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sent to Hayti with provision of quicksilver to facilitate the separation of the gold by amalgamation. Something very striking in this regard, we read in a passage, recently discovered and but lately published, of the Geography of Scherif Edrisi,* “that the negroes in the interior of Western Africa, as well as the inhabitants of the low and fertile district called Wady el Alaki (between Abyssinia, Bedja and Nubia) work the gold-earth by means of quicksilver." The Nubian geographer speaks in the middle of the 12th century, of this mode of extraction as a thing known for a long time. Could this knowledge have been communicated from the East, across Egypt to the country of Blacks, (Chemi) subtle in decompositions—to Africa? Antiquity, Greek and Roman, makes mention, it is true, of a very frequent employment of quicksilver to detach the gold from the threads of old lace; but it never speaks of an artistical application of mercury on a large scale in the detailed descriptions of gold-washings it so often gives.
[Continued on p. 601, April No.]
THE FINANCIAL EVENTS OF THE YEAR 1848.
From the London Times, January 1, 1849.
As matter of history, and as materials for future reference and comparison with other periods, we lay the following sketch before our readers. It is the ablest article upon the subject that we have met with among our numerous files of daily and monthly foreign journals. The reader, after having gone through this article, will find the Exchange and Stock tables in our present No., pp. 572–3-4, and the concluding remarks, well worth an examination.-Ed. B. M.
The commercial and monetary events of 1847 seemed almost without precedent for violence and magnitude, but those of the twelve months just ended, although of a wholly different character, have been no less remarkable. If the force of each period, taken singly, can be matched by former experience, it is at least certain that as regards two consecutive years nothing similar is upon record. The only mitigation has been, that the past year has destroyed the impressions of its predecessor, so that the devastation of 15 months back appears now like something we have only read of, rather than a recent struggle in which we have been actors.
On the 1st of January, 1848, Consols were at 85, having risen to that price from 783, at which they had been done in October. The bullion in the Bank was £12,404,250; the notes in circulation, £17,924,990; and the reserve, £7,865,830. The rate of discount had just been reduced to 5 per cent., at which there was no demand, and the daily reports of failures having at last ceased, a general deadness prevailed.
The account of the revenue, which appeared shortly afterwards for the
See the French translation of Amédée Jaubert, (whose death, Science has recently had to deplore] Paris, 1836, t. i. p. 42, 67. These two pages were wanting in the MS. which served for the Latin version of Sionita.
twelve months ending the 5th of January, showed a falling off of £2,217,454 from the preceding year, although the first two quarters had presented a considerable increase; but notwithstanding a new loan or new taxes were foreseen, it was not so bad as had been expected, and hence, instead of a fall in the funds, it was followed by a further rise. On the 26th the discount houses reduced their rate for money at call to 3 per cent., and the bank immediately lowered its discount io 4 per cent., Consols meanwhile having steadily approached 90. Throughout this and the following month, the chief points were the anxiety for news from Calcutta of the first effect of the break up on this side, the suspension of the West India Bank, the disorganization of the West India colonies generally, and a constant succession of failures on the Continent, commencing with three large firms at Frankfort for a total of £230,000, followed by others at Paris, Marseilles, Hamburgh, St. Petersburgh, Amsterdam, and Havre, where the suspension of Dubois' Commercial Bank took place with liabilities stated at £180,000. The prohibition, by General Scott, of the export of specie from Mexico was also a disturbing element. Gold, however, was siill flowing in from America and other quarters, while as regarded politics, everything was comparatively quiet, except in Sicily.
On the 18th of February Lord John Russell brought forward the financial budget, showing a deficiency of two millions and a half for the coming year, and proposing for two years to raise the income tax from 3 to 5 per cent. From this he would derive three millions and a half, but as he proposed also an increase in the navy, army, and ordnance estimates, together with a grant of £150,000 for militia, it would still only leave a surplus of £113,000. The scheme, however, drew forth one unanimous burst of condemnation, and the columns of The Times teemed with letters showing the unjust pressure of the tax, even as it already existed, and that the slightest addition to it would be intolerable. Although it had been announced that there would be no funding, Consols went down from 90 to 89}, and it was evident that, if the plan were persisted in, it might compromise even the very existence of the Cabinet. It was therefore speedily abandoned, and the Minister was forced to try retrenchment, and to leave his account open until the end of the session.
