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To the lover of ancient remains, the round towers, the old crosses, the ruined abbeys, and other works of past times in this country present attractions of no mean character. The tourist also finds many things in the island, especially in the natural beauty of the scenery in certain localities, to repay him for the trouble of his visit. It is not our intention, however, notwithstanding the pleasure it would afford, to accompany the latter through these scenes so calculated to "delight the eye and please the fancy," or to dwell, in contemplation with the former, on those ancient memorials which speak so highly of an ancestry, of which we are justly proud. Our wish, on the contrary, would be to place ourselves in the society of a commercial man, who had come to the country to ascertain, with his own eyes, the means of progress at our disposal, and to note down the observations he might make, as he passed along, in regard to the manufacturing capabilities, and industrial resources of this, as compared with other nations. It would, however, occupy considerable time and space to allude to the several objects which would most likely engage his attention; but it may, nevertheless, be worth while to refer to a few of the most prominent circumstances, in respect to which our backwardness would excite his surprise. The first thing that would most probably strike such a person, is the favourable position of this island, in a geographical point of view, with its fine rivers and capacious harbours, for the purposes of a foreign trade, and, with these great natural advantages, he would, doubtless, be astonished to find that the imports from abroad, instead of coming direct to our shores, actually pass them by, and are afterwards forwarded to us through London or Liverpool, the original cost being loaded with several additional charges, which, as well as time, would have been saved if the vessel were at once discharged at one of our own ports. Beholding this great defect, our commercial friend must, on the other hand, admire the spirit of the few who hold themselves above the mere cross-channel trade, so injurious to the interests of this country, among whom stands a firm in this city, who have an especial claim to respect, from their being the only importers of tea from China direct. Seeing, however, our preference for manufactured sugar, he will naturally conclude that if we do not obtain this necessary in the raw state from the place in which it has been produced, the process of conversion into the manufactured article is, at least, performed at home; in this he will also find himself mistaken, for he will in vain look here for a sugar bakery, or refinery, and will learn, on inquiry, that our wants in this respect are provided for from Liverpool or Glasgow. Again, casting his eye over the noble harbour of Queenstown, many a foreign sail will meet his gaze, destined for London, or some other port in England or Scotland; several of the vessels which he may observe will most likely be laden with breadstuffs, and seeing this, who could explain to him satisfactorily why the wheat from America, for instance, which is this year preferred to that of any other country, must first go to Liverpool before our millers can obtain the supplies of it they require.
A stranger coming to Ireland by Kingstown will be inclined to consider that the energy and genius which has provided the fastest steamers in the world, is capable of making a country great and important in every respect, and such an opinion will be strengthened on an inspection of our railways, which have paid better than those in either England or Scotland. The prosperous condition of our banks-and often public establishments will also satisfy him as to the sound principles on which our business is generally conducted-but on a further comparison of our position, in a commercial point of view, with England and other countries, he will be particularly at a loss to understand the cause of our backward condition in regard to the production of manufactured articles. It would be difficult, as well as tedious, to attempt to give a full and satisfactory explanation on this head, and we will pass over that point for the present; but it may, we think, be safely asserted, that the improvements in machinery, &c., which have taken place within the last few years, by the aid of mechanical and chemical science, will be found to have modified to a very considerable extent, certain disadvantages which had existed in regard to the financial success of manufacturing industry in Ireland.
The vast superiority of England over other countries, as a manufacturing nation, is attributable to several causes; but, perhaps, not the least is to her having been comparatively free from internal wars, by which the progress of industrial activity is always retarded. Her artisans were, in consequence, enabled to work securely, and to go on improving in their several branches, and thus was probably laid the foundation of that great trade which she now possesses. To Arkwright, the subterranean barber, she owes much for his inventions, but James Watt, by his great improvements in the steam-engine, placed her commercial position far beyond that of any other country, either of ancient or modern times. The genuis of Watt would not, however, have effected this result for England were it not for her great mineral wealth, and her abundance of iron and coal. Her almost unlimited supply of the latter especially, has enabled her to make use of all the advantages which steam power affords, and to undersell all the other nations in the great majority of manufactured articles. If we look about us, accordingly we will find, that in those countries where the quality of fuel is comparatively deficient, the inhabitants have not attempted to compete with the British people in the production of goods, in which steam, as the motive power, can be fully employed, but have rather applied themselves, as in France and other places, to the manufacture of those costly and refined articles of commerce, on which the individual workman has frequently to exercise his individual taste, together with a considerable amount of manipulating skill. Thus, while the British producer has monopolised the foreign trade in respect to the coarser fabrics, which we can supply in abundance, in the shape of cotton goods, &c., the Continentalists have heretofore provided the world with a great quantity of the watches used, and the preference given to French gloves, silks, and cashmeres, is well known.
