The British Board of Trade has just published returns of the exports for the first six months of the present year, while its table of the declared values of the imports embraces only the five months ending May 31[a]. On comparing the corresponding periods of 1858 and 1859, it will be found that, with some small exceptions not worth mentioning, the British imports from the United States had generally decreased, in value at least, while the British exports to this country were increasing in quantity as well as in value. To illustrate this fact, we have extracted the following tabular statement from the official returns:
BRITISH EXPORTS TO THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SIX
MONTHS ENDING JUNE 30.
|H'ware & Cut., cwts||35,349||78,432||242,914||534,107|
|Iron, Pig, tuns||22,745||39,370||68,640||111,319|
|Bar, Bolt and Rod||21,463||56,026||175,944||457,384|
|Sheet and nails, cwts||5,293||15,522||28,709||77,840|
|Oil (seed), gals||411,769||930,784||50,950||111,103|
|Silk manufactures, lbs||47,101||134,470||51,277||144,417|
|Woolen cloths, p'cs||76,311||81,686||273,409||421,006|
|Wool's, mix. st'fs, y's||13,897,331||30,893,901||562,749||1,188,859|
|Do., worsted st'fs, p's||185,129||489,171||229,981||758,914|
|Earth'ware & porce'n||-||-||168,927||279,407|
|H'dashery & millin'y||-||-||456,364||861,921|
BRITISH IMPORTS FROM THE UNITED STATES FOR FIVE
MONTHS ENDING MAY 31.
|Wheat and Corn Flour||693,847||14,666|
The returns of the British Exports show, generally, an increase not only on 1858, but also on 1857, as will be seen from the following statement[b]:
BRITISH EXPORTS FOR THE SIX MONTHS ENDING JUNE 30.
On closer examination, however, it becomes evident that not only the total increase in the value of the exports of 1859 over those of 1857 is due to the extension of the commerce with India, but that there would have been a falling off of more than £2,000,000 in the general British export trade of 1859—as compared with that of 1857—if India had not made up more than the deficit. On the market of the world, therefore, all traces of the crisis of 1857 have not yet altogether disappeared. The most important and surprising feature of the Board of Trade Returns is, undoubtedly, the rapid development of the British export trade to the East Indies. Let us first by official figures, illustrate the fact:
EXPORTS TO BRITISH EAST INDIES,
6 MONTHS ENDING JUNE 30.
|Beer and Ale||£210,431||£130,213||£474,438||£569,398|
|Cottons, Calicoes, &c||2,554,976||3,116,869||4,523,849||6,094,433|
|Earthenware and Porcelain||30,374||23,521||43,975||43,195|
|Haberdashery and Millinery||39,854||70,502||77,319||105,723|
|Hardwares and Cutlery||84,758||101,083||139,813||153,423|
|Saddlery and Harness||12,339||15,587||35,947||19,498|
| other sorts||156,028||313,461||170,959||179,255|
|Iron—bar, bolt, and rod|
(exclusive of railway iron)
(exclusive of railway iron)
|Sheets and Nails||144,218||228,325||318,381||205,213|
Recollecting the fact that for about 16 years—from 1840 to 1856—the British export trade to India was generally stationary, although there was sometimes a small rise beyond, sometimes a perceptible fall below the average figure of £8,000,000—one is rather startled to see this stationary trade doubled in the short interval of two years, and that sudden progress, too, taking place at the epoch of an atrocious servile war. The question whether this expansion of commerce is due to only temporary circumstances or to a bona fide development of Indian demand, derives its peculiar interest from the present conjuncture of Indian finances which forces the British Government to ask Parliament for leave to contract a new Indian loan in London, and which, simultaneously, induces even the London Times to moot the question whether, after all, England had not better confine herself to the three old provinces and restore the rest of the Peninsula to its native rulers.[d]
With the scanty materials before us, it would be impossible to arrive at a categorical judgment as to the real character of the sudden expansion of the British export trade to India, but all the data known incline us to the opinion that transitory circumstances have, so to say, swelled that trade beyond its organic dimensions. In the first instance, we are unable to discover any peculiar movement in the British imports from India which might have led to the increase of exports to that country. There has been an increase in some articles, but it is almost balanced by a decrease in others; and, altogether, the vacillations of the Indian exports are too feeble to account one way or the other for the sudden changes in the imports thither. The civil war may, however, have helped the English to explore countries formerly little known, and the soldier may thus have cleared the way for the merchant. Besides, an excessive import and accumulation of silver has of late years been going on in India, and even the Hindoo, somewhat vivified by the scenes of excitement just passed through, may have encroached upon his hoarding mania, and, to some degree, taken to spending silver instead of burying it. Still, we are not warranted in laying too great stress upon such hypotheses, especially as, on the other side, the positive fact stares us in the face of an extraordinary Government expenditure to the annual amount of about £14,000,000. This state of things, while it sufficiently accounts for the sudden growth of the English export trade to India, can hardly be thought to prognosticate a long continuance of this new movement. The most lasting effect will probably be the complete destruction of Indian native industry, since, as the reader will have seen from the last tabular statement, the surplus of British exports to India is principally due to the intrusion of British cottons and cotton-yarns. Overtrading on the part of Manchester may, to some degree, also have contributed to swell the figures of the British export table.
Written about August 5, 1859
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5717, August 19, 1859 as a leading article
"Accounts Relating to Trade and Navigation for the Six Months Ended June 30, 1859"; "Real Value of the Principal Articles Imported. An Account of the Computed Real Value of the Principal Articles of Foreign and Colonial Merchandise Imported in the Five Months Ended 31st May 1859", The Economist, No. 831 (supplement), July 30, 1859.—Ed.
"The Board of Trade Returns for the Half-Year Ending June 30, 1859", The Economist, No. 831, July 30, 1859.—Ed.
The figures in this row are missing in the New-York Daily Tribune and are given here according to The Economist, No. 831, July 30, 1859.—Ed.
The Times, No. 23375, August 3, 1859 (leading article).—Ed.
This refers to the Indian uprising of 1857-59 against British rule.
In 1857-59 India was the scene of a big popular uprising against the British. It flared up in the spring of 1857 among the Sepoy units of the Bengal army and spread to large areas in Northern and Central India. Its main strength was in the peasants and the poor urban artisans. Directed by local feudal lords it was put down owing to the country's disunity, religious and caste differences and also because of the military and technical superiority of the colonisers.
Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16
(pp.478-481), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980