Графични страници
PDF файл

hardwares and cutlery go chiefly to Australia, India, and the United States; and our woollen and worsted goods to the United States, India and China, Germany, British North America, and Australia. The material of war-cannon, rifles, and gunpowder-we send to any country which, unhappily for itself, may stand in need of them.

As the amount of our imports shows, we are good customers to the world at large. Having seen the kind of goods which each country takes from or sends to us, let us indicate the countries with which the greatest amount of our trade is carried on. Of the 249 millions' worth of goods which we imported last year, 84 came from our own possessions (i.e., our colonies and India; from France, 24; United States, 19; Egypt, 163; Germany, 13; China, 13; Russia, 12. Thus our own possessions send us fully one-third of our imports; France, the United States, Egypt, Germany, and China, send rather more than another third; and of the remaining 77 millions, Russia and Holland send us fully 27 per cent. Arabia and Persia figure lowest in the list. In 1862, Persia sent us £5 worth of goods, Arabia nothing; in 1863 Arabia sent us £2 worth of goods, and Persia nothing. Japan sends a million.

The same countries which sell to us the greatest amount of goods are also (though not quite in the same order) those which buy from us the most. Of the 146 millions of our exports last year, our own possessions purchased 51 millions' worth; the United States, 15; Germany, 131; France, 83; Turkey (exclusive of Egypt), nearly 7; and Holland, 63. Arabia and Persia again figure lowest in the list; in some years taking nothing at all, in others a thousand pounds or so-less than the amount of goods sent to our consuls and embassy. These two countries, doubtless, take very little from us; but the infinitesimal appearance which they make in the Board of Trade returns is greatly owing to their

want of good and accessible seaports, in consequence of which the goods which they take from us are conveyed to them overland, and figure in the imports of other countries. Our own possessions, it will be seen, are as good customers to us in the buying as in the selling. They take from us fully one-third of our exports; the United States, Germany, France, Turkey, and Holland take another third; and the remaining third is taken in various proportions by the other countries of the world. These facts bring out in a very clear light the importance to us of our colonies and possessions. The whole cost of our colonies to the British exchequer is barely three and a quarter millions sterling, of which sum about a million is absorbed by our military stations of Malta and Gibraltar; while India costs us nothing at all, and, moreover, furnishes a profitable sphere of action for our adventurous youth, who in due time bring home with them their gains. India at present buys annually 20 millions' worth of goods from us, and Australia 12.

We are the great carriers of the world. Thirty thousand ships sailing under the flag, or bearing the cargoes of England, says Mr Cobden, are ever on the seas, going and coming from all parts of the globe. The once solitary and unnavigated surface of ocean is now whitened with the sails and tossed by the paddles of countless vessels. Not promiscuously do these whitewinged ships dot the expanse of ocean, but following and crossing and meeting one another on regular highways, which men have found, not made, on the deep. We make roads with vast labour on land,we find them made for us at sea, in the great currents which wind through the deep, and the steadyblowing winds which traverse in similar fashion the realms of air. From the Thames, the Mersey, the Tyne, the Humber, and the Clyde, argosies and commercial armadas are ever leaving, and jostle in our es

tuaries with similar squadrons making to port.* The shores of these estuaries, lined with miles of docks and building-yards, ring with the clang of hammers; and vast ribs of wood and iron, curving upwards from still vaster keels, show where leviathan vessels are being got ready for their adventurous career. As we watch the launch of these vessels,―still more as we see them setting off, with full-spread sails or smoking funnels, for all parts of the world to China or the Cape, to the St Lawrence or La Plata, to the North Sea or the Mexican Gulf, or to double the wintry promontory of Cape Horn on their way to the guano islands of Peru or the golden shores of California,—we think of icebergs and sunken reefs, of typhoons and tornadoes, as well as of fair winds and sunny seas. All the year round, a ceaseless stream of ocean-traffic is flowing to and from our shores. Last year 90,310 vessels with cargoes entered or left our ports, carrying on the foreign trade of the country.+ Of this shipping, British and colonial vessels exceeded the foreign in number by one-fourth, and in tonnage (our ships being a half larger) by nearly two to one.

In regard to the amount of British shipping, we find accurate information in the official register. In the home trade, employed on our coasts in conveying goods and passengers from port to port, we have 11,000 sailing vessels, averaging 75 tons burden each, and employing 40,000 men; besides 450 steam-vessels, averaging 240 tons burden each, and employing 7000 men. Engaged partly in home and partly in foreign trade,

we have 1500 sailing vessels, averaging 160 tons each, and employing 10,000 men;" besides 90 steamers, averaging 330 tons burden, and employing 1700 men. In the purely foreign trade we have upwards of 7000 sailing vessels, averaging 430 tons each, and employing 100,000 men; also upwards of 500 steamships, of the average burden of 645 tons, and employing 20,000 men. Thus, in our home and foreign trade, taken together, we have fully 20,000 ships, with a tonnage of 4 millions, and employing 175,000 men. Both classes of our ships, both steam and sailing, are regularly increasing in numbers, but much the greater ratio of increase is in the number of steamers. In both kinds of vessels, too, there is a steady increase in size. Comparing the present amount of our shipping with what it was in 1850, we find that we have eleven per cent more ships, forty-four per cent more tonnage, and fifteen per cent more men Moreover, a great economy has of late been effected in the working of the vessels. Since 1850, there has been a reduction of one-fifth in the number of men required for a certain amount of tonnage; so that our 175,000 seamen now work an amount of shipping which would have required 220,000 men in 1850.

