Imatges de pàgina
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much bent on prosecuting, without regard to expense, a trade with barbarous uncivilised hordes, while they contribute to the neglect or oppression of the incomparably more extensive and beneficial intercourse we might carry on with the opulent and civilised nations in our immediate vicinity. The equalisation of the duties on Canadian and Baltic timber, and the reduction of the oppressive duties on foreign sugar and brandy, and on French silks and gloves, would do ten times more to extend our commerce, than the discovery of 50 navigable rivers, and the possession of as many forts, on the African coast. If, however, an establishment be really required for the advantageous prosecution of the trade to Western Africa, it is abundantly obvious that it should be placed much further to the south than Sierra Leone. The island of Fernando Po has been suggested for this purpose ; but, after the dear-bought experience we have already had, it is to be hoped that nothing will be done with respect to it without mature consideration. Account of the Quantities of the Articles imported into the U. Kingdom from the West Coast of Africa

iu 1811, specifying the Districts whence they were imported, and the Quantities brought from each.

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The total value of the exports of British produce and manufacture to the west coast of Africa, amounted in 1841, to 410,7981. ; of which cotton goods made 183,6221., hard. ware and cutlery, 19,3781., brass and copper manufactures, 16,4521., &c. The exports to Sierra Leone did not amount to 4th part of the whole, being only 96,0921.

Expenses incurred on account of Sierra Leone. - The pecuniary expense occasioned by this colony, and our unsuccessful efforts to suppress the foreign slave trade, have been altogether enormous. Mr. Keith Douglas is reported to have stated, in his place in the House of Commons, in July, 1831, that “ down to the year 1824, the civil expenses of Sierra Leone amounted to 2,268,0001. ; and that the same expenses had amounted, from 1824 to 1830, to 1,082,0001. The naval expenses, from 1807 to 1824, had been 1,630,000. The payments to Spain and Portugal, to induce them to relinquish the slave trade, amounted to 1,230,0001. The expenses on account of captured slaves were 533,0921. The expenses incurred on account of the mixed commission courts were 198,0001, Altogether, this establishment had cost the country nearly 8,000,000/ !"

The prodigality of this expenditure is unmatched, except by its uselessness. It is doubtful whether it has prevented a single African from being dragged into slavery, or conferred the smallest real advantage on Africa. The kings of Spain and Portugal turned their spurious humanity to good account. But there is now, we believe, an end of all attempts to bribe such monarchs to respect the treaties into which they have entered.

For further details with respect to Sierra Leone, and the trade of Western Africa, see the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, on the West Coast of Africa, Sess. 1842.

SILK (Lat. Sericum, from Seres, the supposed ancient name of the Chinese), a fine glossy thread or filament spun by various species of caterpillars or larvæ of the phalana genus. Of these, the Phalæna atlas produces the greatest quantity : but the Phalana bombyr is that commonly employed for this purpose in Europe. The silkworm, in its caterpillar state, which may be considered as the first stage of its existence, after acquiring its full growth (about 3 inches in length), proceeds to enclose itself in an oval-shaped ball, or cocoon, which is formed by an exceedingly slender and long filament of fine yellow silk, emitted from the stomach of the insect preparatory to its assuming the shape of the chrysalis or moth. In this latter stage, after emancipating itself from its silken prison, it seeks its mate, which has undergone a similar transformation; and in 2 or 3 days afterwards, the female having deposited her eggs (from 300 to 500 in number), buth insects terminate their existence. According to Reaumur, the phalana is not the only insect that affords this material, — several species of the aranea, or spider, enclose their eggs in very fine silk.

Raw Silk is produced by the operation of winding off, at the same time, several of the balls or cocoons (which are immersed in hot water, to soften the natural gum on the filament) on a common reel, thereby forming one smooth even thread. When the skein is dry, it is taken from the reel and made up into hanks; but before it is fit for weaving, and in order to enable it to undergo the process of dyeing, without furring up or separating the fibres, it is converted into one of three forms; viz. singles, tram, or organzine.

Singles (a collective noun) is formed of one of the reeled threads, being twisted, in order to give it strength and firmness.

Tram is formed of 2 or more threads twisted together. In this state it is commonly used in weaving, as the shoot or weft.

