No. 46.
Mr. Schuyler to Mr. Hunter.

No. 94.]


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On a hasty survey of our commerce with Turkey, it would seem that there are but few objects the trade in which could be developed. We do not need Turkish cereals nor cotton. Our imports of wool depend in a very great measure on the rate of duty imposed upon those articles by our customs-laws. Our importation of gums and drugs depends strictly upon the demand, which is limited to a small class. It would be hardly possible or wise for us to increase the consumption in America of opium. Little, therefore, would seem to be left except figs.

As to our exports to Turkey, they consist now chiefly of arms and -ammunition, sent there for the most part in pursuance of contracts made some years ago. It is, of course, to be expected that as soon as the war shall have finished, the trade in these articles will cease, as the Turks will no doubt have a sufficient supply on hand for use in any subsequent struggle. Other articles in which a traffic, might advantageously arise are cutlery, tools, machines, cotton goods and prints and cloths.

Unfortunately, owing to the backward state of the Turkish Empire in every respect, little or no use is to be found for machines, especially for agricultural machines as the agriculture of the country has not yet reached a point at which they could successfully or profitably be employed. As far as cutlery and tools are concerned, those of American make, while appreciated, seem to be too dear for this market, as they are crowded out by German wares of an exceedingly inferior quality. Most of the ordinary cutlery employed by the natives, both Turks and Christians, is of indigenous manufacture, various villages in the interior being specially renowned for some particular branch of this industry.

Among these I may cite Gabrovo, on the north of the Balkans, now in the hands of the Russians, where there were many manufacturers on a small scale of cutlery, knives, scythes, axes, &c., who had a large trade over the country north and even south of the Balkans.

I am convinced that a large and profitable market could be found in this country for American prints and cotton goods. Great quantities of such articles are imported from Europe, and especially from England. For this, however, it would be necessary that more direct means of communication should be established between Turkey and the United States, and that our manufacturers should, to some extent, study Turkish patterns [Page 145] and Turkish tastes, and imitate them in respect to color, design, and even the width and length of the pieces.

I have elsewhere called attention to the number of steamers which run between foreign ports and Constantinople, partly because the number of steamers is indicative of the foreign trade, and partly because, by giving foreign trade the possibility of speedy and regular arrival in Turkey, they serve to increase it.

In the present state of communication between Turkey and America it would be very difficult to start any commerce with cotton goods.

The exporters would be at a disadvantage as compared to England in freights, transhipment, and double commissions, and in receiving their payments by having in most cases to take bills of exchange on England and France, thus losing another commission.

On several occasions I have been asked to aid in introducing objects of American manufacture into foreign countries, and have always done what I could in the way of advice or in communicating the result of my observations. I have, however, always found one obstacle—the apparently ingrained belief of American manufacturers that they know better than their customers what is wanted. They frequently seem to be unwilling to make the slightest concession to the tastes of the purchasers, or to take at all into account the character of the people or of the country, or oven the regulations of the government which may not allow articles to be sold or used unless of some specified design in some particulars. For instance, a manufacturer of street-cars lost a large and lucrative contract because he was unwilling to supply wheels for a certain kind of rails, and to conform to certain other specifications of the car which were imposed upon the company by the government. He claimed that his long experience had proved to him that these were not good. A manufacturer of locomotives, in the same way, was unable to obtain a contract, although the company much preferred to buy of him, because he refused to conform to specifications which were laid down by the ministry of railways. In a country where the government interferes with public works and commerce, as it does in several countries in Europe, and especially in a country like Turkey, where the people are conservative, and where they have tastes and modes of life far different from those of America or civilized Europe, it would be extremely difficult to insure success in any trade unless a certain conformity be given to their tastes and prejudices. Another hinderance which exists here is that many people are so conservative that they prefer to buy even an inferior quality of goods made by a manufacturer with whose name they are acquainted. American prints and cotton goods are generally firmer and of closer texture and better quality than any of the native goods or any of foreign manufacture which are imported.

I hope soon to be able to make a more detailed report with regard to the importation of cotton goods into Turkey, and will then endeavor to inclose samples showing the general designs, colors, and patterns which are most suited to the Turkish taste.

possibilities of trade with persia.

An opening for a trade in American manufactures would apparently be found in Persia. I do not now have at hand all the figures and facts on which my belief is founded. It is based in great measure on a survey of the Persian trade which I made some years ago, and on conversations with intelligent Persians and foreigners who have visited Persia for commercial purposes. The Persian embassy in St. Petersburg, to whom I presented some gentlemen interested in the subject, entered [Page 146] very warmly into the idea. I was told that the Persian Government disliked a commercial dependence either on England or Russia; that it would hail with delight the introduction into Persia of American capital, or at least capital managed by Americans and under American control; and that it would give every facility to Americans by granting them concessions which the jealousy of Russia and England prevented being given to the subjects of either. For this end it was thought desirable for our government to send a special commissioner to Teheran, or at least establish a consulate at Bender Bushir on the Persian Gulf, or at Bassora (Basra). Of course it is impossible to trust to vague promises of this kind, no matter by whom they may be inspired, but there is much truth in the statement that the clashing of foreign influences in Persia is detrimental to the development of the country. As a single example I cite the fact of the concession for railways granted a few years ago by the Persian Government to Baron Reuter, an English subject, being canceled through intrigues having their origin in the Russian legation at Teheran and the foreign office at St. Petersburg. The Russians feared lest, by means of this concession, English influence should become paramount in Persia. Under such circumstances, perhaps Americans, who have no political aims upon the country, might come between the jealous rivals and gain a commercial advantage.

