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National Progress from 1820 to 1837 page 2


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Having got the numbers and employments of the people, our next point of inquiry shall be the manner in which they lived, how they were fed, and clad, and lodged, and to what extent they enjoyed the necessaries, the comforts, and the luxuries of life. Information on these points has been supplied by the census commissioners, so that, by the comparison of the consumption of 1831 with the consumption of 1841, we are enabled to ascertain the advancement of the community in well-being, the increase of enjoyment and happiness, and the diminution of privation and misery. We find, then, that the rate of increase within those ten years was, setting aside fractions - in butter, 106 per cent.; cheese, 90 per cent.; cocoa, 283 per cent.; coffee, 25 per cent.; tea, 21 per cent.; rice, 75 per cent.; eggs, 57 per cent.; tallow, 55 per cent.; soap, 43 per cent.; tobacco, 14 per cent.; crown glass, 12 per cent.; green or bottle glass, 97 per cent.; 'paper, 54 per cent. The consumption of several of these articles was restrained by enormous taxation. Still, the consumption increased much faster than the population, which shows a positive increase of enjoyment; and, in connection with this, it is gratifying to remark a fact which precludes an impression that might be produced by the increase in the number of bottles - namely, that the consumption of duty-paying spirits of all kinds, whether British or foreign, had decreased to the extent of more than 7 per cent., while, in the same period, the duty on wines increased more than 3 per cent.; and, what is more remarkable, the quantity of hops that paid duty had been reduced 19 per cent., and of malt 13 per cent.

There are three kinds of raw material, the consumption of which is particularly indicative of social advancement, as giving employment to the people, adding to their comforts, and increasing the national wealth. These are timber, cotton, and wool. Taking all the different kinds of imported timber, there was an increase during the ten years of 37 per cent.; in cotton there was an increase of 61 per cent.; and of sheep and lamb's wool, in addition to the home production, there was an increased importation of more than 78 per cent.

The advancing or stationary condition of a people may be known from the number of persons employed in the production of food for the population in comparison with the number of those who are pursuing other avocations tending to increase the national wealth, or who are themselves the employers of labour. In this respect, there was a very wide difference between England and Ireland. In Great Britain, in 1831, about two-sevenths of the agriculturists were occupiers of land, and about half of them employed labourers. In Ireland, only about one-thirteenth of the agricultural class were occupiers employing labourers. There were in Ireland, in 1841, 1,472,789 families, of whom more than 66 per cent, were engaged in agricultural pursuits; and of 2,341,895 males fifteen years old and upwards, more than 70 per cent, were employed in producing food. In England, at the same time, 1,000 persons employed in agricultural processes supplied the wants, as respects food, of 3,984 persons, including themselves. One person raised food enough of home production to be consumed by four persons; whereas in Ireland, 1,000 persons, engaged in agricultural employment as farmers and labourers, produced food for only 1,511 persons, including themselves. The improvements that had been effected in British agriculture, particularly in the application of machinery to farming purposes, had caused an actual diminution in the number of persons employed on the land - which in 1831 was 1,243,057 adult males, out of a population of 16,539,318, while in 1841 only 1,207,989 were so employed, out of a population of 18,720,394 - showing that while more than 2,000,000 were added to the population, and the productiveness of the country greatly increased, the labour of 35,000 persons was transferred from agriculture to manufactures.

The population of Great Britain has thus rapidly increased, and the condition of the people has improved, notwithstanding heavy taxation, and the burden of an enormous national debt, incurred by one of the most protracted and expensive wars on record, which strained the national energies to the uttermost. How vast, then, must be the national resources, by which all demands have been met, leaving the state stronger and wealthier than ever! The extent of these resources is shown in some measure by the amount of our exports. The total declared value of all British and Irish produce and manufactures exported in 1831 was 37,164,372; in 1841 the value of exports had increased to 51,634,623, being at the rate of 38'9 per cent. It is instructive to notice the various articles of export on which the increase was the greatest. In articles of clothing it was 54 per cent.; in brass manufactures, 89; in copper manufactures, 89; in cordage, 79; in cotton manufactures, 23; in cotton twist and yarn, 82; in earthenware, 30; in glass, 127; in iron and steel, wrought and unwought, 156; in leather, 34; in linen manufactures, 33; in linen thread, tapes, &c., 138; in machinery and mill work, 422; in silk manufactures, 36; in tin and pewter ware, 69; in British wool, 220; in woollen and worsted yarn, 249; in woollen manufactures, 39 per cent.

