« PreviousContinue »
England is not precisely known; consequently the manufacture, if any such existed, must have been very inconsiderable in early times. In the Itinerary of Leland, who visited Lancashire in the reign of Henry VIII. it is stated that many villages near Bolton make cottons. But an act passed in 1552, during the reign which followed, enjoining that all the stuffs called Manchester, Lancashire and Chester cottons, shall be twenty-one yards in length and of a yard in breadth, and shall weigh thirty pounds, destroys the supposition that these cottons were really cottons.
The same supposition is still further rendered improbable by another order that Manchester frizes, S6 yards long and broad, shall weigh 48 pounds. Camden, speaking of Manchester in 1590, says, 'this town excels the towns immediately around in handsomeness, populousness, woollen manufactures, &c. which they call Manchester cottons. This strange misnomer has led to the error that cotton really was largely manufactured in England, at a remote period. The same cause has produced the same effect with respect to Welsh and Kendal cotions, both of which were made entirely of wool.
Before any manufactory of this substance was established here the raw material had long been known. It is certain that, in 1430 at least, cotton was imported from the Levant, by the huge carracks of the Genoese, (Hackluyt’s Process of English Policy,) for which they took back wool and woollen cloths. After 1511 ' divers tall ships of London and Bristol had an unusual trade to Sicily, Candia, Chios and sometimes to Cyprus and to Tripoli, and Baruth in Syria;' whence, among other things, they brought home cotton-wool. When the merchants of Antwerp engrossed the Levant trade, they continued the importation of this article; and even introduced some from Lisbon, which the Portugueze derived from India. But whether any other use but the fabrication of candle-wicks was made of it at this period, is uncertain; neither does it appear to have been manufactured into stuffs, until the beginning of the seventeenth century,
According to Guicciardini, fustians were first made in Flanders; and Hackluyt mentions them as an early article of exportation from that country. But whether the Netherlands or Italy had the priority; whether we derived our first knowledge of cottonstuffs from those nations or from India, is of little importance here. Some Flemish protestant refugees established the manufacture at Bolton and Manchester early in the seventeenth century. In the Treasure of Traffic,' by Lewis Roberts, published in 1641, it is stated that the Manchester weavers · buy cottonwool in London, which comes from Cyprus and Smyrna, and work the same into fustians, vermillions and dimities, which they
return to London, where they are sold; and from thence, not seldom, are sent into such foreign parts where the first materials may be more easily had for that manufacture.' Thus, at last, Manchester cottons ceased to be a misnomer.
Immediately after this, fustians were manufactured at Bolton, Leigh, and in many of the adjacent towns; and as soon as the other sources, America, for instance, and India-poured in the raw material, the variety and the quantity of stuffs became unlimited; and the quality so superior, that an entirely new career seemed to be opened to industry. The cotton manufactures of England have done more to promote a wholesome spirit of enterprize, and to bring together the minds of the artizan and of the philosopher, than any fabrication of human convenience ever did. As much as the early prosperity of this nation owed to her first great native staple, wool, even so much is her present unexampled greatness indebted to this her second staple, which her trade and exertions have brought home from distances that equal one half of the earth's circumference, and which her genius has converted into a source of noble, honest wealth for herself, and of comfort for mankind.
The history of the cotton manufacture in France is so meagre, and so brief, that it is not worth recounting. At the time alluded to by M. Dupin it was absolutely null, in so much that he could not have founded much of his assertion upon this ground. On the martufacture of linen we shall not offer
considerations. That fine linens were woven in England at a very early period, appears from an order of Henry III., who, in 1253, enjoined the sheriffs of Wilts and Susses to send no inconsiderable quantity of it to his wardrobe. In 1386 a company of linen weavers was established in London, composed of Flemings, who had been invited thither by Edward III. About a century and a half later a statute of Henry VIII. ordained that a certain proportion of the arable lands of the realm should be sown with flax or hemp, for the provision of nets for the fisheries; and the fabrication of sail-cloth was begun, or at least much improved and extended, under Elizabeth. But although this manufacture was occasionally encouraged by the legislature, yet the policy of England seemed rather to promote it in those parts of the territory where flax and hemp were more advantageous crops—in Scotland and in Ireland—and to turn her own attention particularly to work the material with which nature had so bountifully provided her. In the sister island this article was of very ancient date; but such was then the want of commercial skill, that it was sent to Manchester to be manufactured. In the beginning of the last century, however, legal encouragement was given to this branch
of Irish industry, and so effectually continued that, in 1741, the exportation of linen was valued at £600,000 sterling; whereas, in 1689, it did not amount to. £6,000. A similar increase took place in Scotland between the years 1727, when it was protected by parliament, and 1751, as the following table will show:
Yards of linen.
