The Danube—Its importance to Roumania—To Great Britain—Statistics of British and foreign vessels trading there—Nature of the freight—Cereals—Our imports thence compared with those from other states—Importance of Roumania as a maize-grower—Effect of the Russo-Turkish war on Danubian trade—The Danubian Commission—Its history—Austria and Roumania—The Callimaki-Catargi despatches—Alleged pretensions and designs of Austria—Necessity for the neutrality of the Danube—Pending negotiations.

There is perhaps no question of greater real moment to the newly erected kingdom than the free navigation of the Danube; for whether its possessions are limited on the southern boundary by that river, or whether at some future time they should extend beyond it, the reader cannot fail to see from what has preceded that the Danube is the great artery through which, so to speak, the industrial life-blood of the nation circulates. But if it be a matter of primary importance to Roumania, it is hardly less so to ourselves. The greater part of the external trade of the countries bordering on the Danube which passes in and out of the Sulina mouth, the only navigable embouchure, is carried on in British bottoms, as the following figures will show:—

Tonnage entering and leaving the Danube in 1880.

  Steamers Tonnage Sailing Ships Tonnage Total Ships Total Tonnage
British flag 479 408,492 15 4,214 494 412,706
All other nations 242 150,536 1,526 238,312 1,768 384,848
Total 721 559,028 1,541 238,526 2,262 797,554

Thus it will be seen that the carrying trade of Great Britain to and from the Danube amounts to nearly 30,000 tons more than that of all other nations put together. And now as regards the nature of the goods carried. They consist outwards (from Roumania, &c.) of cereals, and inwards of a great variety of manufactured goods. Of the former 5,394,729 quarters were exported in 1879; and it may be said generally that Roumania receives in return almost every article of consumption in the way of manufactured productions, and notably from this country cottons and cotton yarn, woollens, coals, and iron.

In any year of scarcity our importations of feeding stuffs from the Danube would become a most important factor, for in 1881 the Board of Trade returns show the following comparative importations:—

Imports of Cereals in 1880.

From United States 68,138,992
" Russia 12,830,851
" Canada 9,455,076
" India 6,458,100
" Roumania 4,355,344

All other countries, including Egypt, which is considered by no means unimportant as a grain-producing country, sent us less cereals than Roumania; and when we look at one species of grain, namely, maize, which is considered equal to what is known as American mixed, and is capable of being much more largely cultivated than at present, we find Roumania third on the list; indeed, for some reason or other, her exports fell off very materially last year, for in 1879 she ranked second:—

Imports of Maize in 1880.

From United States 31,087,773
" Canada 3,322,327
" Roumania 1,764,482

We shall have to touch on this branch of the subject again; but if the reader wishes to satisfy himself of the great importance to this country of unrestricted trade on the Danube, he has only to refer to the annual returns of the Board of Trade, and he will find that in 1876, when the ports were closed in consequence of the last Russo-Turkish war, our trade practically ceased, and that it has hardly yet recovered from the effects of the stoppage.