« PreviousContinue »
tal in the construction of railroads and the opening up of mines. Valuable concessions for those purposes have been granted, and English, French and Italian syndicates already have had preliminary surveys made of roads that will pass through territory abounding in mineral deposits and said by competent experts to be phenomenally rich, requiring only the introduction of improved mining machinery and modern methods to extract their full values.
But while the mining industry offers alluring prospects to the foreign investor, it is but one of the many branches of business that may be profitably engaged in. The few American firms that, with commendable enterprise and foresight have established permanent branches at Hongkong, Shanghai and other places, have in most instances met with gratifying success, and have created a steadily increasing demand for American manufactures. This is encouraging, when we reflect that our European competitors have had a long start of us, having enjoyed almost a complete monopoly of the Chinese market until the advent of the "American invasion," as they facetiously called it a few years ago. Since then, many English houses, that studiously abstained from doing so before, have found it to their interest to carry several lines American-made
goods, in order to keep their customers from going over, en masse, to the "invad
Hongkong, being a British possession, and the first port in China to be reached by ships coming via the Suez Canal-also being a free port of entry for all foreign goods-is naturally the entrepot for merchandise from European countries destined for interior points, or for places further north; and regularly established steamship lines radiate from that point in all directions. Junks, or native sail boats, however, do a large proportion of the reexport business. But Shanghai, being more centrally situated-about one thousand miles north of Hongkong-and the initial Chinese port reached by our fine fleet of well-equipped, but altogether too few Pacific Mail boats, is the emporium for American productions. From this point merchandise intended for the interior is carried to its destination by means
of junks, and canal, or cargo, boats; the former, with a nondescript rig consisting of a single mast, as broad, if not broader, at the head as at the step, and a square, or more correctly speaking oblong sail, composed of bamboo rods strung together, while the boats (yulos) are propelled by immense sweeps, as much as forty feet long, operated from the stern, one at each side, and manned by half a dozen men or women, usually the latter, with the inevitable baby strapped upon their backs.
Those boats occupy an important place in the economy of Chinese life, a large proportion of the maritime population knowing no other home; and at Canton, where the "Flower Boats" stretch for miles along the river banks, little urchins, garbed after Nature's own fashion, swarm the decks, disporting themselves as well as the large bamboo logs suspended from their necks or strapped around. their waists will permit; the logs answering the double purpose of life preservers in case of their falling overboard, and of allowing their mothers to attend to their household duties, undisturbed by any apprehension for the safety of their offspring.
Thousands of miles inland, where a network of waterways-off-shoots from the Grand Canal-take the place of roads in other countries, the ubiquitous junks and cargo boats, laden to the water's edge with merchandise of every description from all parts of the world, may be encountered in endless procession going and coming to and from the various ports of entry. The rates-fixed by law-for the hire of cargo-boats at Hongkong, used for loading and discharging ocean-going vessels, are almost ridiculously low; and where conditions regarding accessibility are similar, or nearly so, may in general be taken. as a guide to those prevailing at other Chinese ports. A first-class cargo boat, with a capacity of eight to twelve hundred piculs (a picul being 133 1-3 lbs.) costs but $10 per day Hongkong rency, which with exchange, say at 47 5-8, would equal $4.76 gold. Second, third and fourth-class boats, with maximum capacities ranging downward from 800 to 100 piculs, can be had respectively at $5, $3 and $1.50 per day Hongkong currency. Fluctuations in exchange affects those
rates, of course; but in so small a degree as to be almost infinitessimal. Not so, however, in transactions where large sums are involved; for there, a variation of a very few points in exchange rates may entail disastrous consequences on those who indulge in that kind of speculation.
More than one large foreign concern in Shanghai was forced to the wall a few years ago, and compelled to retire from. business through unfortunate speculation in exchange. While the temptation to make money this way is sometimes hard to resist, yet the conservative is the only safe way, for while one may miss a chance by abstaining, should rates prove favorable, his loss is purely nominal, or in other words, he only loses what he might have possessed; while should he indulge his speculative impulse, and rates at time. of settlement prove adverse, his loss becomes real.
One of the prerequisites to success in the establishment of satisfactory relations with Chinese houses, is the acquisition of their entire confidence, lacking which it. is idle to attempt to do business with them. But, on the other hand, having satisfied themselves of one's integrity a quality they possess in an eminent degree suspicion (one of their most pronounced characteristics) is cast aside, and implicit confidence in the white man's trustworthiness takes its place. Shame, indeed, upon him who abuses it, and merited punishment is generally his reward, for once that confidence is lost, no apologies, explanations or excuses however plausible, will ever again entirely restore it, and the culprit's usefulness in that field terminates.
