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769
COMMERCE

in an age when the minds of men were awakening out of a long sleep, when the printing press was disseminating the ancient classical and sacred literature, and when geography and astronomy were subjects of eager study in the seats both of traffic and of learning. But their practical effect was seen in swiftly-succeeding events. Before the end of the century Columbus had thrice crossed the Atlantic, touched at San Salvador, discovered Jamaica, Porto Rico and the Isthmus of Darien, and had seen the waters of the Orinoco in South America. Meanwhile Cabot, sent out by England, had discovered Newfoundland, planted the English flag on Labrador, Nova Scotia and Virginia, and made known the existence of an expanse of land now known as Canada. This tide of discovery by navigators flowed on without intermission. But the opening of a maritime route to India and the discovery of America, surprising as these events must have been at the time, were slow in producing the results of which they were a sure prognostic. The Portuguese established in Cochin the first European factory in India a few years after Vasco da Gama’s expedition, and other maritime nations of Europe traced a similar course. But it was not till 1600 that the English East India Company was established, and the opening of the first factory of the Company in India must be dated some ten or eleven years later. So also it was one thing to discover the two Americas, and another, in any real sense, to possess or colonize them, or to bring their productions into the general traffic and use of the world. Spain, following the stroke of the valiant oar of Columbus, found in Mexico and Peru remarkable remains of an ancient though feeble civilization, and a wealth of gold and silver mines, which to Europeans of that period was fascinating from the rarity of the precious metals in their own realms, and consequently gave to the Spanish colonizations and conquests in South America an extraordinary but unsolid prosperity. The value of the precious metals in Europe was found to fall as soon as they began to be more widely distributed, a process in itself at that period of no small tediousness; and it was discovered further, after a century or two, that the production of gold and silver is limited like the production of other commodities for which they exchange, and only increased in quantity at a heavier cost, that is only reduced again by greater art and science in the process of production. Many difficulties, in short, had to be overcome, many wars to be waged, and many deplorable errors to be committed, in turning the new advantages to account. But given a maritime route to India and the discovery of a new world of continent and islands in the richest tropical and sub-tropical latitudes, it could not be difficult to foresee that the course of trade was to be wholly changed as well as vastly extended.

The substantial advantage of the oceanic passage to India by the Cape of Good Hope, as seen at the time, was to enable European trade with the East to escape from the Moors, Algerines and Turks who now swarmed round the Maritime route to India. shores of the Mediterranean, and waged a predatory war on ships and cargoes which would have been a formidable obstacle even if traffic, after running this danger, had not to be further lost, or filtered into the smallest proportions, in the sands of the Isthmus, and among the Arabs who commanded the navigation of the Red and Arabian Seas. Venice had already begun to decline in her wars with the Turks, and could inadequately protect her own trade in the Mediterranean. Armed vessels sent out in strength from the Western ports often fared badly at the hands of the pirates. European trade with India can scarcely be said, indeed, to have yet come into existence. The maritime route was round about, and it lay on the hitherto almost untrodden ocean, but the ocean was a safer element than inland seas and deserts infested by the lawlessness and ferocity of hostile tribes of men. In short, the maritime route enabled European traders to see India for themselves, to examine what were its products and its wants, and by what means a profitable exchange on both sides could be established; and on this basis of knowledge, ships could leave the ports of their owners in Europe with a reasonable hope, via the Cape, of reaching the places to which they were destined without transhipment or other intermediary obstacle. This is the explanation to be given of the joy with which the Cape of Good Hope route was received, as well as the immense influence it exerted on the future course and extension of trade, and of the no less apparent satisfaction with which it was to some extent discarded in favour of the ancient line, via the Mediterranean, Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea.

The maritime route to India was the discovery to the European nations of a “new world” quite as much as the discovery of North and South America and their central isthmus and islands. The one was the far, populous Eastern world, Discovery of America. heard of from time immemorial, but with which there had been no patent lines of communication. The other was a vast and comparatively unpeopled solitude, yet full of material resources, and capable in a high degree of European colonization. America offered less resistance to the action of Europe than India, China and Japan; but on the other hand this new populous Eastern world held out much attraction to trade. These two great terrestrial discoveries were contemporaneous; and it would be difficult to name any conjuncture of material events bearing with such importance on the history of the world. The Atlantic Ocean was the medium of both; and the waves of the Atlantic beat into all the bays and tidal rivers of western Europe. The centre of commercial activity was thus physically changed; and the formative power of trade over human affairs was seen in the subsequent phenomena—the rise of great seaports on the Atlantic seaboard, and the ceaseless activity of geographical exploration, manufactures, shipping and emigration, of which they became the outlets.

The Portuguese are entitled to the first place in utilizing the new sources of wealth and commerce. They obtained Macao as a settlement from the Chinese as early as 1537, and their trading operations followed close on the discoveries of Increase of trading settlements and colonies. their navigators on the coast of Africa, in India and in the Indian Archipelago. Spain spread her dominion over Central and South America, and forced the labour of the subject natives into the gold and silver mines, which seemed in that age the chief prize of her conquests. France introduced her trade in both the East and West Indies, and was the first to colonize Canada and the Lower Mississippi. The Dutch founded New York in 1621; and England, which in boldness of naval and commercial enterprize had attained high rank in the reign of Elizabeth, established the thirteen colonies which became the United States, and otherwise had a full share in all the operations which were transforming the state of the world. The original disposition of affairs was destined to be much changed by the fortune of war; and success in foreign trade and colonization, indeed, called into play other qualities besides those of naval and military prowess. The products of so many new countries—tissues, dyes, metals, articles of food, chemical substances—greatly extended the range of European manufacture. But in addition to the mercantile faculty of discovering how they were to be exchanged and wrought into a profitable trade, their use in arts and manufactures required skill, invention and aptitude for manufacturing labour, and those again, in many cases, were found to depend on abundant possession of natural materials, such as coal and iron. In old and populous countries, like India and China, modern manufacture had to meet and contend with ancient manufacture, and had at once to learn from and improve economically on the established models, before an opening could be made for its extension. In many parts of the New World there were vast tracts of country, without population or with native races too wild and savage to be reclaimed to habits of industry, whose resources could only be developed by the introduction of colonies of Europeans; and innumerable experiments disclosed great variety of qualification among the European nations for the adventure, hardship and perseverance of colonial life. There were countries which, whatever their fertility of soil or favour of climate, produced nothing for which a market could be found; and products such as the sugar-cane and the seed of the cotton plant had to be carried from regions where they were indigenous to other regions where they might be successfully cultivated, and the art of planting had to pass through an ordeal of risk and speculation. There were