The last feature of our trade which remains to be noticed is the traffic in the precious metals. It is a curious, and at first sight a puzzling one. It is so, at least, to those who fancy that the receipt or export of the precious metals is an indication of a country's gains or losses. Gold and silver in large quantities are constantly pouring into this country, and flying off again. The native

*The amount of the export trade from the twelve chief ports of the United Kingdom in 1862 was as follows:-Liverpool, £50,297,135; London, £31,523,812; Hull, £11,916,375; Glasgow and Greenock, £6,096,228; Southampton, £3,379,503; Newcastle, £1,968,118; Leith, 1,298,099; Bristol, £298,260; Cork, £132,130; Dublin, £48,777; Belfast, £4188.

This statement shows clearly the vast amount of shipping employed in our trade; but it is not a guide to the number of separate ships employed-seeing that many of them make double or treble voyages, and are entered anew each time.

The home trade" includes our own coasts, together with the ports between Brest and the mouth of the Elbe.

countries of the precious metals, Australia, Mexico, and California (through the United States), send us a large portion of their annual produce; and we send it off again, chiefly to Turkey, Egypt, and India. There is also a constant flux and reflux of the precious metals between England and the other countries of Europe, especially between this country and France. During the last five years we got 18 millions of gold and silver from France, and we sent thither nearly 40 millions. But of the balance of 22 millions thus apparently acquired by France, a considerable portion simply took its way through that country, via Marseilles, to the East. No less than 140 millions sterling of the precious metals were imported into England during the last five years, and 138 millions were exported; so that of the enormous quantity which we received, only two and a half millions remained with us. How was this? What became of the 138 millions which no sooner reached our shores than it went off again? We made the best possible use of it. We sent it abroad chiefly to purchase materials for our industry; and the goods manufactured from these materials we in turn sent abroad, selling them to other countries. Thus we send away our gold in order that we may make a profit on the materials which the gold purchases. It is a fair exchange. The foreign country gets the value of its goods in gold, and we get the value of our gold in goods. But these goods, by being manufactured and re-exported, not only give employment to our people, but enable us to make a profit which we could not do by keeping the gold.

There are some countries which export more goods and less bullion than they import; and there is another class of countries which regularly export less goods and more bullion than they import. India is an example of the one class,—the gold and silver-producing countries, Australia, California, and Mexico,

in the one the other.

of the other. The goods which we get from the former are taken by the latter; the bullion which we get from the latter is taken by the former. Each exports what it can best spare; and, dealing with both, we pay the one by sending to it the produce of the other. A drain of gold upon any country may be occasioned simply by a change in the channels of trade. For example, as long as we drew our cotton supplies from the United States, gold was hardly needed in the trade, because the United States took from us other goods of equal value; whereas now, when we get our cotton from India, Egypt, and other countries which take less goods from us than we buy from them, we have to pay away a very large amount of bullion every year. Yet there is not a loss case any more than in The influx or efflux of bullion is no sign of a country's gain or loss. Australia is constantly sending away her gold, and is growing rich by the process. Her whole prosperity depends on her parting with the gold; it would be the worst evil that could befall her if she were compelled to keep it. The 'Economist,' as we have said, reckons the annual savings of the United Kingdom at the astounding sum of £130,000,000. What is there in the flow of bullion to show for this? In one year (if the 'Economist' be correct) the capital of the country increases by a sum which is nearly equal to the whole amount of the precious metals which came to our shores during the last five years,yet of that amount all that remained with us was only two millions and a half! If the import and accumulation of the precious metals were a test of national progress in wealth, then India should be making greater gains every year than England and all Europe put together. The ebb and flow of the precious metals, therefore, is no indication whatever of the amount of a nation's gains or losses. It is an event which indicates nothing but itself,-namely, that payments in bullion are being

made and nothing can be predicated therefrom as to the relative condition of the sender or receiver.

