Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

grateful that having to find rational motives for the conduct of our arduous duties are not increased by that most arduous one of prohibitionists.

The machinery for the manufacture of silk goods may not be so sus. ceptible of improvement as that employed in the cotton fabric; but that it is susceptible of improvement to a great extent is admitted by the best authorities that we have been enabled to consult. Indeed, Mr. Badnall's · Treatise on the Silk Trade,' which we shall presently notice more at large, (but even in this our first allusion to it, we feel bound to offer him our thanks for the perspicuity with which he has given his details, and the general information he has afforded,) states the fact clearly, and shews the improvement that has taken place, but which has not been generally adopted either by throwsters or weavers. The fact is, these dupes to their own prejudices and misconceived interests have at present only one object in view, that of throwing dust in the eyes of the ministers.

The persons connected with the silk trade say, they cannot compete with foreigners ;-and if they cannot, we say it is their own fault. But we will now inquire what this fearful competition is? The English manufacturer obtains the raw material frequently below the cost to the importer, and for the most part as cheap as the French manufacturer. The East India Company is constantly in the habit of putting up silk for sale at prices not remunerative; and the catalogue of sales at the India House shows the competition that exists amongst manufacturers to purchase. This catalogue is an open document, and therefore we will only quote two instances in the last October sale, in proof of this competition; but let the books be turned over from beginning to end, and the same will appear throughout. We have promiscuously taken Lot 8437, which was put up at 158. and bought at 22s. 2d.-Lot 7125 was put up at 10s, and bought at 16s. 10d. We recommend a perusal of these catalogues to such parties as fancy that the silk manufacturer is ruined. An advance of 6s. 9d. in one instance, and of 7s. Id. in the other, upon the original bidding, is some proof of anxiety to possess this raw material, for which these declaimers of Spitalfields and their coadjutors in the country would feign make us believe that there is no demand. These are not, we repeat, solitary instances ; the catalogue is full of them : the competition among manufacturers to purchase the raw material is always apparent.

Again, the capital of the Frenchman is worth 6 per cent. ; that of the Englishman 4 per cent. The former trades upon a small capital, the latter upon a large one, which only maintains one family, whilst the same amount in France maintains half a dozen. But then come the corn laws and the national debt, which are the Torres Vedras of the heroes of Spitalfields to retire upon whenever they are hard pressed.—Upon the corn-laws we have frequently had occasion to give our opinion, and we have never shrunk from the broadest censure of them. They are unjust, and impolitic as regards the end that they are intended to answer ; but they must not be brought to bear upon a question to which they have no reference. The debt and these laws can only affect wages; and the wages of skilful manufacturers in France are rather higher than in England. The ordinary rate of wages we admit is apparently lower in France than in England: that is, a workman of moderate skill in the former country would receive a smaller sum for his nominal labour than in the latter; but if the real labour be calculated, the English master manufacturer has the advantage, even among ordinary

workmen ; because the industry of the English operative, assisted by machinery, greatly surpasses that of the French. In point of fact, the master gets more good labour here than he does in France. Then again, with respect to machinery, the advantage that the Englishman possesses over his French competitor, is beyond comparison. Iron, coals, and all the ingredients that can facilitate the making of iron, are to be met with here in abundance; and orders are now actually executing in this country for the French Government for marine steam-engines, although it is most anxious to encourage the manufacture in France. The superior skill of engineers in this country is also an extraordinary assistance to the English manufacturer, in the adaptation of his machinery to the work he requires it to perform; and incessant improvement in it is the consequence of this superior skill. It was stated repeatedly in the House of Commons, in the debates relative to the exportation of machinery, not by theorists but by well-informed practical men, that such was the constant improvement going on in every branch of it in Great Britain, that there could be no danger of any evil results occurring from its exportation; inasmuch as before it could arrive at its destination and be fairly in work, further new inventions would take place here that would deprive the foreigner of that benefit that he might expect to derive from the use of British machinery. This is a pretty strong proof of the pre-eminence of this country as to her mechanical power, when in a grave parliamentary discussion this assertion was made and only met by a counter opinion, that improvement did not proceed so rapidly as the advocates for exportation insisted upon. No one doubted its existence to an immense extent; the point at issue was the pace it was proceeding at. If it were necessary, we could give plenty of cases that would prove the inefficiency of foreign engineers and mechanists. We have known them to be months upon a piece of machinery, that the same number of English workmen would render perfect in as many weeks; and when it has been turned out of hand, it has been totally unfit for the use for which it was designed.

