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National Progress from 1820 to 1837 page 3


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The social effects of the cotton trade were great and extensive. A commodity which had been brought at great expense from India, and was counted among the luxuries of the wealthy, became an article of general use amongst the people, even the poorest. As the manufacture progressed, extending employment, accumulating capital, and increasing consumption, there was manifest a growing improvement in the condition of all classes of the community. The new machinery - against which there was a blind prejudice at first, which led to the destruction of the machines - so far from diminishing the demand for labour, increased it to a vast extent. Hands could not be employed in sufficient numbers to supply the new machinery in the multiplying branches of the manufacture. The wages of labour consequently rose rapidly, the effects of which were felt in connection with every description of employment. The consequence was a general elevation in the condition of the whole mass of the working classes, and an extension of the comforts, and even the luxuries of life, to a degree that was never known before. The higher classes experienced a corresponding elevation. The increased consumption acted materially upon the agricultural interest. The improved circumstances and augmenting numbers of the working classes, with the rapid circulation of money resulting from constant employment and good wages, caused a vastly increased consumption of agricultural produce. More bread, more milk and butter, more butcher's meat, more vegetables of all sorts were required, and the consequence was a great rise in the prices of all those articles. Land, therefore, became much more valuable, rents were higher and better paid, and the incomes of landed proprietors were increased immensely in the manufacturing districts, as the direct result of inventions in machinery by men who, in many cases, reaped little or no advantage from their ingenious contrivances, and some of whom died in penury and obscurity. In fact, it is to the genius of such men chiefly that England owes her manufacturing and commercial greatness, on which depends mainly her power as a state, and her influence among the nations of the earth. The high rate of wages in America, and the comparative inaptitude of the people for manufacturing industry, will always counterbalance the advantage derived from the possession of the raw material. The position of England as compared with the continental nations, with regard to facility for the conveyance of cotton by means of steam navigation, will always give her an advantage in this respect. They did what they could in the way of competition, and the result in 1836 was that Great Britain consumed 350,000,000 lb. of cotton; Russia, Germany, Holland and Belgium, consumed 57,000,000; France, 118,000,000; Spain, none; countries bordering on the Adriatic, 28,000,000; the United States of North America, 86,000,000. The vast superiority of England has been maintained and increased ever since.

The chief seats of the hosiery manufacture are in the counties of Derby, Nottingham, and Leicester. The number of stocking-frames in England in 1821 was under 30,000, showing an increase in thirty years of only 10,000. Mr. Felkin gives an estimate for 1833, which states that there were 33,000 frames in England, producing 3,510,000 dozen stockings a-year, and consuming 8,137,000 lbs. of cotton, yarn, worsted, and silk, valued at 814,000; the wages for making them amounting to 948,000, and for finishing, 229,000; the total value being little short of 2,000,000 sterling, and the total value of the materials 560,000. The total number of persons employed in the making of stockings was 73,000. The total of fixed capital engaged in the manufacture was 385,000, and of floating capital 1,050,000. The quantity of cotton hosiery goods made in 1833 was estimated by Mr. Felkin to have increased more than fifty per cent, in the preceding twenty years.

The bobbin net manufacture, which is altogether of modern growth, has extended so much, that it gave employment to 200,000 persons, whose wages amounted to 2,500,000 in 1834, according to a memorial presented to the lords of the treasury by the principal manufacturers and merchants engaged in that business. The total capital employed in the bobbin net trade in 1836 was 1,932,000; the number of machines employed about 3,400. Mr. Felkin furnished the following particulars respecting this interesting branch of manufacture, showing the position in which it stood in 1844. There were forty-five factories, 1,750 steam power machines, and 1,450 hand-machines. The fixed capital was about 760,000, and the floating capital 1,320,000, giving a total of 2,080,000. The cheapness of these beautiful fabrics, says Mr. Felkin, is calculated to excite astonishment. A yard in length of 12 quarter wide plain net may now be bought for Is.; a yard of plait net of the same width is worth from 20s. to 5. Fancy goods of all qualities from to 20s. per yard are at all times being made, and often in the same establishment. The sum paid in wages during 1844 was about 165,000; the total number of persons employed in the trade was 5,800.