The difference in regard to the production of goods between England and
other countries, it will be seen, has been caused by the greater quantity of fuel in the one than in the other; but many changes have taken place since the time of Watt, and the amount of coal now used in generating a certain quantity of steam is very much under that which was required in his day. The comparative absence of coal in Cornwall led to the old wagon boiler being done away with, and to the substitution of a better one, by which a saving of fuel was effected; and the necessity for further economising the latter, especially in regard to steam boats, has resulted in improvements in both furnace and boiler, by which the heating power has been increased in a most material degree. The subject of still further reducing the quantity of coal required for a given amount of steam continues to occupy the attention of scientific men, from the very great benefits to be derived from additional improvements in this direction; and it is to be hoped that the investigations of Mr. Charles Wye Williams, and others who have their minds engaged on this point, will have a favourable result. It is worthy of remark in this place to observe, that any saving of coal in the working of the steam-engine lessens the distinction between Great Britain and other countries in manufacturing capabilities; and as the French are importing heavy supplies of coal, which they have been enabled to do under the terms of the new commercial treaty, it is not unlikely that they will extend their trade, by establishing several branches of industry, which have been previously almost confined to the United Kingdom. But to this country the cheapening of steam power, or any improvements for diminishing the quantity of coal or turf in the production of manufactured articles, will be extremely beneficial, and a high authority speaking in regard to the advantage over us in this respect enjoyed in certain parts in Great Britain has observed, that "everything which diminishes the quantity of fuel diminishes the amount of this advantage, and hence removes the greatest difficulty felt in the financial success of industry in Ireland." Several years have elapsed from the time this forcible remark was made, and we are happy to say that the disadvantage on our side has since much diminished, as evidenced by the large increase in the number of steam-mills in Dublin and elsewhere.
The disappearance of our calico printing trade, and the decline in the woollen business has, no doubt, been attributed to many causes; but it is somewhat remarkable that these and several other branches, in which steam-power is largely employed across the channel, have not for many years past prospered in Ireland, while the manufacture of tabinets, silks, &c., which have not required the aid of the steam-engine, has succeeded admirably; and an eminent firm in Dublin have recently given an impetus to the latter trade, which is likely to promote its extension in a most satisfactory manner. It need hardly be said that Irish tabinets are known in every court in Europe for their beauty and finish; and it is pleasing to reflect, when thinking of the discouraging state of our trade generally, that in one branch, at least, we have not yet found our masters; and this circumstance affords a reasonable ground for entertaining the hope that the Lyons manufacturer may hereafter find us a dangerous competitor in the
production of these elegant silken and other fabrics, with which he deluges the British market.
It will be also found that, like the French, we are large exporters of boots and shoes, and that we resemble that nation more than the British in the nature of the articles heretofore manufactured by us; and one of our principal objects, therefore, should be to compete as far as possible with the Continentalists. With our linens we are happily able to push a trade amongst them; but why, let us ask, can we not make those beautiful cashmeres for our fair countrywomen which the French supply, and for the making of which they purchase such large quantities of our Irish wool, which is found to be peculiarly adapted for the production of this elegant fabric? It is true that the machinery required for this purpose cannot be provided excepting at considerable cost, but expense should be only a secondary consideration, as no manufacturing enterprise can succeed amongst us, unless we be provided with the most perfect machines used, and keep pace with our neighbours in procuring the latest inventions, in order to prevent any advantage on their side. In agricultural pursuits, where the necessity is in no wise so great, the benefits to be gained by having the most approved implements are well understood, and our Irish farmers and graziers are enabled, by the various shows and exhibitions and by other means, to acquaint themselves with the exact progress of improvement in their particular branches, and to avail themselves of any new machine for lessening labor, and increasing the profits of their business; the interests of agriculture are likewise promoted in Ireland by a number of journals specially de-, voted to the subject: but trade may be said to receive little or no encouragement, although the elevation and future prosperity of the country will chiefly depend on its progress and success in manufacturing industry, with-, out which, moreover, some of the most valuable of our resources will ever remain undeveloped.
