Изображения страниц

numerous, and many of them of great magnitude, some employing from 30 to 70,000 spindles, and yielling upwards of 600,000 hanks per week, each bank measuring 840 yards, or, in the whole, 504,000,000 yards, a prodigious length to be the produce of six days labour. The improvements made for the last twentyfive years have been, in a great degree, confined to the spiuning department, and those preparatory processes which the present mode of making yarn requires; and it will appear matter of wonder, when we revert to the trade in its origin, that, in so short a space, such perfection should have been attained.

Not more than half a century has elapsed since all the cotton yarn, manufactured in this country, was spun by land, upon that well known domestic instrument, called, a One Thread Wheel : the quantity, therefore, produced at that time, must have been very limited indeed; and, from the uncertainty of the operation, must have yielded an article so uneven, and various in its fineness, as to have operated as a very inalerial bar to the extension of the trade, in

any but coarse or heavy goods : indeed no attempt was made at the manufacture of muslius, for which the Eastern world was so celebrated, until the present systein of spinning was in some degree matured. The various mechanical contrivances by which the numerous processes through which cotton necessarily passes, are more accurately, as well as expeditiously performed, having effected a prodigious reduction in the price of labour, and the value of all the various sorts of goods composed, either partly or wholly, of cotton, the demand has rapidly increased; and cotton goods, of British manufacture, have found their way over the continents of Europe and America. The first successful attempt that was made to spin cotton by machinery, was by a person of the name of Hargreave, of Blackwell, in Lancashire, who constructed a machine, wluch lie called a Jenny, and by which a single person could spin from twenty to forty threads at one time. These machines, in a short time, became very general; and upon

them was produced the weft or shute of which the various kinds of cotton goods were made. The warp or webb of S 3


[ocr errors]

these goods was almost universally linen, until it was discovered
that by uniting two of the threads produced by the Jenny, and
tuisomg them together, an excellent substitute was provided for
used heretofore for

The late Sir Richard Arkwright, for whom the accomplishment
of this great object was reserved, after many experiments, finished
his first engine in 1768, and in the following year took out a

He stiil, however, continued to study improvements; and in the year 1775, having brought his original machinery to greater perfectio, and having invented machines for preparing the cotton for spinning, upon which a single thread could be spun sufficiently compact and firm to answer all the purposes


warp, he obtained a fresh patent for his new invention. Hitherto he and his partners had reaped no profit from the undertakiug; but now proper buildings being erected, at the expense of 30,0001. and the machinery possessing the superior advantage of being put in motion by the apprication of power, and by which an infinite number of spindles might be incessantly employed, requiring only the attention of a few children to piece up the ends that may occasionally break, and thus producing, in a fiftyfold proportion to what bad before been conceived practicable; the business began to be productive to the proprietors, and an object of importance to the whole nation. Manufacturers, and other men of property, now wishe I to participate in the benefit of Arkwright's invention ; and several spinning mills were erected in various parts oi the country, the proprietors of which contracted to pay him a certain annual rent for every spindle contained in their machinery. Several spinning mills, established in Lancashire, the west part of Scotland, at elsewhere, together with the general use of the jennies, (engines for spinning the woof or weft,) produced such an abridgment of labour, and improvement of the fabric, the yarn being spun upon truer principles than if done by hand, that the prices of goods were much reduced, and consequently the British manufactures of cotton goods of all kinds were greatly extended, and many thousands of people, including women, and


children of both sexes, were now instructed in the various operations of the business. Four spinning mills were erected in Ireland; and two were established near Rouen, in France, under the able direction of Mr. Holker, an English manufacturer, who, with his partners, were patronized and assisted by the government. It was not long before Arkwright's machinery was even transported across the Atlantic, and a spinning mill erected in Philadelphia. Sir Richard securing, by patent, to himself the exclusive privilege of using these machines, acquired, in a little time, an immense fortune. The trade was by this means much limited; but a question arising as to the right of Sir Richard to the exclusive privilege, and the matter coming under legal investigation, it was, after long litigation, determined in the Court of King's Bench in 1785, when the issue proved favourable to the ardent wish of those who had instituted the enquiry, and the mysteries of the trade were no longer concealed from those whose genius, whose spirit, and fortunes enabled them to enter the lists, as competitors with Sir Richard himself.