Thrown Silk is formed of 2, 3, or more singles, according to the substance required, being twisted together in a contrary direction to that in which the singles of which it is composed are twisted. This process is termed organzining ; and the silk so twisted, organzine. The art of throwing was originally confined to Italy, where it was kept a secret for a long period. Stow says it was known in this country since the 5th of Queen Elizabeth, “ when it was gained from the strangers ;” and in that year (1562), the silk throwsters of the metropolis were united into a fellowship. They were incorporated in the year 1629; but the art continued to be very imperfect in England until 1719. — (See post.)

1. Historical Sketch of the Manufacture. - The art of rearing silkworms, of unravelling the threads spun by them, and manufacturing the latter into articles of dress and ornament, seems to have been first practised by the Chinese. Virgil is the earliest of the Roman writers who has been supposed to allude to the production of silk in China, and the terms he employs show how little was then known at Rome of the real nature of the article:-

Velleraque ut foliis depectant tenuia Seres. — (Georg. lib. fi. lin. 121.) But it may be doubted whether Virgil do not, in this line, refer to cotton rather than silk. Pliny, however, has distinctly described the formation of silk by the bombyx. (Hist. Nat. lib. xi. c. 17.) It is uncertain when it first began to be introduced at Rome: but it was most probably in the age of Pompey and Julius Cæsar ; the latter of whom displayed a profusion of silks in some of the magnificent theatrical spectacles with which he sought to conciliate and amuse the people. Owing principally, no doubt, to the great distance of China from Rome, and to the difhculties in the way of the intercourse with that country, which was carried on by land in caravans whose route lay through the Persian empire, and partly, perhaps, to the high price of silk in China, its cost, when it arrived at Rome, was very great ; so much so, that a given weight of silk was sometimes sold for an equal weight of gold; at first it was only used by a few ladies eminent for their rank and opulence. In the beginning of the reign of Tiberius, a law was passed, ne restis serica viros fædarit- that no man should disgrace himself by wearing a silken garinent. ---( Tacit. Annal. lib. ii. c. 33.) But the profligate Ileliogabalus despised this law, and was the first of the Roman emperors who wore a dress composed wholly of silk (holosericum). The example once set, the custom of wearing silk soon became general among the wealthy citizens of Rome, and throughout the provinces. According as the demand for the article increased, efforts were made to import larger quantities; and the price seems to have progressively declined from the reign of Aurelian. That this must have been the case, is obvious from the statement of Ammianus Marcellinus, that silk was in his time (anno 370), very generally worn, even by the lowest classes. Sericum ad usum antehuc nobilium, nunc etiam infimorum sine ullâ discretione proficiens. - (Lib. xviii. c. 6.)

China continued to draw considerable sums from the Roman Empire in return for silk, now become indispensable to the Western World, till the 6th century. About the year 550, two Persian monks, who had long resided in China and made themselves acquainted with the mode of rearing the silkworm, encouraged by the gifts and promises of Justinian, succeeded in carrying the eggs of the insect to Constantinople. Under their direction they were hatched and fed; they lived and laboured in a foreign climate ; a sufficient number of butterflies was saved to propagate the race, and mulberry trees were planted to afford nourishment to the rising generations. A new and important branch of industry was thus established in Europe. Experience and reflection gradually corrected the errors of a new attempt; and the Sogdoite ambassadors acknowledged in the succeeding reign, that the Romans were not inferior to the natives of China in the education of the insects, and the manufacture of silk. -(Gibbon, Decline and Fall, vol. vii. p. 99.)

Greece, particularly the Peloponnesus, was early distinguished by the rearing of silk. worms, and by the skill and success with which the inhabitants of Thebes, Corinth, and Argos carried on the manufacture. Until the 12th century, Greece continued to be the only European country in which these arts were practised: but the forces of Roger king of Sicily having, in 1147, sacked Corinth, Athens, and Thebes, carried off large numbers of the inhabitants to Palermo ; who introduced the culture of the worm, and the manufacture of silk, into Sicily. From this island the arts spread into Italy; and Venice, Milan, Florence, Lucca, &c. were soon after distinguished for their success in raising silkworms, and for the extent and beauty of their manufactures of silk.-(Gibbon, vol. x. p. 110. ; Biographie Universelle, art. Roger II.)