A glance at the statements of our imports and exports, will give a very good idea of the state of our trade; and it will be seen therefrom, that while the latter are composed principally of the various kind of agricultural produce, the imports comprise almost every description of manufactured article consumed in Ireland. Allusion has been already made to the conversion of Irish wool into French cashmeres, but many other articles, likewise, could be mentioned which are obtained from this country in the rare state, and subsequently sent back to us in a condition for using when necessary, having in the meanwhile given employment to the foreign artisan, whose skill and industry has been rewarded with the money which should have found its way into the pockets of our own countrymen.
In reflecting on the backward condition of our trade, however, it is gratifying to find the progress, which has taken place in reference to agriculture from the improved modes of husbandry which have been adopted, the most modern mechanical appliances, together with the most recent discoveries in chemical science as regards soils, being now employed in the advancement of this, the almost general industrial pursuit of the Irish people; but although the beneficial effects produced by a model farm are very great, and
that it may be looked upon, in some circles, as more ornamental to the landscape than a mill would be, yet the advantages connected with the one, would bear no comparison with those which the other would confer ; for besides the employment which would be given in the particular locality in which a few of the latter might be erected, the property in the neighbourhood would be raised in value far beyond that which it would ever attain as a purely agricultural district. The cases are numerous, particularly on the other side of the channel, in which it could be shown that such a result has been produced by the establishment of the manufactory; and it would be well for the interests of Ireland, if the educated and wealthier classes, whose efforts have been so successful in regard to the progress of the country, in an agricultural point of view, would turn some of their attention to the encouragement and promotion of native manufacture; and they would probably find that their endeavours in this respect, besides being no less laudable, would produce fruits of at least equal value to those which have resulted from their skilful labours in the service of agriculture.
Any movement, however, for the development of the trade of Ireland would most likely be slow in the commencement, as no branch of industry would be extended until proper experience were first had of its working and financial success; and the country will, most probably, have for a long period to depend wholly on individual enterprise. It may happen in time, however, that the cotton-mill will be erected, and the number of flax-mills be increased, through the combined capital of our land owners and traders, when such an undertaking will be looked upon as profitable, and as affording a safe and satisfactory security for the investment of money; and some ground for this supposition is afforded by the fact, that the balance sheets of the cotton factories in Lancashire and Yorkshire show profits varying from 25 to as bigh a range as 50 per cent., and that, at the present moment, the "Nuneaton Cottin Spinning and Weaving Company" is being established by a large number of manufacturers and others, the capital, £100,000, being proposed to be raised in 10,000 shares of £10 each; it being expected, from the neighbourhood and population which can be brought into active working, that the dividend to be secured will prove satisfactory. It may be objected, however, that the difference between the price of coal in this country and England would so operate as to completely prevent the establishment of factories in Ireland, but we have already alluded to the great saving in fuel which has been effected in the working of the steam-engine, which has in a great measure diminished any disadvantage which we laboured under in this respect; and it will be found also that the value of steam-coal at Manchester is very little, at the present time, under what is paid for that article in this country. Moreover, it is well known that the cost of the fuel necessary for providing the motive power has never formed more than a very small portion of the entire expense of production; and, perhaps, the only real obstacles to the establishment of manufactories in Ireland is, first, the difficulty of competing with such old and extensive manufacturing markets as those in England, such as Leeds, Manchester, etc.; and, next, of finding, as in these places, a