Page images
PDF
EPUB

own tender notes, the price at which any loan could be negotiated would always have reference to the obtainability of legal tender notes; and, therefore government has no option but to issue legal tender notes for the loans it would negotiate. The only question is, whether the notes shall be funded by the public day by day, or in large masses by stock contractors. No doubt, persons who would become contractors for new loans, would advise the last named mode of raising funds, in preference to an augmented issue of legal tender notes with such an increased inducement to fund them, as shall be found practically efficacious. The alterpative to be selected, is, of course, a matter of practical judgment; but with a proper pecuniary inducement to fund or deposit the legal tender notes, no great addition, if any, need be made to the mass already in existence, government reissuing the notes that shall come back from time to time, into its posession, by the funding, or other process, that government shall devise.

To remedy any existing surplus of paper money, and thereby to obviate objections against an augmented issue of tender notes, some persons propose a prohibition against any paper money, except tender notes. The prohibition would doubtless be a less expensive diminution of paper money than the creation of a profitable use for the legal tender notes, by funding them, or otherwise. "But we must not wilfully ignore, that gov. ernment has already tried the experiment with paper money, of sums less than a dollar; and yet, despite the prohibition, the whole Union is in a process of becoming almost covered with the prohibited fractional currency. But the larger currency is deemed more manageable than the fractional, and a bankrupt law, and other means, are suggested, as available to the advocated prohibition. Having no confidence in the practicability of the measure, I shall leave it, with the single well attested axiom, that gorernments are always more successul when their measures conform to the habits of their people, than when they endeavor to make the people's habits conform suddenly with any conflicting measures that the government may deem preferable.

Analagous to the foregoing measure, a prohibition against the exportation of specie has been suggested, as a corrective of the existing appreciation of gold over paper money, tender notes included, and, no doubt, whatever will diminish the uses of specie, will diminish the demand therefor, and consequently, correct ratably any deficiency of the existing supply of gold to the existing demand. Nations not unusually prohibit the exportation of their coins, but they rarely prohiblt the export of bullion, thus manifesting that the prohibition of coin is not founded in the attempt to diminish the relative market value of gold and silver generally. Our exports of specie are manifestly not large enough to be a very efficient cause in the present price of gold, thus showing that other uses therefor exist, and which the probibition will only slightly effect. And we must remember that gold is one of our own productions, and that any arbitrary legislation against its natural aud accustomed uses could not fail to discriminate disadvantageously and offensively against our gold-producing regions. Far less invidiously might legislation be directed against the persistent monopoly of the precious metals by banks, after the banks refuse to employ them as a redeeming fund. A release of the specie thus monopolized would probably go far to reduce the present price of gold to its normal value, and no great cause of complaint would seem to exist, if banks were perpetually restrained from a suspension of specie payments so long as they possessed any specie ; and certainly nothing seems more unreasonable than to permit banks to profit in their specie by any advance in the price thereof, produced by a suspension of specie payments, a suspension which banks can always avoid by a timely conduct directed to that end. Still, reasons can doubtless be suggested against any such coercion of banks, as well as against a prohibition of the exportation of specie, or interfering in any other way with the freedom of commerce. While we direct our speculative investigations to the causes of existing events, we usually are in little danger of great practical mischief; but when we endeavor to foresee the future consequences of new and untried measures, the good we theoretically anticipate may not occur, but erils, unforeseen and of great magnitude, may arise in its stead.

Another correction of the price of specie, by diminishing the uses therefor, may ensue from a discontinuance of the discrimination government itself has established in favor of specie and against its own legal tender notes, in the payment of duties on imports, and in the payment of interest on the public debt. When interest on the public stocks was made payable in specie, the regulation had reference to a sale of the stocks by government; but the mode thus contemplated of obtaining funds was found impracticable to any desired extent, and was abandoned. The specie payments of interest, therefore, operate only as a pecuniary gratuity to the persons who hold government stocks; and who are less objects of worthy consideration than the multitudes of persons who are compelled, by law, to surrender daily, interest-producing debts, and to receive therefor legal tender notes that bear no interest. As one step usually leads to more in the same direction, the promised payment of interest in specie compelled government to disallow the reception of legal tender notes for import duties, that specie might be provided to pay interest on stocks; and, we may suppose, a like reason induces government to create a new use for gold, by paying interest thereon at its assistant treasuries. During the whole period of suspended specie payments by Great Britain, the public creditors, foreign as well as domestic, were paid in paper money. Still, the present method may be founded on better reasons than are known to the writer ; but bow justitiable soever the reason may be, the uses which government necessitates for specie, tends to enhance its market value, and ratably to diminish the equivalence between specie and legal tender notes.

