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It is through her wool that England has risen to the first place in the world in the textile industry. Her soil and climate favored the culture of sheep possessing qualities found in no other race or country. The prevailing national sentiment, as expressed in the words of one of its old writers, is that “wool is the flower and strength, the revenue and the blood of England.” Its exclusive possession was secured by laws forbidding its exportation, and the acquisition of auxiliary wools from abroad was secured by their admission at small or merely nominal imposts. The woollen manufacturers having acquired the highest arts of the Low Countries and France, from the refugees whom the persecutions of the Duke of Alva and the revocation of the edict of Nantes had driven to the English shores, were “fondled, favored, and cherished," to use the words of Mr. Huskisson, by a persistency of national protection without parallel in the history of industry. The woollen industry was first planted in the eastern and western counties. In the 18th century it changed its seat to the counties of the north, where coal abounded for propelling machinery, and the neighborhood of large flocks of sheep gave the choice of fleeces, and in the West Riding of the county of York it has been developed into gigantic proportions. The most remarkable woollen establishments of the world are concentrated in this district, but distributed in four principal towns, each of which, by a law which seems universal, has devoted itself to a special industry. Leeds, to heavy drapery; Huddersfield, to light drapery; Halifax, to carpets; and Bradford, to thin and brilliant worsted stuffs. The effect of a succesful woollen industry upon population is remarkably illustrated in this district. In the West Riding, where there was a population of only 593,000 inhabitants in 1801, it had risen in 1841 to 1,154,000, and in 1867 to 1,375,000. In 1841 it had increased at Halifax from 63,000 to 130,000; at Huddersfield from 14,000 to 38,000; and at Leeds from 53,000 to 152,000. The increase of population is still more remarkable at Bradford, the great seat of the worsted industry. At the commencement of the century, when all the wool was spun and woven in the houses of the workmen, this town had a population of only 13,000 souls; in 1821 it had doubled the number of its inhabitants, which then reached 26,000. By the introduction of power-looms in 1825, the use of cotton warps with yarns of wool in 1834, and the employment of the hair of the alpaca and Angora goat, first used in 1836, the manufacturing industry was so developed that it sustained, in 1851, a population of 103,000, and of 115,000 in 1861, an increase of over 100,000 in half a century. In singular contrast with the infinite variety which Yorkshire now produces, and its industry, which occupies upon a district of 50 square miles 750,000 spindles and 35,000 power-looms, distributed in 932 establishments, employing 75,000 workmen, is the picture left by an ancient statute of the condition of the woollen industry in the city of York, in the time of
Henry VIII. During the reign of this monarch an act was passed in favor of the city of York, reciting and declaring "that the poor of that city were daily employed in spinning, dyeing, carding, weaving, &c., for the making of coverlets, and that the same have not been made in the same county till of late; that this manufacture has spread into other parts of the country, and was thereby debased and discredited; and therefore it is enacted that none shall make coverlets but the people of York.” We see this wretched handicraft now expanded into the most magnificent manufacture to be found in the woollen industry of the world.
Although the West Riding of Yorkshire is the most important seat of the woollen industry in England, it is by no means confined to this district. Other centres are marked by the same singular devotion to particular branches observed in Yorkshire. While heavy pilot cloths, &c., for overcoats, are produced principally at Leeds, pantaloon stutts and vestings at Huddersfield, blankets at Dewsbury, carpets and damasks for furniture at Halifax, all in Yorkshire; tweeds, tartans, shawls, &c., are made principally at Galashiels and Hawick; imitation cashmere shawls, at Paisley; flannels, in Wales, and at Rochdale; heavy goods, such as blankets and rugging, horse-cloths, &c., in Oxfordshire, and at Witney, Chipping Norton, and Kendal, in Westmoreland; hosiery, at Nottingham, and silk and wool poplins at Norwich; each of these points being recognized as the headquarters of the branches of production above enumerated.
We find a singular deficiency of recent statisties respecting the woollen industry of Great Britain, proceeding from the characteristic reticence of its manufacturers. This is observable in the proceedings of the Chamber of Commerce of Bradford, where we might expect to find detailed information. The most recent statements are those given by Mr. Symonds, in 1861. From them it appears that the total value at that period of the woollen manufacture of the kingdom, separate from the worsted manufacture, was £20,290,079, composed of the following items: 76,000,000 pounds of foreign and colonial wool, valued at £1,717,192; 80,000,000 pounds of British wool, at 1s. 3d. per pound, £5,000,000; 30,000,000 pounds of shoddy, at 2 d. per pound, and 15,000,000 pounds of mungo, at 41d. per pound, together £609,370; cotton and other warps, used in the union and mixed cloths, £206,537; dye-stuffs, oil, and soap, £1,500,000; wages, £150,000; work people, at 12s.61.per week, £1,875,000; rent, wear and tear of machinery, repairs, coal, interest on capital and profit, 20 per cent. on above, £3,381,680. According to the same authority, the worsted manufacture consumes 80,000,000 pounds of British wool, and 15,000,000 pounds of foreign and colonial wool, and employs 125,000 hands. The whole number of operatives engaged on wool is 275,000. The total number of persons, directly dependent upon the woollen industry, is set down at 837,500, including the workmen, there being a larger number of dependent workers in auxiliary trades than in connection with any other manufacture.