An influx of bullion may be equally a sign of gain and a sign of indebtedness. Suppose the Government of any country-say Russiaraises a foreign loan of ten or twenty millions; then to that extent, or nearly so, the precious metals are drawn from other countries and poured into Russia. Is that any sign that Russia is increasing in wealth, or that the balance of trade is in her favour? No, certainly: it is a sign of neither of these things. The indebtedness of Russia is only increased thereby. Or again, of the immense savings which we make annually, suppose our capitalists resolve to devote ten or twenty millions sterling to the construction of railways, or suchlike enterprises, in foreign countries, which will yield a good profit. Thereupon the precious metals leave our shores in great quantity; but are we losers thereby ? Would the money be sent abroad if it were not to get larger profits than the senders can get at home?-and does not the annual interest, or dividends, on the sums thus invested abroad come back to us regularly, to increase the profits or income of our people? Finally, the coming and going of the precious metals may be a sign neither of gain nor of loss, but simply of the amount of trade which a country is carrying on. The precious metals pass through this country as through a sieve and the immense quantities that thus come and go are simply one of the consequences of our extensive trade. To a large extent our merchants act as intermediaries between countries which have little commercial relation with one another. For example, Australian and Mexican merchants order goods from China or India, between which countries and their own there is little or no direct trade, and consequently no bills of exchange in which payment can be made; moreover, gold is not money in


China, and hardly yet is it a legal tender in India. Therefore these Australian and Mexican merchants give the China or Indian exporters bills upon some wellknown firm in London, and send bullion to London to meet these bills when due. The exporters on their part at once get these bills discounted at their banks in Calcutta or Shanghai, where the produce is placed to their account; and the bills themselves are sent by post to London to the parties on whom they are drawn, and who thereupon have to make payment. Now, as these bills on London are always in excess of our bills on India and China, the balance has to be sent out in the precious metals: and thus the bullion which comes to us from the gold and silver producing countries for the most part simply rests here as at an entrepôt, and is quickly sent off to the East. Only, the gold must first be exchanged for silver in Europe, as it is silver only that is current money in India and China. It is only in making such payments that the precious metals are of any use to trade. Their use is to effect purchases or payments which cannot be accomplished by the ordinary means of bills of exchange. such cases only are the precious metals needed. Indeed, the use of the precious metals is even more restricted than this. When there is a want of bills of exchange, goods may be sent abroad instead alike of bills and of gold. These goods are then sold in the foreign market, and with the proceeds the English merchant pays his foreign creditor, without a single sovereign having left this country. Instead of sending specie from this country, he buys it abroad with goods,-paying his creditor out of the stock of specie held in the creditor's own country. Gold is sent abroad only when it suits the interests of the sender to do so. Hence, to place restrictions on the export of gold, is simply to compel our traders to send goods at a bad bargain when they could


send gold at a good one. It is an interference with the liberty of trade. It is an antiquated system, and yet it is the principle which underlies almost all the operations of the Bank of England. For example, in November, the Bank refused to discount the bills of cotton merchants simply because the proceeds of these bills were meant to be sent abroad in the shape of specie.

The movements of gold are like those of a cheque which is never cancelled. The man to whom gold is paid can make no profit by keeping; he passes it on to another, who for the same reason acts likewise, and so on,—the gold sufficing to make payments, as a cheque does, and, like a cheque, having no other use. If a man pays another with a bill of exchange, the receiver may keep it for several months, for it is equivalent to an interestbearing security; but no one keeps gold or cheques, for they are sterile. Gold is profitless unless it circulate: to circulate is its grand use and its normal habit. And as it circulates, flitting from country to country, making payments or purchases, and circling back again, a momentary ebb of the precious metal may occur in one country while a plethora is produced in another. But this is merely transitory—a state of unstable equilibrium which is over in a few weeks' time. Why, then, should these temporary ebbs of gold put us in a flutter? And yet, when they occur, we actually allow them to shake down our whole fabrics of trade and industry.

Any merchant can get these precious metals, whether for export or import, in the same way as he gets cotton or iron. He may order

gold from Australia just as he orders cotton from India. Or, with less trouble, he can buy bills on any place he likes, and order the proceeds of the bills to be sent home to him in specie: and he will only have to pay freightage on this specie the same as he pays it on other commodities. So much elaborate nonsense is talked on this subject and on "the exchanges" that one is apt to think that the precious metals ought to be styled the mysterious metals.” Yet there is no mystery either in their influence or their movements. They can be dealt in like other commodities-bought and sold in the same way as sugar, soap, or tea.

[ocr errors]

The statistics of our trade which have now been passed in review, exhibit, in a startling manner, our dependence upon other countries. We are dependent upon them alike for food, for clothing, and for employment. Our dependence for clothing may seem a small matter, though it is not; but our dependence for food and employment is unquestionably a very serious affair. If Mr Caird is right in estimating the consumption of our people at twenty million quarters of wheat, then, during the last four years (when the average annual importation has exceeded twelve million quarters) eighteen millions of our population-three-fifths of the nation-have been dependent for grain-food upon foreign countries. But even taking the most favourable estimate that can be formed, it appears, on the average of years, that not less than one-third of our population is dependent upon grain-supplies from abroad.* is irrespective of the nine millions'


* As, unfortunately, there are no agricultural returns for England and Scotland, a reasonable conjecture is the only approximation to correctness which can be made in estimating the amount of wheat consumed by our people. Twenty years ago it was assumed that, on an average, one quarter of wheat was consumed per head. This would give a total consumption of 30 million quarters. Mr Caird estimates it at only two-thirds of that amount. The truth may lie between these different estimates. There can be no doubt that wheat bread is more in use by the lower classes than it formerly was; the consumption of wheat in manufactures in the

« ПредишнаНапред »