« PreviousContinue »
this wholesome piece of furniture should be found-of inferior quality, it is true general in our cottages, to the cold and dirty tìles which pave the floors of almost every apartment in France, except those of absolute luxury; even though the monarch and his ministers should trample under their feet the softest and most brilliant worsted picture, worth perhaps five thousand pounds.
The manufacture of silk presents a very different history from the above. This substance is an indigenous product of the warmest climates. The art of manufacturing it was said to be invented by Pamphila, daughter of Platis, in the isle of Cos. It was much valued by the Roman ladies and much satirized by the Latin poets, for it had the double advantage of covering the body and yet showing the form. It was at one period sold for its weight in gold: and Vopiscus says that the Emperor Aurelian refused to give a suit of it to his wife, on account of its excessive dearness; and Heliogabalus, who preceded Aurelian by about half a century, is said to have worn a holosericum, or a garment made entirely of this material. In the middle of the sixth century, two monks who returned from India brought back with them large quantities of the worm, with full instructions upon all the processes relating to the thread. Manufactories were established in the provinces and cities of the Greek empire, particularly at Athens, Thebes and Corinth; and Venice became the carrier between them and the west of Europe. In the twelfth century, when these cities were damaged by the Crusaders, the silk-workers were carried into Sicily by Roger II. and by degrees the Italians and the Spaniards learned the art. The vicinity of these countries diffused it gradually into France; and before the reign of Francis I. it was fully established in Dauphiné, Provence and Languedoc. Nothing can be more conformable to our theory then, than the progress of this light and luxurious material, so admirably suited to every warm climate in all periods; and to climates a little less warm in proportion as men have learned artificial means of making them more temperate.
While the French were in possession of the duchy of Milan, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, they studied the secrets of this art; they carried these, together with an ample provision of workmen, into France; and immediately the manufactory at Lyons, which ever since has continued to spread its merchandize through Europe, was established. But the raw material was still imported from abroad, and the stuffs continued scarce : and dear. Henry II. is said to be the first who wore silk stockings; and that upon the great occasion of his sister's marriage with the Duke of Savoy. Mezerai says that until the troubles under Charles IX. and Henry III. the courtiers did not use much :
silk; but after that time the very citizens began to wear it, so much do pride and luxury predominate during public calamities.'
At the end of this century, Henry IV. gave new encouragement to the silk manufactures of his realm. Wisely indulging the propensity of his people to vanity, lest, by repressing it, he should altogether disgust them with industry, and with a view to keep at home the money which purchased silk in other countries, this monarch used all his efforts to propagate the worm, notwithstanding the representations of Sully. Hitherto the mulberry tree, so essential to the nourishment of this animal, had flourished only in the southern provinces; but Henry had it planted at Orleans, at Fontainebleau, at the Castle of Madrid within two miles of Paris, and even in the gardens of the Tuileries. These attempts were not very successful; yet the manufacture of silk became much more general than it had ever been before. During his reign it prospered very much, and De Thou says, that silk clothing had become so common, especially among the fair sex, that they despised the use of woollens, which their ancestors had so generally worn.
That while France was thus encouraging her silk manufactures, England was supplying her with woollen goods, may be learned from a treaty of commerce concluded between James I. and Henry IV. in the year 1606, by which it was stipulated that, in the ports of the respective countries, all controversies concerning trade should be referred to two merchants of each nation, who should be called conservators of commerce; that each should see to the justness of weights and measures; and those in France to the goodness of English woollens; and that the cloths which should appear bad should be re-exported to England, but without confiscation or paying any duty. This was the year in which Henry particularly encouraged many branches of industry, but which were generally more luxurious than necessary; and, ever since, the manufacture of silk has been among the most prosperous, the most cherished, and staple sources of wealth and luxury to his kingdom. Silken apparel has gradually descended from the highest to the lowest ranks of society, and is now to be found, in almost every shape, even in the wardrobe of the peasant.
The introduction and success of this manufacture, so early as the beginning of the sixteenth century, and while many of the necessary arts were neglected, evince a premature and an irresistible tendency in the nation to luxurious industry. The climate of France is not such as entirely to preclude the use of woollens, or to tolerate a silken dress as sufficient protection from cold. Yet, no sooner had it become possible to procure this light and glossy substance in abundance, than vanity appropriated it as its
VOL. XXXIV. NO. LXVII.
own. Nothing can be more characteristic than the precedency which it had over woollens, in the favour of the rulers of France; for, as we have already mentioned, it was adınired and protected by Francis I. in the year 1520, while the establishment for broadcloths, at Sedan, does not date until 125 years later. The expenses incurred by Henry IV. in the year 1589, and afterwards, together with his efforts to establish the manufacture of silk throughout his realm, were much greater in proportion to his ara and situation, than the million which Lewis XIV. contributed, in 1664, toward encouraging woollens; and the attention paid to the fabrication of fine rather than of common cloths, confirms the tendency of the nation to luxurious in preference to necessary industry.