Firms not having branches in China, but who send representatives there periodically, might do well carefully to consider those facts. Many of those representives, actuated doubtless by a commendable zeal in the interest of their employers, but forgetful of the deep-rooted prejudices of the strange people with whom they are dealing, often make representations concerning the superlative quality of the goods for which they are seeking orders, not always borne out upon inspection of same after arrival, perhaps two or three months after the order was given, the merchant meantime having
sold the goods in advance, relying on the representations of the agent, often has them refused, and thrown back on his hands. This naturally causes disappointment and distrust; the latter unfortunately not being always confined to the offending party; and is apt to arouse a similar feeling towards all houses of the same nationality.
If our manufacturers and still entertain the idea that "anything will do for China"-an idea which up to a few years ago at least they certainly took no pains to conceal the sooner they discard that fallacy the better it will be for their business; for as a matter of fact, there are few more exacting markets, or where a more rigid adherence to all the stipulations of a contract is necessary to insure the retention of custom and good will. A little consideration for Chinese peculiarities and superstitions always produces desirable results; and this is a point our European competitors never overlook. No matter how seemingly capricious the request to have goods put up in a certain form of package, our English and German friends never fail to comply, while our people calmly ignore it, with the result that many a large order, which by preference would come to this country, is placed elsewhere. This apparently trivial point has been dwelt upon time and time again by our Consuls in their reports; and their long residence among the Chinese, and opportunities for observing their peculiarities and preferences, entitle their remarks to considerable weight.
The Chinese merchant has cogent reasons for making those requests concerning the size, weight, shape and color of certain packages, incomprehensible though they may be to the American manufacturer; and as the working of the Oriental mind is inscrutable, would it not be better to meet their views in this simple matter than to arouse a feeling of antagonism by refusal, especially as they are willing to bear any additional expense the manufacturer may have to incur by compliance.
Of course, all foreign houses opening branches in China find it imperative to employ a compradore, and upon the wisdom of the selection largely depends the success of the enterprise. Therefore, too much care cannot be exercised in engag
ing one, for otherwise a new concern may discover it has entered into a contract with a mere "shroff" or compradore's assistant, and valuable time may be wasted. before the impostor is found out.
The compradore class is distinct in itself, and its members commence training early to qualify themselves for the performance of the duties of their vocation. In addition to being accurate accountants, they usually acquire a rudimentary knowledge, at least. of one or more foreign languages, which, with the aid of "pidgin" (a jargon understood by all Chinese traders), enables them to converse intelligibly with foreigners. One or two examples of this "pidgin English" might prove interesting to those who have not had an opportunity of hearing it: Chinaman loquitur-Chin-chin master. You jussee now come Hongkong side? My chin-chin you numba one good chancee. Some man talkee you wanchee one good boy makee take care you pidgin. My hab findee one numba one good piecee. He hab got down side. He blong alla samee You likee make look my young blodda. see he? He sabe englishee talkee bellee well all same my." Which, being interpreted, is as follows: "Good morning, sir. You have just arrived at Hongkong? I wish you the best success. They say you want a good boy to wait upon you. have found an excellent one. He is down stairs. He is a kind of young relation of mine. Would you like to see him? He can speak English very well, just as I do."
A young man who called upon two young ladies was gravely informed by the Chinese servant who opened the door that "number one piecee side makee washeewashee, number two piecee go outside makee walkee-walkee," by which he meant to say that the elder of the two was upstairs taking a bath and the younger had gone out walking.
The duties of the compradore are complex and diverse, embodying in himself the offices of interpreter, treasurer, salesman and solicitor, and in some cases he even assumes responsibility for the honesty of the domestic servants of his employer. He must keep an accurate account of all funds passing through his hands, and is generally required to give
substantial security for the faithful performance of his multifarious duties; and to his credit, be it said, the cases are rare where he has proven recreant to the trust reposed in him. Being generally a native of the city in which he is employed, his knowledge of the financial and moral standing of the merchants in that place is of incalculable benefit to his foreign employer.
The old time conservatism to which for so many centuries the Chinese have clung as tenaciously as does the ivy to a crumbling wall, the stolid resistance to innovation of any sort, is now happily yielding to the pressure of Occidental progress. And when that resistance entirely disappears, as everything indicates it soon will, an impetus will be given to commerce to which nothing heretofore presents a parallel. With railroads opening a way for the rapid passage of our products to the teeming millions of the interior, and affording them the same facilities for communication with the seaboard, where a ready market awaits their products, a new era will be inaugurated. Old prejudices will vanish when the masses begin to realize the advantages accruing to them by an interchange of commodities, and competition among the nations will be intensified by the opportunity for further access into the richest store-house of undeveloped resources on earth, beyond the mere threshold of which, owing to legislative barriers, now however removed, they have as yet scarcely penetrated.
