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The effects on the commerce and prosperity of the United States, which must follow the establishment of these lines of steam-packets, cannot fail to be important. The certainty and despatch with which their voyages are performed, will turn an immense amount of business into new channels, and multitudes, who have hitherto transacted their business abroad, through agencies and correspondents, will now cross and re-cross the Atlantic, as many times a year, perchance, with as little deliberation, as formerly at. tended their journeys from Maine to New York, or from New York to New Orleans. As an illustration of the advantages offered, not only to the city, but the interior and remote sections of country, connected by railways and river-steamers with the commercial marts, the fact may be stated, that a person at Chicago, in Illinois, 1200 miles from New York, may, by means of existing steam accommodations, actually reach Liverpool or London, in nineteen days from Chicago! The Journal of Commerce recently furnished another illustration of the advantages to be derived from the increased fa. cility of communication, and despatch of merchandise. An order was sent from New York to England on the first of July. The goods were bought in London, sent to Bristol by land, reached here, were sold, and the pro. ceeds remitted back by the Great Western, and would probably be in Lon. don about September 1st. So these three crossings of the Atlantic, with the transaction of the business, and eleven days lost by delays in waiting for the steamers to start, will all consume but two months. It is probable that letters sent from Liverpool by the Acadia will receive answers by the Great Western in just about twenty-five days. Money employed in the traffic between Europe and America can now perform about four times as many operations as it could two years ago. The profits on each operation may be reduced, but there will be greater certainty and stability in the markets. The importance of this great triumph of human ingenuity and enterprise, is thus well expressed by THOMAS Power, Esq., in his address before the authorities and citizens of Boston, on the fourth of July last :
“If the past has been checkered with the perils of war and rivalry, and national jealousy, the present is full of promise, that the interests of the two countries, in all the relations of commerce, philanthropy, and letters, are better understood, and that the antagonist position of these nations is no longer to be seen, except in the honorable competition which shall fulfil, to the highest possible degree, the destinies of a mighty people, in the true enjoyment of science, religion, and civil liberty. And among the promises for the continuance of our amicable relations, may be placed the connection by steam navigation, and the recent arrival from England, of the first steam-packet at our city. No Bostonian could have looked upon that glorious spectacle without a feeling of laudable pride, and a deep anticipation of hope that the prospects of successful enterprise would be fully realized. No one could look around on our lovely bay, and not feel an additional throb of patriotism. Our ample wharves lined with thousands of gratified spectators; a beautiful sheet of water studded with countless gay barques; our ships in their gayest attire; the welcome of the pealing cannon rolling from shore to shore, and the welcome of countless voices borne in loud huzzas across the placid waters; the flags of two countries floating together in their broad folds, and in their intimate, friendly relation ; a noble ship of our own country giving forth its charming music; and the welcome visiter to our waters, the first of her description from the land of our fathers, dashing onward in the pride of her station, and in the power of that mighty principle which is effecting its favorable influence on the commercial, social, and political relations of the two countries! Who could contemplate that glorious spectacle, and not feel an additional impulse in his recollections of the interests of humanity, of his country, and of his own fair city
of Boston! This is not the glowing offspring of imaginative creation. Its end is not the temporary structure of fancy, but the maintenance of commercial relations, not more important to the interests of the counting-room, than to the interests of the workshop, the halls of learning, and the halls of legislation.
“The connection by steam power is in effect a treaty between two great commercial nations; not a treaty formed by diplomatic agents, but created directly by the spontaneous action of the people; not a treaty formed on technical conditions, but erected on the popular basis of our commercial and social interests. Three thousand miles of ocean no longer divide the two countries; but a great highway is formed, where the sea-bird has had his home. One element at least the mighty winds that have hitherto swept that broad expanse of waters—is now overcome by a mightier dominion under the controlling genius of man.
There is another point of view equally interesting, and to the eye of the philanthropist, disclosing consequences of still greater importance; and that is, the moral bearings of an intimate connection with Europe, effected through the agency
of steam. But this is a subject which would require more time and space for its proper consideration than we can at present devote to it ; and is moreover scarcely within the scope of the cursory examination which it has been our purpose at the present time to make of the origin, establish. ment, and progress of Atlantic steam navigation.
ART. III.-ON HIGH AND LOW PRICES.
