Mr. Griggs to Mr. Seward.
Chemnitz, Saxony, October 29, 1877. (Received Nov. 19.)
Sir: The consular district of Chemnitz has a population of about 420 to the square mile—in all, nearly one million. In a country so densely populated there must necessarily be many manufactories, as is the case here. Almost every variety of goods is produced in Saxony, and perhaps four-fifths of the people earn their living by manual labor. In a country where there are so many laborers wages are usually very low; hence this country is noted for its cheap labor as well as for its cheap goods. It is the cheap labor of this district alone which enables the manufacturers to place their goods in other markets at competitive prices. Southern Saxony is not self-supporting unless foreign markets can be found for a large percentage of the goods which are there produced. Necessity has made the manufacturers of this district very energetic in seeking customers from abroad. The cheapness of Saxon goods, coupled with our wants and avidity to purchase anything that is foreign, has enabled Saxony, so far, to sell to the United States about three-fourths of her exports, the goods shipped from this district alone to our country being of the value of about $4,000,000 annually.
In this part of Saxony the manufacturers are fully aware of the importance, to them, of our trade. They have endeavored to ascertain our wants, some of them visiting Philadelphia last year principally for that purpose. Notwithstanding we patronize them as liberally as we do, scarcely a day passes but that I hear our import laws bitterly denounced, because, by them, our ports are virtually closed to many classes of their goods, which we cannot now afford to buy. I am convinced that, without a general brightening up of trade or a modification of our tariff laws, the trade of our country with this district cannot be materially increased.
To increase the exportation of our goods to Saxony will be no easy undertaking. Unlike our people, the citizens of this country are slow to adopt foreign ideas, and it is very difficult to induce them to purchase foreign goods, especially when they have anything of their own manufacture which will answer their purpose. Once accustomed to the use of an article, they are loath to buy anything new. The country people of this district still hitch a horse to the side of a pole and drive with a single or jerk-line, persistently refusing to change to shafts and double lines. Even in this city of nearly one hundred thousand inhabitants the cab drivers would not lay aside the pole and single line until they were compelled to do so by the city authorities. Adherence to established customs marks the people of this district in almost everything they use or do, and their actions are no more regulated by habit than their purchases are by use. A large majority of the people feel that they are too poor to purchase new articles in order to ascertain their merit, and therefore they only buy such goods as they have used, or have seen others use, thereby avoiding the risk of an experiment.
Notwithstanding the obstacles which must be overcome in order to increase our trade in this district, there are many articles which our merchants could profitably sell here, provided proper steps were taken to introduce them.
I instance three classes of American goods which are not, but which might be, sold in this district to good advantage, viz: First, articles [Page 45]which we produce, but which Saxony does not; second, articles which we can sell cheaper than they can be produced here; and, third, articles of American manufacture which are superior to those produced in this country. The first class of goods it would not be very difficult to introduce; the second would probably sell, to a limited extent, as soon as placed upon the market; but the third could only be sold by patience and perseverance, unless they were much cheaper than those produced in this country.
The following are some of the articles which, I think, might profitably be sold here. First class: all kinds of wooden ware, fellies, hubs, and spokes for wagons, ax-helves, mechanical tools, spun cotton, muslins, calicoes, dried apples and peaches, baking-powder, and various kinds of canned fruits. Second class: lard, all kinds of cured meats, and (during a portion of the year) butter. Third class: plows, wagons, harness, harness-mountings, axes, hoes, shovels, reapers and mowers, and various other kinds of machinery, carriages, and especially merchant-scales and cooking-stoves.
Some of the articles named may now be found in this market, but they are few in number, and no effort is made to sell them.
Any person who has lived in this country will say that to sell certain kinds of American goods in the German markets would be an advantage to both countries; but the difficult question to determine is, “How shall they be introduced so the people will buy them?” It will not do to place our goods in the hands of merchants here who handle like articles of German manufacture, as such persons will usually make but little exertion to sell foreign articles, but will content themselves with disposing of those with which the people are acquainted, and which will consequently readily sell.
The American goods Which are now on the shelves of the merchants of this city are unadvertised, and consequently not called for.
The plan for increasing our trade with this country which, it seems to me, might be adopted with the least outlay and best results, is for a number of our merchants to secure a large wareroom in Bremen or Hamburg, and in it store such goods as it is desired to sell. Let agents be secured in the larger cities to sell such goods only as should be furnished them from the general store-room. Their supplies being so near at hand they would need but a small stock to commence business with. By advertising and industry they should soon be able to build up a very fair business.
I am, &c.,