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National Progress (continued)


National Progress (continued) - Mines - Iron - Coals - Mineral Produce- Mining Population - The Workers in Metals - Hardware - Birmingham - Sheffield - Exportation of Cutlery, &c. - Restrictions on Artisans, and on the Exportation of Machinery - Internal Communication - English Way-Power - Advantage of Water Communication - Iron Consumed on Roads - Horse Power - Macadamized Roads - Progress in Road Making - Bridges - Civilising Effect of Roads in Ireland - The Old Roads in England - The Horsham-Road - The G-eat Western Road - Holloway - The North Road - The Sussex Ways - Kennington - Road between Preston and Wigan - The Oxford Stage Coach - A "Fast Coach" - Effects of different Modes of Travelling upon National Manners and Habits - Primitive Stage Coaches - Carriage of Goods - Inequality of Prices - Internal Commerce - Fairs - Extension of Turnpike Roads- Rapid Increase of Travelling in the Reign of George IV. - Mail Coaches - The Railway System: its Origin and Progress - Immense Capital embarked in Railways - Railway Accidents - Railway Legislation- Enormous Parliamentary Expenses and Compensation for Land - The Railway Mania - Employment on Railways - Present Pre-eminence of Great Britain in the Mechanical and Industrial Arts - Inland Navigation - Steam Navigation: its Origin and Progress: its Social Advantages - Immense Increase of Travelling by Steamers - Steam Communication with the Continent and with India - The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company - The Development of the Coasting Trade - Improved Communication between England and Ireland - The Old System of Travelling to Ireland - The Route by Holyhead - The Welsh Roads - The New Road constructed by Mr. Telford - The Menai and Conway Suspension Bridges - The Harbours of Holyhead and Kingstown- Rapidity and Economy of the Present Modes of Travelling - Immense Traffic by Steamers across the Channel from most of the Ports of Ireland.
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Among the resources of Great Britain to which she is mainly indebted for her pre-eminence as a manufacturing nation, and without which she would not have been able to make anything like the progress she has made, or to bid defiance to foreign competition as she may always do, are her mines of coal and iron. Of all the minerals employed for the advancement of civilisation, iron is the most important, and contributes in the largest measure to human progress. But in order to render it available, coals are necessary. These two elements of national prosperity a bountiful Providence has given to Great Britain in the richest abundance. With her inexhaustible iron and coal mines, and with skill and capital to turn them to account, there can be hardly any limit to the material advancement of the country.

It is not known at what period iron was first made in this country. It is certain, however, that iron works were established by the Romans in the forest of Dean, and other parts of the island. This branch of industry continued to be carried on in various localities; but with very little energy, until pit coal was substituted for timber, as fuel in the smelting furnaces. Lord Dudley discovered the practicability of this change in 1619; but ignorant prejudice prevented its general adoption, until about 1740, in which year, the quantity of iron produced in England and Wales was estimated at 17,350 tons, and the number of furnaces was 59. Soon after, coke was used in smelting; and in 1796 there were in England and Wales 104 furnaces, producing about 109,000 tons; and in Scotland 17 furnaces, producing 16,000 tons. In 1806 the produce had increased to 250,000 tons annually. The total produce of all the British iron works was found, after a careful estimate, to be, in 1823,442,066 tons; in 1825,581,367 tons; in 1828, 653,417, and in 1830, 702,584 tons. In 1844 the quantity reached 1,500,000 tons. According to the evidence given before a parliamentary committee in that year, the annual produce, excluding Ireland, was 1,396,400 tons. The quantity of tin produced in England in 1820 was 3,578 tons; in 1834 it was 4,000 tons. In addition to the quantities used at home, there has been a considerable exportation of tin plates, the value of which in 1820 was about 161,000, and in 1840 it was more than 360,000. The produce of the copper mines of Cornwall has been much greater than that of the tin mines; for while in 1820 it was only 7,364 tons, it had increased in 1840 to 11,000 tons. The increase during 60 years had been threefold, and the value annually raised exceeded 1,000,000 sterling.