Value, Manufactured in Scotland,
pounds sterling. from 1728 to 1732
662,938 1733 to 1737
897,254 1738 to 1742
949,221 1743 to 1747
28,227,086 1,155,281 1748 to 1751
30,172,300 1,344,814 And further, in 1757
12,399,656 The principal seat of the linen manufactures in France was Normandy. When the duke of Bedford was regent there, he signified to the Norman government how rich they might become by an interchange of wines and linens for wool, lead, &c. But the art of spinning and weaving flax was soon practised in other parts of the kingdom, particularly to the north; and so renowned were the fine stuffs fabricated at Cambray, that they universally bore, in English, the epithet of cambrics. For many years this article formed a considerable portion of French exports, and England was tributary for near £200,000 annually. But the linen stuffs of more general use were not fabricated in the same proportion; and the Russians, the Germans, the Dutch, the Flemish and the Swiss, as well as the Scotch and Irish, were the manufacturers of coarse linens for the rest of Europe. The natural circumstances of those nations were favourable to the growth of flax and hemp; and while, in consequence of the penury of their situation, they were pursuing a course of necessary industry, and administering to the comforts of mankind, the French, guided by their spirit of luxury, converted a northern production into an article of vanity.
The beautiful French lawns and cambrics were the most costly stuffs of flax and hemp that ever were woven for general commerce, and were by much the most considerable produce made from those materials in France. We do not think, however, that even they will be of much assistance to M. Dupin in demonstrating his assertion.
We shall here dismiss the subject of clothing, and turn to other materials to support our refutation; and, first, to some of the metallurgical arts.
Of all the general rules relating to national concerns which can be drawn from the history of human industry—and they are many— the least subject to error is, that the nation which excels in working iron is the most advanced in true civilization. The observation and experience necessary to distinguish its ores from stones of smaller value, and the labour of extracting it, must have retarded its general use much longer than that of gold, silver and copper. It is, however, mentioned in the Pentateuch as employed for the construction of sharp-edged instruments; but that the difficulty of working it was not yet generally overcome, appears from the value set upon it by Achilles, who proposed a ball of iron as a prize at the games instituted in honour of Patroclus. What is to be thought of the admiration bestowed by Herodotus upon a vase of this metal, most curiously inlaid, and presented by Alyattes, king of Lydia, to the Delphic oracle, cannot now be determined, unless the vase itself were forthcoming. But these are mere casual productions, and cannot be compared with the purposes to which iron is applied in modern times. The Greeks might have honoured the departed hero just as well with any other reward to the victors; the Delphic oracle, like modern oracles, might have been satisfied with a vase of gold; the Israelites, to be sure, might have been a little puzzled, without knives or swords, to cut their way into the land of milk and honey :—But were this word, iron, suddenly expunged from the catalogue of modern materials, the total fabric of European civilization would be effaced along with it. There is not a want of the present age, absolute or fictitious; not a gratification, physical or intellectual; not a link in the whole chain of social improvement, to which iron, in some shape or other, directly or indirectly, does not minister, Thus it is that Britain, the greatest iron-mistress in the known world, stands, and long has stood, at the head of civilization.
Although we have been seriously told that a very large proportion of the knives and scissars used in England were of French manufacture; although we know the common-place story of a magnificent steel-hilted sword, sold to the late and too-well known duke of Orleans for an English sword, and afterwards proved by a Parisian maker to be a production of his workshop; yet we do not think that M. Dupin will contest the superiority of England, in every species of hardware, even as far back as the period which he has assigned as the æra of her unskilfulness. The case is so notorious that we do not think it needs to be insisted upon. However, should he not be of our opinion, and should he bring forward facts to prove that we are mistaken, we are ready to retract. Although all the metals are skilfully worked by English arti
ficers--yet it is most remarkable that those in which they excel are the most refractory; those which, when dug out of the earth, have the smallest worth, but to which thought and labour give the highest importance; those on which the hand of man, directed by his genius, accumulates the greatest factitious value; that is to say, a value which is nearly null in the savage state, but which goes on increasing in the exact ratio of intellectual civilization. The French, on the contrary, have turned their attention to the metals which have the greatest value in themselves, and to which, when wrought, the workmanship adds the smallest merit. Thus a favourite manufacture with them long has been jewellery, and the fabrication of the precious metals in all their shapes. These are the most luxurious, and the least useful, of the metallurgic arts; they are the least intellectual also, as gold and silver are more easily purified and melted than iron. Necessitous nations have, indeed, fabricated jewellery, but not until more urgent wants had been satisfied, and previous exertions had brought home the wealth which entitles men to indulgence. Some nations too, whose demand for domestic consumption was small, yet fabricated them for the gratification of others. Thus anciently did Tyre and Sidon. Thus Venice and the Netherlands have at different times been celebrated for their gold and silver works; but only when the immediate necessities of those republics had been satisfied; only when other objects, more useful, had been produced both for the home and the foreign market; and the woollen cloths of Bruges were some centuries earlier than the plate and jewellery of the same city. On such conditions luxurious industry is a legitimate, a necessary consequence of the labour which is employed to overcome early difficulties, and the very obstacles which, in the first instance, seem to forbid all indulgence. But what constitutes the particularity of France is, that while she was tributary to England and Flanders for covering, she was chiselling silver, or twisting gold into filagrams; and was gratifying her vanity herself, while she was paying wiser nations for her comforts.
This is enough upon the metallurgic arts. In a wide view of the subject, we may say the English had the superiority in working iron; the French in working gold. In silver let us grant them to be equal; copper, lead, and pewter must be thrown into our scale. Now, until M, Dupin can prove that the consumption of jewellery is more profitable than that of hardware, we cannot admit the alleged superiority of his country; and when he does prove it, we can oppose him by means of the other metals.
An establishment which the French esteem no less than the Hótel Royal des Gobelins, is the porcelain manufactory at