Any American trade with Persia would necessarily have to be carried on by the Persian Gulf, and the first requisite would be the establishment of a consul at Bender-Bushir (as is allowed by the treaty of 1856) to protect the traders from improper interference, and have jurisdiction over them. The route through the Black Sea, and via the Transcaucasus or the Caspian, to Persia, would be too long for American trade, and subjected, both in Turkey and in Russia, to vexatious exactions and delays, besides being in Russian hands. Those via Trebizond and via Aleppo are even worse, and are becoming disused.

The trade of Russia with Persia via the Caspian and the Transcaucasus, for 1872, 1873, and 1874, averaged yearly, exports $ 1,350,000, imports $3,525,000. The transit trade of other nations with Persia, through Poti inwards, was, in 1875, about $1,500,000.

Owing to the unwise measures of the Russian Government, from 1821 on, Trebizond became the central point of a large transit trade through Turkey to Persia. For the purpose of giving this commerce greater facilities, it was in 1847, resolved to construct a road. For this purpose, twelve millions of piastres were borrowed from the funds of the mosque of St. Sophia. Every preparation was made, i. e., workmen were impressed from the neighborhood, and deceived daily one piece of bread and three piastres. The road was made but a very short distance, as far as the foot of the mountain Boz-dagh, and nothing further has been done. At this time the trade had reached its highest development, and the line from Trieste to Constantinople and Trebizond was considered by the Austrian Lloyds as their most lucrative one. The Danube navigation company also did excellent business at that time by sending steamers from Galatz to Trebizond. When the war was over, the Russians saw their mistake, and changed their policy with regard to the transit trade, and began improving their communications through the Caucasus and across the Caspian to Persia. As these roads became better and the road from Trebizond became worse (the Turks never having finished the contemplated highway nor having improved the old road in any respect), the Persian trade began to go through Russia. The importance of Trebizond fell, consulates and consulates-general were gradually reduced to vice-consulates or consular-agencies, and [Page 147] Persian merchants who lived at Trebizond transferred their headquarters to Poti in the Caucasus. What traffic was left the Turks ruined by unwise custom-house measures. The duties had previously been one per cent. ad valorem, and the time allowed for the transit of the goods was six months, i. e., if they were not transported to Persia within six months the duties would be raised to 8 per cent. as for importations to Turkey. As on account of the state of the roads it was impossible to transport goods during the winter, the merchants demanded a reform of this regulation, and desired that the time during which the goods could remain in bond should be increased to at least twelve months. A commission was appointed in 1871 to consider the subject, and in 1873 changed the regulations so that to free the goods from the extra 7 per cent. duty the certificate that they had been exported over the Turkish frontier must be sent back to the chief custom-house at Trebizond within six months, thus still further reducing the time within which the goods could be held in bond. More than that, after the 1st September, 1873, the transit duty was raised to 2 per cent., and in addition to this another tax was imposed, under the name of “stamp-tax,” of three piasters on each bale of goods. As the merchants, however, threatened to send no more goods whatever by that route this tax was finally taken off.

In addition to what I have just stated, the means of transportation are very irregular, owing to the cost of caravans of camels. The steamers too, running direct from Marseilles to Poti, carry goods at rates of freight much lower than do any of the lines to Trebizond.

In 1875 the exports from Persia by the Trebizond route amounted in value to about $1,375,000, and the imports into Persia to $4,470,000. Of these imports $3,770,000 came from Great Britian, and $200,000 from France. The amount of cotton goods sent to Persia by this route was $4,050,000, of sugar $166,000, and of tea $158,000. Even the trade in sugar and tea will show the possibility of American enterprise in this direction.

To show the falling off in trade at Trebizond, the total imports both for Persia and Asiatic Turkey at that port fell off from $17,082,000 in 1860 to $6,418,000 in 1875, and the exports (for the same countries) from $7,950,000 in 1860 to $2,990,000 in 1875.

The commerce of Aleppo is rapidly disappearing, partly owing to local causes, the want of a bank, and consequent commercial disturbances when Turkish securities began to fall, a sudden and violent outbreak of the cholera which for a while paralyzed business, but chiefly owing to the opening of the Suez canal, which has drawn off the trade for Bagdad and Southern Persia. The imports into Alexandretta, the port of Aleppo, in 1874 were $6,725,000, in 1875 $4,885,000, and in 1876 $2,565,000, thus showing a great falling off from the amount of $10,000,000 which they reached a few years ago. The exports from Alexandretta tell the same story; they were $4,400,000 in 1874, $3,830,000 in 1875, and $2,105,000 in 1876.

The trade of Bagdad with Persia shows a decrease in Persian exports and an increase in imports from foreign countries in 1875, as compared with 1874. In 1874 the exports from Persia through Bagdad reached the sum of $1,025,000, and in 1875 only $327,000, The imports into Persia were in 1874 $208,000 and in 1875 $1,152,000. This increase was chiefly in wool.

From Bassorah and Bender-Bushir I have been able to obtain no recent information.

I am, &c.,