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newspapers, and other periodical publications, minutely pointing out its great advantages.
It would not be easy to find another instance of an intercourse with so remote a country, which so amply rewards the activity of the merchant and the seaman, as this trade with China, and the Americans possess such great advantages above the English, that well-informed persons do not hesitate to prognosticate, that the latter will not be able, in the long run, to maintain the competition with the former, but will be, in the end, obliged entirely to abandon to them the trade of the Chinese seas. If this opinion, be just, it must be confessed that a great danger threatens the British commerce; a very productive source of gain would be lost-a great many seamen in Great Britain would be thrown out of employ. ment—and even the commerce with the European continent could not but decrease, since Europe would have no occasion to draw from Great Britain its supplies of Chinese produce, which it would receive directly, and upon more advantageous terms from the Americans.
On the other hand, the vast advantages which the American republic may derive, and most certainly will derive, from an active intercourse with the Chinese empire, are almost incalculable. Considered merely as an excellent school for the marine, it is of the highest importance to a state whose external security wholly depends on a numerous and formidable navy. The goods which find a ready sale must partly be fetched from very remote countries, and the dangers and privations with which the seaman has to contend, in seas hitherto but little frequented, and on unknown coasts, call forth all his energies, enrich him with useful experience, and increase his dexterity. Thus a large number of sailors may be kept in constant employ, and the prospect will not only excite in the natives, particularly the inhabitants of the sea-coast of America, a continually increasing propensity to a sea-faring life, but also attract crowds of able seamen from foreign countries, es. pecially from the British islands, who will settle with their families in America, and promote the population, the increase of which is so favourable an object with the American government. In the country itself a new source of gain will be opened at the same time, to thousands of industrious persons; the spirit of speculation will receive a new impulse, and numerous merchants, even from England itself, will settle in America, in order to share in so promising a prospect of gain, and to acquire riches in a short time. The nations of Europe are too much accustomed to the use of many Chinese productions easily to renounce them, and the possession of the trade with China will therefore give the Americans an opportunity for a most advantageous commercial intercourse with Europe, and to double their gains.
Not only have the Americans a much shorter way to China than the English and the other nations of Europe, but they are able to
obtain the produce and merchandise of that empire on much more favourable terms. The Europeans are obliged to purchase all they want of the Chinese for the most part with ready money, or silver bars, and China is therefore considered by Europe, as the country to which the precious metals chiefly flow, so that the gold and silver of Mexico and Peru go again from Europe to Asia, where they are swallowed up by a gulf from which they do not easily return. The Americans on the contrary, are not obliged to carry on the Chinese trade with the precious metals: they carry to the Chinese market either various articles of their own produce, which are highly esteemed there, or others which they have obtained in exchange for them; and are thus able to employ for other purposes, the money which they must otherwise take to Asia. If the trade which Europe carries on with China may be called in the highest degree passive, that of the United States is very far from being so.
China is an immense market, which now offers itself to the activity of the American merchant; the more this trade increases, the more persons it will employ; and the gain which it gives is so very great, that even on account of this single branch of American commerce, the speculative merchant is perhaps no where in a situation so favourable for becoming soon and easily rich, as in the United States. By this commerce, which is capable of being greatly extended, and has numerous concomitant advantages, America will enrich itself more and more, at the expense of Great Britain; and the turn thus given to a main branch of the commerce of the world, cannot but be very advantageous to the rest of Europe.
An article that is especially in request, in the Chinese provinces from Canton to Pekin, and to the extreme frontiers of Chinese Tartary, is fine furs. Both the Chinese and Mantchews are eager to possess them, and the more distinguished and wealthy the Mandarins, the richer and finer must be the furs which they require for their oriental dress. This article of trade can therefore never fail of a certain sale in that vast and populous empire; for the use of it is inconceivably extensive, and the wearing of furs, not merely a luxury, but a habit, which has rendered them indis, pensably necessary. But the Americans by their almost exclusive trade with the northwest coast, and their great continent extending from California to the North Pole, possesses an inexhaustible source from which to supply the Chinese market with this favorite article, and the competition which they have to fear from other nations, particularly the English and the Russians, cannot do them any injury worth mentioning. The Americans, therefore, seem to be destined by nature to be the chief factors in this trade with China, which is inconceivably profitable, and must in time monopolize it entirely; as the period is certainly not remote, when the population of the United States, taking its direction from east to west, will extend to the shores of the great South sea, and their
ships be then able to navigate directly from thence to the Pacific ocean.
On the north-west coasts of America, above California, which are but thinly inhabited by wild tribes, there are sea otters, black, dark brown, and white bears, wolves, foxes, beavers, deer, racoons, white American lynxes, or great wild cats, ermines, seals, rabbits, martins, and other wild animals, whose fur is more or less beautiful and precious, in such abundance, that the natives can procure them with little trouble, and in their uncivilised state, willingly exchange them for the most insignificant trifles. The American ships bring to these savages, pieces of iron, nails, knives, chisels, shovels, buttons of copper, and of coloured glass, little looking glasses, tobacco, brandy, powder, arms, coarse cotton, and woollen goods, old clothes, and all kinds of toys which look showy, but are of no value. Most of these things are purchased by the American merchants at very low prices, and the vessels which sail with cargoes of this kind from the American ports, may be sure of obtaining in exchange the richest cargoes of furs and skins. With these they proceed directly from the north-west coast of America to China, and exchange their goods for Chinese produce with which they return, always with great gain, to the United States.