Of all the phenomena of trade, there are none more obvious or remarkable, or which have attracted greater attention, than Auctuations in price. These fluctuations it is which give to trade its peculiar character of adven. ture, and which render it so attractive to many minds. Agriculture and the mechanic arts hold out, to those who pursue them, the promise of a comfortable support, and, with industry and economy, the gradual accumu. lation of a moderate amount of wealth. But, in times of peace, it is only by trade that great fortunes are acquired; or, if not by trade, only by a sudden rise of prices, independent of any effort on the part of those who profit thereby, which converts the farm that had hitherto yielded to assiduous labor only a comfortable livelihood, into a princely estate, or the barren and unproductive waterfall into a property of great value.
The desire of making money by trade is what is called enterprise, and it is this which gives a peculiar character of activity to every trading community. In a “nation of shopkeepers,” like the English, or the Americans of the northern states, the spirit of trade pervades every class of society. The farmers are not simply farmers, the mechanics and manufacturers do by no means confine themselves merely to the business of production. All trade and traffic, more or less. The lawyers and doctors are almost all traders and speculators, and even clergymen dabble in stocks, money, and merchandise.
With this universal passion for trading, it is not a little remarkable that the science of trade, the laws upon which the rise and fall of prices depend, should not form a more general subject of study. Even gamblers do by no means rely upon fortune alone. They devote" themselves with zeal to the
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study of the doctrine of chances, and of those several laws upon
which each particular game depends. It would seem that the business of trading, in which the hopes, and fortunes, and happiness of such vast numbers are involved, were worthy of at least equal study and attention.
When prices are rising, a universal prosperity seems to be diffused throughout the community. Everybody finds, or seems to find, himself richer than he calculated, because the property he has, and the articles he produces, will command a higher price and a quicker sale than formerly. While this prosperity, or apparent prosperity, continues, men are too much engrossed in the enjoyment of their present felicity, and in the anticipation of great gains suddenly to be made, to give any particular attention to the causes of this change in their position. It is only when prices begin to fall, when, instead of selling for more than they expected, every article which they have sells for less, and less readily, that men begin to look about for the causes of a change which produces so disastrous an influence upon their fortunes, and instead of elevating them to wealth, precipitates them into bankruptcy and ruin.
It is only within the last fifty years that trade, whether in England o America, has acquired that decided ascendancy which it now possesses, and has made agricultural and manufacturing industry subservient to it, and in a great degree dependent upon it. Of course it is only within that period that revulsions in prices have been very extensively felt, and have attracted a very general attention. Fifty years ago, the farmer was him. self the principal consumer of the products which he raised upon
his farm. The manufactured articles which he used, including almost every article of clothing, were produced upon the farm itself, by the industry of his family and servants, or if he needed any external aid, he generally went no further than to the mechanic of the nearest village, between whom and the surrounding farmers a limited amount of exchanges took place; but these circles of exchange were almost wholly independent of each other.
The total amount of exchanges was, in consequence, very limited; the number of persons employed in carrying on those exchanges was comparatively small; and the effect of fluctuations in prices was felt only to a lim. ited extent.
It was not, as some have erroneously supposed, that in those times, the fluctuations in value which we experience, were unknown. On the contrary, the researches of historians and antiquarians have made it clear, beyond a doubt, that in those times of little trade the instability of prices was exceedingly great. Nor is it difficult to see why it must have been so. At present there exists a race of speculators, men who watch the fluctuations of prices, and expect to get rich by taking advantage of them, who step forward whenever an article reaches a certain state of depression, and buy it up with the design to hold it for a rise. In those times no such race of men existed. The only purchasers were consumers, and few bought what they did not design for immediate use. Whenever there was a large supply of an article, its price fell almost to nothing; and when the supply became deficient, as there was no surplus stock to draw upon, the price rose to extravagant amounts.
Take the article of breadstuffs, for example, which has always been a principal article of trade, where trade has existed to any considerable ex. tent. Corn, which in its proper English sense, includes all kinds of grain, is one of those articles in which the greatest fluctuations of price take
place. Yet those fluctuations, at present, are very slight, compared with those which we know to have happened two or three centuries ago. In those times, the difference in the price of corn at the time of harvest and ten months after harvest, was often greater than the most remarkable fluctuations which now take place in a period of twenty years. Failures of the crop, which, in those times, produced a famine, and raised the price of food to an extravagant height, now produce comparatively but a slight influence upon the market, because the speculators avail themselves of such seasons to bring out those stores, which they had bought up in times of low prices, in anticipation of that very scarcity which, at length, enables them to sell at a profit.