Another example of the greatly increased commerce of the country is afforded by the returns of shipping. In 1831 the number of ships, British and foreign, engaged in the colonial and foreign trades was 20,573, of which the total tonnage amounted to 3,241,927. In 1841 the number of ships had increased to 28,052, and the tonnage to 4,652,376, giving an increase of 43 per cent. In the former year the tonnage employed in our coasting trade amounted to 9,419,681; in the latter it had increased to 11,417,991, showing an increase of 91 per cent. These figures indicate extraordinary commercial activity, and decided progress. There must have been abundance of capital embarked in all the multifarious undertakings by which the vast exports of manufactured goods were kept up.

But other indications of national wealth have been referred to by the census commissioners of 1841. Although insurance was discouraged by a duty of 200 per cent., the sums insured against fire in the United Kingdom amounted, in 1831, to nearly 52, 000,000, and in 1841 this amount had increased by 29 per cent. During the same period the accumulations in savings banks were very large, and went on increasing. In 1831 there were nearly 500,000 depositors, whose deposits amounted to about 14,000,000. In 1841 it was found that both the depositors and the amount deposited had very nearly doubled. The capital invested in railways was estimated in the railway report of 1839 at 60,000,000, while the sums authorised by parliament to be raised for various public purposes, for roads, bridges, docks, canals, navigation, markets, lighting, and improving towns, showed that there was an abundance of capital, beyond the ordinary demands of business and commerce, constantly seeking investment. From the proceeds of the property tax, which in 1815 was about 52,000,000, and in 1842 over 82,000,000, an estimate has been formed, in the absence of returns, for the years 1831 and 1841, which sets down the increase of real property during that period as not less than from 20 to 25 per cent. In 1815 the annual profits of trades in England and Wales were assessed at 35,000,000 in round numbers, and in 1841 they had increased to 50,000,000. During the decennial period, 1831-41, legacy duty had been paid upon a capital of about 423,000,000, or more than one-half the aggregate amount upon which the duty had been paid in the thirty-four preceding years. The stamp duties, also, upon probates of wills and letters of administration in the United Kingdom amounted to upwards of 1,000,000, having increased in ten years at the rate of 10 per cent.

It might naturally be inferred, from the proofs of material progress given in the foregoing pages, that growing national prosperity would lead to increased house accommodation, and better dwellings for all classes of the people; and we have, in connection with this subject, a very suggestive fact, namely, that no less than half a million new houses were erected in the decennial period now under review. The returns of house accommodation in Ireland represented a large portion of the population in a miserable condition in this respect. In the rural districts forty-three per cent., and in the civic districts thirty-six per cent, of the families in Ireland were found living in mud cabins or huts, each with only one room. Nearly, but not quite, the same proportion were living in similar cabins with two rooms.

The marvellous increase of national wealth in Great Britain since the reign of George III. is to be mainly ascribed to two mechanical agencies - the spinning-jenny and the steam-engine; both of which, however, would have failed to produce the results that have been attained if, in the arrangements of Providence, there had not been a boundless supply of cotton from the Southern States of America to feed our manufactories with the raw material. Some account, therefore, of the production and supply of cotton is necessary, in order that we may be in some measure able to comprehend the causes of our national progress. In 1791, the production of cotton in America was estimated by Mr. Woodbury, secretary of the United States' Treasury, at 2,000,000 lb.; in 1811, it was 80,000,000 lb.; in 1821, it was 180,000,000 lb.; and in 1831, it was 385,000,000 lbs. Thenceforth the production was estimated in bales, which in 1832 amounted to more than 1,000,000; and in 1839 was upwards of 2,000,000 bales. In the ten years preceding 1845, the annual increase in the growth of cotton in the United States was 100,000 bales. It appears from Mr. Woodbury's tables, that in 1834 sixty-eight per cent, of all the cotton produced in the world was shipped for England. About five-sixths of all the cotton brought into the United Kingdom was produced in the Southern. States of America. The significance of this fact becomes more apparent when we consider that more than one-half the value of the exports of the United States consisted of cotton-wool. As the production of cotton increased in America, the price continually declined. In 1820, it was 13d. per lb. In 1830, it was 5d. per lb.; and from 1831 to 1835, it was 6d. per lb. The growth of the trade in cotton has been rapid beyond all precedent in the history of commerce. In the year 1800, the first considerable quantity was obtained from America, when the imports from that quarter were about 16,000,000 lb. In 1840, the imports were more than 500,000,000 lb.

