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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 quan. tity at market is considerable, and the consumpt of this country, at all times comparatively trifling, must be lessened not increased.—Cotton. 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 har. vest 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. --Rum. 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 immediate 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 merchant 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 firsthe 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 will) fall ultimately and most severely on those who have means and capital to lose. It is their business to encourage, not discourage 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 to 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 £4000 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