In the midst of the storm thus raised, came the first sound of the French revolution. On the 25th of February, Consols opened at 88, whence they fell to 85 on Louis Philippe's abdication; and by the 28th they had dropped to 804. During this period, we had no prices of the French funds. All the Parisian bankers spoke of liquidating. The fate of the national debt of France, amounting to 210 millions sterling, became a subject of doubt, as well as that of the 31 millions invested in railways, to a great extent by English capitalists. The loan of 10 millions contracted by Rothschild in the previous November, and on which only the first three instalments had been paid, it was assumed would be abandoned. This state of uncertainty continued more or less till June. Meanwhile the chief French banking houses failed; that of M. Gouin with liabilities for £2,000,000 sterling; Ganneron's, with a paid-up capital of £800,000; Thurneyssen and Co., D'Eicthal and Son,
and Paccard Dufour and Co. (who have since resumed) being amongst the number. On the 7th the French 5 per cents., which had closed on the 22d of February at 1164, opened at 97), and left off on the same day at 89; the 3 per cents. being done at 47. The extravagant expenditure of the Provisional Government increased, voluntary and other loans were vainly attempted, M. Goudchaux in despair gave up the Finance Department, and on the 16th the Bank of France suspended specie payments--a step which was of necessity speedily followed by the banks in Belgium. The attempts of the Government to seize the railroads, the flight of capitalists and manufacturers, the failure of whole streets of shopkeepers, and the constant occurrence of emeutes, until on the 15th of May the Assembly was invaded by the followers of Blanqui, Barbés, and others, added thenceforth to the forebodings as to the depth of bankruptcy into which the nation was destined to descend.
Simultaneously with these events in France, the tidings of the insurrections at Vienna on the 10th of March and the 15th of May, (and at Naples also on the latter day) as well as the conflict at Berlin, the march of the King of Sardinia against the Austrians, followed by a solemn proclamation of the King of Naples to “ achieve a magvanimous effort for Italian nationality,” outbreaks at Madrid and the departure of Sir H. Bulwer, together with the Schleswig-Holstein war, and the embargo by Denmark on all Gerinan vessels, contributed their additional influences to keep our markets in a state of constant agitation. As regarded home events, it was impossible for much interest to be awakened by anything. The chief city occurrences were the bank meeting of the 16th of March, at which it was intimated that, in compliance with the demands for reform, an amended system would be adopted in the elections of governors and directors; the distress occasioned in various circles by the report of the Union Bank of Calcutta "carrying to many of its shareholders a sentence of utter ruin,” and the drain of gold at the beginning of April, owing to £700,000 having been sent to meet the run on the Savings Banks in Ireland, as well as to the hoarding consequent upon the fears of the approaching Chartist demonstrations on the 10th of that month-a day which, on its termination, was marked by an improvement in Consols of 1 per cent. On the 6th of May the bullion in the bank had declined to £12,826,108, being a reduction of £2,490,686, from the 25th of March, when it had stood at its highest amount; but although the exportation of specie was prohibited from Naples and Vienna, and ultimately from Russia, the tide soon turned again in our favour, continuous arrivals taking place from the United States, India, and elsewhere.
As summer approached, Consols had again nearly reached 85, and the upward tendency was only checked by renewed apprehension as to the state of Paris, aggravated by the movements of the Bonapartists. On the 15th of June the Bank of England again reduced its rate of discount to 3 per cent., and this coupled with Louis Napoleon's resignation of his seat in the French Assembly, imparted renewed firmness. On the 18th we had the Ministerial propositions on the sugar question, including the offer to guarantee a loan to the colonies of £500,000. On the 20th the conditional recognition by Great Britain of the independence of Sicily was announced, and on the 21st the report of the Select Committee on Commercial Distress made its appearance, with the satisfactory resolution, that it was not expedient to make any alteration in the Bank Charter Act.” From time to time large failures at Hamburgh were reported. On the 22d the new insurrection at Paris broke out, and on Midsummerday that city was placed in a state of siege, and General Cavaignac was named dictator.
The inevitable reaction of the revolutionary wave had now commenced, and the tone of foreign politics became less exciting. Consols rapidly advanced, and a new French loan of 8 millions sterling was contracted in 5 per cents. at 754, the 10 per cent. deposit forfeited on the previous loan being allowed as an inducement to the same capitalists to subscribe to it.