We have just been dealing with some of the details that belong to this question ; but are there no generalities that also attach to it? Are the capital, the character, and the confidence that the British Empire is surrounded with, and that make her citizens feel a pride in, and her competitors a respect for her, as the first commercial nation in the world, of no avail in meeting rivals? Is a well-balanced Constitution that secures property, and has known no political convulsion that has materially interfered with the commercial energies of the country for nearly two centuries, nothing in the scale of advantage? Are the settled habits of industry and enterprise among all grades of society here, consequent upon this uninterrupted tranquillity, nothing ? Is the rapidity of communication that we enjoy here of no value? If this question is to be fairly dealt with, it must be taken out of the pettifogging sphere that restrictionists would place it in. England is still rich in resources; mighty in political and commercial power ; but she has difficulties of no mean order to grapple with, and it will require all her energies to overcome them.

If th ational Debt be that hydra-headed monster that the silkweavers represent it, when they are crying out for protection, it is desirable to deal with it in such a manner as will most readily reduce its influence; and is cramped or extended commerce the more likely to effect this ? The principles of free trade are to be defended; first upon the facilities they afford to the extension of commerce, and secondly by rendering it more independent and equal in its operations. It has an especial tendency to provide for itself, and it is certain to find those points, and fall into the hands of those persons where it will thrive the best ; accommodating itself to events, and compelling circumstances into its service, in a manner quite impossible for legislative interference ever to accomplish. We hope and believe that these principles, sanctioned as they are by the opinion of the great majority of the most enlightened and commercial nation in the world, are out of the reach of the unworthy efforts that are made to shake them ; and that, like the oak of Virgil, they have shot roots as deep below as they have spread branches high above the surface.

There are two points that all the chicanery and misrepresentations of the monopolists in the silk trade will not enable them to get over. The increased deliveries of raw and thrown silks in this country, and the advance of price in the raw material, (upon Chinas, for instance,) that have taken place since the reduction of the duty on the importation of foreign wrought silks. Chinas have advanced from 15s. and 16s. per lb. to 20s. and 21s. per lb., and the consumption upon raw and thrown silks has increased 70 per cent. (We shall give some tables in proof of this at the end of the article.)

With regard to the rise in price of some sorts of the raw material in this market, we are not aware of any particular reason being assigned by the complainants, although we have no doubt they are prepared with one quite as satisfactory as many others they have sent forth. Upon the other point, however, (the increased demand) we have a very long story told ; that the silk is consigned by the Italian grower to the merchant here, who advances two-thirds of its value upon it, and that he has kept it in his warehouse, and that circumstance causes an apparent demand for raw silks, when, in fact there is none in reality; and a great deal more in the same strain. We assert, without fear of successful contradiction, that the demand has increased to the amount we have stated, and that the article is in the hands of throwsters and manufacturers for the purposes of their respective preparations. The Italian merchants, for aught we know or care, may have their warehouses choked up with the raw material ; arguing hypothetically, if they choose to advance money on an article coming to an overcharged market, they must take the consequences, and wait for their return until the market gets lighter. All we intend to assert is, that the real bonâ fide demand for raw and thrown silks has increased in this country since the reduction of the duty. In some branches of the trade there is great temporary depression, as there always has been at particular seasons; but we would ask whether at Macclesfield, at this moment, the demand for children to be employed in this ruined manufacture is not very great, --So great that it cannot be met ? And we would also ask whether many of the mills that are mourned over by silk manufacturers as untenanted were ever tenanted, and whether they were not the result of the wild speculations of 1824, and not completed when the bubble burst? We will here notice the probability of a decline in the value of raw silks, by reason of the rapid increase in its production, which, within a very few years, has amounted to twenty-five per cent. in Italy. We merely allude to this now to guard the country against any false assertion that may hereafter be founded upon this fact ; as the reduction of price will, in all likelihood, be attributed to a reduction of demand.