It is evident how greatly America must gain by this simple mode of intercourse, which does not even require a large capital not to mention other advantages attending it. First the merchant gains in the purchase of trifles of little worth, which are agreeable and useful to the savages, and the manufactory of which employs many hands and promotes internal industry. For goods, the purchase of which requires but a small capital, there is an opportunity of procuring articles which are of great value in a remote and extensive empire, and then exchanging them for other articles which may be disposed of with great profit both in America and Europe. The trade may be carried on too, in small vessels, of 100 or 150 tons burden, the equipment of which is not expensive, (America being so rich in materials for ship building,) and which require but a few sailors to man them; so that an American merchant may carry on so profitable a trade with a very moderate capital. Even those who have no capital, may carry it on upon credit, since the expense of the articles to be provided for bartering is so very small, that means are easily found to obtain them. If one will share the profit with the ship owner and the captain, it is not necessary to advance any money, and profit may be made without the smallest risk. A few cannon and muskets, are sufficient on board a ship that sails to the north-west coast of America, as a defence, in case of need, against the natives; and small vessels are even better than larger ones, because they can sail up the creeks. If several vessels sail at once on such an enterprise, which in case of need can assist each other there is not the least danger.
The north-west coast is now so well known to the enterprising and experienced sailors of the United States, that they do not consider a voyage to it as more important and dangerous than one to Europe, or even to the West Indies. The smallest American vessels, brigs, and even schooners under a hundred tons burden, sails thither without any apprehension. They have no need of spending a long time after their arrival, to procure the necessary cargo of more or less valuable skins and furs; in China they have not long to wait to exchange their cargoes for the productions of the country, and it may be calculated, that unless some extraordinary accident happens, the return cargo gives a profit of from three hundred to five hundred per cent. including the articles for barter, provisions, pay of the sailors, and other expenses.
This trade, which so amply rewards the activity and enterprise of the merchants and mariners, continues to engage the attention of more and more persons in almost all the American sea-ports. Many merchants at Boston and Salem in New England, at Bristol, in Rhode Island, at New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Charlestown, &c. have thus attained great wealth, in a few years, and the more intimate and various the relations with China become the greater advantages does it promise in future. The friendly footing on which the Americans are with the natives of Nootka or King George's Sound, and of many other parts of the north-west coast, of the New World, so fully secures to them this rich fur trade, the basis of the intercourse with China, that they may be said to have it entirely in their own hands, and to have no rival to fear.
In this trade to the north-west coast the British merchant is greatly impeded by the East India Company, which possesses the exclusive privilege of trading with China. With the active spirit of the Americans, the exportation from the United States to the north-west coast, will continue to increase, and they must bear away the prize, as their principal rivals cannot carry on the trade with the same advantages as they can. Hence the American trade with China will become more active and extensive, while that of Great Britain will continually decline. The price of sea-otter skins is now so high at Macao and Canton, that £ 20 sterling are often paid for a single skin: many an American sailor brings home a profit of several thousand dollars for his own share; we may judge then, what must be the gain of the American merchant.
The valuable and beautiful furs, which the north-west coast of America supplies in such great abundance, are not the only articles which the Americans furnish the Chinese with. They are in want of many other things with which they are furnished from the United States, and thus the ties formed by commerce between China and America, must become more firm and durable. Above all, a remarkable production deserves to be mentioned here, which grows in America itself, and is almost peculiar to the United States; a production which is almost wholly unknown in Europe,
but has been in use in China from time immemorial, and is held there in extraordinary esteem. This is the root Panax quinquefolia, or ginseng. The Chinese writers call this plant a precious gift of nature, sweeter than honey and the honey-comb, more valuable than fine gold, and jewels, and pearls, a glorious gift of hea. ven, bestowed by the gods upon mortals for their happiness, and their enjoyment on earth. Placed on a par with the philosopher's stone, it is called the food of immortality, and it passes among the priests and physicians for a universal remedy, wholesome for all weaknesses of the frail body, applicable to all diseases; nay, it is even said to prolong life, invigorating the nerves, strengthening the understanding, cheering the soul, soothing the mind, taming the wild passions, and bestowing inexhaustible delights upon our mortal existence.
The reigning dynasty of the Mantchews, in China, were proud that nature produced this wonderful root, with such magical powers, in their original country; for it was found in Chinese Mogul Tartary; but sparingly scattered in certain places and single districts. Here it was considered as one of the regalia of the crown, only the emperor had the right to have it gathered, and guards were posted at the places where it grew, that no one might presume to take openly, or by stealth, what was for the emperor alone. How fortunate was it for the Americans that they accidentally discovered, not very long ago, that this root, so highly esteemed in China, and paid for there with its weight in gold, which it had been always supposed was only to be found in Tartary, as the Chinese had always boasted, was indigenous in the United States, and might be there collected in far greater abundance than in China, hitherto the only country. where it was known to grow.
It grows in the United States, in the whole of the immense tract from the Canadian Lakes to Georgia: is found even in the northern states of New York and Pennsylvania, and flourishes in Virginia and the two Carolinas. Nature has spread it here, particularly in the tract between the Alleghany mountains and the sea, and it thrives especially where the mountains take a southwesterly direction. It loves a fertile soil and cool shady spots on the dechvity of the mountains.
While Europe produces nothing which it can offer to the Chinese in exchange for their productions, America possesses in this remarkable plant an article peculiarly its own, which is, above all others, proper for the trade with China.
Many of your readers may, perhaps, be curious to be better acquainted with a plant so esteemed by the great Chinese Mandarins, and in the Harems. The stalk of this plant, which attains the height of about a foot from the ground, is of a dark red. It is adorned with elliptical leaves, three of which always grow together, and each of which is again divided into five little leaves. On account of the symbolical meaning attached to the numbers three