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presence there, and my exertions both here and in Europe, to place the importance of Northeastern Asia fully and prominently before our mercantile and commercial world, more has been gained for our commerce than any change in the resident incumbent of the agency could possibly have effected.
I have brought the subject-matter (commercial importance of Northeastern Asia) fully to the notice of the Chamber of Commerce here, and the president has notified me at some subsequent meeting of the chamber I shall have the opportunity of presenting to many of the first commercial men in New York a full exposition of this country, and the benefits that American commerce may derive therefrom.
I have also been requested by the Hon. F. A. Conkling, M. C. of this State, to furnish him with necessary information in regard to the Amoor country, in order to have the subject brought properly before the geographical and statistical society of this city.
From my connexion with the idea of the commercial development of the Amoor, and being the first American who had visited Liberia with commercial views, having in view a direct commerce with the United States. I have gained something of a reputation in Russia and Liberia.
In my intercourse with the imperial officials from the governor general down, as well as with the merchants, I have received every mark of respect and consideraton; and the object of my travels and explorations have been the subject of much useful discussion in Russian journals and magazines, so as to bring the idea of American commerce to the Amoor and Siberia fully before the Russian public.
Added to commerce upon the Amoor, and the introduction of steam, I had the honor of introducing to the immediate notice of his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Russia, Alexander II, the idea of telegraphic communication overland throughout the whole breadth of the Russian dominion, so as to unite Europe with the United States via Behring's straits, and thus supersede the necessity of a sub-Atlantic telegraph.
The consideration given to my proposition by the imperial government has led already to advantageous results; the government is stretching its line eastwardly towards the Amoor, with the authorization of the Emperor, ultimately to complete it to the shores of the Pacific ocean.
Now, under this view of the case it was a matter of some importance, personally, and I believe equally advantageous to our government, that I should be recognized as an officer of the government, connected with the development of the Amoor; because in Russia more than ordinary weight is attached to the fact of government employ.
It was my intention to have visited Russia again the past summer, but a wicked rebellion which has blighted whatever its poisonous breath has touched, involved in its early stages in a considerable pecuniary loss, and more than the mere loss of the money, with the very means upon which I depended to make the voyage.
Only for this I should now have been at the great fair of Nizhnee-Novgorod, on my way to Siberia. At this fair I hoped to gather the precise information necessary, to the further development of our Amoor commerce, and to have promulgated to the congregated host of merchants there the purposes and prospects of American commerce to the east, so that the knowledge of American purposes on the Amoor and in Northeastern Asia should be known to the Russian commercial world, and also to the Bucharian, Persian, and Toorkoman merchants of Asia, who visit Nizhnee, and whose intercourse reaches even to Thibet.
It is my intention to visit Russia so soon as circumstances will permit, and continue to advance our commercial interest at the Amoor on every opportune occasion.
COMMERCIAL PROGRESS IN EASTERN ASIA.
At about the epoch of the accession of the present Manchoo dynasty (1642) over China, the hardy Russian exiles, gold-diggers and fur-hunters, led on, probably, by some daring Cossack, who had emigrated either with or without his own consent, to the headwaters of the Amoor, began to extend their hunting and fishing excursions, mixed, perhaps, with a little freebooting, along the shores of the Amoor to the east. Most probably the whole course of the Amoor to the sea was well known to these hardy pioneers, and that some trade was even had with the Kamchadales.
The boldness and audacity of these Nerchinsk hunters soon brought them into conflict, upon the southern shore of the Amoor, with the constituted authorities of the Manchoos; for their appropriating propensities did not always allow them to distinguish, with the precaution of good neighbors, between the absolutely wild herds of deer and elk and the half-wild herds of cattle, horses, and camels of their Manchoo neighbors. Serious conflicts soon took place, and complaints were made to the supreme authority of China against the marauding Russians. The progress of these free hunters of the Nerchinsk was, however, so rapid and so successful, that fortified camps or towns began to be established upon the north shore of the Amoor, several hundred miles in advance of imperial Russian title to the soil.
Escaped convicts, desperate and hardy adventurers, with the riff-raff of a convict, Cossack and mining population, joined heartily in the fortunes of these new and distant settlements, where Russian power and law for the punishment of crime had not yet reached.
The Russian government unquestionably sympathized with these enterprises on the high-road to the Pacific, and was willing enough to let them go on, watching its own opportunity to make them legitimate.
Cam-hi, a Manchoo, coming to the throne of China about this time, saw plainly enough, that if the Russians were not promptly restrained but little of the vast territory of the Amoor would remain to China. He accordingly set on foot an expedition to drive the Russians from their comfortable quarters at Albasin, which was the chief point of Russian strength.
The Albasinians, finding they were to have serious trouble, perhaps a bloody conflict with organized Chinese troops, repaired to the Russian authorities of Nerchinsk, after the example of Yermack to the Emperor, to hand over to the government all the newly-acquired territory and possessions, together with themselves, on condition of receiving aid to repel the expected Chinese troops, the Russian government granting a full and free pardon to all of her subjects found upon the Amoor who had taken a hasty leave of absence on their own authority.