But the agitation which had long prevailed in Ireland was drawing to a crisis, and on the 27th of July the memorable telegraphic communication arrived of the rising at Clonmel, the disaffection of the military, and the burning of the railway station at Thurles. The decline thus caused, however, was only 1 per cent. During this month the suspension of Mr. G. T. Braine, with liabilities for £350,000, the contract for a loan of $16,000,000 at Washington, consequent upon the treaty with Mexico, of which $2,400,000 was taken on English account, and the unquestionable recurrence of the potatoe disease in Ireland, were the other most noticeable events. In August an uninterrupted continuance of bad weather exercised a depressing effect, and the bank returns of specie again began to diminish, until a remittance of £400,000 from St. Petersburgh on account of the Russian Government took place. News also arrived of the revolt at Mooltan. At the end of the month the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that it was now ascertained the deficiency of the year would be two millions, which it was proposed to meet by a creation of stock, to be sold in parcels as the money might be required. In September the only business topic of any importance was the contest in the Bank Court against the interminable system of increasing the capital under the plea of adding to the rest, and which resulted in a majority of 15 in favour of the directors, the votes of their own body being not less than thirty. In October the gloom of the Share-market, which in consequence of distrust as to the actual position of the various companies had steadily gathered throughout the year, increased to a perfect panic. A call was made for "accounts that should be unmistakable," and the force of public opinion rendering resistance impossible, it was at length complied with. The NorthWestern Company intimated its intention to abandon a contemplated expenditure of nearly four millions; the example was followed by the Great-Western and other companies, and the result was a general rise of from 5 to ten per cent. in the value of shares. A project for an amalgamation of the three leading lines was also brought forward, but without success. The political events of this month were the new insurrection at Vienna, and the siege and surrender of that city, together with the news from America of the election of General Taylor. In November, Berlin was added to the number of continental capitals destined to experience a state of siege, but neither this nor the subsequent flight of Pius IX. from Rome, nor the abdication of the Emperor
of Austria, produced any effect on the English funds. In the manufacturing districts an extraordinary revival had become observable, owing to the low stocks existing in most parts of the world. Money, however, still increased in abundance, and each succeeding statement of the bank showed a large addition to its bullion. Consols still advanced, and the only cloud that seemed to be dreaded was the possible defeat of General Cavaignac in the French election. The announcement, however, of a majority of four millions having been obtained over him by Prince Louis was instantly followed by a decided and uninterrupted rise.
Among the occurrences of the year having an important bearing on commerce, the colonization of the island of Labuan, and the formation of Mr. Enderby's company for the re-establishment of the Southern Whale Fishery, call for notice. The still more essential question of Indian railways has remained unfortunately lifeless, under its discouragements from the India House.
January 1, 1849. Consols have closed to-day within a fraction of 4 per cent. above their price on the 1st of January last, when, with the exception of Italy, Europe was in a state of profound repose, and the worst casually contemplated by the speculators was the possible death of Louis Phillippe. The bullion in the bank is £2,600,000 in excess of that period, and within about a million of its highest point preceding the madness of 1846, while the banking reserve has increased £3,400,000, and is nearly half a million higher than at any period since the passing of the Bank Act. Under these circumstances, with produce of all descriptions only just showing a revival from the ruinous prices they had reached in October (the recovery at Manchester and Liverpool having been about 10 per cent., while in the colonial markets it is as yet only indicated), with low prices of grain, and the certainty of their continuance from the opening of the ports on the 1st of February, with encouraging accounts from India and America, with the railroad and every other speculative mania effectually crushed, the system of blind credit to leviathan houses being also broken up, with our exports after eight months of large comparative deficiency, suddenly presenting an opposite result, with a steady coming-in of the revenue, and with a universal disposition on the part of the mercantile classes to avoid all business save such as can be carried on securely, the new year now opens upon us. That its prospects are cheering, and such as to call forth all active energies, no one can deny. Experience has shewn, that should it even be found impossible to preserve peace on the Continent, the evil consequences upon trade must still be small so long as Great Britain and America remain merely as lookers-on. On the other hand, if order should be restored and maintained, our progress may be rapid, almost beyond precedent. It is true that from every quarter of the Continent attempts will be made to raise large loans. Austria already wants 8 millions. France needs a like amount, and Denmark, Prussia, and the Italian States are all in similar exigencies; but the lessons already learned on this point have not been forgotten amongst us, and it is not improbable that one of the best preservatives of peace will be found in the impossibility of raising supplies in our morkei.