In this case the demand, enormous as it was, produced an adequate supply. But this demand could not possibly have existed without the inventions of Hargreaves, Arkwright, Crompton, and Cartwright, in the improvement of spinning machinery. Without the spinning-jenny and the mule, we could not have competed with the spinners and weavers of India, in the supply of muslins and calicoes. With them, we were enabled to under-sell the Indian manufacturers in their own markets; so that, in 1842, we exported to India and Ceylon cotton and cotton-yarn, to the value of 3,000,000 sterling. Mr. Baines has shown, in his "History of the Cotton Manufacture," that the cotton plant was extensively cultivated, and its produce manufactured, by the Moors of Spain in the tenth century. The clothes made were mostly of coarse texture; the name fustian, from the Spanish word faste, signifying "substance," was borrowed from the Spanish weavers, and is still used to denote a strong fabric made of cotton. The art was brought to England about the beginning of the seventeenth century, by protestant refugees. The first mention of it was made by Lewis Roberts, in the "Treasure of Traffic," published in 1641, which says: " The town of Manchester buys cotton-wool from London that comes from Cyprus and Smyrna, and weaves the same into fustians, vermillion, and dimities." Previous to the introduction of Arkwright's invention the cotton manufacture had attained but little importance in this kingdom. The material was purchased in small quantities by the hand-loom weavers, dispersed in cottages throughout the country, and there, like the linen-weavers of Ulster, they carried their goods to market and sold them to the dealers. The manufacture made a great stride in advance, in consequence of the invention of Samuel Crompton, which was called the " mule." It reduced the price of fine yarns from twenty guineas per lb. to fourteen shillings, giving 200 hanks to the pound, each measuring 840 yards, so that a good workman could produce in a week a thread that would measure 3,050 miles.

In 1817 the number of power looms in Lancashire was estimated at 2,000, of which only about 1,000 were then in employment, and the wages had fallen below the rate at which goods could be produced by machinery. To the power-loom, therefore, the hand-loom weavers gradually gave way. In 1832 there were 80,000 power-looms in Lancashire, employing persons of both sexes and of all ages from nine years upwards, at rates of wages varying from half-a-crown to ten shillings a-week. The lace manufacture was brought to a state of great perfection by means of a machine invented by Mr. Heathcote. His patent expired in 1823, after which the manufacture increased with extraordinary rapidity. The demand for goods increased to an enormous extent, the Nottingham lace-frame turning out goods which rivalled the finest productions of France and the Netherlands - a result, however, which could not have been obtained without the previous invention of the mule-jenny. The occupation of the pillow-lace workers was gone, and the competition which ensued on the unrestricted use of Heathcote's machine rapidly reduced the prices, and placed what was once a costly fabric within the reach of the mass of the community. The number of lace-frames in 1831 was 4,500, and of these 3,500 were hand- machines, 700 of which were possessed by workmen themselves. These machines worked up annually 1,600,000 lb. of Sea Island cotton, which were spun into 1,000,000 lb. of yarn, value half a million sterling, and gave employment to 55 spinning factories at Manchester, containing 860,000 spindles. Lace thread has become an article of great consumption, not only in the manufacture of lace, but also in the mixture of wool and silk. It was calculated that 208,000 persons were employed in the different branches of this manufacture - in spinning the yarn at Manchester, weaving the goods in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, and in the embroidery of them executed in different parts of the United Kingdom. The value of this product as it comes from the frame was estimated at 1,891,875. About four-fifths of the whole were exported to the Continent in an unembroidered state. The total value of the lace goods and of the work performed upon them in this country has been estimated at the immense sum of 3,417,700. In 1817 the estimated number of persons employed in the spinning of cotton in Great Britain was 110,763, and the quantity of yarn produced was under 100,000,000 lb.; in 1853 the yarn spun was nearly 700,000,000 lb. In 1838 the total number of cotton factories in Great Britain and Ireland was 1,815, of which there were in England and Wales, 1,599; in Scotland, 192; in Ireland, 24. The total number of persons employed in these factories was 206,000, of whom 145,934 were females.

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Pictures for National Progress from 1820 to 1837 page 2


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