No. 75.
Mr. Seward to Mr. Evarts.

No. 333.]

Sir: The consul at Canton, Mr. Lincoln, has lately addressed a dispatch to Mr. Campbell (No. 38, of August 14), in which he suggests that the circulation of the trade-dollar in this empire might be increased. The subject is of interest, and it seems to me desirable to take notice of his suggestions. These are contained, substantially, in two paragraphs of his dispatch:

If at Canton, where the subject has been brought to the attention of the authorities, and their action, in consequence, results in so increasing the circulation of the trade-dollar, why will not the same result be obtained by similar efforts in every province throughout the empire where foreign “coins” are in circulation?
I am also of opinion that the circulation would be considerably augmented if the paymasters in our Asiatic squadron, and in fact our diplomatic and consular officers in China, were directed, when disposing of government drafts, to receive the trade instead of the Mexican dollars.

To the first suggestion I may say that Mexican dollars are in circulation at the ports of Canton, Swatow, Amoy, Foochow, Ningpo, and Shanghai, and trade-dollars at the ports named, Shanghai and Ningpo excepted. The ports of Canton and Swatow are within the jurisdiction of the viceroy of the Kwang provinces; those of Amoy, Foochow, and Ningpo fall within the view of the viceroy of Min-cheh, who is resident at Foochow. The proclamation referred to by Mr. Lincoln as having [Page 94] been issued at Canton a few years ago, declaring that the trade-dollar is to be considered of a certain value and received in payment of customs dues, was repealed by the Foochow viceroy.

At all ports in China, Shanghai excepted, therefore, where dollars of any kind are in circulation, the value of the trade-dollar has been declared, and it is receivable for customs dues.

At Shanghai a special demand for the old Carolus and the Mexican dollars exists. They have become known in the great silk-producing district adjacent to the port, and are in demand at a premium which sometimes ranges as high as 5 per cent, for Mexican and 6 or 8 for Carolus dollars. They are never paid in at the customs at par, but they are received when tendered at the value of the day.

It has been hoped that the trade-dollar also would come to be accepted at Shanghai for more than its par or intrinsic value, and for this reason no proclamation declaring its value has been sought for, lest, as at Canton and in the south generally, this value should become its usual exchange value.

As Mexican and Carolus dollars have never come into use at the ports opened in 1861 (those on the Yang-tse and north of Shanghai), the chances for the trade-dollar at these points do not appear good.

The proposal that naval, diplomatic, and consular officers be instructed to receive trade-dollars when disposing of government drafts is hardly practical. Naval paymasters would be at a loss what to do with such money at many of the ports, and it would not be the “currency of the place” for any officers of the other services named, saving in a measure at the ports south of Shanghai and Ningpo.

I have never before heard that the “new Mexican dollar” is minted at Birmingham.

The fact that our dollar is considerably undervalued at Canton has been heretofore commented upon by me. I shall bear the subject in mind in order to secure a correct valuation.

I have, &c.,