The silk manufacture was introduced into France in 1480; Louis XI. having invited workmen from Italy, who established themselves in Tours. The manufacture was not begun at Lyons till about 1520; when Francis I., having got possession of Milan, prevailed on some artisans of the latter city to establish themselves, under his protection, in the former. Nearly at the same period the rearing of silkworms began to be successfully prosecuted in Provence, and other provinces of the south of France. Henry IV. rewarded such of the early manufacturers as had supported and pursued the trade for 12 years, with patents of nobility.

Silk Manufacture of England. -- The manufacture seems to have been introduced into England in the 15th century. Silk had, however, been used by persons of distinction two centuries previously. The manufacture does not appear to have made much progress till the age of Elizabeth ; the tranquillity of whose long reign, and the influx of Flemings occasioned by the disturbances in the Low Countries, gave a powerful stimulus to the manufactures of England. The silk throwsters of the metropolis were united, as already observed, in a fellowship, in 1562 ; and were incorporated in 1629. Though retarded by the civil wars, the manufacture continued gradually to advance; and so flourishing had it become, that it is stated in a preamble to a statute passed in 1666 (13 & 14 Cha. 2. c. 15.), that there were at that time no fewer than 40,000 individuals engaged in the trade! And it is of importance to observe, that though the importation of French and other foreign silks was occasionally prohibited during the reigns of James I. and Charles I., the Protectorate, and the reign of Charles II., the prohibition was not strictly enforced ; and, generally speaking, their importation was quite free.

A considerable stimulus, though not nearly so great as has been commonly supposed, was given to the English silk manufacture by the revocation of the edict of Nantes, in 1685. Louis XIV. drove, by that disgraceful measure, several hundreds of thousands of his most industrious subjects to seek an asylum in foreign countries; of whom it is supposed about 50,000 came to England. Such of these refugees as had been engaged in the silk manufacture established themselves in Spitalfields, where they introduced several new branches of the art. When the refugees fied to England, foreign silks were freely admitted; and it appears from the Custom-house returns, that from 600,0001. to 700,0001. worth were annually imported in the period from 1685 to 1692, being the very period during which the British silk manufacture made the most rapid advances. But the manufacture was not long permitted to continue on this footing. In 1692, the refugees, who seem to have been quite as conversant with the arts of monopoly as with those either of spinning or weaving, obtained a patent, giving them an exclusive right to manufacture lustrings and à-la-modes, the silks then in greatest demand. This, however, was not enough to satisfy them; for, in 1697, Parliament passed an act, in compliance with their solicitations, prohibiting the importation of all French and other European silk goods; and in 1701, the prohibition was extended to the silk goods of India and China.

These facts show the fallacy of the opinion, so generally entertained, that we owe the introduction and establishment of the silk manufacture to the prohibitive system. So far from this being the case, it is proved, by statements in numerous acts of parliament, and other authentic documents, that the silk manufacture had overcome all the difficulties incident to its first establishment, had been firmly rooted, and had become of great value and importance, long before it was subjected to the trammels of monopoly; that is, before the manufacturers were taught to trust more to fiscal regulations, and the exertions of custom house officers, than to their skill and ingenuity, for the sale of their goods.

The year 1719 is an important epoch in the history of the British silk manufacture ; a patent being then granted to Mr. (afterwards Sir Thomas) Lombe and his brother, for the exclusive property of the famous silk mill erected by them at Derby, for throwing silk, from models they had clandestinely obtained in Italy. At the expiration of the patent, Parliament refused the petition of Sir Thomas Lombe for its renewal; but granted him 14,0001. in consideration of the services he had rendered the country, in

erecting a machine which, it was supposed, would very soon enable us to dispense wholly with the supplies of thrown silk we had previously been in the habit of importing from Italy: but instead of being of any advantage, it is most certainly true that the establishDent of throwing mills in England has proved one of the most formidable obstacles to the extension of the manufacture amongst us. These mills could not have been constructed unless oppressive duties had been laid on thrown or organzine silk; and the circumstance of their having been erected, and a large amount of capital vested in them, was successfully urged, for more than a century, as a conclusive reason for continuing the high duties!