He, however, continued the business after he was deprived of - the monopoly, and, probably, with soine advantages over his competitors, derived from his experience and established plan of conducting the business. He certainly deserved the great fortune he acquired; for the advantages he conferred upon the nation were infinitely greater than those which accrued to himself, and far more solid and durable than an hundred conquests. Instead of depriving the working poor of a livelihood by his great abridgement of labour, that very abridgement has created a vast deal of employment for more hands than were formerly engaged: and it was computed that half a million of people were, in the year 1785, employed in the colton manafactures of Lancashire, Cheshire, Derby, Nottingham, and Leicester. That computation was perhaps exaggerated; but the numbers must have been very great, as we find by the report of the committee of the House of Commons this same year, ou the business of the commercial intercourse with Ireland, that 6800 were employed by Mr. Peele, several thousands by Mr. S4


[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Smith, and numbers proportionably great by the other manufacturers of cotton. The manufacture of calicoes, which was begun in Lancashire in the year 1772, was now pretty generally established in several parts of England and Scotland. The manufacture of muslins in England was begun in the year 1781, and was rapidly increasing. In 1783 there were above a thousand looms set up in Glasgow for that most beneficial article, in which the skill and labour of the mechanic raise the raw material to twenty times the value it was of when imported.

“ The rapid increase in the number of spinning engines, which took place in consequence of the expiration of Arkwright's patent, forms a new æra, not only in manufactures and commerce, but also in the dress of both sexes. The common use of silk, if it were only to be worn while it retains its lustre, is proper only for ladies of ample fortune: and yet women of almost all ranks affected to wear it; and many of the lower classes of the middle ranks of society distressed their husbands, parents, and brothers to procure that expensive finery. Neither was a handsome cotton gown

attainable by women in humble circumstances; and thence the cottons were mixed with linen yarn to reduce their price. But now cotton yarn is cheaper than linen yarn; and cotton goods are very much used in place of cambrics, lawns, and other expensive fabrics of flax; and they have almost totally superseded the silks. Women of all ranks, from the highest to the lowest, are clothed in British manufactures of cotton, from the muslin cap on the crown of the head, to the cotton stocking under the sole of the foot. The ingenuity of the calico-printers has kept pace with the ingenuity of the weavers and others concerned in the preceding stages of the manufacture, and produced patterns of printed goods, wbicli, for elegance of drawing exceed every thing that was imported, and for durability of colour, generally stand the washing so well, as to appear fresh and new every time they are washed, and give an air of neatness and cleanliness to the wearer beyond the elegance of silk in the first freshness of its transitory lustre. But even the most elegant prints are excelled by the superior beauty and virgin


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

purity of the muslins, the growth and the manufacture of the British dominions *.

From the expiration of Mr. Arkwright's patent, the spinning of yarn, and manufacture of cotton goods rapidly increased; mechanics were successfully employed to abridge labour, and no difficulty or competition presented itself of so formidable a nature as to defeat the genius and industry of those who were engaged in the trade. However favourable these gigantic strides towards unrivelled distinction may be regarded in a commercial point of view, (the establishment of extended factories, requiring the congregated numbers of men, women, and children, for the purpose of attending to the multiplied and curious processes that it was found necessary for the cotton to pass through preparatory to spinning), has certainly operated to the injury of public morals, a circumstance which the friends of humanity cannot but deplore. The cotton, as it is received in its original packages, is committed to women, or girls, who beat it with slender rods, by which the fibres are expanded, and the seeds and husks are loosened, and more distinctly seen; these are carefully picked out, and the cotton is then taken to a machine, by which it is carded. This machine consists of two or more cylinders, moving with great velocity in opposite directions. By this machine the cotton is so disposed as to be taken off in a small substance, much resembling a spider's web. This is conveyed into a can, (by a pair of rollers, fixed to the machine); in a perpetual or endless carding, after which several of these cardings are united, and frequently passed between iron rollers, by which the fibres becomie beiter arranged, and the bulk considerably reduced. Another, and similar operation called roaving, succeeds with this difference, that after the cotton has passed through these rollers, it falls into a can, open at the top, which moves upon a centre with considerable velocity, and by which the cotton becomes a soft thread, and capable of further extension, according to the fineness of the yarn required. This


[blocks in formation]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »