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There is plenty of time and plenty of water, with properly constructed steamers and barges, or keel-boats
, to conduct the commerce, during open water, to such points upon its head-waters as convenience and experience may decide upon, where the overland conveyance will be ready to distribute it to the remotest points of the interior. During the winter all the return produce of the country will be concentrated at these dépôts, ready for shipment to meet the sea-going vessels arriving at tide-water in the spring, and thus the commerce will be regularly and conveniently conducted much on the same plan as at St. Petersburg.
To what extent, or how advantageously this new field of Oriental Asiatic commerce is to be occupied by Americans, depends upon the sagacity and nerve of our merchants.
At first the commerce to the Amoor will be most profitably conducted by sailing vessels; barks of two hundred and fifty to three hundred and fifty tons burden being, in my opinion, the best fitted for that trade. Schooners of one hundred to one hundred and fifty tons may also be employed, for special voyages to Japan, China or San Francisco. Vessels should be of good beam, and not more than ten to twelve feet draft.
Upon the Amoor there should be two classes of steamers : 1st. Sidewheel, of three hundred tons, with a draft of six feet. These would navigate to the mouth of the Zea, or about two-thirds of the distance, and may, in the early summer, reach the head of the Amoor. 2d. Sternwheel steamers, having twenty feet beam, one hundred and thirty to fifty feet long, with four to four and a half feet hold, and ample power. These steamers would reach the head of navigation, and place their cargoes at available points, from whence sledges, wagons and pack-trains would distribute them throughout the interior of Siberia and Tartary.
Steamers on the Amoor are absolutely necessary to its commercial development. We cannot look, at first, to the immediate shores of the river for any large development of commerce ; it is to the Siberian and overland trade from whence we are to reap the first great results. This can only be accomplished by a regular, certain and well-organized system of steam navigation throughout the whole length of the Amoor, Schilka and Ingodah rivers. Dépôts of merchandise must be established, at points upon the head-waters of the Amoor, where the Siberian, Chinese and Tartar tradesmen may resort at all times, and where they may, beyond peradventure, find a full supply of such commodities as they desire. There must be no failure in the supplies on hand at these dépôts, because Moscow, Nijne, Navgorod, St. Petersburg, Pekin and Irbit are at great distances, and a failure of supply on the Amoor would be the loss of a year's supply to the trader, and consequently he would loose faith in the Amoor, and seek other marts for his supplies.
The kind of merchandise at first introduced must conform to the choice of experienced Siberian and Northern Chinese merchants. As we progress, we may introduce new articles and more extensive varieties, as well as to manufacture for them goods of such exact pattern, finish and style as they may order, which will become a very important branch of com
By penetrating at once to the head of the Amoor, we tap a regular, well-established and systematic commerce, both Asiatic and European, a commerce that has been conducted with great success and much spirit for a long time. Here we may take our stand and build upon a sure
foundation. The increased development and extent of this commerce depend much upon the class and calibre of merchants who initiate it; they must neither be wanting in mind or in dollars. It is a wide field, and a distant one; its cycle is a year, consequently patient capitalists only can enter it with any hope of success.
l'he lower Amoor and Manchooria are not to be forgotten ; but, as they are on the high-road to Siberia, and always within our grasp as we are passing along with our well-freighted steamers, to supply them is a very easy matter.
The favorable and enlightened policy of the Russian government has already given us free trade for five years, and Count MOURAVIEFF, who is the father of the annexation of the Amoor to Russia, is in favor of a prolongation of this liberal policy ; in fact, the progress and importance of Russian interests in Asia, under Count MOURAVIEFF's administration of the government of Eastern Siberia, has given him great power and influence, and his views are very likely to prevail.
As evidence of the importance that Russia attaches to her new possession upon the Pacific, we have only to mention the fact that the government is now constructing a line of telegraph, which is to connect St. Petersburg with the mouth of the Amoor and other points upon the Pacific coast, and along the whole northern border of Chinese Tartary. The line will be in operation this year as far as Omsk, in Western Siberia, one-third of the distance from St. Petersburg to the Pacific; in another year it will reach Irkautsk, or probably Kyachta, and so on, in the course of the third year, we may expect it to reach the ocean.
The project now on foot, to tap the Russian line at the Amoor, and carry a line of telegraph via Behring's Straits, to unite with the California overland line, will give us telegraphic union with Europe; in fact, with the whole world. Nor is this project so difficult, upon investigation, as it at a first glance appears; the climate presents no impediment, and there is but forty miles of ocean to cross.
The extent of country opened to commercial contact through the Amoor is a matter of interest.
The valley of the Amoor covers from west to east about 40° longitude, and north to south about 13° latitude, probably nearly a million square miles of territory, with a population of some five millions.
Mongolia, Songaria, Northern and Central Tartary, cover a vast extent of territory, six hundred miles wide by two thousand long, with a population of probably ten millions.
These people are rich in cattle, sheep, horses and camels; a barter of merchandise for their hides, skins, pelts, wool, hair and tallow would be large and lucrative.
Eastern Siberia, which would be tributary to the commerce of the Amoor, is also a vast country, covering a million of square miles, with a population of two millions to three millions of European blood.
This immense country is dependent, to a great extent, on Europe and China for its fabrics of cotton, silk, flax and wool; to estimate the value of commerce on the specific supply and demand is quite impossible from present data. We know that the Kyachta tea trade has developed a commerce of fifteen to twenty millions of dollars per annum; what amount of European merchandise Siberia consumes we have no precise knowledge, but we may safely put it at ten millions.
The fair supposition is, that every inhabitant will consume six yards of cotton cloth yearly, and we only put this as an illustration of the value of commerce in one single item, which must govern us in making up the future of this commerce. This would give us 102,000,000 yards of cotton cloth, worth, delivered, certainly ten cents a yard, amounting to $10,200,000.
A very reasonable and important question to be answered is: How are we to be paid for what these people want? Where are the millions of hard dollars to come from out of this wild and distant country, to compensate or equalize this commerce ?
To begin with Siberia: she is the California of Russia ; her mineral wealth is absolutely beyond any reasonable array of figures. She exports to Russia about $15,000,000 of gold yearly ; need more be said ?
She has copper, plumbago, tin, silver, marbles, iron, salt, bitumen and precious stones.
She has hemp, flax, furs, skins and peltry, wool, tallow, wax, honey and ivory.
She has tar, pitch and turpentine. All these are elements of wealth, and the contact of an extra-territorial commerce, proffering articles of necessity, convenience and luxury, must excite her population to make an exchange.
Mongolia and Tartary have their skins, pelts, wool, camels hair, hides and tallow. To these must be added Thibet musk, Bucharian rhubarb, pearls and precious stones.
What can be the amount of these articles that these people will have for export? I do not know—but one item I can suggest. Mutton is the chief article of diet, and I suppose, from my own experience and a knowledge of Tartar appetite, that three sheep per capita per annum to the whole population would be a very reasonable allowance. Here we have thirty millions of sheep skins, with the wool included, as one item of the production of this country:
Manchooria and the Amoor river country comes next; here foreign commerce has, up to within a very recent period, been absolutely excluded. It is only since Russia has made this eastward step that outside barbarians have been permitted to look into this country. While Mongolia is strictly a pastoral country, Manchooria is both agricultural and pastoral; yielding, besides, all the more northern grains, corn, rice, silk and ginseng
Heretofore the commerce of this country has been, of necessity, all directed towards Pekin and Corea ; but may we not hope that in a contact along the whole northern border of the Manchooria that a very large and lucrative commerce can be introduced ? Like the Mongols, the Manchoos have abundance of cattle, horses and sheep, but having bread, their diet is not so strictly carniverous as the Mongols.
The Manchoos have, however, many fine furs, beside the skins and pelts of wild animals.
The wilder portion of the Amoor country, which now belongs to Russia, that is, all north of the Amoor River, and all east of the Ousuree, from its confluence with the Amoor, and following the Ousuree to the south through Lake Hinka, and on to the border of Corea, forms again a distinct subdivision of this part of Asia, in extent covering, probably, not far from 300,000 square miles. This country has an aboriginal popu
lation of some sixty thousand; what the Russian and Manchoo population may be is difficult to state with any degree of certainty.
The Russian government has already commenced a system of colonization both from Europe and Siberia, and is actively engaged in fortifying its approaches seaward, and in planting military posts and opening postroads in order to protect the frontier and afford facilities for certain and rapid overland communication at all seasons of the year.
The demand for foreign commerce is of course restricted to mere necessity, and to the actual population of the coasts and borders of the river, because, as yet, steam has not succeeded in presenting to the upper and distant populations stores of merchandise to save them the necessity of the overland, European and Chinese supply.
This country is rich in fur animals, the rivers abound in fish, and gold is found in the mountains to the north of the Amoor. The forests, both upon the Upper and Lower Amoor, are fair and abundant, with ample resources for naval stores and timber for all economic purposes.
The island of Sak-ha-lin, opposite the mouth of the Amoor, abounds in extensive deposits of coal suitable for steam vessels, accessible and already worked by the Russian government.
The steady and onward progress of the present Emperor of Russia, ALEXANDER II., in ameliorating the condition of his people, and in encouraging internal commerce and communication, will open a vast field to American enterprise and commerce.
The Mouravieff-Igoon Convention, ratified by the Ignatieff-Pekin treaty, has annihilated all of those ancient border restrictions against free intercourse between the Chinese and Russians.
Under this treaty, merchants and traders may freely cross the frontier and establish themselves in such towns and cities as they choose, the police authorities being specially directed to protect them.
This liberal policy will give great stimulus to the Siberian and Amoor merchants, and must lead to the introduction of European and American merchandise and manufactures into the interior of the whole length and breadth of Tartary.
We have also a recent ukase of the Emperor, granting to foreigners equal privileges with the native Russian merchants in all parts of the empire. This ukase will explain itself, is one of great liberality, and must lead to most important results, opening, as it does, this vast empire to the merchants and bankers of the world.
On the 7th–19th July, 1860, the Emperor addressed to the Senate the following ukase :
“ The Imperial manifest of the 1st January, 1807, has set certain restrictions to the commercial rights of foreigners established either permanently or temporarily in Russia. Now with the improvements introduced in the means of communication, and the rapid development of the international commercial relations, said restrictions do not agree any longer with the necessities of the present times. On the other hand, the principal European powers allow our subjects, as in general to all foreigners, to carry on commerce in their countries on the same terms as their own subjects.
Taking into consideration the useful influence that would result to all branches of public wealth by an extension granted to the facility of profiting by use of foreign capital in all kinds of enterprises, and desirous
to give, at the same time, a new proof of our particular solicitude for the general prosperity of trade, agriculture and of industry in the Empire, and show, at the same time, a just reciprocity towards foreign powers, we have thought proper to grant, in this respect, to foreigners residing in Russia the same rights as our subjects enjoy amongst the principal European nations.
“ Consequently, and in accordance with the opinion of the Council of the Empire, we decree:
“1st. It is allowed to foreigners to inscribe themselves in all the guilds of merchants in like manner as the subjects of the Empire, and to enjoy all the commercial rights that those guilds give to Russian merchants. (Art. 77, à 107 du reglement sur le commerce, tome xi., du corps des Lois, de 1857.)
“ First Observation.—The foreign Israelite subjects, known by their social position and by the great extent of their commerce, who arrive from abroad, can, according to the order established—that is to say, on a special authorization each time by the Ministers of Finance, of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs-trade in the Empire and establish bankinghouses on procuring a license of merchant of first guild. It is also allowed them to establish factories, buy and take on lease real estate, according to the resolution of the present ukase.
“ Second Observation. The commercial rights granted to Asiatics are resolved by the articles 227 to 233 of the commercial regulations. (Tome xi., corps des Lois, edition de 1857.)
62d. The safety of the domicil and of the magazines of foreigners, as well as of the lands that appertain to them, are placed under the protection of the common law; no search can be made in their dwellings, nor in their commercial books, but in accordance to the regulations prescribed in such cases to Russian subjects of the same condition.
"3d. Foreigners can acquire—be it by purchase, be it by inheritance, legacy, donation, concession of the Crown, etc.—all kinds of movable and immovable property, with the exception, however, of that which the hereditary Russian nobility and foreigners who have obtained the right can alone possess in virtue of laws in force.
" 4th. Foreigners, with the exception of Israelites, can direct, under title of clerk, inhabited lands, if they have the procuration of the proprietors to that effect. It is also allowed them farms, according to agreements allowed by the laws, real estate occupied, and of any other kind, inhabited or not, by conforming only to the condition and restriction imposed upon the subjects of the Empire. (Code Civil, livre iv., cest. ii., ch. 2.)
“ The Senate will take the necessary measures for the execution of the present.
In order to make this subject more readily comprehended by our readers, we annex in full the report to the House of Representatives in February last. It is one of the most important commercial subjects of the day.