Since the reign of Edward III. various efforts have been made by the English government, by means of protection, to establish the silk-trade in this country. The English silk manufacturers had by law the exclusive possession of the home market, which was necessary to keep them from being driven out of it by foreign competition. When a trade is thus protected, there is not much regard to economy in the production, and the cost to the consumer is such as to confine it very much to the wealthier classes. The silk trade in England, bolstered up by artificial means, was continually in a languishing condition. The manufacturer did not rely upon his own skill and exertions, and had no motive to introduce improvements. Since the protection was removed, the imports of the raw material and the exports of the manufactured article have rapidly increased. In 1825 the number of silk-looms in England did not exceed 24,000. In 1855 the number had increased to 110,000, producing goods to the value of 8,800,000. The greatest importation of raw and thrown silk which took place in any one year previous to the abandonment of the prohibitory system was in 1833, when the quantity imported was 2,432,286 lbs., while the average in recent years has been six times that amount. The total value of silk manufactured goods exported from England in 1844 was 736,455, whereas in 1858 it was 2,391,506.

In 1824 the protective system began to be relaxed. The duty of 5s. 6d. per lb. upon raw silk was reduced to 3s., and ultimately to Is. The duty of 14s. 8d. upon thrown silk was reduced first to 7s. 6d., and afterwards to 3s. 6d. The result of these reductions was an immediate and rapid increase in the consumption of silk goods. Throwing mills and looms were multiplied, and all were kept in active operation. In fact, although the number of spindles had nearly doubled in a short time, it was impossible for the throwsters to keep pace with the demands of the weavers, who were frequently waiting during whole months for silk, to enable them to complete the orders they had in hand. In the ten years preceding 1824 the quantity of raw and thrown silk used by our manufacturers was on an average of 1,882,311 lb. per annum. In the ten succeeding years the average was nearly double, viz., 95 per cent, higher; and in the sixteen years which ended in 1849, there was an increase of 120 per cent, over the quantity used under the restrictive system. Under that system the English throwsters charged 10s. per lb.; but foreign competition brought down the charge to 3s., and from that to 5s., according to the quality of the silk. The home manufacturer was, however, protected by an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent. When our markets were thrown open to the products of foreign looms, loud and vehement were the predictions of persons well acquainted with the trade, that the measure would bring certain ruin upon the manufacturers of England. But in this case, as well as in so many others, experience proved how utterly groundless were the apprehensions of the monopolists. They did not see that, if they could not command high prices, they would have a more extended market, quick returns, and in the end larger profits, or that by competition such improvements would be effected in the machinery, and in the processes of manufacturing, as would enable them to rival the finest productions of foreign looms. The truth that the silk-weaving business was under the old system very precarious, and the complaint of the silk-weavers, that they were on the verge of ruin, was as common for half a century as that of the farmers and the shipowners. According to the report of the inspectors of factories, there were, in 1835, 231 silk factories in England, six in Scotland, and one in Ireland. They employed 2,486 boys between the ages of eight and twelve, and 3,925 girls of that tender age. There were 2,663 children between twelve and thirteen years of age. The total number of females employed was over 20,000, and the number of both sexes was about 31,000. Smuggling has been always carried on very extensively in connection with the silk trade. From the year 1827 to 1843 not more than half the silk shipped from France paid duty. The duty received during that period, which was at the rate of 19s. 9d. per lb., was 3,136,691, so that the revenue during that period was defrauded to that amount. Had the duty during that time been 10s., the revenue would have been as good, and the consumer would have gained 9s. 9d. per lb. in the price of the manufactures produced and imported. These amounted to 79,217,862 lb., including all qualities, which gives a sum of 38,618,708 lost to the great bulk of the community in seventeen years, caused by the operation of excessive duties imposed for the supposed benefit of only one branch of manufactures, and which those engaged in it have continually declared to be in a condition of adversity.