The two governments were thus soon brought into armed conflict, but Cam-hi's soldiers were two numerous on the Amoor; Albasin capitulated, the Russians retired within their stipulated borders, and the Chinese power ruled supreme on the whole line of the Amoor to the sea; and not long afterwards Chinese ambassadors, escorted by a numerous and well-appointed army, with a train of artillery, presented themselves before the gates of Nerchinsk, and constrained Golovin, the Russian ambassador, to conclude a treaty, by which Russia abandoned all claims to the Amoor country, or navigation upon its waters. Since that day, 27th August, 1689, up to about 1853-54, the commerce and military operations of Russia to the east, towards the shores and coasts of the Ohotsk, Kamschatka, and her American possessions, have been conducted by an immense detour to the north, by way of Yakutsk to Ohotsk or Ayan, and thence distributed, the furs returning to Kyachta and St. Petersburg over the same road.
Thus for near two centuries has Russia awaited patiently the development of her power and the right opportunity to seize upon the Amoor and hold it.
Up to the close of 1860 we have reliable information of the following steamers and steamships either navigating or preparing to navigate the Amoor and its approaches; America, Manchoor, Japanese, sea going, built in the United States; two river steamers, Lena and Âmoor, constructed in Philadelphia, iron, shipped and set up at the Amoor; one on private account, at Boston, and two at San Francisco. The Russian government built two at Shilka, over two thousand two hundred miles by the course of the Amoor and Shilka rivers from the sea, and steamed them to the Straits of Tartary. The Russian gov. ernment has also partly organized a force of ten small courier or mail steamers, which are to keep up postal and military communication along the whole course of the Amoor, Shilka, and Ingodah rivers, and connect with the Chinese and Siberian system of overland communication at Irkoutsk.
The Amoor Company (Russian) have had constructed in Europe one steamer, sea-going, and five river steamers. The Russian American Company has two sea-going steamers which visit the Amoor where the headquarters of the company for the Pacific is now located.
From the fact that Nicolivsky, the port of the Amoor, is a military post, and not a commercial port, under custom-house regulations, no exact return of merchandise entered can be given. The papers, manifest, and bills of lading of vessels are handed over to the captain of the port, and by him retained until they sail. There being no custom-house, or duties, the value of cargoes stated cannot be relied upon, because it is the policy of merchants frequenting the Amoor to conceal as much as possible from rivals the nature and extent of cargoes taken there for sale.
In 1856, first year of foreign intercourse, only two foreign ships entered the Amoor-both American. In 1857 seven merchant ships arrived in the Amoor, with cargoes amounting to 500,000 silver rubles. In 1858 four ships entered with 805 tons freight for government, and merchandise amounting to 174,650 silver rubles, including 72,444 rubles in value of Russian production. In 1859 thirteen foreign merchant ships arrived at the Amoor. The total traffic from foreign countries and from the upper Amoor amounted to 1,090,714 silver rubles; at Nicolawsky, from the upper Amoor, 140,114 silver rubles, while the total import and export amounted to 1,230,829 silver rubles.
The port of Nicolivsky has 2,183 male and 369 female inhabitants. There were forty-nine government houses and two hundred private residences, besides twenty-seven government houses, uninhabited. There were twelve stores, of which five were American, making in all two hundred and eighty-eight houses. Among the inhabitants were 1,518 military, of all grades, with their wives and attachés.
In 1859 there were seven foreign merchants, five of whom were Americans. In 1860 the amount of merchandise received was greater than the previous year, though the sales, owing to temporary causes, had not been so profitable. One American house had withdrawn, but three others had been added. One of the Amoor Company's steamers had ascended the Amoor, but to what point it is not stated.
The number of vessels entered is not stated, but supposed to be ten to fifteen. Again, in regard to the commerce to the Amoor in American bottoms, we can get no returns of clearances from American ports, because with but two or three exceptions, vessels intended for the Amoor have cleared for "ports in the Pacific," consequently, the true returns are not to be had.
In the figures given above we have only a partial statement of the actual value of commerce at the Amoor. The great probability is that the transactions of the government in the purchase of machinery, naval stores and provisions, nor the commerce of the Russian-American Company, are included. During 1856 and
1857 fully 700 barges and rafts descended the Amoor from the Trans-Baikal province of Eastern Siberia, freighted with munitions, provisions, merchandise and live stock. The most of them for government account, but the Russian-American Company and private parties had some share in the expedition.
The Amoor is formed by the junction of the Schilka and Argoon, in 1210 40′ east longitude, and 53° 30′ north latitude, and after a very tortuous course of two thousand miles, falls into the Straits of Tartary, in about 140° east longitude, 53° north latitude. The Amoor is navigable for steamers its whole length.
The winter is severe, but not much more so than Moscow, or in equal degrees of latitude on the Volga. The natural floral and cultivated productions of the country indicate a good grain, fruit and grass country, being also well adapted to the rearing of flocks and herds.
The province of Trans-Baikal, (Eastern Siberia,) which lies in part upon the headwaters of the Amoor, viz: the Schilka and Argoon, contains a population of 340,000, and is the chief source in Eastern Siberia from whence the Russian government procures its silver; the mines are rich and extensive. These mines are however, worked only by the government, but it is reported that they are soon to be opened to the public.
The Amoor is free from ice, and navigable from May to November, which will compare favorably with the navigable season at St. Petersburg.
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 headwaters 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 depots 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 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 draught.
Upon the Amoor there should be two classes of steamers: 1st, side-wheel, of three hundred tons, with a draught 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. Stern-wheel 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, wagon 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. Depots of merchandise must be established, at points upon the headwaters 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 depots because Moscow, Nijne-Novgorod, 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 lose 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 commerce.
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 nor 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.
The 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 Irkoutsk, 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
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