It is not proposed to give the details of the compensation of labor in
the woollen industry of Great Britain, English statistical statements of the reliable character of those given respecting the French industry are wanting. The rates obtained from scattered sources vary so much in different establishments, locations, and employments, that facts supplied by a few establishments would lead to no correct conclusions. A better opinion can be formed from a general view than a microscopic examination. M. Reybaud is of opinion that, throwing aside the exceptional cases where the receipts of an English workman and his wife would amount to 3,000 or 3,500 francs, the average receipts for the couple cannot be fixed at less than 1,700 or 1,800 francs, the receipts in Roubaix in corresponding cases being 1,350 francs, and at Amiens 900 francs. The average wages in this industry, although materially less than in this country, particularly for common hands, and women and children, are greatly above those in France and other countries on the continent. The Chamber of Commerce of Leeds, according to the author last referred to, estimates the wages of the workman at 35 francs for the articles best paid, and at 22 francs for those which are least paid, with intermediate rates. American manufacturers admit that it is not so much the lower rate of wages in England against which we have to contend, as the low rates of interest, which permit the employment of vast capital and most the advantageous use of machinery, together with the abundance of labor which may always be recruited from the vast reserve corps of paupers, eager to be elevated to the rank of workmen. A marked improvement in the material condition of the workmen, especially in Yorkshire, has been effected of late years by the increase and the lessening of the cost of subsistence. In the West Riding the labor which, in the period from 1815 to 1817, produced 10 shillings per per week, will earn at present 16 shillings per week. The food for a family which then cost 9s. Id. is now obtained for 6s. In this industry at the present day, the Yorkshire workmen are able to consume animal food at least twice a day, to be respectably clothed, to have some luxuries, and accumulate savings. They are the envy of the workmen of the continent. Without stopping to inquire whether this change has been brought about by chartist agitation, the trade unions, the self-interest of employers, or the moral enlightenment of the English nation, we recognize the fact that the material condition of the English workman is vastly superior to that of his brother workman in France, Belgium, Prussia, and Austria. On the other hand, it is now freely admitted in England that the general and technical education of the English operative is far inferior to that of the workmen of the nations above-named. The Universal Exposition at Paris served to open the eyes of England to the startling fact that she had been making but little progress in manufacturing and mechanical industry since 1851, compared with that made in many other European countries. Among the responses of eminent jurors to a request for information, addressed by the Schools Inquiry Commission of July 2, 1567, we find the following statements as to the interiority above referred to, and its apparent cause.
Dr. Playfair says: “A singular accordance of opinion prevailed that our country had shown little inventiveness, and made little progress in the peaceful arts of industry since 1862.” Professor Tyndal says: “I have long entertained the opinion that in virtue of the better education provided by the continental nations, England must one day, and that no distant one, find herself outstripped by those nations both in the arts of peace and war.” More pertinently to the immediate subject of this report, Mr. Huth says: “I am sorry to say that, although we may still be unsurpassed in many of our productions, we no longer hold that pre-eminence that was accorded to us in 1851. The enormous strides that have of late been made by our continental rivals in France, Belgium, Prussia, and Austria, will make it daily more difficult for our woollen manufacturers to hold not only their former prominent position, but even to maintain their present one. I found that it is the want of industrial education in this country which prevents our manufacturers from making that progress which other nations are making. I found both masters and foremen in other countries much more scientifically educated than our own. The workmen of other countries have a far superior education to ours, many of whom have none whatever. Their productions show clearly that it is not there a machine working a machine, but that brains sit at the loom, and intelligence stands at the spinning wheel."
The references here made to the provisions for scientific and technical education upon the continent of Europe are worthy of grave consideration in this country, and the examples cited should stimulate us to extend such institutions as already exist here in the schools of the Cooper Institute of New York, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The cause, however, of the decline of the industrial arts in England, so fully admitted in the testimony of her own experts, is to be found in a source more deeply seated than in a simple deficiency of technical education. Schools of art are the result, as well as the cause, of a national sentiment of excellence, and such a sentiment cannot be predominant in a nation where the ruling idea of its system of manufacture is production at the cheapest possible rate for the utmost possible consumption. A constantly declining standard of excellence is inseparable from this idea. The fruits are seen in the shoddy cloths, the fragile railroad iron, and the hardware, to which no more opprobrious term can be applied than that derived from its chief seat of fabrication—the trashy fabrics and wares inundating every country which does not protect itself by domestic production and defensive duties. It is to the commerce which this system of manufacture nourishes that the famous line of Goldsmith is so justly applicable
“ And honor sinks where commerce long prevails." The French economists deplore the influence of this idea, which has crept into France, in consequence of the Anglo-French treaty, and they assert that it has exerted a baleful influence upon French artists who have sojourned a long time in England. “They lose their manner," it is said; "their imagination is subdued; it is a flame which becomes extin
guished by the positive and cold spirit of the English.” The woollen manufacturers of this country in producing, as they have done formerly, chiefly for the masses, have followed too much the present English system, instead of aiming at the standard of the old English masters of the woollen industry, and of their descendants in the western counties, who produce for the home markets, or the still higher standard which we have seen prevailing in France. The system which may be profitable for a foreign trade cannot be permanently remunerative for domestic consumption. In fabricating for the home markets the delinquencies of the producer are like personal "sins," which, in the words of the homely proverb, always come home to roost." The false economy of making poor, or, more properly speaking, dishonest fabrics, is sure to be at length demonstrated by reclamations of buyers, by accumulating stocks, and, finally, by bankrupt establishments.
Our manufacturers, in producing even for the masses, should consider how rapidly the masses in this country are improving in taste and in appreciation of what is really good, and that American consumers will no more be satisfied with ordinary fabrics than American mechanics with cheap tools. Let the ancient device of Roubaix, " Industrie et probité," be the rule also of American manufacturers; let the surprising advance of our woollen industry in the last five years be the earnest of its future progress, and the excellence and variety of its products will excite in the people a sympathy in our struggles and a national pride in our achievements. By our own faithful work we shall secure the final condition of success-a positive public sentiment which shall pervade the country in favor of the products of its own soil and labor.
E. R. MUDGE,