Woollen manufacture is the ancient staple of England, said by tradition to have been introduced by the Romans. It is certain from history that broadcloths were made in England as early as the close of the twelfth century. But most of the cloth worn in this country then, and long after, was imported from Flanders, and our home manufacture was much indebted to the skill of Flemish settlers. From 1660 down to 1825 the government, acting upon false principles of political economy, strictly prohibited the exportation of British wool, on the mistaken notion that, we should thereby secure to ourselves a superiority in the manufacture of certain fabrics. As soon as the French got the combing wool of England, they certainly did exceed us in the quality of the goods produced. But this fact whetted the ingenuity of British manufacturers, and the consequence was that we produced articles equally good, and greatly extended our market. During the five years after the removal of the restriction, we added more than 200,000 to the number of pieces exported, and the export went on increasing until 1840, when it reached 2,128,212, being double the quantity exported annually during the last five years, when the prohibition existed. But the home demand has been always much greater than the foreign, so that it is not easy to estimate the extent of the manufacture. The total number of woollen and worsted factories at work in 1835 was returned by the inspectors of factories as being 1,313, showing an increase of ten per cent, in four years. The total number of persons employed in them in 1835 was 71,274, on which there was an increase of twenty per cent, up to 1839.

There was a general depression in the price of British wool, in consequence of which a committee of the house of commons was appointed to inquire into the causes. From the evidence which they received, it appeared that the actual number of sheep in England and Wales had increased one-fifth since the year 1800, when it was 19,000,000, yielding about 95,000,000 lb. of wool, or about five pounds for each fleece, including imported wool. It was estimated that the quantity used for manufacturing purposes increased during the first half of the present century by 115 per cent. Yorkshire is the chief seat of the woollen manufacture, and the best proof of its progress, perhaps, is presented in the state of the population, which, in the whole of the West Riding increased during the first forty years of the present century at the rate of 104 per cent. At the census of 1801 it was 563,953, while the census of 1841 showed it to be 1,154,101. The improvement and progress of the woollen trade has resulted very much from the improvement in the breed of sheep, yielding a larger quantity and finer quality of wool; and in this way the manufacturing trade reacted powerfully upon agriculture, showing the close dependence upon one another of all the industrial interests of the country.

The linen trade flourished early in Ireland, and the woollen trade would have flourished also, had it not been repressed by the British legislature. In answer to an address from parliament, king William III. said, " I shall do all that in me is to discourage the woollen manufacture in Ireland, and encourage the linen manufacture, and to promote the trade of England." He kept his promise, and the dependent Irish parliament was induced to pass an act prohibiting the exportation of all woollen goods from Ireland to foreign countries, the exportation to England being already prevented by prohibitory duties. The encouragement of the linen trade, by way of compensation, consisted in a bounty on the exportation of Irish linen, which existed till 1830. In the year 1800 the total exports of linen from Ireland amounted to 34,500,000 yards. From that time there was a steady increase, and in 1825 the quantity exported was 55,000,000 yards. After this year the commercial intercourse between the two parts of the United Kingdom was so identified - the Irish stream flowing into the English river - that no separate account was taken. The exports from the United Kingdom of all kinds of linen goods, and of flax yarn, amounted, in 1834, to the total declared value of 2,579,658. The quantities of Irish linen shipped in subsequent years has been continually increasing. The inspectors appointed by the linen board in Dublin, in a statement which was given in the appendix to the report upon the linen manufacture of Ireland, made by a committee of the house of commons in 1825, have given the latest authentic account within the period under review of the value of the linen goods sold in the different markets of Ireland. It was for three years ending in 1824, and it gave the following results for the different provinces in that year: - Ulster, 2,109,309; Leinster, 192,888; Munster, 110,421; Connaught, 168,090. Total, 2,580,708.

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Pictures for National Progress from 1820 to 1837 page 3

View of Nottingham
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Cotton Plant
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Gathering cotton
Gathering cotton >>>>

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