The value of the mineral products of England mainly depends upon our home supply of coals, and but for our command of fuel the most appropriate for working metals, our iron mines must long since have ceased to be worked, and all the branches of industry dependent upon them must have wanted the mainspring of their action, and have come to a standstill. Yet on the other hand it is evident, that but for the inventions by which iron has been converted into the most powerful machines, and from steam a power has been created by which alone coal-mines could have been rendered available for the vast demands of industrial progress, our coal-beds would be of little use. By the consumption of one bushel of coals in the furnace of a steam-boiler, a force is produced which in a few minutes will raise 20,000 gallons of water from a depth of 350 feet, which would take twenty men a whole day to accomplish by means of a common pump. The wonderful effect produced by an invention - by a happy thought conceived ia the mind of a man of genius, and realised by the experiments of a practical philosopher - may be seen in the safety-lamp of Sir Humphry Davy - a discovery which has not only saved a great number of human lives, but has caused the re-opening and the working of many collieries, which otherwise would have been utterly useless. In 1830, before a committee of the house of commons, professor Sedgwick stated that a great deal of coal appeared formerly to have been left underground, in consequence of a want of general plans, or maps of underground workings. A number of excavations had taken place, independently of each other; the consequence of which was that there were a great number of piers, or large barriers between the old coal works. It was the custom to leave large pillars of coal, in order to support the roof; so that at the depth of 100 fathoms little more than forty per cent, was abstracted, and the rest was abandoned. In some mines wooden pillars were substituted; and in the course of time a system of artificial propping was brought into operation, by means of which, and with the aid of Sir Humphry Davy's safety lamp, every particle of coal can now be got out of the mine before it is abandoned. In the year 1820 the quantity of coals shipped from the port of Newcastle was more than 2,000,000 tons. In the year 1840 it had increased to nearly 3,000,000. From the port of Sunderland the quantity shipped in 1820 was considerably more than 1,000,000. In 1840 it was 1,300,000 tons. Large quantities have also been shipped from the port of Stockton. The chief coal districts have naturally become the chief manufacturing districts; and as the coal is on the spot, it is impossible to estimate the quantities consumed in working the factories in Lancashire, the West Riding of Yorkshire, Nottingham, Derby, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Coventry, and Staffordshire. Other inland manufacturing districts are supplied by the numerous canals and railroads which intersect the country. The quantity of coals carried by canals and railways is roughly estimated at upwards of 10,000,000 tons annually. The importance of having such a vast supply of coals for the working of our iron-mines will be seen from the fact that four tons of coals are required for smelting one ton of iron; and the quantity of iron produced in the country amounts to about 2,000,000 tons annually; so that 8,000,000 tons of coals are consumed in the single process of producing pig or cast iron, not to speak of the quantities required for converting this into bar iron, and into the various articles of hardware. The town of Sheffield alone, it was estimated in 1835, required for manufacturing purposes about 515,000 tons of coals. If our coal-mines be essential for manufacturing purposes, how inexpressibly important must they be for domestic purposes. Few persons of right feeling are insensible to the charm of the English fireside, with all its happy and sacred associations of family and home. What should we have done in this cold, moist climate without coals for cooking purposes, and for keeping up the warmth of our dwellings? In Ireland the turf- bogs supply peat to a large extent for this purpose; but even in that country, and especially in the towns, English coals are extensively used for fuel, and are purchased at the sea-ports at average prices, varying from 14s. to 20s. a ton.

If charcoal were used for mining purposes, all the forests in the world would be insufficient to supply the demand. Even as it is, the quantity of timber consumed in connection with mining operations is astounding. The total quantity of timber in use for mining purposes in Cornwall would require no less than 140 square miles of forest, of Norwegian pines, averaging a growth of 120 years. In 1836 the consumption of timber for mines was estimated at 36,200 loads, or 144,800 trees. The cost of timber imported in the same year was 176,000, the drawback and the duties of which amounted to nearly 82,000. The cost of timber for the Devon and Cornish mines in that year amounted to about 94,000. The advantages of Great Britain, in point of situation, enable her to compete successfully with all foreign countries, and, indeed, to put all rivals out of the market. Her insular position enables the coal to be conveyed at a minimum cost wherever it is wanted, and affords the greatest facility for the shipping of iron to all parts of the world; and though she is obliged to import the finer kinds of iron, for the manufacture of steel, to the extent of 32,000 tons a year, yet she exports annually 200,000 tons. Dr. Buckland, in his address to the Geological Society, in 1840, stated that "the average value of the annual produce of the mines of the British islands amounts to the enormous sum of 20,000,000, of which about 8,000,000 arises from iron, and 9,000,000 from coals." Sir Henry De la Beche, in 1851, gave the estimate of the raw mineral produce of Great Britain and Ireland as 24,000,000, or about four-ninths of that of all Europe, including these islands, the coal being estimated at the pit's mouth, the iron in the pig, and so on. It appears that the produce is increasing: Mr. Hunt gave an estimate, taken from the government geological survey for 1853 and 1854. The latter year yielded the largest amounts. The following are the items: - Of 1854: iron (pig), 9,500,000; copper, 1,229,807; lead, 1,472,115; tin, 690,000; silver, 192,500; zinc, 16,500; coal at pit's mouth, 14,975,000; other minerals, as Nichol's sulphur and arsenic, 500,000. Total, 28,575,922; and the quantity, 64,661,401 tons.

The number of persons employed in British mining, men and women, of all ages, is: - Coal, 219,995; iron, 26,106; copper, 21,169; tin, 14,764; lead, 21,769; zinc, &c., 174. Total, 303,977.

