No. 214.
Mr. Wing to Mr. Fish.

No. 407.]

Sir: Herewith I have the honor to forward to the Department three clippings from the Panama Star and Herald of July 25 ultimo, bearing upon the important subject of the commerce of the Pacific coast.

No. 1, I am gratified to observe, shows the improved condition of the Pacific Mail-Steamship Company.

No. 2 evinces that the Royal Mail Company between Liverpool and [Page 397] Aspinwall is beginning to compete successfully with the Atlantic connections of the English steam monopoly on this coast.

No. 3 portrays a state of affairs which is somewhat surprising, in view of the previous enormous gains and dividends of the Pacific Steam-Navigation Company; and in my judgment may be attributed in large part to the fact that the recent French line on this seaboard must have interfered more materially with the business of the English steamers than was supposed at the time.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 407.]

President Russell Sage, of Pacific Mail-Steamship Company, says that the company, having succeeded so well, are about to build three new steamers to add to the fleet they already have afloat. These steamers are to be of the finest kind for comfort, speed, and capacity. They will be screw-steamers, 3,000 tons burden, and will cost $600,000 each, or a total of $1,800,000. They will he built on the same model as the City of Peking and other vessels of her class, and are to be finished within twelve months. One vessel will probably be given to John Roach for construction, another to Pusey, Jones & Co., and the third to some other constructor of known capacity. These vessels will be distributed in a manner that will best serve the interests of the company.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 407.]

the new contract of the royal mail steam-packet company.

The new contract of the above company, according to the European Mail of the 17th ultimo, provides that the vessels on the main route are to be of 2,750 tons, and not less than 500 nominal horse-power. The speed not to be less than 11 knots per hour. This is rather a low rate of speed, as 11½ and even 12 knots are practicable. Southampton to Colon, via St. Thomas, is to take 470 hours, and the return 490 hours. In the previous contract, the time was, Southampton to Colon 462 hours, and the return 482 hours. There is, therefore, on the face of it, an increase of eight hours each way in the time occupied by the voyage.

Southampton to Colon, via Barbados, is to take 479 hours, and the return 495 hours.

The company is to have the power of proposing another port in lieu of Southampton for the landing and embarking of the mails. The company is under a penalty for delay, but there is no premium for being within time, as in the previous contract. The postmaster-general takes the power to alter the times of arrival and departure, hut no power like that in the old contract to extend the conveyance of mails to any port or place not specified, under which power Plymouth was selected as the landing-place some years ago. The amount of the subsidy has been already stated. The time fixed for the arrival of the mails at Southampton is 10 o’clock on the morning of the 30th, and 11 o’clock on the morning of the 14th. This means late in the afternoon for the delivery of letters in London, and next day for the delivery in all the north of England, as well as in Scotland and Ireland. In short months, as well as in cases when Sunday intervenes, the maim will practically arrive and depart upon the same day. This has been made the subject of strong protests by the West India committee, the West Indian associations of Glasgow and Liverpool, the chambers of commerce of Liverpool, Birmingham, and Manchester, and other bodies. In fact, there has been such a manifestation of opinion as will probably induce the government to retain Plymouth as the landing-place of the mails. It must be added that, by the new intercolonial arrangements, the time for answering letters in Demerara is very much curtailed.

The tenders for this service were three, viz: Alfred Holt, of Liverpool, £129,000; West India and Pacific Steam-Navigation Company, £120,000; Royal Mail Company, £84,750.

The postmaster-general was endeavoring to get the postage reduced to sixpence.

A memorial to the right honorable the lords commissioners of Her Majesty’s treasury “was extensively and influentially signed by merchants, bankers, proprietors, and others interested in the colonies and countries with which correspondence is maintained by means of the West India mail-steamers, begging to express their great regret that no provision is made in the new contract with the Royal Mail Steam-Packet Company for continuing the practice of landing the West India mails at Plymouth.”

In consequence of this an amended contract was to be laid on the table, providing for calling at Plymouth.

[Page 398]
[Inclosure 3 in No. 407.]

the pacific steam-navigation company.

An adjourned meeting of the Pacific Steam-Navigation Company was held on the 23d of June, in Liverpool, Mr. Langton, chairman of the board of directors, in the chair. The original meeting was held on the 25th of April last, having been convened in compliance with a requisition from Mr. Robinson, one of the shareholders of the company. The state of affairs then disclosed, and the feeling displayed by the shareholders, led to the appointment of a committee of investigation, with instructions to inquire into and report upon the affairs of the company. The report, which was completed on the 13th June, and published, censures the past management and policy of the company, and to this attributes their recent heavy losses. The committee, in concluding their report, say:

“We have to express our regret that we cannot present a more cheering report. The future, however, is not without promise. The profits of the company have been most seriously affected during the past year in both lines by the high price of coal and its outward freight. This cannot be permanent, and both price and freight are already materially reduced. It may reasonably be expected that the trade on the west coast will revive, and that the tonnage in the Straits line, being more in accord with its requirements, the business will again show a profit. If, then, arrangements can be made to relieve the company of the loss on the laid-up steamers, either by sale or employment, it may be hoped that, under a system of rigid economy and supervision exercised by the board itself, together with a thorough revision of the agencies and the staff at home, afloat, and abroad, this company may yet be restored to the position which it recently occupied as one of the most prosperous steam enterprises of the country.”

The purpose of the adjourned meeting was to consider this report, and the attendance of shareholders was large. After a lengthened and somewhat personal discussion the report was adopted. A resolution was also passed appointing a number of shareholders a committee to select such names to be presented to the annual meeting as they may think desirable to fill the vacancies upon the board of management.