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COMMERCIAL REPORT.-Oct. 12th 1819.
Sugar. The sugar market, since our last, has, generally speaking, been dull and depressed. The prices daily gave way about the period of our last publication. Since the beginning of this month, the market has been more firm ; but with this exception, that the holders are not so much inclined to press sales, there is no appearance of any favourable turn in the market for the raw article. In refined goods, the holders seem anxious to press sales; and the prices have consequently declined. The price of sugar is now sunk so low, that the consequences must be severely felt by the West India agriculturist, and through them it must again reach the British merchant, consignees, or proprietors, resident in Britain. Those persons who have been making large advances to speculators in West India properties, calculating the value of these from the late high prices of sugar, must be led into difficulty and embarrassment. The consequence of all this will fall heavy upon many branches of our internal trade, particularly iron founderies and manufactories, where large orders have for some time been executed for constructing improved machinery, to lessen labour in the colonies, and improve the works and properties situate in them, and connected with the production of sugar. These, if sugar continue at the present prices, must be greatly curtailed, if not for a time abandoned. Let us hope, however, that the evil will be but of short duration.—Coffee. The Coffee market continues to fluctuate greatly. It is scarcely possible to state, with any degree of precision, its state or the future prospects. It altogether depends upon the continental demand; and the situation of most countries is such, that the prospect is not very cheering. Our remarks for last month, on this branch of business, may generally be applied to this. The quantity at market is considerable, and the consumpt of this country, at all times comparatively trifling, must be lessened not increased.—Cotion. The Cotton market, which was steady, suffered some depression, but it has since recovered a little, and the demand is considerable at an advance in price. The quantity brought into the country is very great ; but at Liverpool, the chief port of importation, it is a few thousand packages less than at the same period of last year. The cotton-spinners seem actively employed, and their exports to the Continent are making up in some measure for the languid and lessened demand in this country for internal supply. From the general aspect of commercial affairs, and from the supply at market, no great or immediate
advance in Cotton can be contemplated. It will be found the utmost, for some time, if the market becomes lively and at a small advance.-Corn. Grain of all kinds is lower, and declining in prices. The abundant harvest is concluded, and all in excellent order. Plenty must fill the land for the approach.
ing season.— Tobacco. There is an iinprovement in price, and a considerable demand for this article both for the home and foreign markets.mum. Jamaica Rum is nominal, and without any improvement in price. Leeward Island is inquired after at a trifle in advance. Brandy rather declines, and in Geneva there is nothing doing. The Wine market is in a state of complete stagnation. The other articles of commerce require no other notice than our quotations.
Still we are unable to announce any improvement in our commercial affairs. The distress continues, and is become most severe ; nor is there the smallest prospect of any im. mediate termination to the state of things. Depressed as is our trade, that of every other country is worse ; and the accounts from those foreign markets on which our commerce chiefly depends, is gloomy and distressing indeed. By the immense extension of our manufactures we have indeed overlooked almost every market, but this will be found, upon a careful review and consideration of the subject, to proceed more from the inability of these nations, owing to recent political events and convulsions, to find the means of trade, than that their wants have been over-supplied. As these recover their former vigour, so will their demands augment and our trade with them increase. A considerable portion of our internal trade has no doubt been severely injured, and overdone by men without capital rushing heedlessly into the market. The facility with which banks supplied funds, and length of time at which they discounted bills, has been stated as the chief, and, in some instances, as the only cause of this. This we think an unfair statement, and an erroneous conclusion. The evil appears to us to proceed entirely from the mercbant and trader, and the commercial rivalry amongst themselves. It is the easy way in which credit is indiscriminately granted to individuals, and the long periods to which it is extended, that is the root of the evil complained of, and which alone brings speculators without capital into the market. Swarms of agents are also planted in, and scattered over the country, whose object is to make sales, and cram every warehouse and shop full of goods, heedless of the persons into whose hands these are put, the purposes to which they apply these, and careless of the consequences.
