to Mr. Evarts.
Peking, February 7, 1878. (Received April 19.)
Sir: In view of the decision of the Chinese Government to take no steps for the establishment of a mint and a currency, I have thought the moment opportune to inquire of our consuls whether the trade-dollar is coming into circulation, and whether any official action may be taken which will increase the demand for it. I inclose the form of a letter which I am addressing to them.
You will notice that in my letter to the officer at Canton, I point out the fact that an official assay of the coin mentioned, made at his port in 1873, did not produce a correct result, and ask whether it is desirable to request another assay. The Canton assays are accepted by the customs at other ports, and the matter seems important under these circumstances. In point of fact, however, foreign coins are not imported for use at their bullion value, but to be put into circulation at the higher value which their convenience for circulating purposes creates. I have understood that the trade-dollar sometimes commands two or three per cent. premium at Canton, but it has not come into circulation, so far as I have heard, elsewhere.
At Shanghai, in 1876, the singular spectacle was seen of Mexican dollars ranging in value, in the local currency, from 72.6. per cent. of the tael, to 82.5 per cent., a fluctuation of 10 per cent. between silver in the form of dollars, and silver as bullion. A more pertinent commentary on the fact that the Chinese would appreciate a coinage system could not well be offered.
I have, &c.,