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LARGE TRADE-PROFITS IN CANADA.
of the regular liners from New York, often with little cargo, affords frequent opportunities of sending grain and flour to Liverpool at a cost exceeding very little the ordinary Stevedor's charges;* but this cannot materially affect the average freight of the flour, as a whole, which is annually shipped from that port to England. Or it may be said that the Rochester and Oswego millers make use of the fine Toronto wheat for the purpose of mixing only, and can therefore afford to give a higher price for it than the Canadian millers, who use unmixed Canadian wheat for the manufacture of their flour. But we can scarcely suppose that parcels bought for mixing would seriously affect the wheat market of Canada as a whole ;
that the Canadian millers cannot mix and use up different wheats as profitably as those of Rochester.
Allowing, however, their full weight to these and similar considerations, I have been unable to satisfy myself that if the exporters of lumber—whose traffic has of late fallen off, and occasioned discontent-instead of countenancing or exciting political turmoil, would push the direct home trade in corn and flour, in place of that in timber, an equal commerce on the whole, and equally profitable to the colony, might be still maintained with the mother country.
One of the obstacles which, so far as I have obtained the means of judging, stands in the way of the energetic opening up of a direct wheat and flour traffic with Great Britain, is to be found in the large returns of profit which the merchants look for, and to which, I suppose, they must hitherto have been accustomed. What I have stated in a previous page, as having been told me by a Rochester miller, that the wheat-growers and millers of the United States are unable to com
* For loading and unloading.
PROFITS ON LAND IN CANADA.
pete with Canada in the foreign markets, I mentioned to an extensive miller whom I met with in Upper Canada, on occasion of his complaining that the Rochester millers came over and bought the fine white wheat of Toronto at prices which he could not afford to pay. On this he remarked, after some hesitation, that “the Canadian would have to learn to be content with a profit of 5 per cent, when he had hitherto been accustomed to 50!” Large profits and long credits are always the characteristics of an infantile and circumscribed commerce in a new country like this. Facility and rapidity of communication, by shortening credits, and enabling the same capital to go farther, make large reductions in the rate of profit consistent with equal gains, on the whole, to the enterprising and intelligent merchant.
I have had other occasions to feel surprise at the large profits expected in Canada from the investment of capital. It having been mentioned to me that a friend of mine in Lower Canada had expended £15,000 in the purchase of a seignory, and that the return was £1500 a-year, or 10 per cent on the outlay, I-naturally enough, as we should think in this countryexpressed my surprise at so large a return from investments in land. An influential member of the Canadian Legislature, who was present, on the other hand, considered it small, was surprised that similar investments in England did not yield so much, and stated that, were he to invest £15,000 in land in his own district of Upper Canada, he should expect from it a return of £3000 a-year, or 20 per cent. In what way, whether by farming it himself, or by letting it or selling it to others, he was to realise this return, I did not learn; but the possibility of doing so, except in some special case, I very much doubt.
But that some persons, at least, are satisfied of the
GROWTH OF FLAX.
possibility of profitably conducting a direct traffic with England in Canadian flour was proved by the fact, that, while I was at Montreal, a vessel from the Ontario, containing seventeen thousand bushels of the best Toronto white wheat, lay opposite Goold's Mills-one of those of which I have spoken as being superior to the average of the Rochester and Oswego mills — to be ground, on merchants' account, for the Liverpool market. If properly cultivated, this trade may, I think, make both the growers and grinders of Canadian wheat very indifferent as to the 20 per cent duties of the States.
Among the articles of export from Lower Canada, linseed is one which used formerly to occupy a not unimportant place, though now, so far as I can learn, the export of this grain to England has almost ceased. The French Canadians used formerly to grow flax extensively for home consumption; and most of the
.; Lower Canadian farmers still raise enough to employ and clothe their own families. The diminution in the growth and export of seed may be owing, in some degree, to the gradual substitution of cotton for linen in articles for domestic use; partly to the general exhaustion of the soil, of which I have spoken; and partly to the growing taste for finer cloth, which will necessitate the growth of a finer quality of flax. The first and third of these causes are probably the most influential. Now, it is known to all flax-growers that hitherto a fine fibre has been considered incompatible with a strong, rank, heavy crop of flax, or with the ripening of the seed. Hence the taste for fine flax would cause the sowing of much seed, that the plant might spring up thick-the selection of poor or exhausted land that it might not come up rank, or grow tall and strong—and the pulling of the plant before the seed was ripe. The more these practices for the improvement of the fibre were followed,
EXPORTATION OF LINSEED.
the less would be the quantity of linseed brought to market.
It is one of those advances which the arts owe to scientific research, and deserves the consideration of those who affect to despise, or altogether deny, the use of science to agriculture, that the new method (Schenck's) of steeping flax in hot water promises to render all these precautions unnecessary, to extract as fine a fibre from the rank coarse ripe flax-plant, as from the slender unripe plant hitherto privileged alone to yield the finer thread. This method of steeping is certain and constant in its results, and is performed in as few days as the old method required of weeks.
The general introduction of this method of manufacturing the plant will simplify the farmer's treatment of the crop, will enable him to cultivate flax as he does
, any other plant he grows, to reap a profit from it in proportion to its total weight, and, as in other crops, to ripen his seed either for home use or for exportation. It may regenerate the flax-husbandry in Canada, and revive, without exhausting the land, the ancient trade in the seed as an article of export.*
I have said that the average freights from the Canadian ports, direct to Liverpool and other ports in Great Britain, cannot be greater than the cost of transmitting produce from the shores of Lake Ontario, through the port of New York. This direct freight ought in reality to be less; and in a few years it will almost certainly become so. This statement naturally leads me to make a few remarks on the navigation of the St Lawrence, its importance to Canadian interests, and the influence it is destined hereafter to exercise on the general revenues of the Canadas.
* Canadian seed ought to be as good as Riga flax seed, of which 5000 barrels have been imported into Newry, and 15,000 into Belfast, during the present season.
The natural outlet of the vast region of North America, which is drained by the great lakes and their tributary streams, is, as I have already remarked, by the river St Lawrence. This was early recognised; but the natural obstructions which existed in the channel of this river, have, with other obstacles, hitherto prevented it from being so easily and generally available as it is now likely to become.
In the first place, the rapids and falls of Niagara prevented the passage of vessels between the lakes Erie and Ontario. Thus, the Lower St Lawrence was inaccessible to the rapidly-settling western portions of Pennsylvania and Ohio. The idea of a canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson, through the low country of western New York, was therefore suggested, and was finally entertained by the New York State Legislature. The Erie Canal was the result; and up to nearly the present time this canal has formed the high-road between the upper lakes and the Atlantic, and has been a source of great wealth, and the cause of a very rapid prosperity, not only to the city, but to the whole State of New York. As the western country was cleared, and its population increased, the traffic along this canal augmented in a degree which the most sanguine had never contemplated, and extraordinary exertions have been made, from time to time, to facilitate the traffic, and to hasten the passage of the vessels with which it is crowded. The degree of expertness to which the working of this canal has been brought may be judged of from the fact, that, in the single month of October 1847, 6930 lockages were executed above Schenectady, which gives less than 6 minutes for each lockage, Sundays included. But
every year causes new increase of traffic, and new delay in the transmission of produce and merchandise, and larger quantities are, in consequence, detained over winter, when the frost has put a stop to the navigation