Having thus considered briefly, and, I hope intelligibly, the financial topics prominent at the moment, I conclude by disclaiming any partisan design therein, and in proof thereof, I have asserted nothing different from what I thought fifty years ago, and published in the year 1813, through the then New York extensive publishing house of G. & C. CARVILLE, at No. 108 Broadway, under the title of “ An Inquiry into the Nature of Value and of Capital, and into the operations of Government Loans, Banking Institutions and Private Credit, by ALEXANDER B. Johnson.” The book contained as an appendix, “ An Inquiry into the Causes which Regulate the rate of Interest and the price of Stocks." The work gained some attention by its adaptation to the circumstances of the country at the time, and especially under the apprehension of a suspension of specie payments by the banks, an event which had never been experienced in our country, and the consequences of which the book endeavored successfully to foresee. The book has long been out of print and forgotten, and I possess thereof a single copy only. If the present condition of our country sball revive an interest in the teachings which I have herein extracted from the work, it will constitute an additional proof of the apotbegm of Shakspeare, that “Many things by season seasoned are to their true use.”

HINTS AS TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR CALIFORNIA-CHINA TRADE.

CAN WE RENDER OURSELVES INDEPENDENT OF BRITISH OPIUM?

BY EMANUEL WEISS.

Although I do not belong to the balance of trade school, and although I hold conclusions politicians are wont to draw from commercial statistics somewhat light, yet I beg to draw your readers attention to the balance of our last year's China trade, which, though not so bad as this year's one will prove, cannot fail to awaken just misgivings in the reflecting mind of every sober and practical merchant.

Last year we received from China over $11,000,000 worth in tea, silk, and sundries, which were paid for as follows : 36 per cent in six months sight drafts on England against transatlantic

shipments. 10 per cent in foreign goods paid as the above. 14 per cent in Mexican silver, paid chiefly in raw cotton. 22 per cent in domestic cotton cloth. 18 per cent in provisions, ginseng, mercury, and others (among which but

$80,000 in California gold.) From this statement we see that 60 per cent of our Chinese trade consist of an indirect, and but 40 per cent of a direct exchange of goods with the Celestials.

In both the direct and indirect exchange, cotton, raw and manufactured, plays a conspicuous part, and the failure of this staple makes us more dependent on British interference in our tea trade. The four millions of six months sight drafts against our shipments to England, which we give in part payment to the Hong merchants, serve in their turn to acquit a small portion of the Indo-British and Turkish opium smuggled under the condivance of the British authorities into the Celestial Empire.

The British checked our King Cotton, let us answer them with an attack on their Queen Opium.

They have been studying for some time how to render themselves independent of our cotton; and they have tried hard to increase the cultivation of cotton in Cutch and Guzurate, but normal prices offered no inducement to the indolent Hindoos to extend this rather toilsome branch of agriculture, and even now, under quite favorable circumstances, they move but reluctantly onwards, not trusting in the continuance of abnormal cotton prices. Thus, the British, to secure their ends—the continuance of premium prices for cotton growing--do their best to foster the internecine struggle of their once successful rivals in commercial supremacy, in providing the rebels, quite openly, with the means (vessels, arms, and ammunition) of a protracted resistance.

Our rivals are not aware that we can retaliate on a very tender part of their commercial vitality-say in their opium trade. True, the produce of slave labor was a great stimulus to our trade and navigation, but opium is the sine qua non in their Chinese trade, and for this reason the transcendent moralists of Scotland and England never touched the morality of this traffic, in spite of their Puritan zeal in less worldly and less important peccadilloes.

To illustrate the better my assertion, I insert here a paragraph from the Bombay Times of the 20th of June, 1853, headed : “Rough Draft of a Petition from the European Community in Bombay unto the Honorable the Commons of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament Assembled," and sec. 4, concerning the opium monopoly, says: "Your petitioners would point to the acknowledged fact of the utter want of public thoroughfares of any description, and the deficiency in the means of communication and transport betwixt one part of the country and another. The same circumstances that affect the progress of industry and interests of trade equally affect the revenues of the country, which from 1841 to 1850 never were once able to meet the public charges, and which hang on such a precarious tenure that, were the Chinese Government to sanction the production of opium within the Empire, or the Americans to settle themselves anywhere in the East where the poppy might be grown, £3,000,000 sterling would be swept from our revenues at once.”

