:

Undoubtedly, merchants are rarer than banks. This somewhat surprises me, in view if the breadth of uses to which the Internal Revenue stamps could be put. This may be because banks - and possibly insurance companies - tended to keep their records better and longer.

Another offshoot of study could well be to research products or serviceshich, by Enactment of Parliament (either locally or in the earlier days by the U K), were exempted from any or some form of duty. One example of this is contained in the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate Act of 1951 which, inter alia, states:-

"8. Exemption from Duty
All sales of sugar made........ shall be free from stamp and other duties except stamp duty on receipts, and shall be exempt from registration."

This was obviously done to boost the declining sugar trade from the island, but there could be other items within the Mauritius or British Colonial legislation which showed special attention either to an enhanced, decreased, or exempt level of taxation.