In 1818, the value of silk manufactured in France was compated at £4,250,000. In 1739, the value of woollens wrought in England was computed to be £ 16,000,000. Now this is a' very awkward account for M. Dupin, and we do not know how he will surmount this single fact, even if we were to spare him a legion of others which we have in reserve for him. We here take a staple commodity of each kingdom; we find that the annual value of woollens manufactured in England, in 1739, was four times as great as the value of silk manufactured in France seventynine years later. But the diminution in the value of money during that time has certainly been much more than half; and the increase of industry has been more than four. Hence then a manufacture which, in 1818, produced £8, ought, in 1739, to have produced but £1; and the four millions of silk just mentioned, would have been reckoned at £500,000; that is to say, at of our cloth manufactures in the same year. Now we do not wish to give this fact more importance than it merits; we know that, wherever silks and woollens are worn in European climates, the consumption of the latter is much more extensive; we know too that the cases are not quite parallel; yet, upon the whole, this single fact affords a strong presumption that the superiority of industry was in favour of England at the period related; and one or two facts more of the same nature would be sufficient utterly to disprove M. Dupin's assertion.
Although the staple of England, early as well as late, was woolleus-coarse, common, popular woollens—yet it cannot be supposed that a country trading as she does with the whole world, having at her command the produce of every climate, and able to furnish all with what they do not possess, should strictly and eternally confine herself to necessary industry. This indeed must be the first to employ a nation situated amidst superable difficulties; but should such a nation ever prosper, a time must come
when luxury, if not for domestic, at least for foreign uses, will engage her attention; and the fabrication of superfluous elegancies will be added to that of what is good and wholesome. Such has been the progress of the silk manufactures in this island.
. In the reign of Henry II. much encouragement was given to the weavers of wool, while large sums were paid to Spain for silken robes. These were worn by the English kings and princes only, and at the coronation of the young king and queen, under Henry II. It is not till nearly three centuries later, that mention is made of any attempt to manufacture this material at home; and even then, in 1455, it was entirely in the hands of women, and was probably confined to needlework and embroidery. Toward the end of the century some small haberdashery was made; but the broad silks were still supplied by the south. The difficulty of procuring the raw substance, notwithstanding many attempts to import it from Persia, and to cultivate the mulberry tree at home, retarded this branch of manufacture until 1620. In forty years, however, it became so extensive as to occupy in London alone, 40,000 throwsters; and, in 1719, Lombes' admirable machine, which spun 23,000 yards of organzine silk in one minute, was introduced. So much indeed was this manufacture then improved, that English silks were preferred, even in Italy; and it was thought expedient to derogate from the navigation act of George II. in favour of the importation of Persian silk through Russia.
The persecution of the protestants by Lewis XIV. drove many useful arts out of France; and the tolerant countries reaped the benefit of his intemperance. So prone are the French to find
' their own merits every where, that they generally boast more of the civilization which they pretend to have diffused over Europe by the talents of the refugees, than they feel the disgrace and cruelty of the revocation of a just and mild edict. But, in our minds, they have much more reason to be ashamed than vain of such an event. Be this as it may however, the establishments of Spital-fields were indebted to their intolerance; and, from this epocha began the flourishing state of the British silk manufactures. Still however their sphere was very limited, until the raw material of India came to increase it; but, since that time, it has increased in extent and importance with a rapidity of which no other manufacture affords an example.
The manufacture of silk is not one of those which we adduce in direct testimony of the superiority of Britain over France, in an æra prior to that of which M. Dupin speaks. We grant that, till within five or six years perhaps, France did carry on a more extensive traffic in this commodity than we did; but we have
spoken of it principally as characteristic of the industry of both nations; as showing the addiction of the one to luxury, of the other to utility. Of all the views which can be taken of the subject, this is the most interesting and the grandest. Profit and loss may captivate the merchant's mind; the financier, the statesman may consider labour as a mine of national wealth; and ministers will hold it to be a source of taxation. But philosophy, which comprises these and every other view, which presides over them all, will never be satisfied by any inquiry which is not at once the most minute and the most comprehensive. Now let industry be turned on every side, let it be considered by men of every vocation, its most enlarged and noble properties relate to the intellectual history of human beings. This is the aspect by which it will unite at once the views of the merchant, of the statesman, and of the minister; for in tracing up their respective idols to a common origin they will find that the only source of private profit, of public wealth, the only taxable commodity—is MIND. Philosophy too not only directs the present researches and the future prospects of men, it is the great preserver of all that we have acquired, and embalms the memory of all that we know. The art which has deposited its principles in the archives of philosophy will never perish.
From such a view it is fair to conclude that the nation which principally manufactured the most useful article, wool, was more industrious, more enlightened, and more prosperous than that whose exertions were directed to the most luxurious, silk. Whether M. Dupin by his meditations upon England has sufficiently shaken off the trammels of early impressions and national preconceptions, to feel this deduction, we know not; but we trust that every unbiassed and reflecting mind will at once admit its extreme probability. Men who instinctively, as it were, discover the limits of utility must possess superior intellect; and intellect is prospe
The substance which, as applied to human clothing, stands the next in value to wool is cotton. It is almost as warm; it is softer, lighter, more flexible, more glossy, and, if it possessed the same durability, it would be preferable. Cotton then belongs more to necessary than to luxurious industry, and is the legitimate commodity of the nation whose woollen manufactures exceed those of all the world. The prosperity acquired by England, from this branch of trade, principally belongs to the time to which M. Dupin's assertion does not relate; and we ought to confine ourselves to refute him. We shall however offer a summary of the state of our cotton manufactures prior to 1770. The period when this vegetable wool was introduced into