From this period down to 1824, the history of the silk manufacture presents little mor than complaints, on the part of the manufacturers, of the importation of foreign silks ; of impotent efforts on the part of parliament to exclude them; and of combinations and outrages on the part of the workmen. Among the multitude of acts that were passed in reference to this manufacture, from 1697 to the æra of Mr. Huskisson, we believe it would be exceedingly difficult to point out one that is bottomed on any thing like sound principle, or that was productive of any but mischievous consequences. The French writers estimate the average exportation of silks from France to England, during the period from 1688 to 1741, at about 12,500,000 francs, or 500,0001. a year! In 1763, attempts were made to check the prevalence of smuggling; and the silk mercers of the metropolis, to show their anxiety to forward the scheme, are said to have recalled their orders for foreign goods! It would seem, however, either that their patriotic ardour had very soon cooled, or they had been supplanted by others not quite so scrupulous ; for it appears from a report of a committee of the privy council, appointed, in 1766, to inquire into the subject, that smuggling was then carried on to a greater extent than ever, and that 7,072 looms were out of employment. The same committee reported, that though the French were decidedly superior to us in some branches of the trade, we were quite equal, and even superior, to them in others; but instead of proposing, consistently with their report, to admit French silks on a reasonable duty, a measure which would have proved very advantageous to those branches of the manufacture in which we were superior, or nearly equal, to the French, without doing any material injury to the others, which were already in the most depressed condition, they recommended the continuance of the old system; substituting absolute prohibitions in the place of the prohibitory duties that formerly existed! Whatever immediate advantages the manufacturers might have reaped from this measure, the ultimate tendency of which could not fail of being most injurious, were eflectually countervailed by the turbulent proceedings of the workmen, who suceeded, in 1773, in obtaining from the legislature an act which, by itself, was quite sufficient to have destroyed even a prosperous trade. This, which has been commonly called the Spitalfields Act, entitled the weavers of Middlesex to demand a fixed price for their labour, which should be settled by the magistrates ; and while both masters and men were restricted from giving or receiving more or less than the fixed price, the manufacturers were liable in heavy penalties if they employed weavers out of the district! The monopoly which the manufacturers had hitherto enjoyed, though incomplete, had had sufficient influence to render inventions and discoveries of comparatively rare occurrence in the silk trade ; but the Spitalfields Act extinguished every germ of improvement, Parliament, in its wisdom, having seen fit to enact that a manufacturer should be obliged to pay as much for work done by the best machinery as if it were done by hand, it would have been folly to have thought of attempting any thing new! It is not, however, to be denied that Macclesfied, Manchester, Norwich, Paisley, &c. are under obligations to this act. Had it extended to the whole kingdom, it would have totally extirpated the manufacture; but being confined to Middlesex, it gradually drove the most valuable branches from Spitalfields to places where the rate of wages was determined by the competition of the parties, on the principle of mutual interest and compromised advantage. After having done incalculable mischief, the act was repealed in 1824. Had it continued down to the present day, it would not have left employment in the metropolis for a single silk weaver.

But, as the effects of this act did not immediately manifest themselves, it was at first exceedingly popular. After 1785, however, the substitution of cottons in the place of silk gave a severe check to the manufacture, and the weavers then began to discover the real nature of the Spitalfields Act. Being interdicted from working at reduced wages, they were totally thrown out of employment; so that, in 1793, upwards of 4,000 Spitalfields looms were quite idle. In 1798, the trade began to revive; and continued to extend slowly till 1815 and 1816, when the Spitalfields weavers were again involved in sufferings far more extensive and severe than at any former period.

It appears from this brief sketch of the progress of the English silk trade, that from the year 1695, down to our own times, it has been exposed to the most appalling vicissitudes. The reason is obvious. The monopoly enjoyed by the manufacturers, and the Spiialfields Aet, effectually put a stop to all improvement; so that the ma

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nufacture continued stationary in England, while on the Continent it was rapidly ada vancing. Whenever, therefore, the markets were, either from the miscalculation of the manufacturers, or a change of fashion, overloaded with silks, there were no means of disposing of the surplus profitably abroad, and the distress became extreme. Notwithstanding the unparalleled advances we had made in other departments of manufacturing industry, it was affirmed, in 1826, by the member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice), in his place in the House of Commons, “ that there were in that city 9,700 looms ; 7,500 of which were in the hands of operative weavers, who applied their manual labour, as well as their machinery, to the manufacture of ribands. These looms were, for the most part, of the worst possible construction ; and it would scarcely be believed that the improved loom in France would, in a given time, produce 5 times as much riband as the common loom in England with the same manual labour! He could also state that there existed an improved manufacture in Gerinany, by which one man could make forty-eight times as much velvet as could be made in an equal time by an English machine. What chance was there that the English manufacturer could maintain such a competition ? "

Perhaps these statements may have been somewhat exaggerated; but there can be no doubt of their substantial accuracy. Surely, however, no one believes that the inferiority of the machinery used by the English manufacturers was ascribable to any thing except that the protection they enjoyed had made them indifferent to improve

No one believes that the French or Germans are superior to the English in the construction of machines ; on the contrary, their inferiority is admitted by themselves, and by everybody else. That that spirit of invention, which has effected such astonishing results in the cotton manufacture, should have been so long wholly unknown in that of silk, is entirely to be ascribed to the fact of the former never having been the object of legislative protection. The cotton manufacturers were not bribed into the adoption of a routine system; they could not rest satisfied with mediocrity; but being compelled to put forth all their powers - to avail themselves of every resource of science and of art - they have, in a few years, raised the British cotton manufacture from a subordinate and trifling, to the very first place amongst the manufactures, not of this country only, but of the world!

Change, in 1826, of the Monopoly System. —- At length, however, the impolicy of the system by which the silk manufacture had been so long depressed, became obvious to every intelligent individual. The principal manufacturers in and about London subscribed, in 1824, a petition to the House of Commons, in which they stated that “this important manufacture, though recently considerably extended, is still depressed below its natural level, by laws which prevent it from attaining that degree of prosperity which, under more favourable circumstances, it would acquire." Fortified by this authority, by the experience of 130 years, during which the prohibitive system had been allowed to paralyse the energies of the manufacturers, and by the sanction of parliamentary committees, Mr. Huskisson moved, on the 8th of March, 1824, that the prohibition of foreign silks should cease on the 5th of July, 1826, and that they should then be admitted for importation on payment of a duty of 30 per cent. ad valorem. On this occasion Mr. H. observed - “ The monopoly had produced, what monopoly was always sure to produce, an indifference with regard to improvement. That useful zeal which gives life to industry, which fosters ingenuity, and which in manufactures occasions unceasing efforts to produce the article in the most economical form, had been comparatively extinguished. To the prohibitive system it was to be ascribed, that in silk only, in the whole range of manufactures, we were left behind our neighbours ! We have here a proof of that chilling and benumbing effect which is sure to be produced when no genius is called into action, and when we are rendered indifferent to exertion by the indolent security derived from restrictive regulations. I have not the slightest doubt, that if the same system had been continued with respect to the cotton manufacture, it would have been at this moment as subordinate in amount to the woollen as it is junior in its introduction into the country.” —( Speeches, vol. ii. p. 249.)

We have already alluded to the enormous duties imposed, in 1719, when Sir Thomas Lombe erected his throwing mill at Derby, on foreign organzine silk. These, though subsequently reduced, amounted, in 1824, to no less than 14s. 7.12. per lb. There was also, at the same time, a duty of 4s. per lb. on raw silk imported from Bengal, and of 58. 71d. per lb. on that imported from other places. Even had the manufacture been otherwise in a flourishing condition, such exorbitant duties on the raw material were enough to have de troyed it. Mr. Huskisson, therefore, proposed, by way of preparing the manufacturers for the approaching change of system, that the duty on foreign thrown silk should be immediately reduced to 78. 6d. (it was further reduced to 58. in 1826), and the duty on raw silk to 3d. per Ib. These proposals were all agreed to ; and considerable reductions were at the same time effected in the duties charged on most of the dye stuffs used in the manufacture.

It is to be regretted that Mr. Huskisson did not propose that the reduction of the

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