Without going further into this matter at present, this one instance may serve to satisfy us that those who regard Auctuations in price as something modern or new, labor under a great mistake. No fact, indeed, is capable of a more perfect proof than the fact, that with the extension of trade fuc. tuations in price have constantly tended to diminish. It is not because fluctuations in prices have occurred for the first time, within the last fifty years, that they have of late exercised an influence so much more exten. sive, and attracted so much more attention than formerly. The explana. tion of this circumstance is to be sought elsewhere.
Within the last fifty years, in England and America, and the same change is now rapidly in progress throughout the whole continent of Europe, the division of labor has been carried to an extent hitherto totally unknown, and the consequence has been that trade has received a vast ex. pansion, and that fluctuations in prices affect almost the whole community to a degree of which former times afford no example.
The farmer lives no longer isolated upon his farm, consuming his own produce in the same shape in which he produces it, and therefore little con. cerned as to any change in the money value of that produce. Formerly, the only things for which a farmer prayed were a plentiful harvest, an abundant sheep-shearing, the multiplication of his flocks and herds, and a large return for the labor he had expended. Give him this, and he was fortunate ; he was rich. But now, abundant harvests, barns bursting with grain, herds of fat cattle and fatter hogs, will not make a farmer prosperous. To be so, he must have a market for his produce; and the price it will command must be such as to enable him in his turn to purchase a great number of articles which habit has made essential to his comfort, and many of which are brought from the uttermost parts of the earth.
It is no longer sufficient that the farmer produces; he must also be able to sell ; otherwise, the produce is of no benefit to him.
In this way, the whole agricultural body of the community is made sen. sitive to fluctuations in prices to a degree in former times totally unknown. The farmer has ceased to be that independent personage he is described by the poets. It is only by venturing the produce of his industry upon the chances of trade, that he is any longer able to live. Instead of being a producer of all the articles which he consumes, he is now only a producer of food and of the raw material of manufactures, and in order to supply himself with clothes, furniture, tools, and even with many articles of daily consumption, for which he has acquired an artificial taste, to say nothing of those numerous luxuries which habit has changed into necessaries, he must first sell the produce of his farm, and then purchase of those who possess the various articles which he uses.
This restriction of the class of farmers to the mere production of food and raw materials has created a vast class of manufacturers, whose busi. ness it is to work up those raw materials into a state fit for use. The wool and flax of the farmer is no longer spun and woven in his own house. It is frequently transported thousands of miles to some great manufacturing city, and is then brought back again to him changed into cloth, which cloth he finds it cheaper to buy by exchanging his raw materials for it, than in attempting to manufacture cloth for himself. Indeed, the art of household manufacture is fast being totally lost; and the farmer is becoming quite as dependent for clothes upon the manufacturer, as the manufacturer is de. pendent for food upon the farmer.
This great class of manufacturing people, a class which is every day growing more and more numerous as new branches of manufacture are found out, is sensitive to a still higher degree than the farmers, to the fluctuations of price. The farmer at least produces food with which to satisfy his hunger; and, however low the price of his produce may fall, he is at least certain of being able to support life. Those articles which he purchases are articles in which it is possible to economize, and with many of which it is not difficult to dispense, at least for a considerable time. But, with respect to the manufacturer, the houseroom which shelters him. self and his family, and the daily supply of food without which he cannot live, must be paid for by first effecting a sale of the manufactured article which he produces, and his prosperity or his misery is wholly dependent upon the price which that article commands.
The division of labor between the producers of food and raw materials, on the one hand, and of manufactured articles, upon the other, which has been carried to such an extent in modern times, has given a vast increase to a third body of men, whose business it is to give efficiency to this division of labor by facilitating the exchange of commodities. This is the mercan. tile class.
Formerly, the class of persons devoted to the business of merchandise was very small
, for not only was the total number of exchanges exceedingly limited, but of those which did take place, by far the greater part were made directly between farmers, who exchanged one article of farm produce for another; or strictly between the farmer and the mechanic, who even. tually exchanged their respective products. Even when these exchanges did not bear the character of barter, but the sale was for money, a third person, in the character of a merchant or factor, was seldom employed. The consumer purchased directly of the producer.
The separation, however, of the farmers and manufacturers into two distinct classes, has, of necessity, produced the existence of a large third class, whose business it is to negotiate between them, to transport food and raw materials from the country to the towns in which the manufacturers are collected, and to bring together the several manufactured articles at some central point, whence they may be distributed among the con
It is the necessity of this transportation hither and thither, which within the last half century, has created those wonderful improvements in the means of travelling, and carrying goods from place to place. The roads, the canals, and the railroads of the last fifty years, have originated in that division of labor to which we have alluded. A century ago, such things were unknown or uncommon, because they were not needed. They are