No. 31.
Mr. Taylor to Mr. Seward.

Sir: I am in receipt of a circular from the Department of State, dated August 16, 1877, containing instructions to supplement the annual report upon commercial relations, hitherto prescribed, by special communications as to the demand within this consular district for different articles produced or manufactured in the United States, and the probabilities of increasing the exchanges of such articles for the products of Northwest British America.

The imports of this district for 1876–’77 from the United States were double those from Great Britain, and exceeded by one-fourth the importation from Eastern Canada, the totals of invoice values being: United States, $808,332; Great Britain, $400,888; Canada, $662,489; other countries, $5,600. The leading articles of the produce and manufacture of the United States will appear from the following table:

Natural products:

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Natural products:
Animals $143,440
Coal 5,125
Fire-wood 8,405
Fruit and nuts 10,763
Grain 5,942
Wood, unmanufactured 42,304
Agricultural implements 38,636
Carriages 21,636
Cigars 2,400
Cotton, manufactures of 22,616
Flour 43,378
Furniture 9,009
Glass 8,203
Gunpowder 4,073
Iron, and manufactures of 44,605
Lard 8,702
Lumber 46,375
Meats, preserved 83,735
Pickles 7,569
Soap 4,266
Sugar 35,237
Tobacco 12,959
Wood, manufactures of 22,308
Settlers’ effects $23,834
Tea, green 3,192
Tea, black 14,452
Other imports 135,176
Total 808,332

The leading importations from Great Britain, mostly manufactures, are also presented:

Cottons $53,005
Fancy goods 5,321
Fishing-tackle 5,952
Guns 17,616
Hats 4,276
Hosiery 2,573
Linen 3,706
Manufactures, copper 5,521
Manufactures, lead 3,707
Missions, donations to 19,457
Shawls 10,225
Sugar 5,118
Small wares 7,729
Tea, black 55,845
Woolens 115,565
Lesser imports 85,272
Total 400,888

While this country remained under the jurisdiction and administration of the Hudson’s Bay Company the importation from Great Britain was about the same as above stated, with an addition from the United States and Canada which did not exceed $100,000. The United States collector at Pembina reported in 1864 that the amount of goods from the United States which passed that year into the Red River settlement was $45,457. This amount increased twenty-fold in ten years.

The exports of this consular district show no similar increase. They consist almost entirely of furs and buffalo-robes; the invoice values of these articles in 1876–’77 being $660,785 to $35,186 of other exports. Nine-tenths of the fur-trade continues in the hands of the Hudson’s Bay Company, whose posts, from longitude 90° to the Rocky Mountains and from the international frontier to the Arctic Ocean, are eighty-nine in number. In prosperous years the company’s exportation of $500,000 of furs (invoice values) would command $1,000,000 in Loudon or Leipsic against an outfit valued in London at $300,000 and increased by transportation and all other charges to $750,000. According to a statement of the Hon. Edward Ellice, M. P., a director of the company, in 1857 the net profits were $327,865. Ordinarily I estimate the return as $250,000, although, as stated in my annual commercial report, the company has declared no dividends for two years on account of the unprecedented reduction in the prices of furs.

As indicated recently, the increase of the commerce of this district from an aggregate of $1,000,000 in 1870 to $2,572,723 in 1877 is the result of Canadian occupation and colonization, with a decided preponderance of commercial advantage to the United States 5 and now that there is a prospect of a considerable exportation of agricultural products from Manitoba, I anticipate that the consumption of American manufactures will be greatly enlarged. There will probably be a falling off in such imports as animals, fire-wood, grain, flour, and meats as the [Page 102]country advances in agriculture. But the general tendency will be to resort to the nearer market of the United States for manufactured articles, unless repelled by the exclusion of the great staples of Northwest British America.

In regard to the products of Northwest British America in which the trade with the United States could be increased, I will first mention buffalo-robes. While undressed furs are free of duty, dressed furs are subject to 20 per cent. ad valorem, a rate very proper for furs dressed or manufactured for use as luxuries, but which has been construed to include buffalo-robes, an article necessary for comfort and of general use among the people. The result has been to discourage importation, the invoice values of buffalo-robes imported into the United States from this consulate for 1876–’77 being only $614.12 against $72,578.20 sent in bond to Canada. As the buffalo is disappearing from the Western Territories of the United States, and will soon be concentrated on the plains of British America, this branch of commerce might be greatly enlarged by admitting buffalo-robes duty free or reducing the duty to 10 per cent. ad valorem.

With good crops in Manitoba for two years, there is a surplus of wheat for export, and except for a duty of 20 cents per bushel, considerable quantities would be in demand by Western farmers for seed-wheat. It is well known that cereals reach their greatest perfection near the northern limit of their successful growth, besides acquiring great celerity of maturity, and as the price of wheat is regulated by the foreign demand, no interest would suffer by placing wheat on the free-list, and a material advantage would ensue to American agriculturists.

I shall avail myself of the permission of the Department to pursue this topic in subsequent communications.

I am, &c.,