But as the English silk manufacture is ruined by reason of the comparatively low rate of duty now levied upon the importation of foreign wrought silks, it is natural to infer that French goods are constantly inquired after in this market, and that scarcely any others meet with a sale. But what is the fact ? Why, that French goods are, in a great degree, without a demand in the English market ; in some instances they are unsaleable, in some they are sacrificed at twothirds less than their value; and there are goods in the docks, the proprietors of which do not choose to pay the duty upon them. In Lyons, the silk operatives are in a state of great distress, and the manufacture generally under severe depression ; but it is admitted on all hands that silks were never so universally worn as they have been of late, and if English goods are not purchased, foreign ones must be. The fact is, circumstances have led to an immense number of goods being made, and the manufacture of each country is under a passing cloud.

We have before alluded to Mr. Badnall's book which throws so much information upon this subject. It emanates from an individual who is thoroughly acquainted with all the details of it, which he has given with perfect clearness; and one of the best proofs of its excellence is, the soreness with which it is received by the weavers and throwsters. They have not even the address to conceal, with the most flimsy veil, their mortification at its appearance. They pronounce it to be a tissue of overcharged statements and misrepresentations. We shall be curious to see the attempt at a reply to it; and as they say that it is full of mistatements, of course it must be answered.

Sound as is Mr. Badnall's reasoning throughout the whole of his pamphlet, there are two points particularly valuable. The one where he satisfactorily proves the advantage that would be derived from a further reduction of duty upon foreign thrown silk; and the other, where he shews the quantity of foreign thrown and raw silk upon which duty has been paid from the year 1821 to Nov. 1, 1828. The two years that are the most important to refer to are 1823 and 1827, the year preceding any alteration in the commercial code, and the one

take a

1829.]

THË SILK QUESTION. subsequent to that in which its full operation commenced regarding the silk trade. In 1823, the duty paid was on 351,988lbs. of Organzine ; on 630,886lbs. of Italian raw; on 36,079lbs. Italian waste; on 192,510lbs. of Turkey; and on 1,206,578 Bengal and China, making a total of 2,418,041lbs. In 1827, the duty paid was on 440,024lbs. Organzine; on 1,278,709lbs. Italian raw; on 129,758lbs. Italian waste; on 354,092lbs. Turkey; on 1,872,625lbs. Bengal and China; making a total of 4,088,703lbs. We had intended to have given further tables in proof of the increased consumption of raw and thrown silk since the commencement of the new system ; but this we think sufficient for our present purpose: and if we should find it necessary in defence of the public interest to return to this subject on a future occasion (which we trust we shall not), and to wider range

of

argument, we shall then give the documents in question.

The proximity of the raw material to the French and Italian throwsters is an advantage that they enjoy over the English throwsters, inasmuch as the amount of waste and loss is reduced by the short distance the silk has to travel from the filanda to the throwing mill. This is clearly pointed out by Mr. Badnall, who indeed appears to lose no opportunity of shewing the disadvantages his countrymen labour under in their competition with foreigners. From all the inquiries that we have made upon the subject, it seems to us that this gentleman believes smuggling to be carried on to a greater extent than is really the case, and in the variety of his details, valuable as they are, he has passed over some general advantages that we have glanced at in this article, that are possessed by those connected with the English silk trade: several of the advantages of their competitors we think he has overrated.

Since we have been writing, the Coventry memorial has arrived to throw a new light upon the distress of those connected with the silk trade. These memorialists explain the increased consumption in a manner that is not quite in accordance with the account given by the London complainants; which is, that the Italian houses here make advances to the manufacturer in Italy, and that in consequence of these advances the article is consigned to the London merchant who is holding it because there is no demand for it, and that such is the cause of the apparent increase. They say that doubtless there is an increased consumption of silk; but then it arises from the necessity that exists of making a heavier sort of goods, by which reason more of the raw material is consumed without any advantage to the manufacturer. They say that the French have the privilege of making the description of goods that answer their purpose the best, and they prefer manufacturing light ones as the more profitable; but these suitors for restriction forget at the same time that they enjoy the same privilege of selection, and they have chosen to make a description of goods in which the Italian thrown silk is not an ingredient. They are induced to do that because they see that the French have an advantage in those articles, and, consequently, the English have very prudently chosen that branch of trade where they are upon a par, and can make a profitable

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »