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List of merchandise imported from the United States into St. Vincent, &c.—Continued.
Table showing the value of and the duties paid on articles imported into and exported from
UNITED STATES CONSULATE,
Santiago, Cape Verde Islands, June 30, 1883.
Report by Consul Lewis on the trade and navigation of Sierra Leone for the year 1883.
There are very few changes to ring on agriculture, education, harbor, sanitary, general trade, &c., of a quiet place like Sierra Leone, where, as a rule, no radical changes ever occur, and where the people seem willing to jog along in the same way they did fifty years ago, and when these subjects have been fully written up once or more, as in the case of my reports of 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1882, there seems very little left to say except to give statistics of imports and exports.
There is no boom in this department. As stated in my report of last year Samuel Lewis, esq., barrister at law, is doing more toward making a test question on the subject than all others combined. He is working his tract with unflagging energy. He is determined to try irrigation during the dry season, and has laid pipes for the purpose of distributing water over the place. This is an idea entirely new for this place, and never before tried here, and doubts are already expressed as to whether the
ground will not become baked through applying water by artificial
The cola nut trade is increasing in importance probably faster than any other single article in the colony. In 1882, the cola nuts exported were valued at £25,547, while in 1883 they are valued at £35,114, an increase of about £10,000. These are exported almost entirely to Bathurst, in Gambia River, and thence to Senegal and Goree, and sell readily for cash. The cola tree requires from eight to ten years to come to maturity, and the trade has increased from £5,764, in 1867, to its present proportions. Benni seed has increased £720 in value, in 1883, over that of last year; ground-nuts have fallen off £4,000, or about 40 per cent.; gum copal increased £2,000, or about 16 per cent.; dry hides increased 35,000 in number, or about 33 per cent.; palm oil has fallen off half from 562,613 gallons to 250,730 gallons, valued at £47,217, as against £21,953; palm kernels have also fallen off-in 1882 valued at £100,247, in 1883 valued at £81,578; ginger, 1882, 1,041,962 pounds, valued at £7,916; 1883, 1,277,635 pounds, valued at £13,406; India rubber has fallen off slightly; 1882, 1,378,150 pounds, valued at £96,674, while in 1883 it is 1,084,219 pounds, valued at £89,782. African rice has nearly doubled; in 1882 there were exported from Sierra Leone 10,673 bushels, valued at £2,526, while in 1883 the table shows 20,862 bushels exported, valued at £4,240.
The total value of African produce reported exported in 1882 is £332,088, on which export duty was paid of £8,289; while in 1883 the produce exported foots up only £293,826, paying duty of £6,150, a falling off of about 9 per cent.
Of the European goods exported there is a manifest increase in 1883 over the previous year. In 1882 there were exported of European goods £96,735. In 1883 the value is £149,009, an increase of £52,274, or upward of 50 per cent.
Nothing new of special importance to chronicle in this department. The great advantages looked for, as referred to in my report of last year, in consequence of the appointment of a European as inspector of public instruction, with salary of £700, have not been realized, as he was invalided and went to England, and up to the end of the year has not returned to his duties; so the annual examination of the schools has not been held, and the hopes so auspiciously born have as suddenly dis appeared and left no tangible improvements behind.
The harbor and port charges remain the same, with the exception that during the past year an ordinance has been passed allowing steamers and sailing vessels to now enter this port seeking trade, to take or discharge passengers and mails; to take coal or provisions, or to make repairs if they do not "break cargo," without any expense save pilotage. This is a very important item, and all the steamers passing now come in, instead of anchoring outside to take on or discharge their "Kroo boys," &c., and nearly all the steamers take coal here now, as this has become a very important coaling station. There are now three companies who keep coal, in addition to the government, so that the competition is healthy, and any amount of good Cardiff coal can be supplied at short notice and put on board for about forty-two shillings per ton,
and as Sierra Leone has a fine harbor, where ships can anchor near the coal sheds and take on coal in any weather and at all seasons, renders this a very important coaling station.
In my report of 1881 I gave the complete census report, which is only taken once in seven years; that report shows in Freetown a population of 21,931, and in the colony of Sierra Leone 60,546; and the number of whites in Freetown is about the same as last year, viz, 100.
This department is still well managed, and this fact no doubt contrib utes its share toward warding off any epidemic and keeping the place in comparatively a healthy condition.
If there are any changes to note in the climate they are all for the better, or else people know better how to live and take care of themselves, as the mortality among Europeans is much less during the last five years than formerly. This climate, for some reason which no one attempts to explain, is still an enemy to the horse. Numerous attempts have been made to keep this noble animal here for purposes of pleasure only, but without, anything like satisfactory results. They soon die, fed either on native or imported food, and no one knows why.
GARRISON AND FORTIFICATIONS.
The Second West India Regiment, after an absence of three years, has again returned. Rumor has it that the Imperial Government are about to build additional fortifications, and that the place is to be strengthened generally in a military point of view, and that more troops are to be stationed here. I am semi-officially informed that the appropriations for this purpose have all been made, and recently a special engineer officer sent out by the war department has been making surveys, but when work will actually be commenced no one seems to know. However, at present the garrison and the fortifications remain the same.
These are about the same as at the time of my last report. We receive a mail steamer each way once a week.
FINANCE AND CURRENCY.
The Oxford Bank, established in 1879, is still in operation; all the rest have passed away. "The Commercial Bank of West Africa," which was opened at the beginning of the year with so great a flourish of trumpets, proved simply a pawn-shop as there was no capital of any account behind it, and as the proprietor, Dr. Horton, died about six months after its opening it is now closed.
There is usually a new prospectus projected from England every year delineating what a beautiful opening for a successful bank Sierra Leone offers and urging the people to take stock; they don't do it, however,
principally, I think, because they have not too much confidence in the promoters.
The large mercantile houses here seem to take the place of banks, as they take all the cash offered and give bills of exchange on England and this is about all that is required except for small loans at high rates of interest.
IMPORTS AND EXPORTS.
The total amount of imports to this colony during the year ending December 31, 1883, as shown by official customs report, was $2,081,187.26; exports, $2,123,390.76.
Of this amount the imports from the United States for the same period, as shown by merchants' invoices, were $175,141.79, and exports to the United States $190,783.70, the imports from the United States being about 9 per cent. and the exports about 9 per cent. of the total imports and exports.
In 1882 the imports from the United States were about 13 per cent., and exports 15 per cent.; in 1881 imports 11 per cent., exports 10 per cent.; in 1880 imports 10 per cent., exports 13 per cent.; in 1879 im; ports 13 per cent., exports 8 per cent.
REVENUE AND INCREASE OF DUTIES.
The revenue having fallen off and there being a deficit for running expenses of the government, some measures had to be taken to increase the revenue to meet the expenses. So the council decided to increase the duty on tobacco, powder, and guns, to take effect on and after July 25. Tobacco increased from 4d. to 6d. per pound; gunpowder, 100 pounds, from 38. to 68.; trade flint-lock guns, from 1s. 3d. to 28. 4d.; percussion guns, from 2s. to 48.
Many of the merchants considered this at the time an unwise movement on the part of the Government, and I think experience has proved somewhat that it is so, because the tendency is to drive this trade from the British domain to the French rivers, Rio Cangas, Rio Nunez, and Dubruka, where there is no duty on these articles, placing the traders within jurisdiction at a disadvantage, and now it is a question whether these articles will pay as much revenue at the increased rates as they did before.
If all the surrounding trading posts were on English territory there would be no trouble. It would be as fair for one as another, and the people would be obliged to buy; but now traders in the French rivers can undersell and then and make big profits.
This has been only a fair average year so far as the trade of the colony is concerned. The same trouble prevails spoken of in my former reports, viz, war and rumors of war among all the surrounding tribes, thus stopping the strangers from coming down, and interrupting trade. The Mellacourie River has never recouped itself since the war and fire of two years ago, and now no trade is done in this once prosperous place.
The ground nut crop has been largely a failure.
The competition in trade is becoming more and more sharp every year, and prices are being cut to a very low point. Frequently English cotton goods are sold at first cost with expenses added. This is owing largely to some merchants carrying large stocks on credit, and they must remit, though they make no profit. This seriously interferes
with good, legitimate trade, and is rendering prices very changeable and uncertain, and piece goods are being cut smaller and smaller and poorer. If this thing keeps on, 12 yards will be cut to 6; 30 inches. in width will be reduced to 24, and the meshes enlarged so as to resemble mosquito netting.
The volume of trade with the United States seems to have fallen off somewhat. Imports this year $175,141.79 as against $236,283.79 last year; exports this year $190,783.70 as against $235,469.03 last year. The American trade is still done by three houses: Yates & Porterfield, American; Randall & Fisher, English; and the Senegal Company, French.
There is no transportation direct to this place save by sailing vessels armed and controlled by the above-named firms.
There is no special way that I can see of opening up trade to any considerable extent, except in the direction of the interior. If all this country was at peace and the people could be encouraged to come down from further back, trade could easily be doubled. Where we now reach a hundred people and get a pound of produce and furnish 12 yards of cotton, there are a thousand people standing ready to take cotton in proportion and give us produce in payment; but the difficulties to be encountered to bring about this result seem too great for the Government to undertake, and so we jog along in the same old fashion, taking what we can get and wondering when the times will be better.
The United States still continue to furnish the flour, bread, lumber, slate, and tobacco, but have not made any advancement in the cotton-goods trade, as they are not accustomed to put up piece goods according to the customs of this country, and it is a question which every one here and in England doubts, if they can put up cotton goods so as to suc cessfully compete with the English trade. It is a very peculiar trade, and changing almost weekly; the goods that would sell bere one year ago at a good profit will not sell to-day for more than cost, all expenses added.
JUDSON A. LEWIS,
Sierra Leone, March 28, 1884.
UNITED STATES CONSULATE,
EXPORTS TO THE UNITED STATES.
List of African products exported from Sierra Leone to the United States during the year ending December 31, 1883, as known by invoices on file in consulate.
Leopards, tiger-cats, monkeys, baboons, parrots, snakes, alligators, &c.
9.60 87 84
Total exports from the colony of African produce, £293,826 0s. 8d.