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COMMERCE

also countries where no European could labour; and the ominous work of transporting African negroes as slaves into the colonies—begun by Spain in the first decade of the 16th century, followed up by Portugal, and introduced by England in 1562 into the West Indies, at a later period into New England and the Southern States, and finally domiciled by royal privilege of trade in the Thames and three or more outports of the kingdom,—after being done on an elaborate scale, and made the basis of an immense superstructure of labour, property and mercantile interest over nearly three centuries, had, under a more just and ennobling view of humanity, to be as elaborately undone at a future time.

These are some of the difficulties that had to be encountered in utilizing the great maritime and geographical conquests of the new epoch. But one cannot leave out of view the obstacles, arising from other sources, to what might be expected to be the regular and easy course of affairs. Commerce, though an undying and prevailing interest of civilized countries, is but one of the forces acting on the policy of states, and has often to yield the pace to other elements of national life. It were needless to say what injury the great but vain and purposeless wars of Louis XIV. of France inflicted in that country, or how largely the fruitful and heroic energies of England were absorbed in the civil wars between Charles and the Parliament, to what poverty Scotland was reduced, or in what distraction and savagery Ireland was kept by the same course of events. The grandeur of Spain in the preceding century was due partly to the claim of her kings to be Holy Roman emperors, in which imperial capacity they entailed intolerable mischief on the Low Countries and on the commercial civilization of Europe, and partly to their command of the gold and silver mines of Mexico and Peru, in an eager lust of whose produce they brought cruel calamities on a newly-discovered continent where there were many traces of antique life, the records of which perished in their hands or under their feet. These ephemeral causes of greatness removed, the hollowness of the situation was exposed; and Spain, though rich in her own natural resources, was found to be actually poor—poor in number of people, poor in roads, in industrial art, and in all the primary conditions of interior development. An examination of the foreign trade of Europe two centuries after the opening of the maritime route to India and the discovery of America would probably give more reason to be surprised at the smallness than the magnitude of the use that had been made of these events.

By the beginning of the 19th century the world had been well explored. Colonies had been planted on every coast; great nations had sprung up in vast solitudes or in countries inhabited only by savage or decadent races of men; 19th century. the most haughty and exclusive of ancient nations had opened their ports to foreign merchantmen; and all parts of the world been brought into habitual commercial intercourse. The seas, subdued by the progress of navigation to the service of man, had begun to yield their own riches in great abundance and the whale, seal, herring, cod and other fisheries, prosecuted with ample capital and hardy seamanship, had become the source of no small traffic in themselves. The lists of imports and exports and of the places from which they flowed to and from the centres of trade, as they swelled in bulk from time to time, show how busily and steadily the threads of commerce had been weaving together the labour and interests of mankind, and extending a security and bounty of existence unknown in former ages. The 19th century witnessed an extension of the commercial relations of mankind of which there was no parallel in previous history. The heavy debts and taxes, and the currency complications in which the close of the Napoleonic wars left the European nations, as well as the fall of prices which was the necessary effect of the sudden closure of a vast war expenditure and absorption of labour, had a crippling effect for many years on trading energies. Yet even under such circumstances commerce is usually found, on its well-established modern basis, to make steady progress from one series of years to another. The powers of production had been greatly increased by a brilliant development of mechanical arts and inventions. The United States had grown into a commercial nation of the first rank. The European colonies and settlements were being extended, and assiduously cultivated, and were opening larger and more varied markets for manufactures. In 1819 the first steamboat crossed the Atlantic from New York to Liverpool, and a similar adventure was accomplished from England to India in 1825—events in themselves the harbingers of a new era in trade. China, after many efforts, was opened under treaty to an intercourse with foreign nations which was soon to attain surprising dimensions. These various causes supported the activity of commerce in the first four decades; but the great movement which made the 19th century so remarkable was chiefly disclosed in practical results from about 1840. The outstanding characteristics of the 19th century were the many remarkable inventions which so widened the field of commerce by the discovery of new and improved methods of production, the highly organized division of labour which tended to the same end, and, above all, the powerful forces of steam navigation, railways and telegraphs.

Commerce has thus acquired a security and extension, in all its most essential conditions, of which it was void in any previous age. It can hardly ever again exhibit that wandering course from route to route, and from one solitary centre to another, which is so characteristic of its ancient history, because it is established in every quarter of the globe, and all the seas and ways are open to it on terms fair and equal to every nation. Wherever there is population, industry, resource, art and skill, there will be international trade. Commerce will have many centres, and one may relatively rise or relatively fall; but such decay and ruin as have smitten many once proud seats of wealth into dust cannot again occur without such cataclysms of war, violence and disorder as the growing civilization and reason of mankind, and the power of law, right and common interest forbid us to anticipate. But the present magnitude of commerce devolves serious work on all who are engaged in it. If in the older times it was thought that a foreign merchant required to be not only a good man of business, but even a statesman, it is evident that all the higher faculties of the mercantile profession must still more be called into request when imports and exports are reckoned by hundreds instead of fives or tens of millions, when the markets are so much larger and more numerous, the competition so much more keen and varied, the problems to be solved in every course of transaction so much more complex, the whole range of affairs to be overseen so immensely widened. It is not a company of merchants, having a monopoly, and doing whatever they please, whether right or wrong, that now hold the commerce of the world in their hands, but large communities of free merchants in all parts of the world, affiliated to manufacturers and producers equally free, each under strong temptation to do what may be wrong in the pursuit of his own interest, and the only security of doing right being to follow steady lights of information and economic science common to all. Easy transport of goods by land and sea, prompt intelligence from every point of the compass, general prevalence of mercantile law and safety, have all been accomplished; and the world is opened to trade. But intellectual grasp of principles and details, and the moral integrity which is the root of all commercial success, are severely tested in this vaster sphere.

See Trade Organization; Economics; Commercial Treaties, and the sections under the headings of countries.


COMMERCE, the name of a card-game. Any number can play with an ordinary pack. There are several variations of the game, but the following is a common one. Each player receives three cards, and three more are turned up as a “pool.” The first player may exchange one or two of his cards for one or two of the exposed cards, putting his own, face upwards, in their place. His object is to “make his hand” (see below), but if he changes all three cards at once he cannot change again. The next player can do likewise, and so on. Usually there are as many rounds as there are players, and a fresh card is added to the pool at the beginning of each. If a player passes once he cannot exchange afterwards. When the rounds are finished the hands are shown, the holder of the best either receiving a stake from