Among the mining population the number of males employed under twenty years of age is 86,647; the number of females under twenty years of age is 5,000; and the total number of females is about 9,000. Mr. Whitney, an American gentleman, has attempted to give a complete view of the value of the metallic produce of the world in the year 1854, which is to be regarded only as an approximation to the truth. It will be sufficient for our purpose to take it in round numbers of millions sterling: - Great Britain, 20,000,000; the United States, 16,000,000; Australia, 8,000,000; Mexico, 6,000,000; Russian empire, 5,000,000; Prussian, 4,000,000; France, 3,000,000; South America, 7,000,000; Belgium, 2,000,000; Spain, 1,500,000; Sweden and Norway, 1,000,000. Austrian mines are worth only about a quarter of a million annually; and the other countries of Europe are scarcely worth counting.

The public have a general idea of what the nation owes to the workers in metals; but it requires the study of statistics to be able to realise it fully, or to appreciate the progress that has been made in those branches of manufacturing industry since the reign of George III. The progress in the manufacture of hardware is strikingly exhibited by the increase of the population of Birmingham. According to the census of 1821, it was 106,722; in 1831 it was 146,986; in 1841 it was 181,116, showing an increase of 80 per cent, in twenty years. The number of houses during the same period was nearly doubled. Mr. Babbage has given a table, extracted from the books of a highly respectable house in Birmingham, showing the reduction in the price of various articles made of iron between 1812 and 1832, which varied from 40 to 80 per cent. The exportation of cutlery from England amounted in 1820 to about 7,000 tons; in 1839 it was 21,000 tons. Since 1820 the annual value of the exportations of hardware and cutlery increased about 50 per cent. The town of Sheffield is another remarkable instance of the growth of population in consequence of the manufacture of cutlery. In 1821 the population was 65,275; in 1841 it was 111,000. The various manufacturers of cutlery and plated goods, and the conversion of iron into steel, employed in 1835 upwards of 560 furnaces. The original conversion of metal into blistered steel caused the consumption of about 12,000 tons of coal in the form of coke; while the subsequent processes required an additional quantity of 38,000 tons. The total consumption of coals, including those used for domestic purposes, in the town of Sheffield, in 1835 was more than 500,000 tons; the whole of it being found in the immediate neighbourhood, and forming but one-third of the expense of converting and casting steel, for which five-sixths of the iron is imported, the native product not being sufficiently fine. The declared value of British-made plated ware, jewellery, and watches, exported from the United Kingdom in 1827 was 169,456; in 1839 it amounted to 258,076.

All nations have been intensely selfish with regard to manufacturing skill. They have jealously guarded their inventions from each other as long as they could, endeavouring to make, as much profit as possible out of the exclusive possession. England until lately has not been more liberal than her neighbours, nor less vigilant in guarding her monopoly by restrictive laws. The first act of the English parliament for preventing the exportation of machinery was passed in 1696. Similar acts were passed at various times in subsequent reigns, and so late as 1824 resolutions were passed by a committee of the house of commons appointed to inquire into the state of the law of the United Kingdom and its consequences respecting artisans leaving the kingdom and residing abroad, reported as follows: - First, it appeared by the evidence that notwithstanding the laws enacted to prevent the seduction of artisans to go abroad, many able and intelligent artisans had gone abroad to reside and to exercise their respective arts in foreign countries; and that it was extremely difficult, if not ' impossible, in this country, by any mode of executing the existing laws, or by any new law, to prevent artisans who might be so determined from going out of the country; that the artisans complained of the partial and oppressive operation of those laws, which aimed at preventing their taking their labour and art to the best market, while all other classes of the community might go abroad, and take their capital wherever they would; that many British artisans residing abroad had been prevented from returning home from the opinion that they had, by going abroad, violated the laws of their country, and rendered themselves liable to punishment, and that in the opinion of the committee it was both unjust and impolitic to continue those laws. They, therefore, recommended their entire repeal, so that artisans might be at liberty to go abroad and to return home. Shortly after the law was altered, so that mechanics were no longer imprisoned in their own country. In 1825 permission was also given for the exportation of all the common articles of machinery; but there was a number still prohibited, the Board of Trade having a discretionary power to relax the prohibition. This policy of restriction was the subject of protracted investigation by parliamentary committees in 1824 and 1825. The concluding paragraph of the report published in the last year is as follows: - "Although your committee are impressed with the opinion that tools and machinery should be regulated on the same principles as other articles of manufacture; yet, inasmuch as there exist objections in the minds of many of our manufacturers on this subject which deserve the attention of the legislature, it is possible that circumstances may exist which may render expedient a prohibition to export certain tools and machines used in some particular manufactures."

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Pictures for National Progress (continued)

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