Mr. Collins to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company

To the President, Directors and Company of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company:

The successful inauguration of a line of steamships from San Francisco to Japan and China by your company has awakened unusual interest in the commercial world. The future of this great enterprise can scarcely be overestimated. Success and a rich pecuniary reward to the promoters are certain to follow.

It is not necessary for me to make an argument in favor of your enterprise, or to point out the inevitable success of this great commercial undertaking. I take the liberty, however, to refer you to the accompanying papers, written some years since, in regard to steam and telegraphic communication with Japan and China.

What I have to propose is this: to connect China, Japan and India, by a system of telegraph lines with both Europe and America, in connection with your steam service upon the Pacific. As you will perceive, it is no very new thought, but one which has been waiting for a combination just such as is now being carried out by your company. The time and the opportunity has, in my opinion, now arrived in order to carry out my original views.

I think that upon a proper study of the proposition, you will agree with me that a radiation of the telegraph, such as proposed, will inevitably tend to increase and consolidate the power, profit and usefulness of your company in a very eminent degree.

The world-wide reputation of your company, and ils peculiar field of action, point to it as the proper pioneer in a twin enterprise, because in our day steam and the telegraph are so intimately and usefully connected that one seems hardly complete without the other.

In the construction of the Russian American overland telegraph, China, Japan and British India, were originally considered as awaiting only certain events in order to be galvanized into a new life by the power of steam and electricity. In the service you have to perform between such distant points as San Francisco and Hong Kong, the success and pecuniary advantages of your line would be, I may say without overestimating or overstating, doubled, if you had the use of a telegraph between San Francisco and Hong Kong, by which you could [Page 458] regulate your commercial exchanges, prevent delays, and effect a thousand advantageous arrangements which would escape you by the ordinary means of the mails.

The crude digest of the proposition for telegraphic communication contained in the prospectus of the East India Telegraph Company will give you a general idea of what is intended to be accomplished.

There are, however, some collateral issues not so easily explained here, but which add greatly to the inevitable success of the enterprise. The mode and manner of connecting British India with China is one of these issues, and can only be fully understood by maps and documents in my possession, which will be exhibited if required.

The line should commence at Canton, or, probably at first, at Hong Kong, touching at important intermediate points, and extend to Shanghai. This portion of the system could be put into immediate profitable use. Parties engaged in the Chinese trade are certain that this first great section of the telegraph would prove more profitable than any telegraph line of equal extent in the world. Looking at the actual commerce of China as it now exists, there can be no reasonable doubt of this.

As we progress, northward from Shanghai in order to tap the Russian telegraph at Kyachta, in Asiatic Russia, now completed and operating to within 800 miles of Peking, we can readily see what would be accomplished when the circuit should be made complete between Hong Kong and London. The line, of course, will finally extend from Shanghai, or some other convenient point on the route to Peking, to Japan, covering the commerce of that growing country.

British India will be united with the Russian line to the west of Kyachta so as to put China and Japan in telegraphic contact with the whole of British India. Thus we will unite China and Japan with British India, and the whole with both Europe and America. The Atlantic cable now gives us one means of communication to within 800 miles of Peking, and when the East India Telegraph Company shall have done its work and consummated its plans, and the Russian American telegraph shall have been completed, we will have a choice of routes, or we may forward despatches one way to America and the other way to Europe, thus having the world girt about by the telegraph, and the whole of China, Japan and India subsidiary to our interests.

I trust it may not be urged that participation in telegraphic enterprise is not a legitimate field for a steamship company to embark in. If, however, you can enlarge the scope of your usefulness in the promotion of an undertaking so closely allied to the one you are prosecuting, and make a few millions of dollars more with which to extend, improve and enlarge your legitimate operations, and cover the Pacific with your steamships, then I think all will agree that the object was highly politic, proper and legitimate.

I am in the firm belief that the happiest results will attend your participation in the enterprise of the East India telegraph, and I can see nothing but results of the very highest interest to come out of it to your company.

The simple fact of your participation in the promotion of the telegraph to connect China, Japan and India, in order to protect and facilitate your own special interests, would, in my humble opinion, strengthen and add greatly to the power and standing of your company throughout the world. On the other hand I feel that the most perfect success would be assured to the telegraph company so soon as it was known that the Pacific Mail Steamship Company had become warmly interested in it.

With your assistance the whole capital would find a market, and the construction of the telegraph assured beyond peradventure.

Very truly yours,