In 1850 the importation of Indo-British opium into China amounted to 50,000 chests; ten years after, it reached near 70,000; and now, under Her gracious Majesty's direct rule over her Indian dominions, and under the pressure of her recent victories over the poor Celestials, this traffic has swollen to 90,005 chests (!)—apparently to cover the deficiency of the heavy remittances of former years in cotton wool from Bombay and Surat, which are turned now from Canton to Liverpool.

Happily it needs no new settlement to carry into effect the wise sugges. tion of the memorialists in the Bombay Times. Soil and climate in the southern part of California (east of Bombay,) are as good as we can desire for the production of opium, as some Celestial settlers have proved since, although on a small scale, yet to full and satisfactory evidence, and which is not astonishing either, as the poppy, to my knowledge, grows spontaneously on all the elevated plains (plateaux) of the neighboring republic.

Tea has become indispensable with the Anglo-Saxons ; its consumption surpasses already 130,000,000 pounds per annum; also silk is largely exported from China to industrious Europe to the amount of over 30,000 bales a year.

Valuing the tea at......
The silk at.....
And sundries at..

$21,000,000
18,500,000
2,500,000

We find the annual export from China to the

western world to amount to..

$42,000,000

It is a well known fact that the Chinese refuse our gold, and that we (the western nations, i. e. the red haired barbarians) can settle on this thrifty and crafty people but $10,000,000 worth in cotton, (3) rice, dry goods, copper, ginseng, and the like. How have we to account for the balance without the opium ? Why, all the mines of Christendom could not furnish silver fast enough to do it!

One-third of the Chinese export goes to the United States. Why should the citizens of this country not plant this much in opium on the Pacific shores as long as the article sells, and sells well-better than cotton ever did in its best days ? This cultivation is monopolized not only by the British, but also by the Dutch and Spanish colonial authorities in India. Much has been said by our Anglo phobic and Puritan press of the immorality of this trade, yet it has been studiously ignored that our Boston houses in the Chinese ports indulge as largely in this contraband trade as their rivals, the English and Parsee.

Opium is both chewed and smoked ; only the former mode of enjoyment of this luxury is detrimental to the human frame, whereas the latter is far less so than the use or abuse of fermented liquors, against which opium smoking may be considered even a sure preventive.

The poppy is called in Arabia “ Aboo numm," the meaning of the Spanish “Adormidera," and the Latin “ Somnifera," and the Arab word “affioon," for its sap, shows the origin of the word opium. This drug has been known for over 2,000 years, and its abuse dates back to the Eleusian feasts. Over 400,000,000 of human beings in the Eastern hemisphere are addicted to the habits of opium smoking and chewing.

PEREIRA, in bis Opera Medica, says : “ Opium is undoubtedly the most important and valuable remedy. We have for other medicines one or more substitutes, but for opium we have none, at least in the large majority of cases in which its peculiar and beneficial influence is considered." In Eng. land the consumption of opium as a drug has doubled in these last twenty years, and is increasing still; it amounts to over 2,000 chests a year, and no doubt in our republic the consumption of this indispensable drug is not far behind that of the mother country.

The species of poppy cultivated in the East for the sake of the sap (opium) is the so-called garden poppy or papaver somniferum, of which there are two kinds, the common white and the common black poppy, both equally rich in sap; the former only excelling in narcotine and the latter in morphine, the substance giving the intrinsic value to opium. Compressed pods are said to contain less morphine than those of oval shape ; the same with the poppy with filled blossoms, which is not so rich in sap as the one with simple blossoms. The greatest amount of morphine is obtained from the pods with brownish purple flowers.

The poppy suffers nothing from insects, and its flowers give rich food to the bees. The oil of the white poppy is considered in Europe the best, after the olive oil. The poppy wants calm, warmth, and a loose soil ; manure agrees with it on the best of lands—a sub-soil of clay is prejudicial to its growth. The poppy thrives well after fallow produce, which leave a clear soil, such as treffle, cabbage, and potatoes ; on a rich soil it may be cultivated also in continuance. After the poppy crop, a crop of barley can be raised the same year. Wet does not agree with the poppy, and a rain of two days duration at the maturity of the plant will spoil the whole opium crop. The best opium produced in Asia Minor comes from the plateau in the vicinity of Kara Hissar. The soil of this plain is of volcanic origin, belonging to the trachytic formation.

In the districts of Bebar and Benares, in the Ganges valley, the poppy is sown in November; in Upper Egypt (Thebes,) in January; and in the Delta, at the spring equinox. In Mexico, the poppies are blooming from April to June. In California, the poppies must be sown towards the end of the rainy season, so that their maturity falls in an epoch when the rain is no more to be dreaded. Heavy night dews are increasing the contents

« PreviousContinue »