If such men cannot beat a brother out of the market by lower prices, he accomplishes his object by lengthening the credit, a temptation few have the firmness to resist. To crush a rising but poorer and industrious rival in business, persons of large capital lengthen their credits to a time beyond their rival's means, and sell at a price no man can afford who wishes to continue in business. This is a blind policy, though frequently pursued, and must always and inevitably, in times of general commercial distress, return with a fourfold force on the head of those who had encouraged and adopted it. The speculator may and must fall first-he loses nothing because he had nothing to lose. But the loss, whatever it is, that arises from times of commercial distress, must (commence where it willy fall ultimately and most severely on those who have means and capital to lose. It is their business to encourage, not discour. age their poorer but industrious brother, and to unite with him in reducing their credits to drive the speculators without capital out of the market, or rather, by adopting such a line of policy, to prevent him from ever getting into it. It is not, therefore, banks, but mer. chants themselves who are to blame, and who occasion the very evils they complain of. It is the trade of bankers to discount bills, and they will do so as far as their means or their judgment leads them, and in any manner they please ; nor has any one any right 60 interfere or find fault with them for so doing. None will deny that these bankers possess means of knowing the circumstances of individuals with whom they wish to do business, which few if any merchants can attain to. They will not lend their funds to any with whom they think they are insecure, and we will venture to assert, that it is a small portion, indeed, of long dated, or, indeed, of any dated bills, which remain in their hands unpaid, which belonged to the real speculator, or men without any capital. Let the mercantile interest, and particularly the real capitalist, reduce their credit from twelve to three months, and then banks will have none of those long dated bills to discount that are complained of, while one good, and a most important good, will result to both, but particularly to the merchant, that, when any of his correspondents fail in business (as must in all commercial countries and concerns sometimes be the case) he will have the satisfaction to find, that in place of having £1000 locked up or lost at the most inconvenient moments, he would only have £1000; and further, that this sum being so much reduced in value, will also stand upon a safer footing, and where he could not get four shillings per pound in a debt of £1000, he would almost, to a certainty, get three times, if not four times, the amount out of each pound in his debt of £1000.
Under these circumstances, those commercial convulsions which now so frequently take place, and to such alarming extents as to cover whole districts of country with grief, misery, and dismay, could never take place to the extent they now do, while the banker might issue his funds more freely, because his risk was lessened in a mighty degree.
Another evil is, the system of consigning goods to foreign markets, without any regard to quantity or quality, either by men who are not regular and established merchants, or by or to the orders of individuals who stand in the same state. The foreign merchant adopts the same system, and crams every house and every hand with the productions of his country, to an extent at once sufficient for the consumpt of years. The consequence
is, in every case, that the merchant of capital and standing must either abandon his business or lose his capital. He chooses the former, and leaves swift ruin to overtake his injudicious opponents, though he too suffers in a considerable degree. But it may be said, that such competition is for the benefit of a country and its population, by bringing all productions and commodities into the market at a cheaper rate. If it brings these, however, at a price lower than either the grower, manufacturer, or merchant can afford, it must ultimately prove a general evil, not a general good. It requires no arguments to establish this. Every day's experience confirms it. The stream that overflows its banks, in expending its violence, produces mischief, not good, and the torrents which have swelled it, sweep away, not fertilize the soil.
These things we have here pointed out—and others of a similar nature, which we have în former Numbers pointed out, and above all, the system of large capitalists leaving their business, which had made them, and rushing, like the hurricane, into every market, and every land, with goods and wares of all descriptions, in such abundance as to overwhelm
every market alike, whether the right or the wrong--and other individuals striving to monopolise any branch of business in a commercial country like this--these things must always be productive of indescribable loss and distress, and must either be conducted upon more judicious and prudent principles, or altogether abandoned, or the ruin they occasion will frequently occur. Instead of individuals who have made princely fortunes in business retiring from it, and laying the field open to industry like what theirs had been-laying out their wealth on fixed property, by which independence and repose would be secured_by which they would withdraw and find a healthful employment to a part of our superabundant population, instead pursuing a system which crowds them to an already overcrowded mart for their labour-instead of doing this, we daily see men madly risking the labours of a prosperous life upon hazardous speculations, the extent of which alone must render them unprofitable, were none of those vicissitudes in human affairs to come in the way, which render their best laid plans abortive, and turn their most sanguine prospects of success into scenes of general ruin and distress.
But it will be said, that if you withdraw the large capitals from our trade, it must cramp it, and give foreigners a decided advantage over us. Our answer is not to withdraw the capital, but the superabundant portions of it--we want to see that laid out in agricultural improveinents where it would be permanent, and increase the great capital of the nation, and not go, as it often does by the measures we have mentioned, into the pockets of foreigners-We want not to see our capital or the strength of our population expended in supplying the wants of foreign nations-wants which vary as fashion, fancy, or caprice point out. Leave the trade of the country to moderate capitals, activity, industry, honour, and the credit which must be procured by these both at home and abroad, and these things will, in a judicious manner, supply every channel of trade with streams sufficient to fill but not to overflow their fertile banks. The capital we would wish to see withdrawn is not lost. It lends its aid to honest industry in a surer and more beneficial manner, and it creates an additional internal consumpt for all those productions our skill and our industry may produce.
Instead of looking to remedies that are near at hand and within our power, we look only for relief to those resources which are beyond our reach, and which are also perfectly ideal. The emancipation of South America is looked to, and hailed as an event which is to relieve our commerce from embarrassment. This is a bubble which, if followed, will burst to the ruin of thousands. South America does not contain more than eight millions of inhabitants. More than a half of these are savages, or but a degree removed from that state. The majority of the remainder are naturally, from the climate they inhabit, indolent and slothful, and cannot and will not exert themselves in a manner that an active and beneficial commerce requires. It is not difficult to see how limited the field of commerce must be in such a country as this, and how quickly the market must be overstocked. Those who refuse to see and consider this matter, may lay their account to pay for their rashness.