It being generally conceded that after the opening of the Panama Canal the Pacific Ocean will become the theatre of the fiercest struggle the fiercest struggle for commercial supremacy yet seen a struggle where "no quarter" will be the slogan of the combatants, and which will emphasize nature's immutable law of the "survival of the fittest" and as our geographical position. gives us an overwhelming advantage, nothing but the most inexcusable supineness can prevent our emerging victorious from the combat. While happily the "dove of peace" now hovers over our land, yet the philosophy of preparing for war in time of peace has been too frequently demonstrated to admit of discussion. Did we need an example to prove the wisdom of this course, the recent struggle between
Russia and Japan furnishes it. The latter, though a pigmy in comparison to her Titanie foe, fearlessly threw down the gauntlet of defiance, knowing she was well prepared, and fully apprised of the fact that her powerful adversary was entirely unprepared.
If, therefore, when the great commercial Armageddon is fought, NOW is the time to prepare for the struggle. What is the best way to do it? Primarily, by impressing upon Congress the importance of giving every aid and encouragement possible for the formation of a mercantile marine, adequate to the necessities of our growing commerce, which should be carried in our own, and not in foreign, bottoms. This policy has always been followed by England-of course, she could not do otherwise if she would, no other nation having the ships-and her wisdom in that respect is manifested by the commanding position she so deservedly occupies in the commercial world; there probably not being a navigable body of water on earth where the "Union Jack" is not a familiar object. Japan is following England's example in this respect, with the result that she is fast becoming a formidable rival to her preceptor. Generous subsidies should be granted to our ocean steamship lines, especially the trans-Pacific ones, that have difficulties to contend
against which do not confront the TransAtlantic lines.
Secondly, our manufacturers and merchants should more actively interest themselves in promoting a demand for American products, by largely augmenting the number of firms and lines of business at present represented in China. There ought to be at least ten for every one American house now there; and they should be established on a permanent basis, and not, as some have been, merely spasmodic and ephemeral experiments. English, French and German business houses are numerous in Shanghai; American houses are far from it. The fingers of one hand, minus the thumb, would about correctly represent the number. Surely, when our commercial community awakes to a realization of the magnitude of the business that under the new conditions can be done with China, this state of affairs will be remedied, thereby proportionately increasing the demand for American productions, and, as a consequence, conserving their own best interests. Then indeed will the white winged argosies blaze a phosphorescent pathway across the broad Pacific, reaching from the Golden Gate of California to the shores of far Cathay; a pathway strewn with bright anguries for the land of the Dragon, and our own country as well.
"WHAT ELSE COULD I DO?"
BEING A CAVALRY YARN OF HOW SORREL TOP
T WAS distinctively Smithy, that first remark with which the little ex-trumpeter greeted me as he came into the recruiting office to say "Howdy, Major." after his
"Hully gee! if that coon over there don't look like the Buffaler' Sorrel Top Clark pulled over the breast works when the 'Paches was having fun with him. down at Araveda."
"Curb down to a walk, you patched pants broncho buster, and stop calling the Major names," said the sergeant with mock dignity, estopping the tobacco in his pipe with a well-trained little finger.
"Curb in yourself, you Dutch imitation of a yellow-legged centaur, and who was calling the Major names?" was Smithy's "come back" with an equal show of dignity, for these two little cavalry cavalry men could no more "scrap" than they could refrain from pretending to. I was noticing that big coon across the street. Howdy, Major!"
"Hello, Smithy," I answered, returning his hearty hand squeeze, for I knew these two old campaigners, both men of record in the cavalry, men whose names were as well known in the canyons and on the ranges of the West, the old Indian West, as in this big city, where wounds had sent them, partially retired from service, permanently retired from the old life they still loved, to seek recruits for the service of which they were both so proud. "But what about Sorrel Top and the Buffaler ?"
"Smithy can't tell you anything, Major.
Listen to me, and I'll tell you about when me and old Dan Schweitzer was gone hungry down on Mule Creek in Arizona," broke in the sergeant. "Me and Dan, we was in the commissary together down at Lowell after Fourth Cavalry Lawton licked Geronimo
"Shut up and give Patched Pants a chance," broke in Hawkins, Doughboy Hawkins, one time of the famous Riflers, Mops, Brooms and Feather Dusters, as his phenomenal neatness, even for a soldier, had caused the irrepressible Smithy to dub him.
"Commence firing, Smithy," I said, for I knew, as did the others, that the little sergeant was joking. "Tell us about it." Smithy had had a lot of experience in the old wild days when he rode as trumpeter to Carr, Merritt and many another famous Indian fighter on the wide frontier.
"I'll tell you," and Smithy settled back in his chair, his feet on the window-sill and his bright eyes turning from me to Hawkins and the sergeant. "It happened down in Arizona when those Ninth Cavalry Buffalers was having some tidy diddings with the Tontos. We had a pinch with them in Skinnin' Jim's day and once or twice afterwards."
"Same here," broke in the sergeant.
"Go on," and Smithy's voice was the acme of scorn, "you only licked Geronimo and Apache Kid. What do you know of Tontos?"
"If there's anything about Tontos or any other brand of Apaches the old Fourth Cavalry, and especially H troop, don't know, you tell me. Why, old Fourth Cavalry Lawton used to say, 'Give H troop a slicker and a chaw of tobacco and it'd follow to hell.""