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J. D. POTTER, 31, POULTRY;
HE attention of all classes has been attracted to the
depression of trade, a depression which affected not one alone but all branches of commerce, those
dependent upon one another having more especially suffered. The bad grain and hop harvests probably represented an absolute loss of thirty millions of pounds sterling. The cause of the late depression could be traced and satisfactorily explained by a Senate or Council composed of representatives of persons and bodies engaged in the separate branches of commerce involved. Failing the report of such a representative body, explanations far from satisfactory or comprehensive have been given ; and at the present time, on the broad question of the general depression, little beyond the fact that it has been universal can be said. It would be a great help, therefore, at the present time, when everybody is hoping “things are better," if leading men would dispassionately, through the press, give their opinion as to the causes of the depression in their own business, whatever it may be.
The manufacturers of iron and steel, and the brokers in the metal, the colonial
, and the corn trades, for instance, could give their views of the causes of the late stagnation
and dulness in their businesses,
and of the improvement therein. The details, perhaps, would be long, and the questions to be considered intricate and many: they would involve consideration of the competition of foreign markets and the expense necessary for machinery required to substitute steel for iron; the narrow margin of profit to merchants or speculators, and the restricted advances of bankers, and many other points which indirectly influence such businesses. The owners of collieries, again, could give their views, excluding perhaps, the vexed questions which arise from strikes. No legislation can help us, except, perhaps, in one or two branches, for the country is happily not prepared to return to protection. Again, the public generally have lost too much money to desire the spirit of wild speculation to reappear, and bankers have learnt a lesson from Scotland and the West of England that will make them exercise a caution as to the use of their clients' money. From the high prices of coal a few years ago, it is possible that too many now collieries were opened, and a demand arose for coal in all parts of the world even at the then high prices, which prompted the opening of collieries in Japan, India, Australia, America, and Germany. Having once been set going they are now able to supply their own wants as well as those of their neighbours, thereby limiting the demand for English coal. English coal mixed with foreign, however, improves the quality of the latter, and admits of it being burnt with greater economy, and this must always ensure a certain demand for English coal. We should also learn how far the advance in science made by engineers has reduced the consumption of fuel required by steamers, and the consequent effect, on the demand for coal. In the hope of inducing others to follow our example, as regards the dissemination of useful deductions concerning their own particular businesses, we venture to put forward some remarks on the depression in our own, basing our views upon an acquaintance of nearly thirty years of the shipping trade, in its different branches and aspects.
The depression in shipping and the unremunerative freights present a large field for inquiry; and for those readers not possessed of a knowledge of shipping property we combine with
our explanation some few general cautionary remarks. They may be of use, as so few of the general public, although many are shareholders in ships, really understand shipping business and the working of ships. They have invested in ships without any consideration of the manner in which shipping management is carried on. By that good “general public” investments of late years have been made both in ships and in steam-boat companies. A member of the outside pablic taking a share in a ship may, if he is more than ordinarily versed in shipping matters, know some general facts, such as that, before steam was so universally known, the splendid sailing ships of Messrs. R. and H. Green, Messrs. Money Wigram and Sons, and Messrs. T. and W. Smith, now remembrances of the past, chiefly took the Indian passengers and goods. Shipowners' societies have their existence everywhere for protective purposes, and Lloyd's Register of Shipping ensures, by its superintendence of the building of nearly all steamers and ships, sound workmanship and complete equipment, and duly registers those so built. The Board of Trade carries out most efficiently the various Acts of Parliament regulating the complex machinery necessary, and providing restrictions to secure the safe navigation of vessels, and protection as far as practicable to life and property. A ship or steamer is held in 64 shares, and any person, being a British subject, may hold one or more, but the number of registered owners must not exceed 32. Any owner may split up one share into smaller shares, but no fraction of a share can be registered. The managing owner is supposed to have the largest interest, and to be chosen by all the co-owners, as he is responsible, prima facie, for the debts of the vessel. Members of the outside public thus investing cannot however be expected to know that though in theory every bill of sale should appear at the Custom House on the register of the vessel, great abuse exists as to registration, which misleads persons having to deal with ships, and is anjastifiable under any circumstances. The only official record of title is the entry in the register books, but private and unregistered bills of sale are given even for half shares, and managing owners often appear on the official books to hold more shares than they actually have, thereby deceiving persons at home and abroad who,