Amongst the various portions of this globe which we have pointed out as openings for our trade, there is one which can be easily reached, and yet it has hitherto been altogether overlooked, or not inquired after with the judgment its importance deserves. We mean the interior of Africa. There cannot remain a doubt but there is an immense population comparatively removed from the savage state, to which we might, without much difficulty, find an easy access. The countries containing this population abound with many lucrative articles of trade, and particularly gold dust. Along the banks of the Niger, and his numerous tributary and mighty streams, there is undoubtedly a country comparatively cultivated, and a population probably exceeding fifty millions, who are either willing or who could be soon led to be willing to engage in lawful trade. That the Niger communicates with the Atlantic ocean there is no longer any reason to doubt. The absurd hypothesis that it terminates in a lake amidst burning sands, or that, lessened by the evaporation in the torrid regions, it runs on to augment the Egyptian Nile, can no longer be maintained. All the information we receive worthy of credit shews the reverse. The Gulph of Guinea is the outlet of the Niger, and the Bight of Benin or Biafra, the point
where its central mouths disembogue. From the Lagos River inclusive, to the Rio de
Gaboon, a distance of about six hundred miles, twenty rivers (independent of numerous | creeks or inlets, perhaps arms of the others) of surprising magnitude, open into the deep.
These at their mouths are from ten to twenty miles in breadth, of rapid currents and of great depth. The Rio Lagos, the Rio de Formosa, Bonny River, Old Calabar River, New Calabar River, Cross River, Cameroon's River, Malemba River, and the Rio de Gaboon, are all of them streams of this surprising magnitude. A branch of the Rio de Formosa has been navigated ninety miles from the sea by large vessels, and there found two miles broad. The Lagos River, at a considerable distance from the ocean, is so broad, that in the middle of the stream, the banks, crowned with lofty trees, cannot be
It flows from the northward, and from that to north east all the others come. The land around their mouths is all alluvial. At Benin it is level, and stones are unknown. The whole coast in the distance we have mentioned is mud. These rivers, according to all accounts, communicate with each other, by branches at a distance from the sea. Amorgst these is the outlet of the Niger, if the whole are not found to be outlets belong. ing to that mighty stream. The natives round the Rio de Gaboon maintain, that all the rivers in that part of the world flow from the Wola, a mighty stream, described by them as coming from the northward and eastward, the direction in which the Niger must flow. The length of the parent stream of the Niger, even at this outlet, must be near three thousand miles. Bearing along all the waters of Central Africa, from the sources of the Senegal to the sources of the Nile, and on the north east, from the kingdom of Bernow; the Niger must be swelled to a magnitude inferior only to the Maranow. Accordingly
, we find, from tolerably good information, that this is the case. At the ferry, in the direct road from Ashantee to Bernow, about five hundred or six hundred miles below 'Tombuctoo, and before it is joined by any of the mighty branches from the eastward, it is represented as extremely rapid, and about five miles broad. At Wassanah, where it turns to the south, the breadth is so great, that the shore cannot be seen from the opposite bank. Such a river cannot sink in the sands, even were such to be found in that quarter
, which all recent accounts lead us to disbelieve. The navigation of the Niger must lay open the whole of Central Africa, by far the most interesting part of the southern portions of that vast continent. It is surprising that while expedition after expedition is sent from the west and the north, to travel three thousand miles through countries barbarous and rude-barren deserts, and barbarians hostile to the Christian name, that no attempt has been made to penetrate into the interior of Africa or the Niger, by means of these rivers we have mentioned—from whose outlets to the termination of the Niger (if it tera minates, as has long been supposed, in a lake) the distance cannot exceed three hundred miles, and through countries in every respect easier and safer to travel in than by any the hitherto attempted routes. This is the more extraordinary, as numerous European ships frequent these rivers. Since the abolition of the slave trade by this country, several ships from Liverpool seek these rivers for the purpose of honest commerce. A small reward to any of them would soon explore the Niger, and without any loss of time to them, because to arrange for and procure a cargo in Africa takes a considerable time, during which they might sail up these rivers and trace out the parent stream, from whence we firmly believe most if not all of them flow.
Such an expedition, we are confident, would, in a few weeks, lay open the whole interior of Africa --develope the greatest field of geographical knowledge, which has hitherto remained hidden on the face of this globe-confer immortal honour on the name of Britain--render the greatest service to Africa ever conferred upon her by the hand of man—and, by degrees, open up a field for our commerce, of an extent at present incalculably great.