Commerce is the interchange of produce and manufactures between different countries. Those things which are grown or made in excess of the wants of any country are exchanged for the excess of the wants of different products and manufactures in another.
For example, we in England exchange the excess of our coal, iron, and cotton manufactures, etc., for wine, tea, tobacco, coffee, etc., in countries where they are to be had in excess.
In earlier times this was done directly by means of barter-that is, the exchange of one thing for another; and this still is the practice amongst savage nations at the present day. Since the introduction of money amongst civilized peoples it has become the medium of exchange.
The words trade and traffic are sometimes used instead of commerce; but generally they bear different meanings.
Trade refers more particularly to our dealings at home. Sometimes it is used in connection with a particular article, as the tea trade or the coal trade, etc., and it may be carried on a large or small scale; while commerce seldom admits of a limited application.
Trade is either in, or without the country; commerce is always carried on between different countries; trade may be personal, while commerce cannot; hence it arises that trade, although of inferior import when compared with commerce is, notwithstanding, the term most adopted to express commercial transactions.
The word traffic may also be used in this sense, but its proper meaning, as limited by common practice, applies more especially rather to the conveyance than to the exchange of products.
Thus we speak of railway traffic with reference to the number of passengers and the amount of merchandise carried, and call traffic regulations of a port such as provide for the regular handling and carriage of goods on its quays, piers, and wharves.
Articles of Trade.-
Products, when considered as articles of trade, are called merchandise; commodities ; goods; wares.
The term merchandise has the widest meaning, and includes all kinds of movables which are bought or sold.
Commodities is better employed to express articles of the first necessity, either raw or manufactured. Staple commodities of any country are its principal articles of commerce.
Goods is applied more definitely either to the articles of a trade or of a merchant, for which there s a stipulated value; they may be bought and sold in large or small quantities, and are, in fact, the proper objects of trade.
Wares are goods wrought into suitable forms by an industrial prior. We have, therefore, glassware ; earthenware ; silverware; hardware; brassware; copper- ware ; tinware, etc.
Thus it may be said that a great deal of merchandise is conveyed to America, that a country has us commodities, that a tradesman sells his goods, and a manufacturer his wares.
Branches of Trade.-
The trade of a country may be -distinguished into overland; foreign, home or inland ; coasting ; colonial; carrying or snipping ; and transit.
Trade is said to be overland when carried on by land, while such exchanges as take place by water give rise to shipping trade.
Foreign trade is the exchange of merchandise, which takes place between two different nations, and embraces, therefore, both the import and the export.
Thus we have the import trade, by means of which merchandise is introduced into a country from abroad; the export trade, by means of which merchandise is taken out of one country to be disposed of in another.
Inland or home trade is such as carried on within the boundaries of a country.
Coasting trade takes place between the different sea-towns of the same country.
Colonial trade is the commercial intercourse existing between a state and her dependencies or colonies abroad.
Carrying or shipping trade concerns the conveyance of goods, the latter especially by water.
Transit trade means that series of commercial operations connected with the passage of foreign commodities across one country to their place of destination.
An adventure is something risked, as is the case when a merchant in Italy sends to his correspondent in London some wine to be disposed of.
Wholesale and Retail.-
As regards the quantity of goods bought or sold in a single transaction, trade is distinguished into wholesale and retail.
Trade is said to be wholesale when goods are bought or sold in large quantities.
It is said to be retail when goods, bought wholesale by the tradesman, are sold to the public in small quantities, or even in single articles.
Commercial law is that branch of the law which deals with commercial transactions. It is partly written (or statute) law, as the Bills of Exchange Act, the Companies Act, Partnership Act, etc.; and partly common (or unwritten) law, also called judge-made law, because it is made by judges in deciding cases brought before them.
The lex mercatoria (or law merchant), which is a part of the law of the land, is derived from the customs of merchants, international law, the national codes of Europe, and Roman law.
The Board of Trade.-
The Government Department which deals with all matters connected with trade in England is the Board of Trade.
The Board of Trade, as now constituted, is divided into six separate departments, viz.: the Commercial Department; the Railway Department; the Marine Department; the Harbour Department; the Financial Department; the Fisheries Department.
The business of the Board is administered by a Committee appointed by the Sovereign by an Order in Council at the commencement of each reign, and consisting of a President (usually a member of the Cabinet) and a number of officials-among whom the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Principal Secretaries of State, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and other functionaries, are permanently included-the rest being usually composed of Members of Parliament.
The executive part of its businessis actually carried on by the President, assisted by two secretaries and by four assistant secretaries, one for each ofthe departments.